Enjoying nut milk doesn’t have to mean that you’re restricted to a dairy-free diet. But if you’ve tasted those available in your supermarket, you might see no reason to continue exploring them. They tend to be watered down and lack flavor. This is largely a result of the mass production necessary to create commercial nut milk.
Crafting your own at home is simple. And more importantly the minimal effort results in a creamy beverage full of flavor. It’s surprisingly enjoyable and something you likely thought impossible for a beverage squeezed from nuts.
Nut Milk Varieties
There are reasons why you don’t see a huge variety of nut milks on the market. One is the price of the nuts. The more expensive it is to source the base of your milk, the less appealing it is to make that milk.
The cost will have to be passed on to consumers.
For example, most people would rather enjoy a handful of macadamia nuts than pay a similar price to have it turned into a high-quality milk.
The second is the characteristics of the nuts themselves. When handled in large quantities in a factory setting, it becomes difficult to control the bitterness of nuts such as hazelnuts or walnuts without a lot of hands on, time-consuming labor.
Making nut milk at home is so appealing because it’s better quality but also because you can craft any type of truly delicious nut milk you want. Nearly any nut is fair game. If you want to stick to a lower priced option, your almond milk will have a much more assertive flavor.
If you want to splurge a bit, creamy hazelnut milk is my very favorite. It’s the nut milk I’ll walk through making in this article.
If you enjoy eating a type of nut, chances are you’ll enjoy a nut milk made from it. I think that dry-roasted and unsalted whole nuts—or halves, if using pecans or walnuts—are the best choice.
This is especially true for hazelnuts because dry roasting removes some of their bitter skin but not all of it. It creates a better balance of flavor in the milk. The same tends to happen with whole dry roasted almonds.
But don’t worry if you can only find raw nuts. They make great milk, too.
The nuts need to soak for 2 1⁄2 hours so that they soften and can be blended into the water to create the milk. Keep in mind that the water you use is the base of your milk.
If you don’t like the taste of your tap water, use filtered drinking water.
Any temperature is fine. I find that room temperature or even slightly warm, but not hot, water helps to extract the flavors of any whole spices you add to the mix.
In addition to the different types of nut milks you can make are the limitless flavors you can also create. Whole spices can add hints of seasonal tastes and gourmet twists to a nut milk, making it even more enjoyable to drink.
The hazelnut milk here will be made with green cardamom and cinnamon. But star anise, black cardamom pods, whole cloves, allspice berries, coriander and even pink peppercorns allow you to craft some intriguing flavors. You can also use vanilla bean pods that have already been scraped for use in baked goods.
If you are using a lot of small spices, such as peppercorns or cloves, place those in a tea steeper or a small sachet of cheesecloth so that you don’t spend so much time fishing them out of your liquid. Whenever possible, though, I do like for the whole seeds or pods to come into direct contact with the soaking water.
They typically float, so it isn’t too difficult to get them out with a spoon before blending the nuts.
You can use ground spices if you like, but overuse can cause grittiness in the milk. These should be added once you’ve strained the milk instead of when soaking the nuts.
This is also when you’ll add any sweetener. It can be sugar, but a syrup made with honey and water or pure maple syrup make better choices because they add sweetness and a complex depth of flavor.
Straining the Milk
Once nuts are done soaking, if you used any whole spices, those should be removed. Then the liquid and the nuts get transferred to a blender. There, they are pureed until the nuts are finely chopped and the liquid looks like a thin, cloudy smoothie.
You can use either cheesecloth or a nut milk bag. Nut milk bags are convenient if you make a lot of your own nut milk, and I have used them before. But if you are like me and tend to have cheesecloth around for other kitchen or craft projects, it’s just as easy to cut off a large piece of it to make your milk.
There’s no need to get caught up in the grade of the cheesecloth. Anything between 10 and 90 will work. When working with cloth closer to 10, I layer two pieces to ensure no sediment from the nuts gets through. You’ll be able to judge this once you see what you are working with after blending the nuts and liquid.
For the nut milk we’ll make here, a 14-inch square of cloth is plenty big. But you do want it to extend over the sides of the colander. If you are using a large colander, cut your piece a little larger.
