One of the first changes people make after deciding to go plant-based is swapping out their dairy milk for a plant-based option. The refrigerated aisle at the grocery store has plenty of choices — soy, almond, and rice are all popular alternatives. (Coconut milk is also available, but has a very high amount of saturated fat.) Most stores also carry shelf-stable versions of non-dairy milks that allow you to keep unopened milk in the cupboard so Mikey never runs out of milk for his breakfast cereal.
While these commercial plant-based milks are convenient and definitely preferable to dairy milk (which can come complete with added hormones, antibiotics, and bacteria), there's an even better alternative. Homemade plant-based milks are less expensive and as just as delicious as commercial varieties. Best of all, when we make the plant-based milk ourselves, we can control exactly what goes into it. Homemade milk doesn't contain added oil (often added in the form of lecithin), sugar, salt, or vague 'natural flavors.' Nothing goes into it that we don't want to eat.
While recipes may differ, the procedure for making non-dairy milk is pretty standard across the board: blend up soaked nuts or grains with water, strain, and enjoy. Additional flavorings are optional and depend on how the milk will be used. Milk poured over cereal might be nice with a little vanilla; some cooks add a little sweetener and a dash of salt. But milk destined for the soup pot usually doesn't need anything more.
My favorite thing about making milk at home is that it allows me to determine the richness of the milk. If my milk is going to be diluted in soup anyway, I can make it very thick and creamy. But, if I plan to pour nut milk on my oatmeal, I tend to make a very light version so that I can enjoy the nutty flavor with less of the fat naturally found in nuts.
To help us learn how to make our own non-dairy milks, Chef Cathy Fisher offers some fabulous recipes and very clear directions for making 'Almond or Pecan Milk' and 'Oat or Rice Milk.' Click on the hyperlink or visit Chef Cathy's blog at StraightUpFood.com.
The video below gives a great demonstration of how to make almond milk. If I were making it for my family, I'd use about half as many nuts as the video depicts, and I'd cut out the cinnamon to make the milk Starch-Smarter. But that's what's so appealing about making plant-based milk at home: each cook can decide how to tailor the milk for their family's needs.
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