Food Faceoff: Almond Milk

homemade almond milkThe crispy baked tofu was your first warning. Now the full depth of my hippie DIY craziness reveals itself with the latest project of the Good. Food. Stories. test kitchen: homemade almond milk.

In an ongoing quest to offset all the bacon, cheese, and beer that goes down my gullet in the name of research, I’ve attempted to step up my healthier efforts at breakfast. But after scaring the bejeezus out of myself by reading too many conflicting reports on how much soy we should be ingesting, I’ve kicked soy milk to the curb in favor of almond milk.

So why not make it at home? The first ingredients on any box of almond milk are water, almonds, and evaporated cane juice (aka sugar) before devolving into a somewhat uneasy list of preservatives and stabilizers. I’m sure the beer is going to get me long before the tricalcium phosphate does, but I should at least make the effort. How hard could it be, anyway?

Famous last words.

Homemade almond milk

Overnight, soak 1 pound raw almonds in enough water to cover by two inches. Drain and transfer to a blender. Add 4-5 cups water and puree. (Unless you have a Vitamix, you might not be able to get all the water in there at once, and things might take a while to grind down—gently nudge the mixture with a spatula and keep trickling water in until you get there.)

There are a few tutorials out there that recommend using a fine-mesh strainer to separate the liquid and solids. Don’t. The time spent waiting for your nascent almond milk to trickle through the strainer is far better spent doing other things.

Instead, buy a set of flour sack towels—they’re washer/dryer friendly and can be used for lots of other fun culinary projects, like making your own ricotta or cream cheese, covering bread dough as it rises, or as a lovely textural background for your food shots. (OK, maybe that last one was on the edge of culinary usage.)

Place a flour sack towel inside a large mixing bowl and pour the almond sludge in. Lift and wring/squeeze gently and patiently until the last drops of milk make it into the bowl. Yes, you could also use cheesecloth, but it bugs me how it’s not really reusable; the weave loosens with each use and subsequent rinse, so eventually bits and bobs will start to sneak their way through.

almond milk, cheesecloth, strainer
Congratulations, you now have 1 quart of almond milk concentrate, to which you can add an equal amount (or more) of cold filtered water to make 2-3 quarts almond milk, depending on how creamy you’d like the final product to be.

You’ve also got a towel full of almond meal. Whatever are you going to do with it?

Well, you can spread the almond meal loosely on a greased baking sheet and bake it at 300? for about an hour or until it’s dry and crumbly, then transfer it to an airtight container and use it in your granola, smoothies, or breakfast cereals, if you’re into that sort of thing. Or you can compost it, but that seems like a bit of a waste.

Prep time: 20 minutes plus overnight soaking and baking time for the almond meal
Cost: $4.99 for a pound of organic raw almonds (enough for 2-3 quarts of almond milk)

Storebought almond milk

Purchase from store. Pour into glass or use in recipe as desired.

Prep time: None, unless you count ripping off that little plastic barrier before the initial pour
Cost: $1.99 per quart

Verdict:

Even when sampling the organic versions of both vanilla and unsweetened almond milk, my throat catches a metallic aftertaste that leads me to camouflage the flavor by mixing it with oatmeal and maple syrup.

The homemade version, on the other hand… holy moley. Densely creamy and rich on the tongue, this doesn’t taste like something you’re choking down just to reap the health benefits. This is something you could use in place of half and half. This is good.

Usually, taste alone determines the winner in a Food Faceoff. But I’ll be honest: the time commitment to making a batch of homemade almond milk gives me—yes, even me, the girl who makes her own Cheez-Its—pause. There’s going to be a Sunday morning when I want oatmeal and my carafe of homemade heaven is empty, so I’ll continue to keep a backup box of the storebought stuff in the pantry.

Want even more almond milk goodness? My video post on Lillian’s Test Kitchen shows you the process step-by-step.

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Comments

  1. says

    My favorite part of homemade almond milk: You get that creamy goodness, but with very few calories. (Or at least this is my presumption, based on reading the nutrition facts statement of unsweetened almond milk.)

  2. says

    This looks awesome! I have been on a health kick lately too. I’m trying to loose some weight. I’ll have to see how expensive the raw almonds are at my local store. I can’t wait to try it!

  3. says

    I am amazed by your initiative. I, too, switched to almond milk after hearing that it’s better than soy, and I feel so tempted by your description of homemade almond milk. But can I see myself putting in the effort. I’m not so sure…

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Lisa, it’s a fine line, but it DOES exist. Haven’t tried to make my own hot dogs yet, so we’ll eventually see where that falls on the spectrum!

  4. says

    So, tonight, for the first time ever I purchased almond milk. It went along with the vitamix blender, so I can make a lifetime of cocktails, or healthy smoothies. I had never had almond milk until this weekend.

