BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Nog-Off!

47 Comments

Eggnog: Beaten eggs and cream whisked together into a frothy amalgamation of dairy, sweetened with a heavy hand, spiked with nearly equal parts hard liquor and perhaps brightened with a pinch of nutmeg. Now doesn’t that just sound delicious? Like some bizarre protein shake for alcoholics, it sounds like a beverage created to cause as much pain as the intoxicating additions might be intended to ease. The butt of many jokes and great animosity from detractors, it’s hard to imagine how it was first created, and furthermore, deemed edible. Having felt no compulsion to imbibe for the first 20 years of my life, I will say upfront right now, I have never had “real” eggnog. However, it took going vegan for me to try it at all, and that’s what started the love affair.

Subtract all those nasty bits, remove the alcohol, and you have a whole different beverage, quite literally. Without the fangs, it’s really a sweet, cuddly creature that’s easy to enjoy and hard to feel guilty about. Zero cholesterol and lower calorie counts are a factor luring many non-vegans to the eggless nog party, too. However what counts more than the numbers is the taste, if you ask me. This year, we have more options than ever to fulfill our noggy needs, and after years of plotting a grand show-down, I’m proud to announce the first ever unofficial Vegan Nog-Off! A head-to-head battle between the non-dairy nogs on the market, fighting to the death until the strongest nog is revealed. Okay, nothing quite so dramatic, but just image how exciting that could be!

To understand this sudden 180 degree turn from disgust to adoration, we must first go back in time a bit. Back to the days when Vitasoy still distributed soy milk in the US, and produced the most irresistible seasonal beverage of all, Holly Nog (scroll down to see nog info). I was hooked, no turning back, and couldn’t slurp that sweet nectar down fast enough. My stock pile would hit at least a dozen cartons by the end of December, but would hardly survive January. When Vitasoy pulled back from the US market, I was devastated, but simultaneously inspired to find an equally satisfying replacement. Thus began my eggless nog journey to find the best alternate option.

[If you live in Canada though, you're in luck- Holly Nog is still available in your neck of the woods! The nog pictured above was smuggled over the border thanks to the lovely, generous, and incredibly thoughtful Marika; I couldn't have dreamed of a sweeter holiday gift!]

For American folk like myself, we currently have a grand total of four vegan nog options for this year of 2011; two soy, one coconut, and one rice. The question is, which one is best? The completely unscientific breakdown is as follows, starting with my least favorite and ending with the top nog.

Rice Nog by Rice Dream. This nog is no newcomer to the marketplace, so unfortunately, I already knew I hated it. However, it seems I had forgotten just how much I hated it. Pouring weakly from the carton as a pale shade of pepto-bismal-pink, it’s readily apparent that the consistency is the thinnest of the bunch. Slightly dusty at first taste, with a nice touch of grit at the bottom and an undeniable cereal flavor, this is an option only to reinforce negative nog stereotypes. Avoid at all costs.

Soy Nog by Earth Balance. Upon first whiff, I could have sworn I detected a hint of lemon drink mix powder. Confused but undeterred, I came to enjoy the smooth texture, ranking just a hair thicker than standard soy milk. Appropriately sweet but without much of a spice flavor anywhere to be found, it was quite alright… Until I stopped drinking. At first, I wrote it off as being a bad batch, but 3 cartons later (yes, I am a glutton for punishment, or perhaps, just a glutton), the strange aftertaste of dirt remained. Very subtle, easy to overlook when spiked with some potent spirits, but something I found a bit off-putting.

Silk Nog by Silk. A classic that’s been around the block and back, this staple still endures and ranks highly among the dairy-free and eggless crowds. Sweet enough to be considered dessert, it’s a mild but highly drinkable treat. Thick enough to coat the palate briefly but resist a cloying stickiness, it’s something you don’t need to hide behind other drinks on the holiday party buffet table. I personally wish it had a better punch of spice, but such a complaint can easily be corrected with just a pinch of nutmeg upon serving. Not a bad option at all, with the bonus of being the most widely distributed and easily attainable vegan nog in the US.

Coconut Nog by So Delicious. The winner of the round. It may not be for everyone though, due to the subtle but easily recognizable hint of coconut flavor that hits you initially. That impression does fade as you continue to imbibe, and by then, you’ll find yourself hooked by the sweet, custard-like flavor. Thick like a melted milkshake, this nog has a certain richness that the others lack, bringing it closer to the original decadent inspiration. Granted, it does have a more tropical, almost banana-like flavor, which may horrify true nog drinkers, but for this vegan who’s never had the original, it simply tastes like the holiday spirit, if it were condensed into a drinkable format.

