Raw Rehab: Nut Milk Troubleshooting
June 25, 2010

Yesterday, when I posted my monkey smoothie, I mentioned that it’s always best to use your own homemade nut milk. This isn’t because store bought nut milk is terrible for you, but rather because the homemade stuff is even healthier, and it’s tastier, too!

But not everyone agrees with me on that last bit. Amy wrote:

I’ve had commercial almond milk and made my own on several occasions, and they taste nothing alike. Commercial milks are thick and sweet and appealing while the milk I make is thin and well, tastes like almonds. I’ve tried blending the nuts with dates and also with vanilla and agave. It also separates. I’ve tried almonds with skin and without, balancing, soaking in the fridge, on the counter, and no soak. It ends up tasting slightly…off: a little bitter, a little almond-like, but not very good overall. Please, please help if you can!

No problem, Amy. The problem might be two things: (1) the equipment you’re using, or (2) the procedure you’re using.

Let’s rule out (1) first. Are you using a good quality blender? As you know, I like to insist that eating a plant based and high raw diet need not mean investing in too many appliances. But the recipe for nut milk is one that benefits immeasurably from a high-speed blender. That said, I made nut milk for two years in my regular old Black and Decker blender — what made it work was the fact that that machine, though a far cry from Vita-Mix horsepower, was relatively high-quality (I think it cost me about $60.00). If you’re using a really cheap blender, you may find that the nutmilk ends up “grainy” no matter what you do, which means it will be pretty thin after straining.

Now, for problem (2). Let me ask you a few questions:

  • Are you soaking your almonds for 8-12 hours before blending? This isn’t totally necessary if you have a Vita-Mix, but it becomes crucial if you’re using a regular blender
  • Are you letting the mix blend for a good long time? Be patient — don’t stop blending till the mixture looks homogeneous.

If the answer to either question above was “no,” then see if those tips don’t make s difference. And if neither do, then you can try adding a tablespoon of soy or sunflower lecithin or coconut oil to the mix. Both act as emulsifiers, which means that they help keep the nut milk well dispersed. I’m guessing that xantham gum might also work — perhaps a 1/4 teaspoon?

And don’t forget that, if you like a sweet nut milk, dates, agave, or stevia are crucial add-ins! Use them to taste.

Hope this helps, Amy! Fear not: you’ll be on your way to perfect homemade nut milk soon.

And for those of you who face major time constraints, remember that organic, store-bought nut milks–like the Pacific brand, for example–are fine to use in a pinch. It’s just always nice when we can prepare our own food from raw materials.

Before I go, I want to point out that Ani Phyo‘s ginger almond pate is stellar in a collard wrap:

And even better when served with a zucchini hummus dipping plate.

All hail simple summer suppers. (And alliteration.)

Happy Friday!!!!

xo

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    44 Comments
  1. My issue with making homemade nut milk is straining the milk. It’s messy & takes a while. Also I’m the only person in my family who drinks nut milk regularly. So it ends up going bad before I can finish it all. It just makes me feel like all my effort to make nut milk isn’t worth it.

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  7. I made a beautiful batch of almond milk but two days later it was a clumpy yogurt like mess. Any suggestions? The first day it was perfect!

      • Yes I did refrigerate it. I am not sure what happened. From googling I am guessing it separated. I think had I shaken it or blended it agin it would have been fine. Thanks!

        • That’s happened to me — the separation of the almond milk.
          Try just shaking it really well again to see if it emulsifies back in.
          If it is really clumpy, it could be that you need to sterilize the jar and/or pour boiling water into your blender to make sure it’s really clean.
          It could be “souring” due to some sort of bacteria or residue in your jar or utensils.
          The other thing is what someone already mentioned, adding 1/4 t guar gum per quart. I am going to try that because although shaking makes mine smooth again, it separates when I put it in acidic drinks like hot tea or coffee.

  8. Thank You so much to everyone who posted about using a food processor- I’m off to make some milk in mine!! So much happier than having to buy a blender just for this!

  9. A couple of months ago my blender died, and while waiting for a much higher quality blender to arrive this is what I’ve been doing: soak the nuts, process them until they are finly ground. Mix that with water (I add water to make it as thick or thin as I want) and then strain it. Works fine for me!

  10. that is so funny. i am the opposite of this reader! I first hated all non-cow milks because they were oversweetened. i love plain almond milk with maybe a touch of vanilla. but some people find they prefer brazil nut milk because it’s thicker and creamier. it’s worth playing around with small batches to see what you like.

  11. Thanks, Gena! I’ve been trouble shooting nut milk for friends for a while and thought I’d share what I’ve learned…

    A food processor can definitely make nut milk, if one has a weak blender. I’ve put the soaked nuts in first, and ground them down almost butter. I drizzled in as much water as I thought the food processor could handle before it would leak. Then I poured it into my nut milk bag and poured more water into the nut milk bag, stirred, and let strain. Worked great.

    Also: I’ve never tried xanthan gum, but I have used guar gum to keep it thick and stop it from separating. About 1/4 t per quart of milk. Also, a tablespoon of oats can help to make it thicker but I really prefer the guar gum.

