A classic White Russian packs a whopping 33g of sugar in a single glass—ours? Just 4g. And it tastes delicious.
Credit: Photo: Jamie Vespa

One of my all time favorite cocktails when I'm at a nice restaurant—because, let’s be real, most bars don’t stock the freshest milk—is the White Russian.

It’s arguably one of the smoothest, creamiest drinks. Of course, that's in large part due to the heavy dairy makeup. In the wintertime especially, I love the comforting, warm, chocolatey notes that this cocktail is so famous for.

But there’s one thing about the White Russian that holds me back: It is a heavy caloric sugar bomb.

The classic White Russian recipe, according to Kahlúa’s website, is shockingly simple—one part heavy cream, one part coffee liqueur, and one part vodka.

But it’s also shockingly bad for you: Just one of these is loaded with 590 calories, a heart-stopping 18g of saturated fat, and 33g of sugar. Doesn’t sound so smooth now, does it?

I wanted to be able to enjoy a White Russian with feeling so weighed down, so I headed to the Cooking Light test kitchen to figure out how could we preserve the classic taste, while ensuring lower calorie counts and a reasonable amount of sugar.

We chose to give it a vegan makeover, removing the heavy cream and Kahlúa, and substituting almond and coconut milk. Teaming up with Jamie Vespa, Cooking Light’s assistant nutrition editor, we boosted the signature flavor profile of the White Russian by including cold-brew coffee for a distinctly unbitter flavor, and relying on unsweetened cocoa powder to round it out. And since we got rid of the liquer, there was more room for vodka. Hooray!

Most importantly, our version can fit nicely in your daily diet and won’t wreck any of your dietary intakes. A glass of our “Light” Russian comes in at 150 calories, 4g of sugar, and a mere 2g of saturated fat.

This recipe makeover is easy to follow and all ingredients are available at your local supermarket. Here’s what you’ll need:


Serves one.

  • One tablespoon of cold brew coffee (any brand works fine, just stick to unsweetened for the best results).
  • 1/2 cup Silk (we used unflavored Silk almond milk; another brand may change the nutritional info slightly) almond milk, unsweetened.
  • 1/2 cup So Delicious original coconut milk, unsweetened.
  • 1 tsp generic cocoa powder, unsweetened.
  • 1 tsp sugar.
  • 1 tablespoon hot water.
  • About 1 and 1/2 ounces of Tito’s vodka.



  1. In a measuring cup, combine almond milk and coconut milk. Stir in sugar.
  2. Using hot water as a base, whisk in unsweetened cocoa powder to create a syrup. Set aside.
  3. In a separate cocktail shaker, add cold brew and vodka over ice. Combine with syrup and shake.
  4. Pour mixture into cocktail glass of choice. Slowly add milk and lightly stir in.