This may be a surprise, but the most common food allergy isn’t peanut or gluten. It’s dairy. Two-and-a-half percent of the population has a true milk allergy.1 And even people without a milk allergy may find themselves struggling with digestive discomfort, bloating and other symptoms of dairy sensitivity after consuming too much milk. This has led to the rise of non-dairy milk as an alternative.
Commercially-available non-dairy milk started with rice and soy milk. However, nut milk, such as almond milk, is now pulling ahead as the leader in the market. A lot of it may have little to do with health. There are a lot of negative associations with soy these days. Nut milk is perceived by some as a tastier and a less watery option, compared to rice milk. As a result, it seems more like dairy milk for those making the change.2
Almond milk, cashew milk, and coconut milk are some of the most common examples of nut milks.
This category has become big business. Currently, non-dairy milks are expected to hit $3 billion in sales by 2020, with continued growth year to year. Dairy milk, on the other hand, is expected to drop 11 percent in sales by that same year.3
As its popularity grows, many people are seeking out a nut-based dairy alternative at the store. And it is much more expensive than milk. But, did you know that’s it’s really easy to make your own?
Let’s explore the options….
Almond milk is the most common of all the nut milks. Part of the popularity of almond milk is due to its creamy texture and sweet taste.
It’s important to note that it is also a source of valuable nutrients, including calcium, just like dairy milk. It is also a rich source of vitamins D, E, and A. Almond milk also contains practically no cholesterol.4
Bear in mind, almond milk doesn’t mirror every trait of almonds. For example, nuts are a common protein source for vegans. However, this doesn’t carry over to almond milk. And unlike almonds, almond milk (unsweetened) is generally low in calories, so you can add it to meals with minimal issue.5
Coconut milk is technically a part of this category. As the reproductive part of the coconut tree, it is a seed, but it is also a fruit and a nut.6 Coconut milk is made from grated coconut meat diluted and blended until its smooth.
Similar to coconut oil, it has a sizable amount of saturated fat (the good kind of fat!). The best trait of coconut milk is its natural sweetness and creamy texture. Consider using it in coffee, with cereal, or even for cooking.7
Cashew milk is relatively similar to almond milk’s nutritional profile. As a result, you can expect high amounts of dietary fiber, healthy fats, magnesium, and phosphorous.8 The major differences between cashew and almond milk are texture and taste.
Macadamia nut milk is a relative newcomer, compared to the other nut milk options. Macadamia nuts themselves are rich in dietary fiber and healthy fats. Notably, they are also high sources of selenium.9 Macadamia nut milk has a unique but appealing taste, making it a great base for smoothies or cereals.
Making Nut Milk
There’s a few upsides to making your own nut milk. Saving money and knowing exactly what ingredients are in it (including how much sugar) are two reasons. But the most beneficial reason to learn how to make nut milk is ensuring it’s made with high-quality nuts that have been soaked first. Why is this important to your health? Soaking nuts before blending them into a milk reduces phytic acid levels. And that’s important, because phytic acid inhibits the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.9
To soak your nuts, just put them in water overnight. The following day, take the time to drain and rinse the nuts. Taking this extra step will ensure that you get the most nutrients from your homemade nut milk.10
After the nuts are soaked and drained, follow these steps for delicious and nutritious homemade nut milk:
- Blend the nuts with water. There is no perfect ratio here, but try to aim for two to three cups of filtered water for each cup of nuts that you choose to blend.11
- Get rid of the excess sediment in the milk. To do this, either use cheesecloth or a milk bag. Milk bags are available in many health food stores. If neither are available, you can also use a fine mesh strainer, or even coffee filters.
- Add some sweetener, if you wish – you can also try adding vanilla bean here for a little flavor.
- Chill your milk as desired before serving.
Making The Highest Quality Nut-Milk
Like any food that you make yourself, the nuts you buy will determine the quality of your nut milk. Be sure to choose raw nuts, which tend to lend themselves better to soaking and grinding.
It’s important to note that nut milk is a minimally processed drink, which is great news! However, this also means that the nuts you choose will make a great impact on how tasty the milk is. Be sure to check to avoid rancid nuts. In some cases, like with hazelnuts and almonds, you may want to remove the skins, to reduce bitterness and improve texture.12
Another thing you may want to consider is adding some potential flavorings to your nut milks. Vanilla extract or cocoa powder can emulate popular dairy milk variants. If you’re looking for something unique, think about adding a little cinnamon or nutmeg.13
Making it yourself offers more than just savings. You may also be able to get more from these wonderful ingredients, and even enjoy types of nut milk you can’t find on shelves in every store, such as macadamia or pistachio milk. Nut milk is definitely here to stay. If you’re trying to avoid dairy—it’s a wonderful alternative to try.14,15