Nut milk is healthy and nutritious. You can use it as an alternative to dairy, or choose to make it as an occasional treat, because there are so many lovely variations in flavour. Shop-bought nut milk hardly compares to its freshly made alternative and the good news is, it’s quite easy to prepare at home. All you need is a blender or food processor, a nut milk bag or a piece of cheesecloth for straining and a rough idea of the flavour you want to accomplish. Oh, and some nuts.
For those of you who’d like to give it a go, I made a small overview on how to make fresh nut milk at home. Below you’ll find the basic recipe, suitable for any nuts and seeds you’d like to use, plus tips for add-ins, flavourings and use. Apart from that, there’s the link to the recipe for my current favourite nut milk smoothie, my golden mango and turmeric smoothie.
What nuts can you use to make nut milk?
If you want to turn nuts into nut milk, the possibilities are endless. Think almonds, cashew nuts, Brazil nuts, tiger nuts (chufas), hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans, pistachios… The main guideline is your own flavour preference and the question what you’d like to use the milk for. Almond milk and cashew milk are creamy and mild-flavoured, which makes them pleasant to drink, but also suitable as a base for smoothies or as a substitute for dairy in your cooking or baking. Pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts and pistachios all have a more distinct flavour. The milk they yield is lovely to drink and could make a wonderful flavour contribution to your dishes, but if you’d like to use it in your cooking or baking, it’s wise to check if their nutty flavour would actually work in the dish you’re planning to make.
Raw nuts make the best base for nut milk, resulting in milk with a mild flavour. For a more intense nutty flavour, you can dry-roast the raw nuts in the oven, for about 5-8 minutes at 180°C/350°F/gas 4. This may seem less practical than just buying pre-roasted nuts, but doing so gives you more control over the roasting process, and that’s the good part of it.
How to prepare fresh nut milk – basic recipe
- 1 cup of unsalted, organic raw nuts of choice
- water for soaking
- 3 cups of water to make the milk
- pinch of salt to taste (optional)
Put the nuts into a bowl and cover them with cold water. Set aside and leave them to soak for 2-8 hours. How long the nuts need to soften differs according to the type of nuts used. Below, in the “soaking” section, you can read more about this.
Drain the nuts in a sieve and rinse them with cold water. Put the nuts into a blender, add the cups of fresh water and whizz until very finely ground.
Pour the mixture into a nut milk bag or a piece of cheese cloth hanging over a bowl or a jug and squeeze out as much fluid as you can. Whether or not the milk requires straining depends on the type of nuts used; for more on this, see the notes below.
If you like, dilute the strained nut milk with some extra water, then flavour it with a little salt and, optionally, any flavourings of your choice.
Serve immediately, or pour into a sealable jug and keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. The milk will separate over time, so shake it up when you take it out of the fridge and it’ll be ready for use.
Whether or not to soak the nuts – and if so, for how long?
The main reasons for pre-soaking nuts are a principle and a practicality. The first one is, that soaking makes the nuts easier to digest and that it is said – but that’s a matter of taste – to improve their flavour. A practical reason for soaking is that it softens the nuts, making it easier to blend them afterwards. This last bit is especially nice if your blender or food processor isn’t all that powerful. However, some blenders are powerful enough to even whizz unsoaked nuts into oblivion. In that case, you can choose to skip the soaking step and turn the nuts into milk immediately.
Some types of nuts need more time to soften than others. For most nuts it’s advised to soak them for 8 hours. Cashews, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pistachios and pecans are softer and easier to process. With these nuts you can choose to blend them unsoaked, or to reduce the soaking time to 2-4 hours.
Is it necessary to strain the milk?
How smooth the milk gets after blending depends on the power of the blender and on the type of nuts you use. Almonds and hazelnuts leave a large amount of solids in the milk after blending. With these nuts, it may even be practical to strain out the coursest bit of pulp with a regular sieve before filtering the remaining milk in a nut bag.
Cashew nuts and pecans on the other hand, can be blended so finely that you can choose to use the milk unfiltered. That’s a nice thing, because this way you benefit from all the fibres and every bit of nutritional value you’d get from eating a handful of nuts. Depending on your blender, though, the milk may still be a bit gritty. If you want to turn the milk into a completely smooth drink, you might still want to strain it and use the left-over fibre as suggested below.
How can you use nut milk?
- as a drink, either cooled or iced; plain, or flavoured with sweeteners or spices (see tips below!)
- as an ingredient in sweet or savoury dishes
- as a base for smoothies, for example in my golden turmeric and mango smoothie
- in hot drinks, like hot chocolate, or frothed in café or chai latte (with cardamom!)
Add-ins for nut milk
- after straining, you can sweeten the milk to taste with maple syrup, agave syrup, rice syrup, date syrup, honey, coconut sugar, demerara sugar, stevia or other sweeteners of your choice. You can also add a few dates or dried figs to the nuts before blending.
- cinnamon and vanilla make ideal nut milk spices. But also consider cacao, cardamom, ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg and fresh or ground turmeric or ginger.
- seeds and grains to boost the flavour and nutritional value
- for example linseeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds…. You can add the seeds to the nuts, or blend them into seed milk on their own, the same way you would with nuts. They’re highly nutritious, but they also have a distinct flavour. You can pare down the flavour by adding a little sweetener or vanilla, for example – it comes down to experimenting a bit here and finding out which combinations you like. Hemp seeds can be blended without soaking; as for the other seeds, you can soak them together with the nuts for 2-8 hours before blending.
How to use the remaining nut pulp
Depending on the nuts or seeds used, you’ll end up with a small or larger amount of nut pulp after straining. There’s no need to waste this, though, because there are numerous ways to use it. It can serve as a base for sweet baking, for example in cupcakes, granola bars or bliss balls, or for savoury dishes, such as crackers, dips or pizza crusts. You can add it to smoothies for a quick breakfast or snack. If you don’t have immediate use for it, you can also dry it and grind it into meal. Apparently, it can also be used as a scrub – but this is something I have yet to try….
Starting from this base, you can vary to your heart’s delight. Which makes me curious: are there any nice flavour combinations I haven’t thought of? And what is your favourite use of nut milk? I’d love to hear!