Nog-Off, 2021

Eggnog is to Christmas what pumpkin spice is to autumn; the flavor that embodies a moment in time, lingering as a taste memory inextricably linked to merriment, lingering with sweet resonance long after the cup has been drained. Originating sometime around the Middle Ages, it was an opulent indicator of wealth, being so laden with expensive spices, sugar, and rich dairy products. Today, as the popularity of eggnog continues to rise, it’s become a widely available indulgence for everyone to enjoy. Greater demand means more options, which follow perfectly in step with an explosive profusion in eggless, milkless nogs.

Oat milk has forever changed the dairy-free landscape which means that this year, we have more vegan options than ever to raise a glass with. Clearly, we’re due for another Nog-Off.

For this fiercely festive showdown between heavyweights, we have fourteen contenders in the ring. Both the bottom and top selections from the previous round have bowed out, setting the scene for a fierce battle on a level playing field.

I soon found myself drowning in a sea of nog. Mercifully, there are no complete losers in this game, and I wouldn’t be upset to have any of these cartons in my fridge again. Different situations call for different drinks, however, so I thought it would be best to break it down accordingly.

Probably the Same Product: Natural By Nature Oat Nog and Sprouts Oatmilk Nog. I noticed after judging, they both had the same lurid yellow color which was notable by itself. Flipping them over to compare labels, the nutritional facts matched exactly, as did the ingredients. Oops. The only difference? Sprouts’ costs $1.50 less.

Most Like Coffee Creamer: Milkadamia Veggnog. The only commercial macadamia nut nog in existence, it’s exceptionally smooth and rich but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was drinking French Vanilla coffee creamer. There’s not a hint of spices nor eggy flavor to speak of. You could doctor them with an extra pinch of nutmeg for an instant fix, but they’re not winning awards straight out of the container. Strikingly, I found this more suitable than the actual coffee creamer made by Nutpods, which is unsweetened and flat out bland.

Most Natural: Fronks Vegan Eggnog. If you want every ingredient to count, you can absolutely taste it in this blend of whole foods. Cashews, almonds, and dates are the foundation, lightly kissed by a touch of cinnamon and cardamom, for a more nuanced spice blend. It tastes pure and fresh because it is! Made by hand in small batches for local distribution, it’s the closest you can get to homemade without pulling out a blender.

Best for Sipping Solo: Califia Holiday Nog Almondmilk. Light but not watery, rich yet low in calories, I could drink this one all day long without any trouble. Thank goodness it also happens to come in the largest bottle of all, with a total of twelve half-cup servings.

Best with Booze: Chobani Oat Nog. Coming from a long line of oat milks and creamers, it should come as no surprise that this thick oat blend is perfectly engineered to balance out the bold, sometimes harsh edge of rum, bourbon, or brandy without tasting watered down. Also, it has a notable malted, toasted, earthy flavor that would harmonize beautifully with additional spirits.

Most innovative: Good Karma Holiday Nog. Allergens, who? Made with cold-pressed organic flax, this is the nog for everyone. No nuts, no soy, no funny business. While it doesn’t carry the same weight as genuine eggnog, for that same reason, it’s exceptionally drinkable and even refreshing.

Best for Baking: So Delicious Coconut Milk Holiday Nog. The last remaining coconut option on the list, this nog has a powerful, candy-like sweetness that puts it squarely in dessert territory. Strong seasonings ensure that it won’t just fall into the background like any other non-dairy milk if employed to make festive cupcakes, cheesecakes, and more.

Best on a Budget: Trader Joe’s O’Nog. The most affordable option on this list, one generous quart will only set you back $2.99. Every dollar counts when budgeting for holiday gifts, and the most expensive option on this list, by contrast, will set you back $12.99 for a pint.