    Also, for lattes and cappuccinos and such, milk thickened with a little guar gum steams much better. A skilled barista will be able to make latte art in a guar-gum thickened milk, if they can do it in dairy and soy. At the “coffee snobbery” where I work, we haven’t had much success with the unthickened nut/seed/grain milks, even those made in a vita.

  12. Also, the milk must be strained! If you like it smooth, strain it! The pulp can be used for other stuff or eaten like a textured “pudding”.

  13. Thank you so so much Gena!!! Where can you find nut-milk bags?! Or can you use a strainer? Or cheese cloth?

  14. What I really like about your nut milk recipe is the open availability to use different nuts at the creator’s leisure. I have only purchased almond milk (in terms of nut subs) but hazelnut or cashew- brazil even- would be an adventure!

    Also, the collards as a wrap is such a good idea! I have been toying with the idea of incorporating new greens into my life and (being in the South) collard greens are certainly do-able

  15. One of the tips I learned from the Boutenkos, is to add the smallest pinch of a good quality salt to your nut mylks. If you grew up on cow’s milk, you may be missing the taste of that little bit of sodium that it has. It certainly made a difference for us. I make almond mylk fresh every other morning, and we also put in a little bit of stevia and sometimes vanilla. It’s so easy to do and only takes a few minutes. Try it!

  16. Home made is always best for sure and then you can be certain it is raw also. Great tips Gena, thanks for the ideas! I love making my own almond milk and love creating new ideas for dealing with the leftover almond meal. Lately I’ve been making plenty of raw cakes to order 🙂

  17. I’ve never tried making my own nut milk before….shame, because I do have a Vita-mix at home. I’ll try it when I get home. 🙂

    I usually use the Almond Breeze brand…it’s my favorite!

  18. Well, I love the homemade milks a lot, and don’t really enjoy the store bought ones, but I too find the almond taste really strong. For a really nice nut milk at home, even with a not-so-great blender, blend cashew butter with dates or agave, cinnamon and vanilla. No straining required and it will be creamy, not separated. And the coconut oil and lecithin work wonders too!

  19. Great tips! I love homemade..nothing beats it in my book! Although, Pacific Almond milk is my 2nd choice! That wrap and hummus plate look great! Have a great weekend! XO

  20. How is the home-made almond milk healthier? Does it contain more protein? Do you happen to have the nutrition facts for the homemade milk?

    Thanks so much!

    • Bianca,

      It has nothing to do with protein. It’s healthier because it contains less preservatives and additives. You can also control the tastes as you like, and can choose your sources (ie, select how organic and local things are, or where they’re from).

      Sorry, no nutrition facts!

      Gena

      • Also, I just discovered that if you baked the “almond pulp” in the oven to lightly toast it, it becomes like a crumble topping. It’s not raw, but certainly delicious on top of oatmeal and many other things. yum!

  21. Thanks for the great tips. I’ve had my Vita-Mix for a short time now, and haven’t tried making almond milk myself yet. It was one of the first things on my to-make list though, so I better get to it!

  22. Wow, thanks for the great tips! I have been wanting to make my own almond milk for a long time, but had absolutely no idea how to do it. Everything that I get in the stores over here in Germany is so processed with a bunch of chemicals. If it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, something is wrong!

    • Hi Nicole quick question. I am moving to Germany in a few weeks, and when I was there this summer to get oriented, I couldn’t find ready-made almond milk anywhere, and I mean ANYWHERE. Not in the Reformhauser, grocery stores, bioladen etc. Where do you buy your almond milk? Thanks so much!

      • I’ve been living in Germany now since August, and have also been not quite sure where to look for some things that were staples in the US. Can you recommend a place to buy a nut milk bag in Dresden or Berlin? Also, cannot for the life of me find a kombucha mother anywhere! (Found this blog randomly searching recipes, but now I’m going to follow it! Thanks!)
        julia

        • Knee high panty hose, which you can get anywhere, works just as well if not better than a nut milk bag. Cheaper too. I find that a single “leg” lasts me for 2-3 extractions. I make almond milk every couple of days and just buy the knee highs in bulk every so often.

  23. Great advice on the almond milk…I really love Almond Breeze but I don’t think my stomach does so I am thinking of trying my own version to see if I can tolerate that instead.

  24. One critical thing – not clear from my comment yesterday, or in Gena’s recipe – be sure to discard the soak water and replace with fresh clean water. You can even give the soaked almonds a rinse at that point too. Another tip if you have one of those “relatively high quality” blenders and you want to use dates (which won’t break up in anything less than a Vitamix) is to soak the dates first. You’ll still get tiny date pieces, but you’ll have better results than using dates out of the fridge.

  25. First, let me say that your blog is amazing. The thought and content that you put into each post is wonderful. I almost feel like I should be paying for a blog subscription! Thank you for writing such informative and interesting posts.

    Okay – my question. Do you have a mandoline that you recommend? There is such a wide price range on them and I’m wondering if a lower priced one would suffice.

    Also, I use my Magic Bullet to make nut milk and it works really well. I aspire to a Vita Mix, but am waiting for Christmas. 🙂

  26. Great advice for nut milk making Gena! I do enjoy making my own but it seems to spoil quicker than store bought..so I rely on the Pacific organic unsweetened almond milk often. On the weekends though I love making nut milk and nut cheeses!