Have you noticed that the dairy section of the supermarket is just about a 50/50 split between cow's milk and plant-based milk? HOW EXCITING!
But have you also noticed that almond milk is kind of, well, not really that exciting any more? Or maybe that's just me....
With such a wide selection of plant-based milks to choose from, how do you know which milk is the best for the task at hand? How do you know what dairy-free cheese to use? Which gluten-free bread is also vegan? What plant-based pasta will trick your family?
"Plant-Based Swaps" is a new feature where I'll highlight the exciting options that exist to make your transition to the plant-based world as delicious and undetectable as possible.
So we begin with the most popular, but in my opinion the most boring swap, cow's milk for almond milk. If this is where you're at, though, AMAZING!! Every step closer to plants is one worth celebrating. My hope in sharing my insight on these swaps is to continue to open your eyes and your belly to the many related swaps, beyond the obvious, so you can make the best choice for your needs, your wallet, and your taste buds.
It's not exactly that I hate almond milk, I just think that it's not always the best option. Here are the ways I LOVE to use almond milk, and the ways that I don't. But don't worry, I'll offer my suggestions along the way on what awesome plant-based milk to use instead ;)
First up, five easy ways to be WOWed by almond milk:
Use it in a smoothie. This one is pretty obvious, I know. But I'll offer a hack I love to use as well. Instead of using 100% almond milk in your smoothie, use 50% and add water the rest of the way. You'll never notice the difference! Don't have enough almond milk? Try a scoop of almond butter and water - it's a great swap in a pinch.
Enjoy it in a granola bowl or a bowl of cereal. Again, obvious, but hear me out. It's the perfect milk for this application because its flavor is neutral, it offers some nutritional benefit, and it's not the most expensive option.
Use it in baking. Most plant-based baking recipes will offer a specific type of milk for the recipe. This is because of varying fat content, sweetness, and interaction with other ingredients. However, if you're looking at only swapping one ingredient in a baking recipe that you love, try almond milk. For most baked goods it works great.
Hydrate your overnight oats. Overnight oats are so simple to make, and almond milk can be a good choice for this particular style of food prep. Plain water will make for a gluey, yucky mess, so almond milk or coconut milk can be great options.
Make your own! It's easier than you might think. Simply blend into oblivion 1 cup almonds and 7-8 cups of water. Once you've let the blender run for 1-2 minutes, pour the milk through a nut milk bag or cheesecloth to strain the skin. Store your almond milk in the fridge and use within 5-7 days.
And on the flip side, five ways almond milk has let me down:
In my coffee. It separates, doesn't taste like anything, and is honestly quite disappointing. Have you experienced the same thing? Or am I just particular?
And in my latte. Again, it's just not the right choice. It's usually too watery, doesn't froth and can add a distinct nutty flavor to the beverage. Which normally I'm into, but in this case I think there are better choices. I love oat milk or a classic soy milk for lattes because they froth and sweeten the drink perfectly.
In thickening soups or sauces. With very little thickening power, almond milk is the wrong choice for making creamy soups or using in sauces. Cashew cream on the other hand, should be your go-to milk. Blend water and cashews in a 2:1 ratio water:cashews until very smooth. Use in place of cream in recipes like tomato bisque or corn chowder.
In a cheese recipe. Cashew cream is the best choice for a silky smooth cheese sauce. Blend equal parts cashews and water and add nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt to taste. Keep blending until smooth so your sauce isn't gritty!
If you think about it, it's kind of just white water.... That's why I stick to the five ways I love to use almond milk, and save the other occasions for a different choice.
Swapping these new plant-based options in your kitchen is FUN, but be careful not to simply swap based on the name or presumed functionality. As you've learned, there are many milks to choose from, and to go from drinking cows milk to drinking almond milk is not really the point here. What should you be drinking then? WATER! And lots of it!
As for a brand of almond milk to purchase, that's up to you. Always check the label to make sure that you're not getting tons of additives like carrageenan or gums. You'll also notice that brands may differ a bit in taste, so keep sampling until you find one that you like. I prefer to purchase the tetra-pack milk so I can keep it on the pantry shelf and save the fridge space for all the produce and batch prepped ingredients!
Are you pledging to ditch dairy?? I can help! Grab a copy of my ebook, How to Ditch Dairy and start swapping without sacrificing flavor or functionality.