Making your own eggless nog is generally recommended over any store-bought options, due to the ability to adapt and adjust flavors to your own tastes, but we finally have a few strong offerings for the lazy, rushed, or merely curious vegans among us. Congratulations, So Delicious- It really is the year of the coconut!

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Author: Hannah Kaminsky

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

47 thoughts on “Nog-Off!

  1. Many nogs will be tried this Christmas.

  2. we can’t get ANY nog in the uk! couldn’t even find any shelf-stable nogs online :(
    you are so lucky in the US!

  3. Hannah, love the different eggnogs, make me want to try them all…thank you so much for the review…
    Hope you are having a wonderful week :-)

  4. I wholeheartedly agree… So Delicious is the hands-down winner in my book too!

  5. I feel the same way. So Delicious is unbeatable for drinking, however I think Silk Nog bakes so much better.

  6. I’ve been alternating the Earth Balance and So Delicious cartons – I love them both. I hadn’t noticed the dirt taste through, strange. I think So Delicious is the favorite for us too – the faint coconut actually enhances the nog flavor for me!

  7. I normally get the Silk Nog but found the So Delicious Coconut Nog at my local Wegman’s. And I haven’t looked back.

  8. So happy I found you from another blogger, you’ve got yourself a new follower! xo Jessica @ Cajunlicious

  9. I agree with all of your assessments! ‘Twas love at first sip when I nabbed my first carton of So Delicious. Perhaps everyone in my area agree because my local WF is out of stock. Not having ever tried the Earth Balance I decided to pick that one up when I couldn’t find So Delicious, and it is still lingering in my fridge many days later. The aftertaste is really unfortunate on that one! I’ve never had Vitasoy, but since we seem to have the same taste in nogs I must try it. I need to befriend some Canadians pronto!

  10. Great article. Thanks!

  11. Its been amnesiatically long since I drank egg-nog, so I am happy pouring a glass of nondairy, splashing in some maple syrup, grinding some nutmeg, and slipping in some rum (jolly-nog?). Simply, festive, and tasty with a holiday video or friends…..

  12. I’m always sad that in Europe or in the UK there’s no vegan nog drink.

  13. “Like some bizarre protein shake for alcoholics” – HAHA! Love it. No wonder I like eggnog… ;)

  14. Fun review to read, and since I’ve avoided nog like the plague in years past, I have no idea what any of them taste like. Based on your scrupulous standards and recommendations, I may just sample some Coconut Bliss nog this season. :)

  15. i am not even vegan and So Delicious is my FAVORITE nog! it is better than the dairy nogs, honestly. delicious!

    now i want to add booze and ice cream and shake it up;)

  16. For those of use who like the alcohol, could anyone comment on the various nog’s mixability with rum? Some bevvies separate or curdle when boozy goodness is introduced- is that so here too?

    • No separation issues that I saw. Granted, I only added a small splash when I tried, and didn’t bother testing the rice nog. The coconut nog still wins that round too, since it’s much thicker and stands up to dilution better.

      • Ooh, that is a plus! Thanks for the info! So far I have found no holiday nog anywhere in Montreal :( But one day I hope to find some and try myself. Or else, I might just have to make an emergency shopping trip to Toronto before Christmas :)

  17. oooh u had a whole lot of nog for multiple rounds!:) i havent tried the so delicious one yet.. but i think i will like the bananey creamyness.. so delicious has been coming up with great stuff!

  18. I am in Canada and will have to try the Holly Nog! It’s funny–on my blog I was just saying how my sister got me vegan marshmallows in the US. We can get some here but they are sooooo expensive! I guess things are crossing the border both ways!

  19. I agree whole-heartedly, So Delicious is the best! Last year I had the rice nog and was sorely disappointed. This year I’m stocking up on the SD, maybe I’ll be able to enjoy it well into January :)

  20. What a great idea! I appreciate your going to all the trouble to test these so we don’t have to. I’ve never tried a packaged ‘nog, but I was debating the other day over whether I should buy the Rice Nog. It’s the only vegan option available near me. I’m glad I passed it up. I did find a recipe of Ricki’s (of Diet, Dessert, and Dogs) blog for Holiday Nog and have already made that 3 times (the last time a double batch). It doesn’t taste just like eggnog (it lacks the custard flavor) but it is creamy and spicy and delicious! If I ever do get to a bigger market before the season ends, I now know which ones to look for! (Beautiful photos, too, I must say!)

  21. Hannah, I love your descriptions. My son loves soynog, so we always have one in the fridge for him during the season. I’m with you on Silk Soy Nog….I think it’s great but could use more of a kick to it.
    I’m looking forward to trying Silk Coconut Nog and we just happened to receive a coupon for it at our local health food store,

  22. Oh Yum, coconut nog sounds delicious!
    I just made a batch of almond nog with Pleasant results! But I’ll have to keep and eye out for the coconut nog.

