Why and How To Make Nut Milk (It Isn’t Just About the Brownies)

Why and How To Make Nut Milk (It Isn’t Just About the Brownies)

Nut milk. The name sounds kind of ridiculous. But it looks like milk, has a similar shelf life, can be used in similar ways, and in many cases the nuts do actually have to be “milked”, so it’s easy to see why the name took hold!

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When my husband and I started out on our plastic-free journey, we bought cow’s milk that came in returnable glass bottles. But it wasn’t stocked in many places, so finding it was hard – and a bit of effort. Gathering those glass bottles together to return them meant a heap of clutter and a journey across town with them all (there was no deposit return either, only goodwill). Plus what to do with all those lids?!

I began making nut milk alongside dairy milk, because it was a lot easier to find nuts in bulk, and they have a long shelf life (they will last for months in a jar in the pantry, or even better, the freezer). I found nut milk worked just as well in baking, in porridge and in coffee, and I began to use it more and more.

Eventually I thought more about the impact of the dairy industry on the planet. Cows need a lot of water and land to produce milk, they produce huge amounts of methane, cause soil erosion, and the product has to be transported fresh, meaning a higher carbon footprint. Nuts use less water, the trees are beneficial for the environment, and the products have a long shelf life.

Nut milk seemed like the greener option. I decided to stop buying dairy milk altogether (my husband stopped too, but later).

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But of course, I don’t buy nut milk. Some commercial brands of nut milk are little more than bottled water! Alpro’s nut milk contains only 2% almonds, and the second biggest ingredient is sugar. Unnecessary packaging aside, shipping all that water across the globe seems like such a waste when we can ship dry nuts (or even better, use local ones) and make our own.

And I have to tell you, making your own is super easy. It requires no specialised equipment, and takes very little time. You’ll need a blender, but it doesn’t have to be a fancy one.

How To Make Cashew Milk

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Cashew milk is my go-to milk because it’s the easiest. Cashews are already quite soft, so they do not need to be soaked for a long time. They also contain very little fibre, so there is no need to strain.

To make:

Soak 1 cup of raw cashews in water for a few hours or overnight. Rinse, and blend with 4 cups water. Done.

I tend to blend my cashews with 1 cup of water at a time, for 30 seconds, before adding the next cup of water. I find that there are less (no) lumps in it this way.

Makes 1.2 litres. Lasts 5-7 days in the fridge. It may get thicker over time, in which case add a little more water to it.

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Cashew milk works absolutely amazingly in coffee, too :)

How to Make Almond Milk

Almond milk is the most common nut milk, but it isn’t the easiest or quickest to make. That doesn’t mean it’s hard, mind! It just needs soaking a little longer, and also straining.

To make:

Soak 1 cup of raw almonds in water for at least 12 hours, and even 24 hours (change the water every 8 hours or so). Rinse, and blend with 4 cups of water.Now you need to strain.

I strain my almond milk using cheesecloth as it has a fine weave and is 100% cotton. Spread the cheesecloth over a bowl or jug, pour the milk over and allow the almond milk to drip through. Squeeze to get any remaining drops out.

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I bought my cheesecloth off the roll at a fabric store – it is very inexpensive. (Cheesecloth is not the same thing as muslin. Muslin has a much looser weave and the fibre all gets stuck!)

Alternatively, you could use a clean tea towel or old pair of tights, or even a fine mesh sieve. Before I had the cheesecloth, I used one of my mesh produce bags. There is absolutely no need to buy an expensive plastic nut milk bag!

Makes about 800ml, and leaves a cup of almond pulp. Don’t throw the almond pulp away! It will last in the fridge for a week, or freeze it. And then make chocolate brownies : ) (Recipe below).

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Fresh almond pulp (almond milk on the right). I use cheesecloth the strain, and scrape the excess pulp off with a knife.

How to Make Other Nut Milks

Other nut milks can be made in the same way, and most will require some kind of straining, although they won’t produce as much pulp as almond milk does. I’ve made macadamia milk (no need to strain), brazil nut milk and walnut milk.

Cheaper Nut Milk Alternatives

Nuts can be expensive. Increasing the ratio of nuts to water will make a more cost-effective milk, but will also dilute the milk. I tend to use the ratio 1:4 nuts:water but this could be increased to 1:5 or 1:6.

As well as nuts, you can also make plant-based milk with seeds, oats and peanuts (which are techincally a legume, not a nut). These work out much cheaper than nut milks. I’ve tried making sesame seed milk (not recommended – it has a very strong flavour!), pumpkin seed milk (which is absolutely delicious) and sunflower seed milk. Flaxseed milk is also popular, although I’ve never tried this.

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Homemade pumpkin seed milk :)

As above, the principle is the same. Soak, then blend 1 cup seeds with 4 cups water, and strain.

What to Do with the Leftover Pulp: Make Almond Pulp Brownies!

