Alternative milks — soy, rice, almond, cashew — are rising in popularity if you count grocery store shelf space as a barometer. Earlier this summer, after staring at all the almond milk options in my local store, I decided to do a taste test.
I bought three — none of which actually tasted good to me, and only vaguely tasted like almonds. Someone suggested I try Califia almond milk, found in the refrigerated section (whereas the three above are shelf stable products until you open them). Califia tasted much, much better — closer to an almond flavor — but it still seemed lacking in the flavor department. But if I were to buy almond milk, it would be Califia.
Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I concluded I didn’t care for almond milk. But then someone else suggested I try making it from scratch. And that was a revelation. Almond milk made from scratch tastes nothing like commercial brands. It’s fresh and delicious. And tastes like almonds! The best part is it’s completely additive-free when you make it yourself.
Now, I am not vegan. I am not lactose intolerant, nor in the camp of needing to go dairy-free. I love cow’s milk, but I don’t always have it on hand. I always have a hefty stash of nuts on hand for cooking, baking and snacking, including raw almonds. (My favorite thing to make with raw almonds is a bowl of Elizabeth’s Nuts.)
Not everyone agrees almond milk is the bomb. Tom Philpott from Mother Jones wrote a wrist-slapping article about the rise of commercial almond milk. He doesn’t mention the DIY method. If you don’t let the almond meal go to waste, I don’t see anything wrong with making almond milk — as long as you’re not allergic to almonds.
So here is how you make fresh, delicious almond milk at home.
Soak one cup of almonds in cold water (I keep it in the refrigerator) for eight hours or overnight.
Soaking the almonds plumps them up, as you can see in the photo above.
Drain the almonds and put them in a blender and add three to four cups of fresh cold water (I use 3 cups, which results in a consistency of whole milk. Four cups results in skim milk consistency.) A Vitamix (or other supercharged blender) helps grind the almonds and water quickly.
Once the almonds are finely ground, about 45-60 seconds, have a medium bowl (preferably one with a spout) (affiliate link) lined with a nut bag at the ready.
Pour the milk into the nut bag (some people use cheesecloth but it’s a pain… you have use so much of it, which is then thrown away. If you do use cheesecloth, be sure to rinse it first to remove all the cotton fiber dust. Better yet, do yourself a favor and invest in a $10 (or less) reusable nut bag (affiliate link). I use the nut bag to make labneh (strained yogurt) and ricotta, too.
Let the milk drip into the bowl (it is really handy to use a bowl with a spout on it.)
Squeeze the bag until all of the liquid is removed. Oh, wait, did I mention you should wash your hands right before this step?
You’re left with about 1/2 a cup of almond meal. There is a lot of nutrition in that meal, so keep it to use in smoothies or baking (pancakes, muffins, cakes, etc). Also remember to thoroughly clean the nut bag in warm, soapy water. Let it air dry for a few minutes and then pop it into the freezer for storage (it keeps bacteria from forming).
Pour the almond milk into a glass jar or picture and refrigerate. It keeps for up to 7 days. Some people flavor the milk with sugar (or maple syrup, date syrup, etc.) and vanilla and/or cinnamon. I use almond milk mostly for cereal, and since I’m adding fruit and granola to my cereal, I don’t care for any additional flavors in the milk.
Don’t be alarmed if the milk settles and looks separated. That’s normal and just shake before using.