But if you check out the labels on many store-bought brands, you’ll often find sugar, stabilizers, and other additives—yuck. Plus, packaged nut milks can get pricey.
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So, why not make your own? Almond milk is great to start with because almonds are easy to find and familiar-tasting. Not only is it surprisingly easy, but if a store near you sells bulk nuts, you can save a bundle. All you need are nuts, water, a blender, and some cheesecloth.
Here’s how to make it:
1. Soak the nuts. Start with 1 cup of raw, unsalted nuts. Place the nuts in a bowl and cover with at least 1 inch of cool, fresh water (filtered is best). Make sure your bowl has some space, as the nuts will plump up a bit. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
2. Place a piece of cheesecloth over a jar or other container, securing it with a rubber band.
3. Drain the nuts in a colander and rinse thoroughly with cool water. Toss them in a blender. Add 1 ½ cups of cool water and a pinch of salt (optional). If you want to sweeten the milk, you can add a couple of pitted dried dates to the mix, or a tablespoon or two of maple syrup or honey. Blend at the highest speed for about 2 minutes—you want those nuts thoroughly pulverized. Blend in up to ½ cup more water, a few tablespoons at a time, to thin it if desired. Taste the milk and add more sweetener or salt, if needed. You also can blend in some vanilla, if you like.
4. Slowly pour the milk into the jar, through the cheesecloth. Work slowly so it can pass through the cheesecloth and not overflow. When all of the milk is through, gather up the cheesecloth and squeeze to extract as much liquid as possible. Cover the jar and chill. Makes about 2 to 3 cups.
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Here are 5 more tips for making nut milk at home:
You can use just about any kind of nut in this recipe. Cashews are especially easy because they’re soft, so you don’t even have to strain the milk.
Save the leftover pulp
You can add it to pancake or muffin batter or cookie dough, sprinkle it into oatmeal, or toast it along with the rice to add protein to a pilaf. Or spread it out on a baking sheet, turn your oven onto its lowest setting and bake the pulp until it’s dry, let cool, then pulse in a food processor until it’s finely ground. Now you have nut meal—use it in place of some of the flour in recipes or in place of breadcrumbs. Store it in a plastic baggie in the freezer.
Jazz it up
To flavor the milk, blend in some unsweetened cocoa powder (you may need a little extra sweetener for this) or spices like cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. You could even dissolve some instant coffee granules in vanilla and add that.
Use it early and often
Enjoy your nut milk in a few days, or it will spoil. Use it anywhere you’d enjoy dairy milk—in coffee, over cereal, in smoothies, even in baking recipes. And the nut milk will separate, but don’t worry: Just shake well before using it and it will come right back together.
Make life easier
If you’re going to make nut milk often, think about investing in a nut milk bag ($10; rawnutmilkbag.com). It’s easier to use than cheesecloth (it has an adjustable top so it’s easy to secure over a jar), and greener, too, since it’s reusable.
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Beth Lipton is Health‘s Food Director.