You may have noticed that almond milk is everywhere these days. In fact, cow milk alternatives have been popping up more and more on grocery store shelves. Some common choices include soy milk, rice milk and coconut milk. Almond milk has become particularly popular because it has a lot of great nutritional properties, and features a nice nutty flavor.
Almond milk is made by grinding up almonds and water. Unlike cow's milk, almond milk does not contain any lactose, so it's good for those who are lactose intolerant or have milk allergies. It's also a good choice for vegans since no animal products are used. Almond milk naturally contains many vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, D, E and calcium.
Additionally, almond milk is favorable option if you're counting your calories. One cup contains about 40 calories, and it's low in sugar. It contains about 3.5 grams of fat but no saturated fat or cholesterol. Instead, it's packed with heart healthy monounsaturated fats. The unsaturated fats found in almonds are actually considered to be "good fats" and have been shown to lower LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels.
Many brands of almond milk are now available in grocery stores. It comes in plain or flavored varieties -- vanilla and chocolate are the most common flavors. Just be careful to read the nutrition labels, as some varieties can contain large amounts of sugar.
Almond milk can also be made at home. The benefit of making your own is that you can control exactly what you're putting into it and can flavor it however you like. Making almond milk at home is easy, but requires a little forethought because it works best when you soak the almonds for several hours or overnight. After the almonds are soaked, you simply blend them with water and flavorings. Common additions are vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa powder and sweeteners (like honey, agave, maple syrup and sugar). Pitted dates are another common ingredient used to sweeten homemade almond milk. Just throw a few into the blender with the rest of the ingredients.
Once the ingredients are blended, simply strain the almond skins and sediment and you're done. You can use a fine mesh strainer and push on the almond solids with a spatula or spoon in batches to get all of the liquid out. Or you can use cheesecloth and squeeze out all of the liquid. If you make this often, you can buy nut milk bags to make the process easier.
Don't throw away the remaining almond pulp. You can use it in baking recipes such as cookies and muffins. You can also bake it in the oven to dry it out and then grind it up to make almond flour.
Makes 4 ½ cups
8 ounces raw almonds (about 1 ½ cups)
4 ½ cups filtered water
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons sweetener of your choice like honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, sugar or pitted dates
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (optional if making chocolate milk)
Place the almonds in a large bowl and fill the bowl with enough water to cover them. Soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Drain the almonds and then place them in a blender along with 4 ½ cups fresh, filtered water, vanilla, cinnamon and sweetener. Blend on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. For chocolate milk, add cocoa powder before blending.
Pour the almond milk through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a pitcher. If using a strainer, you will have to push down on the solids with a spatula or spoon to get all of the liquid out. If using cheesecloth, squeeze as much liquid out of the almonds as you can. Save the remaining almond meal for other uses.
Refrigerate almond milk before serving.