Plant-based milks are lifesavers for anyone who loves a little milk over some oatmeal, in a creamy smoothie, as an addition to coffee or tea, or even to use for their baking needs. There are also so many on the market to choose from! Any nut, seed or grain can easily be made into a plant-based milk and it’s even better if you can make them at home yourself instead of buying those at the store. However, if you’ve ever tried to make your own at home, you probably know there are a few must-do’s in order to create a delicious plant-based milk that’s not watery or bland. These tricks don’t take any extra time or hassle; they’re just easy to overlook and not always included in every recipe you see.
The basic concept of making plant-based milk is to simply take the seeds, grains, nuts, etc. of choice and blend them with a 4:1 ratio of water to the ingredients of choice. Then you either have the choice to strain them through a nut milk bag or cheesecloth to remove the fibrous pulp and leave behind the milk, or you can keep it in your milk for extra fiber, (though it can be a bit grainy). Whichever you choose, there are some tips you can try to make sure your homemade plant-based milks taste the best.
1. Soak First
It’s best to soak your ingredients overnight before blending them with the water the next day to create the milk. This is especially true for nuts and seeds. Why? For one, it helps remove some of their phytic acid content, which is naturally found in the outer shell of most nuts, seeds and grains. Phytic acid is beneficial for the food to protect it out in nature but it can be hard for the body to break down to some degree. While you might tolerate unsoaked ingredients fine, soaking them also benefits you because it boosts the flavor of your plant-based milks. When you just put some nuts with some water and blend, there is little time for the flavor to be released into the water for your milk. When you soak overnight, those almonds, cashews, oats, or whatever other ingredients you’re using, have time to suspend into the water to create a delicious milk. The only exceptions to this are coconut, hemp and flax seeds, which do not need to be soaked, nor do they contain traceable amounts of phytic acid in comparison with nuts, other seeds and grains. Soak other ingredients overnight in the fridge for ease of use (or at least 6-8 hours before you make your milk). Then just strain and rinse before blending with your water for the milk.
2. Sweeten Things Up Sans Sugar
Another trick to make your milks tastier is to sweeten things up a bit. You can easily do this without a hint of refined sugar and even keep the sugar content low too. The most natural options are to blend your nuts, seeds, and/or grains with your water and either a soaked date, fig or even a tablespoon of raisins. Then, after you strain it, the milk won’t taste like fruit, but will instead just have a natural sweetness. You also don’t have to use a lot of those dried fruits because they’re high in naturals sugars and will disperse well in the overall milk to keep the sugar content low per serving. You can also just use stevia and blend with that for a sugar-free, but still more natural option.
3. Strain and Shake
Though you don’t have to strain the pulp, it does produce a less-grainy texture if you do and appears more like milk than blended food. Strained milk also pours more evenly and is less likely to clump up. It’s also a good idea to store your milks in mason jars or another glass container with a firmly closed lid. This way, you can give them a good shake before each use which is important since the milks will naturally form a thinner layer at the top and thicker layer at the bottom as they sit. Homemade milks contain no harmful emulsifiers like processed options do that create that perfect consistency you find in store bought milk. This is primarily why they’re used. So just give yours a good shake before use and you (and your gut) will be good to go!
4. Don’t Fear the Flavor
Real vanilla beans, cacao nibs, goji berries, freeze dried strawberries or blueberries, fresh fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or any other natural flavor you can think of can all be blended with your ingredients when you make your milk. After you strain them, you’ll only be left behind with the flavor of choice. Strawberry and cacao almond milk offers a dessert-like flavor that’s great in smoothies, desserts or oatmeal, while cinnamon and vanilla bean flavored milk is nice and relaxing. Give these a try and have fun experimenting! (Here’s a few ideas for what to do with the leftover pulp if you need ideas.)
5. Skip the Salt
While most plant-based milks at the store have added sodium, it’s really not necessary in homemade recipes. Salt is mainly used as a preservative method for store bought options and most are pretty high in sodium per serving at that. Using salt in homemade recipes may taste good with some ingredients, but it can also create an off, almost metallic flavor with others. Skip the salt and just be sure to use your milk within 3-4 days so you know it’s fresh. It will taste better that way and be healthier for you too!
Now it’s time to make some non-dairy milk. Don’t be afraid to make your first batch if you haven’t tried this out yet; it’s really so easy and economical too. You can create a richer milk by blending just 1 cup of ingredients with 3 cups of water, or you can use the standard 1 cup ingredients with 4 cups of water. Try different ingredients out such as oats, almonds, cashews, hemp seeds, flax seeds, coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and even quinoa flakes or seeds. Check out all our delicious homemade plant-based milks if you’d like specific recipes and let us know if you have a favorite!
Lead Image Source: Hazelnut Fig Milk