  23. I’ve been debating which vegan nog to try but have resisted since I didn’t want to choose a bad one. The coconut version it is! Thanks for doing this Hannah!

  24. I am off to buy a carton of So Delicious! Although I’m not vegan (but I have your cookbooks…you don’t have to be vegan to love your recipes), I AM lactose intolerant…recently diagnosed. I love coconut, too, so that will be a bonus for me! If I ever find Holly Nog, I’ll let you know.

  25. Mmmm, grit and dirt. I’m no longer envious of not really knowing what eggnog tastes like and having no vegan options in Australia :P

    • Ha! It’s all about knowing how to pick and choose… When you get a good one, it makes the trials worth it! But there is always the pistachio nog in Vegan Desserts that I think is in a category of it’s own, if I do say so myself. ;)

  26. I live in Ontario, Canada, and I’ve been drinking So Nice brand Noel Nog for years.

    The only one on your list I’ve seen in stores here is the Vitasoy – not sure if it’s still around, because I don’t check – I’m happy with the Noel Nog. It’s awesome, especially in coffee.

    • Well consider me jealous! I’ve heard very good things about Noel Nog, and I’m dying to try it, but just can’t seem to get a hold of it. It’s hard to ship since it’s not shelf-stable like Vitasoy, so it may not be possible to taste without actually traveling to Canada. Some day, maybe…!

  27. hah! love that you’ve embraced the term “nog-off”! that’s what i call our annual tree-trimming evening. it’s where m & i spin some retro xmas vinyl, dress up the tree and concoct our very own “nogs” with various vegan milks & fixings and see who’s tastes better. {and i spike his to keep him happy & distracted from the decorating! so really it’s a win-win.}

    this year we skipped the homemade nogs and i’ve been enjoying the store bought holly nog, but like jill, the refrigerated noel nog is my favourite.

  28. Thanks. Can’t wait to try it. I’ve only had the Silk one.

  29. Hey now! That is quite an unflattering description of a delicious product. While I’m sure vegan nogs are delicious, non-vegan ones are too! They are rich and creamy and a little sweet … certainly a once and a while drink, but totally worth it.

  30. Eggnogs may be considered as sinful by many people but with the new vegan treats that are available in the market today, there will be no reason to resist its flavor or give in to the thought of splurging on it,

  31. I have not tried the coconut one. Ill have to check it out. I never really liked rice milk at all to be honest. Does that make me a bad vegan? ;)

    http://haymarket8.blogspot.com

  32. What an informative and helpful round-up! The so delicious one looks and sounds the best outta the major brands, I’ll look for that one. So far I’ve only sampled a local soy milk nog at the farmers market. :-)

  33. I tried the Coconut Nog today….its too sweet for my taste, but the thickness is incredible. And the coconut flavor is strong. Silk Nog is still my nog of choice.

  34. Love this post, Hannah! When I looked at the photo of the 4 glasses of eggnog I thought the So Delicious one looked best (really!). It’s color is the most appealing and it looks the creamiest…and from reading your description, I think I’d really enjoy it’s subtle coconut flavor! I’m going to pick some up because I think I’d like it more than the regular version of eggnog (which is a bit too heavy for me, although I do love its flavor!).

  35. I love this post, as usual it is really pleasant to read your post, and one can easily hear the tone you used when you thought about the text.
    PLUS the pictures are great, especially the one with the four glasses of Egg-Nog <3

    It must have been hard to review these products, I always admire when people write texts about something they bought. I hardly can do it so ….

    Unfortunately I do not think that Egg-Nog is that famous in France, or I do not know what is the French term for it. However, it sounds delicious ; and even though I never tried some (vegan or not), I agree with you: vegan is always better, lighter and tastier.

  36. I thought the rice nog just tasted like cinnamon, I didn’t really think it sucked until I tried using it up in my morning chai yerba and I still had to add sugar. It’s nog, it’s supposed to be really sweet!

    I wasn’t crazy about either of the So Delicious drinks, and I have Earth Balance in the fridge right now waiting to be tried.

  37. Great post!! Thanks for the reviews. I’ve only tried one non dairy nog before but now I can’t remember the brand. Don’t think it was one of the ones you listed though. I bought the mint chocolate holiday Vitasoy (SO GOOD) but didn’t buy the holly nog because I didn’t like the other vegan nog I tried. Now I regret it!! Must go back to buy some.

  38. I love the So Delicious Coconut Nog! And your pictures are simply stunning!

  39. I prefer Rice Nog, but that’s probably because I mix it with my almond milk in cereal. Fav!:)

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