What the Test Kitchen Really Thinks About Alt Milks
Get our food editors' tips on how to buy, make, and use these non-dairy beverages.
Find out what's been happening in the world of 42 Burners, aka our test kitchen, with our weekly series.
Have you noticed the burgeoning category of non-dairy milks at the grocery store? It's not just soy and almond anymore; these days it seems like there isn't any nut or seed that hasn't been made into milk. While the 42 Burners team certainly isn't quitting real dairy, they are intrigued by the rise of alt milks and chose their favorites-we're talking milks made with oats, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, and more.
Lauryn says, "A good rule of thumb is the shorter the ingredient list, the closer to homemade a store-bought option will be. This usually means that you'll find it in the cold case at your market, and should enjoy it within about a week of purchasing." Shira's favorite, Elmhurst's walnut milk, fits this description and is just the thing for this Coconut Breakfast Pudding: "It's one of my all-time favorite oatmeal recipes," says Shira. "The texture is incredible-so, so creamy. Don't skip the overnight soak! It's a wonderful showcase for walnut milk. You can also use any seasonal fruit here-pears sauteed in coconut oil would be dynamite."
After tasting a lot of alt milks, Lauryn was inspired to develop a master recipe: "I'm a firm believer in making your own nut or seed milk. I don't have a dairy allergy, and I'm not vegan, but I like the particular character each variety offers." Plus, it's a super easy process; it just requires a little pre-planning for soaking, and a nut bag or cheesecloth and strainer for the best texture. If you're in a rush, try making hemp milk-you don't have to soak ahead of time because the seeds are so fine. Or go with cashews-they're softer so only have to soak for an hour or so, instead of overnight.
Lauryn also advises experimenting with more or less water to achieve a consistency you like, especially when trying nuts or seeds not mentioned in the recipe. Another pro tip: For hazelnut milk, be sure to use blanched nuts, which don't have the bitter-tasting skin. Each of the homemade alt milks was a hit in the test kitchen, for different applications. According to Lauryn, they all work well with chocolate or cocoa powder-the combo even makes a delicious healthier popsicle. The hemp milk has the most assertive flavor of the bunch, so don't use it in your morning coffee; sweeten it with maple syrup and add to a smoothie or granola.
Greg and Lindsay really enjoyed the homemade almond milk for its clean, neutral taste and versatility. Greg likes it "as an oatmeal topper with a little maple syrup, or as a dairy alternative for a fruit smoothie. Almond is a great flavor pairing with citrus, berries, and tropical fruits like mango and banana." Lindsay prefers pairing it with turmeric in a Golden Latte or using it to make a killer pastry cream for this Almond Custard Tart with Strawberries. Hazelnut milk was tops for Sarah and Riley for its sweet, creamy flavor. "It would be great if you wanted to make hazelnut coffee without anything fake," says Sarah, "or for a custard or panna cotta." Would we call that an alt dessert??!