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What is Non-Dairy Creamer?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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Non-dairy creamer is a milk or cream substitute used primarily for flavoring coffee and tea. There are a variety of these creamers made with various products, but most of the standard or best-known brands contain the protein-rich milk derivative casein in the form of sodium caseinate. For this reason vegans and some vegetarians choose to use a soy-based creamer instead. Other ingredients in the typical non-dairy creamer include cornstarch and vegetable oils.

Nestlé’s Coffee-Mate™ was the first and is probably the best-known non-dairy creamer, hitting the market in 1961. Today there are many popular brands including Cremora™, International Delight™, Flavor Charm™, and Coffee Rich™. This material is lactose-free, which might explain initial reasons manufacturers wanted to label these products as “non-dairy,” as this would attract those consumers who are lactose intolerant, or unable to consume milk and cream.

Non-dairy creamer comes in powder form or as a refrigerated liquid. Advantages of the powder form are that it won’t cool your coffee and it has a longer shelf life. However, some find the liquid version more convenient and richer in texture and taste. Generally it is recommended that liquid creamers be consumed within 14 days of opening the product.

In addition to standard non-dairy creamer, many manufacturers offer a variety of flavored creamers. French Vanilla, Caramel, Hazelnut, Irish Crème and Macadamia Nut are just a few of the many choices available that can make regular coffee taste like it came from an expensive coffee-house instead of your kitchen.

A non-dairy creamer that is soy-based will not contain sodium caseinate or any other animal product or derivative. Crème de la Soy™ is one example, and Silk Original Creamer™ is another soy-based creamer. These products are safe for vegans and for those vegetarians who wish to avoid animal products.

Some people prefer to make their own non-dairy creamer using corn starch, powdered sugar and flavor extracts (such as vanilla extract). The recipe should be mixed in a little cold water before being stirred into a hot beverage.

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Discussion Comments

By bluedolphin — On Feb 26, 2013

I like my coffee very light and milky and I end up using a ton of this stuff to drink my coffee. It doesn't taste good, especially the one that's at my office. They buy the cheapest one on the market. Yuck!

By bear78 — On Feb 25, 2013

@anon60502-- No! Don't use it when it's past the expiration date. It must have gone bad.

Non-dairy creamers tend to have long expiration dates in general. Dairy creamers like half and half only last a week after they're opened, sometimes not even that long. But once non-dairy creamer is opened and the expiration date has passed, it's no good!

I had one like that and I thought I'd just give it a try. It gave my coffee a very odd taste and I didn't drink it. Non-dairy creamer is not that expensive, just get a new one.

By fify — On Feb 24, 2013

@anon93238-- The type of creamer in 3 in 1 coffee depends on the product. 3 in 1 coffee is a small package with coffee, creamer and sugar already mixed together and ready to add to hot water.

The one I drink contains milk powder, coconut oil and some other stuff in the creamer. So it's not a non-dairy creamer. But there may be 3 in 1 products with non dairy creamer, you just need to check the ingredients.

There is also 2 in 1 coffee which is coffee

By seag47 — On Feb 23, 2013

I used to love French vanilla creamer, but after trying hazelnut, I haven't wanted to use any other kind. The hotel I was staying at during my summer vacation had little packets of hazelnut non-dairy creamer in the room, and I stocked up on them!

I was able to find the same brand near my home, so I keep it in my kitchen all the time. It has a delightfully complex flavor that ranges from nutty to sweet with a hint of caramel.

By DylanB — On Feb 22, 2013

I love using powdered non-dairy creamer. I can take it with me to work, and sometimes I even put it in my purse so that I can flavor the coffee I order from a cafe.

My favorite flavor is peppermint mocha. My cousin introduced me to this at Christmas one year, and I loved it so much that I started using it all year!

Strangely enough, I can drink coffee with this flavor of creamer in it while eating everything from cereal with blueberries to waffles with syrup. The peppermint flavor is subtle enough that it doesn't clash with the flavor of whatever I'm eating.

By shell4life — On Feb 22, 2013

@feasting – Being lactose intolerant isn't the same as having a milk allergy. Someone with a milk allergy could have a severe reaction to even a little bit of something like liquid non-dairy creamer.

However, someone who is just lactose intolerant probably could get away with having a spoonful of creamer in their coffee. There isn't a lot of dairy in it, and just that small amount probably wouldn't be enough to hurt the person.

By feasting — On Feb 21, 2013

@anon71331 – That is awful! How can any creamer state that it is non-dairy if it contains milk derivatives? Does sodium caseinate affect lactose-intolerant people the same way that actual milk does?

By anon174536 — On May 10, 2011

I heard that the non diary creamer can cause cancer in future because one of the side effects is cancer.

By anon124050 — On Nov 04, 2010

dairy coffee creamer is "Half and Half" or, use whole milk. Refrigerated milk/cream product.

By anon104290 — On Aug 16, 2010

what is hydrogenated oil in regards to non diary creamer. how dangerous is is to human health?

By anon93238 — On Jul 02, 2010

Could you please explain to us what is the difference between non dairy creamer for RTD and 3 in 1 coffee?

By anon91497 — On Jun 22, 2010

what are the side effects of non-dairy creamer after using it for a long time, and can a person build up an allergic reaction to it?

By anon71331 — On Mar 18, 2010

Everywhere I went I was served "non-dairy creamer" (labeled as such) with my coffee, made by "Columbia Valley Farms". I even got it on the plane with my "vegan meal".

I am allergic to milk and almost used it the first time it was given to me. However, this stupid manufacturer lists its ingredients directly under the name: "Sodium caseinate (dairy), Whey (dairy)". No kidding.

It is a lawsuit waiting to happen! If I had consumed the 'non-dairy creamer' I could have died. Let's hope that everyone else with an allergy reads the ingredients properly. Absolutely insane!

By anon60502 — On Jan 14, 2010

I have a container of non-dairy creamer with an expiration date of June 2008. is it still good?

By anon51156 — On Nov 03, 2009

Coffee creamers should not be allowed as a food because it is a blend of oil, sugar and flavors and zero nutritional value. All empty calories only!

By anon32953 — On May 29, 2009

A small carton of cream from the dairy section would be dairy creamer.

By anon32302 — On May 19, 2009

Why are there only non-dairy coffee creamers?? What about dairy coffee creamer? Why can't we find it on the market?

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