A down to earth guide to blending your own
The tastiest and most environmentally-conscious way of creating your own delicious nut milk.
by Emily Young
More and more of us are trying vegan alternatives to animal products, even if we don't consider ourselves devout plant-based eaters.
I live with a born-and-bred carnivore (in charge of all the cooking) and even we have used the powerful art of compromise to regularly incorporate plant-based meals, such as sweet-and-sour cauliflower and arrabbiata pasta, into our meal plans.
I strongly believe that incremental changes like incorporating plant-based milk into our diets will have much greater success in reducing carbon emissions than trying to persuade everyone to go vegan.
'commercial non-dairy milk can be expensive, highly packaged and adorned with filler ingredients you might like to avoid.'
Nut milk is a relatively easy swap, and one that seems to have hit the mainstream in the last few years. In fact, non-dairy milk alternatives are now big business, as Jessica Broadbent's excellent article Oatly on Trial made clear last year.
But aside from their long shelf-life and convenience, buying a carton of commercial non-dairy milk can be expensive, highly packaged and adorned with filler ingredients you might like to avoid.
A whopping 96% of imprint readers reported having tried non-dairy milk, with 81% preferring it over dairy milk, but only 28% of readers had tried to make it themselves. I’m here to persuade the remaining 72% that making your own plant-based milk is easier than it looks, and tastes amazing.
I’ll admit I'm not a big milk lover (I drink tea and coffee black and don't really eat cereal) but my partner Austin hails from America where he grew up downing pints of milk like it was a kindergarten drinking competition. He loves dairy and is deeply sceptical of all things meat-replacement, but nevertheless, I roped him in to help me judge the success of six dairy-alternative milks.
I picked a fairly arbitrary selection of nuts based on what I could get at my local plastic-free store, so apologies for the bizarre inclusion of brazil and pecan nut milks. However, as they say, fortune favours the bold.
Here's a run down of mine and Austin's ranking of our favourite to least favourite dairy-free milks:
Somewhat surprisingly, the most commercially successful dairy milk alternatives (oat and almond) came out as our least favourites, while the more obscure hazelnut, brazil and pecan milks were incredibly tasty. But the grand winner?
'the blend was actually tastier than any of the milks on their own.'
Well, the thing is, I was making very small batches of these milks for testing purposes and didn't have enough containers to store them in the fridge separately. So I ended up pouring them all into the same bottle and used them up that way.
The result? Both Austin and I agreed that the blend was actually tastier than any of the milks on their own. So stock up on some mixed nuts/mix a bespoke blend of your own and enjoy the tastiest homemade, non-dairy milk around.
Makes about 750ml milk.
Drinking milk neat is, I think, fairly unusual among British adults, so for the following recipe I thought about the most common uses of milk and tested it that way too. I can pronounce that my blend makes a gorgeously sweet and creamy porridge, a nutty bowl of weetabix, a surprisingly refreshing cup of tea, and a delicious latte.
Container/ bottle with lid for storing milk
Nut milk bag/ cheesecloth/ muslin cloth
(You can pick up a nut milk bag for less than a fiver, although I’ve managed before with a clean muslin face cloth instead. Note that these will be more fiddly and you may need to squeeze the milk in batches as it doesn't hold as much volume as a dedicated nut milk bag)
2 cups nuts or oats
6 cups water
Sweetener of choice - the amount is really up to you as it depends on how much of a sweet tooth you have, but my recommendations are: dried dates (4)/ honey (6 tsp)/ maple syrup (6 tsp)
Measure out 2 cups of oats/ nuts into a bowl and cover with 4 cups of water.
Add dates if using.
Cover and leave at room temperature to soak for 8-24 hours.
Rinse the nuts and dates if using and discard the water. Note: ignore this step if you are using oats - don’t rinse them or discard the water.
Add the nuts, and dates if using, with 2 cups of clean water to a blender. Note: if using oats just pour with their original water into the blender.
If you are using maple syrup/ honey add this now.
Blend on full power for 1 minute.
The Fiddly Bit:
Place the milk bag inside your bowl/ jug with the lip folded over the edge if possible. If using cheesecloth/ muslin cloth wet the cloth first, then place it inside the container so it dips in the middle. Fold it over the edges.
Carefully and slowly, holding the bag/ cloth with one hand, pour the milk into the container. Getting someone else to help you by holding the bag/ cloth in place while you pour will make this easier!
DO NOT pour too much in - you can always do this in multiple batches. Fill it up to about half the volume of the bag/ cloth.
Draw the edges of the bag/ cloth together, tightly holding it closed to avoid leaks, and squeeze the milk out firmly, twisting as you go. It will get harder as you go along, and certain nuts are harder to squeeze out than others, like hazelnuts and pecans, but persevere to squeeze out all of the creamy goodness.
Once you have squeezed out as much liquid as you can, scrape out the pulp from the bag/ cloth into a different bowl. Save for a batch of oatcakes/ body scrub/ dispose of in compost.
Repeat the squeezing process if you have more milk left in your blender.
Taste your milk and add more sweetener if in need. I like maple syrup for this reason - it's easy to mix in at this stage, unlike dates.
If the milk is too thick you can add additional cold water.
Pour the milk into a bottle/ container and keep in the fridge for 3-5 days.
It's best to stir/ shake the milk before use as it naturally separates.
And just like that, you have your very own homemade plant milk!
An extra gulp:
While writing this article the editorial team put out a call to readers for their views on the wide and wonderful world of non-dairy milks, and I was thrilled with the participation.
In particular one reader Cal wheyed in on the discussion (I apologise for my terrible pun), offering their own tried-and-tested alternative of using sunflower or sesame seeds.
Depending on what you want to use the milk for (e.g. smoothies or porridge) this helps you avoid straining the milk, as seeds don’t produce as much pulp, and the fibre is very good for your gut.
Cal recommends the following recipe:
Soak 3 tablespoons of hulled sunflower seeds in half a cup of room temp water for 8 hrs or overnight.
Rinse well after soaking.
Place into a blender, initially with just 1 inch of water. Blend for 10-30 seconds (depending on blender power) until smooth.
Then add 3 cups or more of water (or less if a creamy consistency is preferred). I add 1ltr per 3 tablespoons of seed and blend for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Voila! The milk keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge.
I would encourage you to experiment and work out the best recipe/ method for you. Tag us on Instagram @imprintmag_ with your results!
Emily is a bored Civil Servant working in the transport sector and enjoys reading, podcasts, soap-making, baking, running and whinging about socio-political issues in her free time. She also has a cat called Annie who is a furry dictator. Follow Emily at @youngemilyf, and read her previous article: 'In Defence of Used Books'.