Food Faceoff: Almond Milk

Casey Barber

by Casey Barber on March 14, 2011

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


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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