Cooking with Alison

How to Make Almond Milk (and a Comparison of Milk Alternatives)

In How-To, Reviews on May 23, 2011 at am

Normally, I’m a regular consumer of cow’s milk and Chinese soy milk drinks.  But challenging myself with a month long detox diet (see post here) led me to explore non-dairy (casein free) and non-soy milks.  The options include coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk, and hemp milk.  I also heard of a potato based milk alternative, DariFree by Vance’s Foods that comes in a powder.  I don’t like the taste of fresh coconut juice and coconut milk is too rich (for my tastes) for drinking, so this post will focus on a comparison between almond, rice, and hemp milk.  Also, see below for homemade rice milk instructions and a very simple and versatile almond milk recipe with flavour variations.

Taste Test

After briefly researching consumer reviews on the internet, I decided to try the following brands:  Blue Diamond’s Original Almond Breeze, Rice Dream Original Rice Milk, and Hemp Bliss Organic Hemp Beverage.  Note that they are all meant to be served chilled, unless used in cooking/baking.  The first thing I noticed is that all of these are significantly more costly than cow’s milk and have been listed in order of increasing price.

Almond Milk (Blue Diamond, original flavour) – My Favourite

The consistency is close to that of skim milk.  It has a light grayish brown colour. The flavour is mildly nutty and pleasantly sweetened by cane juice.  It is delicious on its own and even better over cereal.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.  See below for an easy homemade almond milk recipe.

Rice Milk (Rice Dream, original flavour) – Close Second

This is white in colour and is a bit more watery than almond milk.  It is relatively neutral in taste with a mild rice flavour and is also slightly sweet.  This is very good on its own or over cereal.  Rice milk cost more than almond milk in the store that I went to, but it is extremely inexpensive to make at home.

How to Make Rice Milk:  I have not personally made it yet, but it basically involves overcooking white or brown (if you want more fiber) rice in excess water with sweeteners and/or additional flavourings, and pureeing it until very smooth in a blender or using a hand held immersion blender.  Then you strain it at least once through several layers of cheese cloth into a clean glass mason jar, discarding the solids.  Chill through and serve.  Note that the consistency of homemade rice milk will be thicker than store bought (almost creamy) and will be great for cooking with.  If you want a thinner consistency for drinking, simply add water and mix well.

Hemp Milk (Hemp Bliss, original flavour)

This had the thickest consistency and was off-white in colour.  I’ve heard that other brands of hemp milk can be greenish or brownish in colour.  Although not offensive, the milk had a unique taste that I would describe as what I think fresh grass might taste like.  I imagine it is an acquired taste.  Although I did not enjoy it on its own or over cereal, I plan to use it to make a vegan “creamy and cheesy” sauce.  I will update this post when I do.

Cooking with Milk Alternatives

My favourite brand of coconut milk for cooking is Mae Ploy, but note that it’s too thick for drinking.  I’ve used it successfully in curries, soups, desserts, and vegan cooking, etc.  I also used almond milk successfully in my new favourite waffles recipe (to be posted within the next week).  Other than that, I haven’t cooked or baked much with the other milk alternatives, but according to the show, Anna and Kristina’s Grocery Bags, they had the most success cooking with soy milk and almond milk.  Also, I would recommend using the unsweetened versions of almond, rice, and hemp milk for cooking or baking.

How to Make Almond Milk

1 cup raw (not toasted) whole almonds

3 cups filtered water

optional sweetener (ie. honey, agave nectar, maple syrup or a simple syrup made from cane or palm sugar, etc.)

very small pinch of salt (if using a sweetener)

optional flavouring (ie. cocoa powder or vanilla extract, etc.)

In a large bowl, soak the almonds in more than enough water to cover them for at least over night and up to 24 hours.  Then drain the almonds and give them a quick rinse.  Put them in a blender with 3 cups of water and blend them on the highest speed until they have been liquified, about 2 minutes.  Then set a sieve on top of a wide mouthed glass mason jar and line it with several layers (at least 4) of cheesecloth.  Alternatively, you could use a nut milk bag.  Pour the almond milk into the sieve and allow it to filter through the cheesecloth into the jar.  Then gather the edges of the cheesecloth, twist the opening until tightly sealed and squeeze out the remaining almond milk into the jar.  Discard the cheesecloth and almond pulp.  Nut milk bags can be washed and reused.  If you are adding a sweetener, salt, and/or an additional flavour, return the filtered milk to a clean blender and blend in your additional ingredients to taste.  Store in a glass mason jar or an airtight container.  Chill through in the refrigerator and shake well prior to serving.

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