This recipe has become my go-to almond pulp recipe. I’ve made savoury crackers, and macaroons too, but nothing beats chocolate-y goodness, so I always come back to this one.

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Ingredients:

180g sugar (I use rapadura sugar)
1 cup almond pulp, approx (the pulp left over from using 1 cup of almonds to make almond milk)
80g cocoa powder (I’ve used both cocoa powder and raw cacao for this – I prefer cocoa powder but it doesn’t really matter. You might want to add a little more sugar if using cacao, though)
1/2 cup (110g) coconut oil (I use deodorised as I find the coconut oil flavour a little intense in desserts)
9 tbsp aquafaba (chickpea water – effectively a waste product being put to good use. Find out more here!)
1/2 cup (60g) spelt or other flour
1 tbsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup macadamias/walnuts/raspberries/chocolate chips/something else delicious
(or you could leave plain. But I consider all good brownies to need some kind of crunch)

Optional: a few tablespoons of cacao nibs and/or chopped nuts to top.

Method:

Line a square baking tin (if you use baking paper) and preheat the oven to 175°C.

Melt the coconut oil in a pan. Turn off the heat, add the almond pulp and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, cocoa powder and flour, and mix well. Add to the pan and stir in. It might seem really dry at first, but it will incorporate. Once combined, add the vanilla essence, salt and walnuts (or delicious thing of your choice).

In a tall cylinder, whisk the aquafaba to form stiff peaks. (This will take longer than you think.) I use a stick blender with a whisk attachment and it takes at least 5  minutes of  constant whisking. Add the aquafaba to the brownie mixture in the pan, slowly folding to incorporate with as little stirring as possible.

This yellow liquid is what you get when you cook chickpeas and strain (and keep) the water

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Once incorporated, pour into the baking tray. Sprinkle the toppings on (if using) and bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes until the top is dry.

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Best stored in the fridge if you don’t demolish the whole lot in one sitting.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever made nut milk (or seed, oat or rice milk)? Which is your favourite? Which is your least favourite? If you’ve never made it before, is there something putting you off? Do you have any other alternatives to suggest? What about aquafaba – have you ever experimented with that? Are you just a little bit tempted to make these chocolate brownies?! Anything else you’d like to add? Please tell me your thoughts and leave a comment below!

22 Responses to Why and How To Make Nut Milk (It Isn’t Just About the Brownies)

  1. Read and loved it. Very informative! I’ll already made almond and cashew nut milk a few times but I will make almond today just to make this!
    Have you made soy milk?
    Can you used canned chickpea juice?
    Thanks love!

    • Thank you Laura! No, I haven’t made soy milk because I don’t particularly like the taste, and I’ve read that soy milk isn’t very good for us. I think you need to boil the beans maybe, so it isn’t as simple as making nut milk.

      Canned chickpea juice will work just as well. Some canned chickpeas contain added salt and sugar, which won’t be a problem but just make sure you don’t add extra salt to the cake mix if this is the case!

      Let me know how you get on!

  2. How about if one doesn’t feel like boiling chichpeas and would rather use eggs: how many and would it be only the whites or a whole egg?

    I have bought nut milk (and oat milk) a few times and I think I’d like to use those especially in baking and smoothies but the prices are pretty high and since I use very little milk, it easily goes bad before I have used it all. -> If I made my own nut milk I could make smaller amounts at a time. I think I’ll have to try this! Thanks for the instructions!

    • Good question Eija! If you prefer to use tinned chickpeas, the water in the can will work just as well (maybe even better). Generally 3 tbsp aquafaba is the same as 1 egg. I adapted this from a recipe by the Bojon Gourmet and she uses 4 eggs but I’ve changed a few of the other things as well to suit what I have and like.

      I’ve been meaning to make oat milk since forever so when I do I will be sure to share! I’ve also heard of people making peanut milk which is a cheaper alternative!

      Good luck and let me know how you get on!

  3. Very informative and helpful post Lindsay, thank you. I’m excited to try your vegan brownie recipe! I stopped dairy a year ago for animal cruelty and environmental reasons and haven’t found it too difficult, although I do miss dairy cheese on occasions. I’ve tried various brands of plant based milks, both in New Zealand and the UK, and my favourites are organic Oatly (oat) and Koko (coconut). I’ve been meaning to make my own oat milk for a while and now I’m inspired by your post to try the cashew nut milk as well!

    • Thanks Tracy, glad you found it useful! I have used oat milk at my in-laws in coffee… whilst I quite like it, I find the oaty coffee taste a little strange – as if I’d poured coffee in my porridge! I have also had coconut milk in a cafe before. But I could never buy these because I cannot cannot cannot bear the cartons!

