I have found, through attempting to reduce my waste, that it is far easier to find plastic free plant based foods than it is to get meat, butter, and milk without plastic. There are a few returnable bottle schemes for milk cropping up here and there, but those usually come with plastic lids that don’t get recycled. So as a result, I’ve taken to making my own milk, at home, out of plants.
You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, but that’s so much work. Who has the time?” I thought the same thing before I tried making it myself, but it honestly doesn’t take that long and the result is so delicious that you’ll be wondering why you didn’t make it before.
Yes, I could have just bought plant milk from the store, but unfortunately these usually come in tetra paks. Not only are these made with plastic, but because of the compound material used for the container (layers of plastic, paper, and sometimes metal foil) they are very rarely recycled. Stop throwing these in the recycling bin until you’ve called your local waste management facility to see if they can actually take them.
So what goes into plant milk? Well, first of all, nuts are an obvious choice. They have lots of healthy fats and protein, and make great milk, BUT it takes a lot of water to grow them. I do not make almond milk because most almonds available to me are grown in drought stricken California, and I don’t want to exacerbate that situation by increasing demand for almonds.
For a while I moved to oat milk, which is delicious, but can honestly get a bit chalky after a day or so. The great thing about oats is you can get a pound of them for less than $1.20 (in NYC)…but the chalkiness?
One day, it dawned on me that I could combine my ingredients. I didn’t have to make milk with just cashews, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, or even oats alone. I could make a blend–half oats and half nuts. That way I would get the best of both: I would save money and water by using oats, and I would get the flavor and creaminess of nuts without going through them as quickly.
So that’s become my routine. My favorite blends so far are cashews and oats, closely followed by hazelnuts and oats. This recipe, however, applies to whatever blend (or non-blend) you fancy. It will still work.*
*I have never had success with rice milk. Do not attempt this recipe with rice!
Before we get on with the recipe, a few tips:
Straining the Milk
You can use any cloth with a loose enough weave to strain the milk, so please do not feel like you have to buy a nut milk bag to get the job done. Linen or cheese cloth works great for this. I’ve even heard of people using a t-shirt.
Save the Pulp
Don’t throw out the pulp! You can add it to oatmeal, smoothies, and most baked goods. It will last in the fridge for 3-4 days, and in the freezer for a few months. Those plants worked hard to grow, don’t just throw them out!
Plastic Free Plant Milk
1 cup oats or nuts (or both), dry
3-4 cups water
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 tbsp maple or agave syrup (optional)
1 medjool date, pitted (optional)
pinch of salt (optional)
1. Pour the oats/nuts into a container and cover with water. Let soak for at least 6 hours. Soaking the night before is a great option.
2. Pour out the soaked oats/nuts into a mesh strainer and rinse. Add these and the water to a blender. (Add less water if you want it creamier, or more if you want it thinner.) If you want to add any of the optional items to your milk, add them now. Blend for about a minute on high.
3. Strain the milk by pouring the mixture into your strainer of choice and squeezing out all the liquid over a bowl. If using a cloth, rest a large metal pasta strainer over the bowl and lay the cloth over it. After pouring the mixture in, gather the corners and twist the cloth to squeeze out the milk. You may have to do this in batches to keep the pulp from spewing out the ends of the cloth. (Not that I would know anything about that.)
4. Refrigerate the milk and enjoy for the next 4 days. This milk has no preservatives, so it won’t keep forever like the mysterious shelf stable plant milks at the grocery store. Reserve the pulp in a container for later use.
Did you try this recipe? How did it go? Tell me about it in the comments!