While nut milks used to belong to a fairly niche group of health foods, the market is now flooded with an endless variety of plant-based products for those seeking low calorie, lactose-free options for their morning cereal and coffee. And though some people turn to nut milks due to dietary restrictions, many individuals have begun to choose them simply because they prefer the taste—and why wouldn’t they? Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and more can be made into milks and butters that are rich, nutritious, and oh-so-scrumptious.
Melissa King, author of DIY Nut Milks, Nut Butters & More (The Experiment, 2014), can testify to the many possibilities nuts have to offer. In her new cookbook, King teaches readers how to transform nuts into creamy milks and satisfying butters. As a bonus, she also includes several snack and dessert recipes that’ll put those milks and butters to good use! All of her recipes are gluten-free, vegan, and provide tasty DIY alternatives to expensive store-brought brands. Find her step-by-step guide to basic nut milk below, then try out her recipes for Pecan “Caramel” Overnight Oats, Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, and Chocolate Banana Almond Cups.
Melissa King’s Basic Nut Milk:
Prep Time: About 15 minutes (not including the overnight soak), plus 2 hours if drying the pulp for later use.
- 1 cup raw, unsalted nuts, whole or chopped
- 3 1/2 to 4 cup water
Optional Sweeteners (choose one or two):
- 1 teaspoon ground vanilla beans
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 Medjool date, pit removed
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
1. Soak the nuts overnight. I like to use a 32-ounce mason jar for this (with regular tap water). It doesn’t have to be a particular temperature. Place the nuts in a jar and then add enough water to cover them, plus an extra inch or two. The nuts will expand slightly during the soaking process. In the morning, drain and rinse the nuts well.
2. Add the nuts to a high-powered blender with 3 1/2 cups of fresh water. Blend 2 minutes. I use my Vitamix, starting out at a slow speed before working my way up to a higher one.
3. Set a fine-mesh strainer on top of a large bowl. Place a high-quality cheesecloth on top of the strainer, or use a nut milk bag instead.
4. Pour the contents of the blender into the cheesecloth or nut milk bag. At this point, I like to walk away and let gravity do most of the work on its own. It should take about 5 minutes or so for most of the liquid to end up in the bowl.
5. Gather the cheesecloth or nut milk bag in your hands and gently squeeze it. You’ll start to see a lot of liquid come out. Keep squeezing until you feel that all the liquid is gone. It can be quite the hand workout.
6. Add an optional sweetener, if desired, and then blend again for another 2 minutes.
7. Dump the excess pulp onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. It will be wet and clumpy. I use my fingers to break it up and spread it out on the baking sheet so that it dries out easily. Please don’t throw it away—there are an incredible number of uses for pulp.
8. Use a funnel to pour the nut milk into a glass storage jar, and store it in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- If you decide to add a sweetener or two to this recipe, start with ground vanilla beans, which make things taste sweeter without raising the actual sugar content. Be sure to strain the milk before adding the sweetener. If you add the sweetener too early in the process, some of it will get caught in the cheesecloth, especially dates. I add the dates once I have strained the mixture, and then I blend everything again for another 2 minutes to make sure the ingredients are completely mixed. Note that if you use vanilla extract, you might be able to slightly taste the alcohol, since this recipe isn’t cooked.
- Don’t be shocked when you take your milk out of the refrigerator and find that it’s separated. Just give it a good shake to mix it up again. Homemade nut milk doesn’t have added thickeners, emulsifiers, or stabilizers to keep the mixture homogeneous.
- Most nut milks will last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, which should be plenty of time if you use them regularly in coffee, cereal, and recipes. The somewhat short life span is why I don’t make it in large batches. Store-bought milks tend to last longer because they have added preservatives.
Recipes from DIY Nut Milks, Nut Butters & More
Along with her work on DIY Nut Milks, Nut Butters & More, Melissa King is also the writer, photographer, and recipe developer for the blog My Whole Food Life.