      Making my own oat milk has been on my to-do list since forever too. If you get there before me, please let me know how you get on! :)

  4. Just made cashew milk for the first time. Wish it tasted as good as almond milk but I have been taking a long break from making my own almond milk lately because I was sick of the mess and hassle of straining and also because almond prices skyrocketed. So definitely happy with the cashew milk thanks very much.

    In baking (especially savoury things like bread) I have used water mixed with soy flour in place of milk with success (about 1 part soy flour to 3 parts water).

    Found your blog recently and am really enjoying it. Thanks!

    • Amy, I think it tastes better! But maybe that’s because I can taste all that effort and mess saved by not straining! ;) Because it isn’t strained it’s easier to dilute and make more cost effective than almond milk too. Wins all round!

      I’ve never tried that, but it sounds like a great idea – it makes sense!

      Thank you so much and lovely to have you here Amy! :)

  5. Milk is one of the things that I have been looking to change- at the moment we have mostly been buying regular milk in plastic bottles (sometimes in glass) because my husband drinks a lot of it! So I’m going to try making some more nut milk and using both for a bit- My husband has been so supportive with all the big changes we have made so far- even cutting down on meat! So we are making the rest of the changes slowly (he is not very keen to give up dairy milk). Have you ever tried making a nut milk with a mixture of different nuts together?

    • Hi Sarah, I somehow missed this so apologies for the delay! My favourite nut milk in coffee is a mix of 50:50 almond:cashew. But I find almond milk tastes best fresh, whereas cashew milk will last longer and taste just as good after a few days. I tend to make them separately and then combine, but there’s no need to if you’d rather not.

      With my husband, he still wanted dairy milk in his coffee, but he actually preferred cashew milk in porridge and on cereal. And of course, with baking it’s impossible to tell the difference. Smoothies taste better with nut milk too I find – they don’t sit as heavily in your stomach! If you use bananas and/or avocados, they provide enough thickness and creaminess along with the nut milk.

      Small steps! Does your husband drink actual milk, or milk in things?

  6. Hi Lindsay, thank you for the great post and the brownie recipe. The idea of aquafaba as ingredient is very intriguing. I think I will cook a batch of chick peas tomorrow.
    A few weeks ago I tried buckwheat milk and it is my new favourite. Just the colour is not very “milky”, more brownish.

  7. Great blog, thank you Lindsey! I’m curious, though about the container shown in second picture. Is that plastic? Thanks!

    • Thank you for your kind words Nick! :) Do you mean the Kenwood beaker that I use to strain the almond milk? If so, then yes it is plastic. I purchased the blender with the attachments in 2012 before I began my plastic-free journey. When I went plastic-free I didn’t throw away what I had, I gradually repurposed and donated what I could. I can’t bear waste! As the beaker was used it had no value, I keep it and use it. I don’t use it for food storage, only for occasional whisking and straining. Once it has broken it will be recycled and I won’t buy another one. I hope that helps! :)

  8. I’ve made cashew and almond milk using your instructions since you wrote this post. Thank you they are fab and I much prefer them to dairy. My family don’t agree though (yet!). Brownies are in the oven right now. One thing I found was that when I went the fold the mixes together the aqafaba was running underneath the lovely frothy top! It’s the first time I’ve used it and I did it in my mixer while I was missing the the other bits. Could it be that I didn’t whisk long enough or does it “dear froth” if you don’t use it immediately? The brownie mixture looked a great consistency so I’m sure they will be fine if not great. Thanks again for all your wisdom and sharing.

    • Hi Anna – I’m so glad you made them and you love them! You can add them to baking etc to incorporate more plants and less dairy into your family’s diet. That’s how I started with them. Oh, and porridge!

      You do have to whisk it for aaaaages. If the whisk doesn’t touch the bottom you can end up with a liquid part at the bottom. I use stick whisk and I tilt to ensure I get it all. It doesn’t seem to de-froth though – at least, not like egg whites do. I’m sure in time it would, but it’s more forgiving.

      Hope that helps and your brownies were still good!

  9. Hi Lindsay, thanks for your posts! I read this article after another you wrote recently about whether or not almond milk is bad for the environment. I’ve been wondering, what happens to the nut meal by-product when nut milks are made on an industrial scale? Do you happen to know anything about this? Websites like Alpro’s that are specific about their sustainability practices, like where they source their nuts from and how they package and transport their milks, don’t mention making use of the by-product which makes me worried they might throw it away! Unless they’re baking epic quantities of your brownies? ;) Claire

    • Hi Claire and thank you! I’m not sure what happens to the pulp. I think they’d be crazy to throw it, and I’m sure they don’t as landfill would be an expense. I’d assume it is sold for animal feed as a last resort, but maybe they dry it or use it to bulk out other foods? Maybe you could write to them and ask…?! ;)

  10. Wow – what an amazing recipe! I sooo look forward to trying it! I usually have to sub something for something else, but yours is perfect for my tastes and kind of baking/making. Thanks so much!

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