Best for Most People: Good & Gather Oatmilk Holiday Nog. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if there was only one nog I could celebrate the holidays with, to take back home to my family and impress the widest range of palates, after much deliberation, I think it has to be… The Target house brand. I’m still struggling with such a shocking outcome. It’s not the best of all categories, as is made clear above, but those mad food scientists managed to hit the ideal balance that could appeal to the widest audience. Spiced gently, sweet but not sugary, rich but not cloying, it stands out by virtue of… Not standing out.

It’s both a relief and a disappointment that there’s no clear winner, standing tall above all the noise. I wish it was such an easy judgement, but that means it’s hard to go wrong. Where ever you are, whatever you have access to, you can pour yourself a glass of holiday cheer. Isn’t that the real meaning of a Nog-Off?

When all else fails, don’t forget, it’s not so hard to make your own from scratch, too.

What is your personal favorite here? Is there a local specialty in your neck of the woods that would have swept the floor with these national brands? Leave me a comment, and maybe next year, they’ll make it into the rematch!

16 thoughts on “Nog-Off, 2021

  1. I love your nog off! When I went to make eggnog ice cream years ago, I realized that eggnog is really just like pumpkin spice. It’s not really a thing, except for the eggy part. It’s more about the cinnamon and nutmeg. I did go to an eggnog tasting once. It was really fun – all home-made and delicious. 8,000 calories later I couldn’t’ remember which one I liked the best! Very interesting about Target….

    1. It’s so true! Also it’s much the same as a burger, in the sense that it’s generally more about the condiments and toppings than the actual meat, which is why it’s a very easy entry into plant-based alternatives for most people. Thankfully, vegan eggnog does tend to be a bit lighter than traditional overall… But I certainly didn’t feel hungry for the rest of the day after this!

  2. Wow, so many vegan nogs, great collection:) We don’t have any nogs here in local shops, so have to make my own, and the one I usually make is a vegan coconut version of Ponche crema , a Venezuelan version of eggnog. But I would love if we had here one of those oat based nogs.

  3. So funny to not even see Silk Nog and Almond Breeze on the list, but rather so many oat nogs!! It’s been years since I’ve tried all the nogs. In the earlier days, Silk always won in my house. Soy just worked better for us in terms of taste and consistency. I’m really not a fan of oat milk, but am curious just to try some of these now!

    1. Oh I know, I was pretty shocked (and actually a bit upset) about the results myself! Oat milk has been a game changer here, and I think this might be an easy way to win over haters. The spices and sweetness cover the otherwise distracting cereal flavor well.

    1. SAME! Vita-soy, right? That one was the best of all. While I haven’t tried it yet, Milkadamia does also make a mint chocolate macadamia milk. I wonder if it might be a good replacement after all these years.

  4. Lots of time and diligent testing went into this project and we really appreciate that. Actually had no idea there were so many different brands out there making vegan eggnog. These selections would also make a very festive vegan French toast.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! My favorite breakfast is actually oatmeal with eggnog drizzled on top during the holiday season.

  5. We’ve been enjoying the Califia as most of these are not available here. I’m going to try to track down the Target brand, though. We love their Almond Milk – it is the least expensive and we like the taste the best. I recently used the Almond Breeze to make french toast and it was fabulous! I also added flour to the leftover liquid and made pancakes. Lots of good options.

    1. Excellent idea! For as much as I enjoy drinking nog, I might enjoy cooking and baking with it even more. I usually go for French toast first. ;)

  6. Thank you for the awesome run-down! I have been getting milk from Trashless for a while, and the company that provides vegan milk for them is called NuMilk. They currently have a holiday nog (not sure for how much longer) that I’ve got in addition to my regular chocolate and plain oat milks. The holiday nog is also oat-based, and I’ve really been enjoying frothing it into my morning coffee. Thanks for the tip about nog on oatmeal – I’m going to try that with some of what’s left of the bottle!

    1. Oh wow, I wish I had known about that one sooner! I guess that’ll be the start of Nog-Off 2022… Thanks for the hot tip!

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