I prefer a mesh colander, but any type will do. Set it over a bowl. Drape in the cheesecloth, and secure it on the sides. Then pour the ground nuts and liquid over the cheesecloth.
Let that drain for about 5 minutes. Then gather the cheesecloth around the nuts, tie it at the top, and it’s time to get to work. Remove the colander, and, working over the bowl, squeeze and squeeze and squeeze.
Work all of the liquid out of the nuts.
Once you are satisfied that all the liquid is out, you can sweeten your nut milk and add ground spices if you are using those. The best way to incorporate both is to transfer the milk to a quart-sized canning jar, add them and give it all a good shake.
Step-by-Step, DIY Nut Milk
This recipe is for hazelnut milk with cardamom and cinnamon. And we’ll take a look at how to make it, step-by-step. You’ll end up with 3 1/2 to 4 cups of milk, depending on how long and hard you work the liquid out of the nuts.
This version is unsweetened. If you’d like to sweeten it, I’d suggest using a tablespoon or two of maple syrup and shake it in well. Also, don’t forget that pinch of fine sea salt just before serving.
What you’ll need:
- two bowls
- 14-inch square piece of cheesecloth, two if it’s closer to grade 10
- quart canning jar with lid for storing
For the milk
- 1 cup dry-roasted, unsalted whole hazelnuts
- 4 cups filtered water, room temperature or slightly warmer
- 10 to 12 whole green cardamom pods
- 2 large or 4 small cinnamon sticks
Step 1: Soak the Nuts
Place the nuts in a large bowl and pour over the 4 cups of water. Add the cardamom pods and the cinnamon sticks. Let sit for 2 1/2 hours.
Stir the nuts gently a couple times during the soaking time if possible.
Step 2: Blend the Nuts
Remove the whole spices from the water. Transfer the nuts and liquid to a blender. Puree on low for 30 seconds, then increase to high for 15 seconds.
The nuts will be very finely chopped in a thin, cloudy liquid.
Step 3: Prepare for Straining
Layer one or two pieces of cheesecloth over a medium-size mesh colander. Secure the sides of the cheesecloth so that they don’t fold in when you pour in the liquid.
I use clothes pins. But an extra set of hands to hold it work as well. Set the colander over a bowl.
Step 4: Strain the Milk
Pour the liquid from the blender into the colander and let the milk drain into the bowl below. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Step 5: Squeeze out the Milk
Gather the cheese cloth tightly around the remaining nut pieces and tie it off. Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the bag.
You can discard the ground nuts. Depending on the type you used, they still might have good flavor and are still edible. Some uses for them include stirring into yogurt or oatmeal, spread into the filling for cinnamon rolls, or blended into cookie dough.
Step 6: Transfer for Storage
Pour the milk into a quart canning jar. If you’d like to add a sweetener, you can do this now. Secure the lid, and give it a good shake. Chill well in the refrigerator and use within four days.
So how do you use it? You can drink a glass of it, of course. But I find myself using nut milk for so much more.
It can add new tastes to otherwise bland cereals such as bran flakes. And it makes creamy overnight muesli or overnight oats.
You can also use it to create cocktails that call for a splash of cream or milk. It can be added to warm drinks such as coffee or tea. But, due to its lack of fat, it likely won’t froth up nicely if you try to use it in something like a latte.
Sidebar: Secret to Success
A pinch of salt brings out so much flavor in nut milk, especially if you plan to enjoy it alone as a beverage. It doesn’t have to be, and really shouldn’t be, a lot.
Just a pinch of fine sea salt that will easily dissolve works well. I think it’s best stirred or shaken in just before serving.
Sidebar: Storing Nut Milk
How long your nut milk will last may depend on the type of nut you use. But I typically keep mine for up to four days without any problems.
Again, a canning jar is the best storage option because the milk may separate some as it sits. You can easily shake it before serving.
This article appeared in Hobby Farm Home, a 2022 specialty publication produced by the editors and writers of Hobby Farms magazine. You can purchase this volume, Hobby Farms back issues as well as special editions such asBest of Hobby Farms and Urban Farm by following this link.