My Favourite Milk
There are millions of vegan milks out there and you can spend a fortune working out which ones you like best. I did! Now I’ve tried every plant milk known to man, here are my thoughts on the subject…
Right so first of all I don’t want to use a milk packed with thickeners, emulsifiers…etc, and secondly I don’t want it to be sweet. You can always add some natural sweetener but you can’t take sweetness away. Finally I want a milk that I can use for most things so I don’t have loads of cartons in the fridge. That’s my criteria. The milk that fits the bill: cashew milk.
Look for an unsweetened cashew milk that contains just cashews and water (and possibly a pinch of salt). Plenish and Rude Health both make great cashew milk, or you can make it yourself by soaking cashews for a few hours then liquidising in water. If making it yourself you’ll want to experiment with the nut : water ratio. I find about 100g nuts per 1L is good. However I’ve never managed to make cashew milk at home that stands up to the velvety texture of commercial milks.
Cashew nuts are so soft you don’t need to strain the milk, making it a wholefood (no goodness taken away), and indeed both Plenish and Rude Health inform me that their milks are made from the whole nut. Cashew milk is creamy and thickens when heated, which makes for really unctuous porridge and creamy white sauces. It is neutral tasting too and so doesn’t overpower other ingredients in whatever dish you are using it in, thus making it a good all rounder if you don’t want a line up of cartons in the fridge door.
If you like milky hot drinks then cashew milk is OK in tea but often curdles in coffee. When I say ‘OK’, I mean it is satisfactory but not fantastic. Compared to cows milk cashew milk has much less protein and sugar, and it kind of tastes like putting cream in your tea. I personally prefer soya milk in hot drinks.
In short, hot drinks aside, cashew milk is gorgeous and it’s the main milk I buy, despite the cost.
However, if cashews suddenly became extinct, there are other options! Here are my runners up…
I really really really want to love soya milk. You can buy whole bean, organic varieties that are made with just soya beans and water, plus from a macronutrient perspective they are high in protein and low in fat. You can buy soya milk everywhere and it’s way cheaper than cashew milk. The problem though is that it’s not as nice. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not horrible. It’s kind of creamy (in a blobby type of way) and is neutral tasting, but it’s just not as delicious as cashew milk (at least not in food). I do buy soya milk for hot drinks though: I like Alpro Organic unsweetened whole bean. This is good in tea, though it’s hit and miss in coffee. Coffee lovers may need to have a milk to hand that contains some acidic regulator to prevent splitting.
Other Nut Milks
You can buy other (non cashew) nut milks that are additive free: the most popular probably being almond milk. I personally think almond milk tastes like liquid cardboard but there are other nut milks out there that are nice. I quite like Rude Health peanut milk and Plenish hazelnut milk, which both taste like the nuts they are made from (a good sign!). These milks are nice for a change but they are not neutral. Great if you want to make a peanut curry or chocolate hazelnut porridge; not so great if you want to make a bechemal sauce. When buying nut milks beware that some are rice based and so are sweet.
So cashew milk won gold, soya silver and peanut and hazelnut came joint bronze. Which milks were trailing at the back? Well as briefly mentioned above, rice based milks are often very sweet: too sweet for me. That’s due to processing of the grain which causes breakdown of starches to sugars (predominantly glucose, which has a sweeter taste than the lactose found in dairy milk). Likewise oat milk is a bit on the sweet side (though not as sweet as rice milk because the main sugar is maltose: sweeter than lactose, less sweet than glucose), and for me oat milk has a slightly bitter aftertaste. It’s OK in tea though. You can buy hemp milk that is minimally processed (made by SoJade) but I find that it is just too hempy tasting for my liking and it curdles easily. Last on my failed list is coconut milk, which, if you are talking the carton, dairy alternative variety, is usually rice based and thus sweet, plus it has a strong flavour. I do use tinned coconut milk in savory dishes though.
So that’s it. My thoughts on milk. Which is your favourite!