This week, we’re delving deeper into the flavor profiles of the most common types you can buy at the store, and how we like to use them when cooking for our Meal Delivery Clients. I’ll also share how I like to use them at home in smoothies, cereals, and even macaroni and “cheese”. For those of you who like to put in the extra effort, at the end of this post we’ve provided you with a recipe to make your own almond or cashew milk at home.
Without further ado, here are some of our favorite non-dairy milks and how we like to use them:
- Almond Milk: Subtle, nutty, and usually thicker in texture. This is one of the most popular types, and so there are many varieties and blends available - think almond-cashew, almond-coconut, and chocolate-almond. These varieties are enjoyable straight out of a glass. We find that almond milk is very versatile for use in baked goods, pancakes, smoothies, and even in savory applications (unsweetened, of course). Most surprising use? Almond milk as the base for a creamy mushroom soup.
- Cashew Milk: Subtle, nutty, and rich. Cashews are amazing when used in place of dairy in savory applications. (We’ll share our cashew-ricotta recipe on the blog later this season!) Cashew milk is delicious when used in Vegan Macaroni and Cheese - I love using the recipe by Minimalist Baker. Cashew milk is also smooth and easy to enjoy in cold cereal and smoothies, and functions well as a substitute for dairy milk in baked goods.
- Macadamia Milk: Delicious, mild nutty flavor. I have only seen macadamia milk available in shelf-stable form, so far, however I think it makes an excellent milk substitute when refrigerated and used in breakfast cereal or with granola. I also love it used in a rich, dark hot chocolate. Since it is not very sweet (assuming you buy unsweetened!) it can also be used in savory applications, such as in a “creamy” soup or sauce. I love the slogan on my favorite brand: “Moo is moot!”
- Coconut Milk: Rich and decadent, with a fragrant coconutty flavor. Coconut milk is available in refrigerated cartons, in shelf-stable cartons, or in cans. We use the canned variety in savory curries and in desserts, because it is super rich and naturally contains a lot of (delicious) fats which work well in those types of foods. The kind sold in cartons tends to be much lighter in flavor, and lower in fat, and is fortified with vitamins and minerals - so it is best as a stand-in for dairy milk in cereals, smoothies, or baked goods.
- Flax Milk: Slightly earthy, sweet. Flax milk is a great alternative to nut-milks for those with nut allergies. I have found a brand in the refrigerated section at Wegmans that is unsweetened and contains added pea protein, which I like using in my smoothies.
- Hemp or Quinoa Milk: Earthy. These tend to be stronger in flavor, and thinner in texture. I would use these in smoothies or baked goods, where they are not the prominent flavor. Just like flax milk, these are an awesome alternative for folks who are avoiding both dairy and tree nuts. (And by all means, if you enjoy their flavor, there’s certainly no reason not to drink them straight-up, too!)
- Soy Milk: Mild and light in flavor. Soy milk has long been used as a stand-in for dairy milk in coffee drinks (think lattes), cereal, and even a nice cold glass of chocolate “milk”. We don’t use a lot of soy in our kitchen because of allergies, but if you enjoy soy, then it is a great, mild option for your plant-based needs.
- Oat and Rice Milk: Mild and slightly sweet. Since these milks are produced from starches/grains rather than seeds/nuts, they are naturally much sweeter and thinner. Use these in sweet applications like baked goods. We don’t recommend using these in large quantities regularly, since they do tend to contain a lot of sugar.
Want to make your own? Here’s how!
Use this method to prepare Cashew or Macadamia Milk, also. Seed milks can be made using the same basic process, but typically do not require the pre-soaking. The optional ingredients listed may be added if you’ll be drinking it straight or using it in breakfast cereals and smoothies - they add amazing flavor. I would leave out these flavorings if you plan to use the milk in more savory dishes.
- Nut milk bag or cheesecloth
- 1 cup raw almonds, soaked (see directions, below)
- 3.5 cups filtered water
- 2 to 4 pitted Medjool dates, to taste (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- Small pinch fine sea salt (optional)
Place the almonds in a bowl, cover with filtered water, and refrigerate for 8-10 hours.
Drain and rinse soaking water.
Place drained almonds into a high-powered blender along with the 3.5 cups filtered water and optional ingredients, if using.
Blend on the highest speed for 1 minute.
Place a nut milk bag (or cheesecloth) over a large bowl and slowly pour the mixture into the bag. (It may take a while for the milk to filter through the cloth, so take your time rather than pouring it all at once.) When most of the liquid has filtered through, squeeze the bottom of the bag to release the remaining milk. Transfer milk to a storage container, such as a glass jar, and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Shake well before using, as contents will settle.
What to do with the leftover almond pulp? You can find endless ways to use the leftover pulp online, from baking it into muffins, to drying it and grinding it into almond meal, to stirring it into your breakfast cereal. Get creative! If you want to hold onto it but don’t have the time to get creative, just seal it in a freezer bag, label it, and pop it in your freezer so that you can decide how to use it later without it going bad.
Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear how YOU use plant-based milks at home, and WHY you make this decision… is it because of food sensitivities? Ethical opinions surrounding the dairy industry? Let’s start a discussion!