    You could also dry out those almonds, grind them up, and use them as almond flour. I bet they would make a nice addition to a graham cracker crust for something like a cheesecake.

  5. charlotte hiller says

    Hi Lisa…. I have made almond milk many, many times but now resort to making cashew milk (it’s creamier and I like it better in my coffee); I usually soak the almonds overnight and then rinse well the next day. For 1 cup of nuts, I add 3 cups of filtered water, 2 dates (I happen to like a little sweetness to the milk) and crank the vitamix up to high. With the cashew milk, you don’t need to strain it — just put it your container and you’re done. For almond milk, I bought a nut milk bag that I drape over the vitamix, turn it upside down over a large bowl (the bag has a draw-string) and then squeeze the milk out. It takes all of about 3 mins and you’re done. It’s a little grainier than cashew milk but just wanted to share how I make them. And, yes, as a certified holistic health coach, why buy the box with all the added chemicals when your body is looking for “real” food.

  6. Irene says

    Incredible! I have become obsessed with almond milk lately (I actually really like the Whole Foods brand) but the homemade version sounds fantastic.

  7. says

    I’ve been wanting to do this but feared my battered low-end blender might not be up to the task. Agree that homemade trumps store bought hands down, as is so often the case.

  8. says

    Wow, what synchronicity. I bought my first box of almond milk the week I started Weight Watchers with no real idea what to do with it. I opened it last week and it was so thin. I put some in the butternut squash soup I whirred up in the VitaMix, but all in all, it didn’t do it for me.

    I guess home made, as is usually the case, is the answer. Maybe I’ll try that next.

  9. says

    I wish we could try this, but it seems my DH has some sort of nut allergy thing going all of a sudden … so we’ve been using coconut milk (rather than cow’s milk or soy milk). Think you might try homemade coconut milk anytime soon? hint hint

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Roxanne, homemade coconut milk could be an interesting challenge, given my addiction to Thai/Vietnamese/Malaysian food. Stay tuned…

  10. says

    I’ve yet to try almond milk, but love soy milk. Now I want to try almond, but only if you make me a bottle :). Sounds like a huge project. I wonder if there are any sold commercially that come close to homemade, which sounds so yummy?

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Sheryl, all the commercial brands I’ve tried have tasted pretty much the same (though I do think the Whole Foods house brand is my favorite). If there WERE a company that could bottle the fresh stuff, they’d be rolling in it.

  11. Jane Boursaw says

    I do love almonds and almond milk (soy milk used to give me migraines for some reason). But I’ll probably continue buying it in cartons at the food co-op. Not quite crafty enough for the home-made version.

  12. says

    I’m glad I found this post! The way you describe the process of making almond milk actually makes sense to me!I tend to use Almond milk in all by cooking and baking and then coconut for my morning beverages.

  13. says

    Nice! I love Almond Milk solely because it tastes good. Whereas soy: not so much. I just got a blender from my mom. Doin’ this.

  14. Kayla says

    I love vanilla flavored almond milk, could you add vanilla extract or scrapings from a vanilla pod?

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Kayla, you could definitely add vanilla extract – I’m not sure the vanilla bean scrapings would be as effective unless you were infusing it for a while (and I try to drink my homemade stash within a week or two). I’ve also been adding a tablespoon of fresh B-grade maple syrup to the almond milk in my morning smoothies, which adds another “roasty” layer of flavor.

  15. Ana says

    How long will both the extract and milk (watered down extract) stay fresh in the fridge for?

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Ana, I’ve always used up my full batch within two weeks – although I bet it could stay fresh for at least another week.

  16. says

    I make it differently. I blanche the almonds, pop off the skins, then blend the skinned almonds with water and leave *that* overnight, with a few thick slices of lemon tossed in (in the fridge). In the morning, I strain it.

    With a little hint of saffron-infused simple syrup, it is heavenly.

  17. Terry says

    You can also use the ground almond for a facial wash. I do the same with azuki beans and either work wonders.

  18. Frassy says

    For me a lb of org raw almonds costs $14. I use this more economical recipe
    1st make a nut butter using 1lb almonds and 1 tbsp oil of choice. Blend until smooth
    Then, add 1 tbsp of the nutter butter to every 2 cups water plus 1 tbsp raw honey and yes 1/4 vanilla extract. Blend on high till you have almond milk.

    No waste, no straining. Tastes like it comes right out the box. For $14 you can make 16 quarts of almond milk. That’s $0.875 per quart (makes 4 gals at $3.50/gal…the same as a gal of cows milk)

  19. Frassy says

    *That’s 1/4 tsp vanilla
    Oh and did I mention you can eat the remaining nut butter? Yes.

  20. says

    I loved your opening line – so funny!!! I will try this for sure as I’ve recently decided I should commit to my GF and DF lifestyle, instead of having periods without eating and then kind of falling off the wagon………. and then thinking oh well, may as well make it a good one. Def try it