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Making non-dairy, plant-based milks at home may seem intimidating, but it’s surprisingly easy! Making “milk” at home also means you don’t have to read labels or worry about additives and preservatives.
All you really need to do is 1) soak or cook your grain or nut of choice, 2) blend it, 3) strain it, and 4) enjoy!
As with everything, there are a couple of obvious downsides to homemade plant-based milk:
- It’s generally less convenient, and of course takes a bit more time than buying it likely does
- Has to be shaken before you drink it, as the particles will settle over time
- May not be as ideal in texture, given the lack of smoothing additives
- Only keeps for four days or so
Upsides of making non-dairy milk at home:
- No preservatives or additives, making it the cleanest possible “label”
- Complete control over amount and type of sweetener
- Further customize blends and flavors, choosing to use multiple kinds of nuts or throw in more vanilla (or even some strawberries or cocoa powder!)
- Choose how “nutty” you want it, avoiding the low nut percentages and more watery consistency of many off-the-shelf milks
Materials you’ll need:
Apart from the nuts, seeds, grains, or beans of your choice and a few basic cooking utensils, you really only need a blender and a way to strain the “milk”. While straining bags designed for making plant-based milks exist, a fine cheesecloth or thin clean towel (or a couple of them, layered) will do just fine.
1) What plant-based options are out there, and what form should you start with?
1 cup coconut – shredded, unsweetened
1 cup nuts – whole, raw, unsalted
Cashews, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts
1/2 cup seeds
Hemp seed (hulled), flax, hemp, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower
1 cup grains – cooked
Oats (raw is okay, too!), rice, quinoa (actually a seed but preparation is more like a grain in this case)
1 cup beans
Soybeans (yellow non-GMO), pea (cook dry yellow split peas)
2) Soaking time
Soaking (especially in the case of nuts) is critical to making as many nutrients available as possible. A good soak can also make nuts easier to digest. In most nuts, the presence of phytic acid may prevent absorption of a small portion of their nutrients (specifically zinc, calcium, and iron). However, unsoaked nuts are not nearly as dangerous as some have suggested. As long as you don’t get the majority of your calories from unsoaked nuts or beans and do get a variety of foods in your diet, you’re probably fine. In fact, some research has also found phytic acid is an antioxidant associated with health benefits.
In the case of making nut-based milks, however, the soaking will result in a better blending experience and smoother consistency.
- Coconut: 4 cups hot water, 1-2 hours soaking
- Nuts: 2-3 cups water for soaking, almonds and hazelnuts may require soaking overnight in the fridge, while other nuts like walnuts and pecans are fine after 6 hours, and softer nuts like macadamia and cashews only require about 2 hours
- Seeds: 2 cups water (for 1/2 cup seeds) and soak for 1-2 hours (no soaking necessary for hulled hemp seeds)
- Grains: no required soaking as quinoa and rice must be cooked first
- Beans: soybeans (overnight, remove the skins afterward) and yellow split peas (cooked)
Don’t hesitate to try making your milk with a variety of nuts, who says you have to pick just one?
In the case of coconut, the soaking water can be blended in with an additional cup or so of water.
In the case of all pre-soaked milks, the soaking water should be discarded. Next, add 3-4 cups cups water and blend!
For grain and bean milks, blend the cooked counterparts with 3-4 cups water.
If you prefer a higher volume of thinner milk, 4 cups of water should be fine. If you prefer thicker, creamier milk, closer to 3 cups of water will be your ideal consistency.
In the blending stage, you’re going to want to run your blender on the highest possible setting for awhile.
One of the many benefits to making non-dairy milk at home: fun flavors!
- Vanilla (extract or piece of vanilla bean)
- Cocoa or carob powder
- Fresh strawberries (add after the straining step if you prefer to drink the strawberry pulp, too!)
- Sweetener like dates, stevia, honey, or maple syrup (though try it first without sweetening!)
- Cold-brewed coffee
The final step in your plant-based milk preparation is straining. This step is the same, regardless of your base and blending decisions. If your milk still seems a bit “chunky” and your blender doesn’t seem to be improving it, try straining it through a wire mesh strainer first. To finish it off, all you really have to do is position a bowl under a thin, clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth. Gradually pour the milk through the “strainer”, and allow it to drain through to the bowl underneath.
If you plan to make your own plant-based milk at home frequently, a “nut milk bag” will make the straining process even easier.
The pulp isn’t necessarily “garbage”, you can save it to toss into smoothies!
Drink your milk as-is or chill it first. Makes an excellent addition to recipes (higher protein milks work as a better substitute in baking). Congratulate yourself for making non-dairy milk at home!
[Want more DIY? Check out DIY Fermented Foods!]