Homemade nut milk is a staple in our household. It’s easy to make and richer and tastier than any version you can find at your local grocery store—dairy included. It has two basic ingredients: nuts and water. From there, you can add maple syrup and a pinch of salt, seasonal fruit, or even unsweetened cocoa powder for a really fun and decadent twist. The outcome, whichever path you take, is a super delicious and nutritious plant-based milk.
I like to make my own nut milk for many reasons, but the biggest one is that it’s less processed than store bought varieties–it doesn’t contain a lot of ingredients like chemical thickeners, preservatives, or additives. Many commercial brands also use a fraction of the nuts to water ratio leaving you with a bland-tasting, watery, less nutritious milk.
The health benefits of nut milk are amazing. Contrary to popular belief, nut milk contains protein–substantial amounts in some varieties such as cashew milk (5 g/1 cup). It’s more easily digested than cow’s milk, since it doesn’t contain lactose, and it’s loaded with healthy fats and important vitamins and minerals like folate, biotin, magnesium, and B vitamins (depending on which nuts you use). Nut milk is less calorie-dense than animal-derived milks and contains substantially less carbohydrates per serving for those needing to monitor their carbohydrate intake. Nut milk is also naturally dairy-free and vegan.
When you make your own nut milk, you’re in control of the quality and freshness of the nuts, the nut to water ratio, and any additional ingredients.
My top 5 favorite homemade nut milks:
Combining different types of nuts together is another way to boost nutrition and create more personally-appealing flavors. Hazelnut + almond is a great combination. So is cashew + pecan. I also enjoy adding seasonal fruit and spices to my nut milks for a fun twist. In late spring I like strawberry almond milk and in the fall, winter, or anytime I’m craving a little warmth I add chai spice or turmeric to cashew milk.
What you’ll need to get started—a blender, fine cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or thin cotton dish towel and a couple glass jars with lids. Here’s one of my favorite seasonal nut milk recipes from my forthcoming cookbook, The Nutritionist’s Kitchen. It’s rich and creamy and has the most delectable and subtly-sweet strawberry flavor. Give it a try—you won’t be disappointed!
Almond Milk (and Strawberry Almond Milk)
DF | GF | V | Ve
MAKES 6 CUPS
2 cups raw almonds
5 cups water
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
1 pound fresh or frozen strawberries, hulled (optional)
Place your almonds in a large glass bowl and cover with room-temperature water. Soak overnight or for at least 8 hours until plump and hydrated (you should have about 3 cups once hydrated).
Drain and rinse the soaked almonds and place with all other ingredients in a blender. Add optional flavor variations, such as strawberries, now. You may need to make your almond milk in batches if you have a small blender. Blend on high for 2 minutes or until thoroughly blended. The longer you blend your ingredients, the more nutrients you’ll extract from the almonds.
Place a cotton nut milk bag, double layer of fine cheesecloth, or thin dish towel over a large bowl; pour the almond milk mixture into it and gently squeeze the contents, separating the milk from the pulp. This may require two or three batches to avoid overflow. Once you’re done, set the pulp aside and pour the almond milk into two separate quart jars or glass containers with lids; store in the refrigerator. Fresh almond milk will keep for 3 to 5 days. Shake well before serving.
If necessary, you can freeze the milk in small amounts in ice cube trays. I recommend making smoothies with the nut milk or adding some to soups, etc. first before freezing for the best consistency when thawed.
NOTE: Save your nut milk pulp and dehydrate it in the oven with herbs and salt to make gluten-free “breadcrumbs” for roasted veggies or pasta and pesto. I sometimes make a natural body scrub by adding the pulp to coarse sea salt, coconut oil, and a few drops of my favorite essential oils.