Homemade Plant-Based Milks

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Plant-based milks were the original disruptor to the dairy industry until coronavirus came along, knocking cow’s milk off its already shaky legs. As dairy operations are dumping milk and consumers are finding empty supermarket shelves, people are cooking from scratch more than ever. While commercial plant milks are faring well during this pandemic, making plant milks at home is even more economical and sustainable, and the basic ingredients may already be in your cupboards.

They cost less, have less (or no) packaging, and can be flavored or sweetened to suit your taste. Zero-waste and plastic-free. It’s a win-win!

Different types of milk vary in terms of taste and texture, so if you don’t like one, try another. All plant-based milks are interchangeable for drinking, baking, or adding to coffee/tea, though some are creamier than others. Oat, almond, cashew, and soy are the creamiest, with rice milk being the thinnest.

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ALMOND OR CASHEW MILK
Used widely in the Middle Ages in regions stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to East Asia, almond milk has long been valued for its ability to keep better than animal’s milk, which has a short shelf life. The same process for almond milk can be used for other nuts, such as cashews and hazelnuts.

Ingredients

1½ cups raw (not roasted) almonds or cashews
4 cups cold water (use less water for thicker, creamier milk)
Pinch of salt (optional, but it enhances the flavor)
Optional ingredients such as vanilla extract, cocoa powder, dates, maple syrup, agave, etc. 

Directions

Soak the almonds in water for a minimum of an hour or up to 24 hours. Soaking is optional for cashews, though they will yield more milk if you soak them for at least 30 minutes in hot water.

After soaking the nuts, discard the water. Add the almonds or cashews and the 4 cups of water to a blender. Add other ingredients such as vanilla extract or cocoa powder, if desired, and blend well on high speed. Optionally, you can sweeten the milk with your favorite sweetener (dates, sugar, maple syrup, agave, etc.).

If making almond milk, you’ll want to strain the mixture with a cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or fine sieve/strainer over a large bowl. This isn’t really necessary with cashews. 

Refrigerate for up to 5 days in an airtight container. Give a little shake before serving. 

Yield: 4 cups

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OAT MILK
Rolled, quick-cooking, even steel-cut will work. Oat milk can become gummy (which is why it’s so effective at combating high cholesterol), so be sure to use cold water and avoid over-blending.

Ingredients
1 cup oats
4 cups cold water (use less water for thicker, creamier milk)
Pinch of salt (optional, but it enhances the flavor)
Optional ingredients such as vanilla extract, cocoa powder, dates, maple syrup, agave, etc. 

Directions

Soak the oats in water for at least 30 minutes or overnight. After soaking, drain the water from the oats, and rinse well with cold water. 

Add fresh cold water and oats to a blender, and blend just until smooth. As with the nut milks, you can add liquid or dry sweeteners or other flavors at this time, but be careful not to over-blend the oats.

Strain the milk using a cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or sieve/strainer over a bowl. Refrigerate for up to 5 days in an airtight container. 

Yield: 4 cups

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RICE MILK
By now, you’re getting the idea that you just need grain/nut/seed/bean + water to make delicious, nutritious milks. 

Ingredients

3/4 cup uncooked long grain brown or white rice
4 cups water (use less water for thicker, creamier milk)
Pinch of salt (optional, but it enhances the flavor)

Optional ingredients such as vanilla extract, cocoa powder, dates, maple syrup, agave, etc. 

Directions

Soak rice in 2 cups very hot (not boiling water) for 2 hours. The rice should be soft at the end of 2 hours. Drain and add to a blender. 

Add the 4 cups of water, salt, and any additional ingredients. Blend well. Taste for sweetness and adjust accordingly. Strain using a cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or sieve/strainer. 

Yield: 4 cups

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SOY MILK
Possibly the oldest of the bunch is soy milk, which originated in China thousands of years ago and was used long before we have written records to document the precise “day of discovery.” You can certainly make soy milk without a machine, but it is oodles easier to invest in a simple soy milk maker. (Here’s my favorite.) You’ll make back your investment in no time with the amount of delicious, nutty milk you will make. 

Though water is really the only beverage we have a physiological need for (beyond our own human milk when we’re young), it is certainly convenient and tasty to be able to make creamy, nutrient-rich milk from nuts, grains, legumes, and seeds. No packaging, no additives, no pregnant cow required. It’s a win-win during times of crisis or anytime. 

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PLANT MILK? LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW!

 

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Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is an author whose topics include animal agriculture, animal protection, and plant-based eating. She has written seven books, including several cookbooks, is a regular contributor to National Public Radio and LiveKindly, and has published letters and commentaries in The New York Times, The Economist, and The Christian Science Monitor. 

*Photos by Marie Laforêt

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