Just around the time I started researching making nut milk from any kind of nut at home and the pleasures of making cashew cream, Food52 shared a "genius recipe" for Instant Nut Milk. A hack they adapted from Laura Wright's The First Mess Cookbook promises "a better, smarter, faster, less pain-in-the-neck method" to making nut milk at home by blending raw nut butter with water.
The method sounded so obviously simple — like, questionably so — but it also piqued my curiosity. Could delicious nut milk be made at home anytime with just nut butter and the swirl of a blender? Would it be less expensive? And most importantly, would it even taste good? With a homemade cashew milk on hand and a jar of raw cashew butter delivered, I set out on a side-by-side investigation.
First, What Is a "Nut Milk"?
Seems like an innocuous enough question, but it turns out that there isn't a good definition (or strong regulations) for what makes nut milk nutty. Most commercial nut milks contain somewhere between five to 15 percent almond, soy, or cashew matter with the rest of the carton being primarily water, with some binders, sweeteners, or thickeners added.
Homemade nut milks are roughly 25 to 30 percent nut matter (after soaking, blending, and straining) and have zero additives, unless the home cook adds them. Using Wright's suggested ratio of 1 1/2 cups water to 3 tablespoons nut butter would give you a nutty drink with roughly 12 percent nut matter as long as you don't strain it.
By commercial standards, blending nut butter with water would produce a product nutty enough to be considered nut milk by loose, undefined terms.
How to Make Traditional Nut Milk at Home
Making traditional nut milk at home is a three-step process that takes about a day of purely hands-off work. You soak the nuts in water overnight, then rinse the soaked nuts and blend the softened soaked nuts with fresh water. From here you can strain out the nut pulp and enjoy your milk as is or sweetened to your taste.
I understand that the process might read as arduous, but the hardest part is cleaning your blender afterwards. The nut milk you make at home using this method is incredibly flavorful, nutty, sweet, and rich in a way that commercial nut milks just can't beat.
What about the cost?
A pound of raw nuts costs between $9.99 to $11.99 a pound depending on whether you choose less expensive nuts like peanuts or more expensive cashews or hazelnuts. However, that pound of nuts will give you roughly four (16-ounce) batches of cashew milk at $3 a batch. And for what it's worth, the leftover nut pulp can be saved for making baked goods or granola, or for adding to smoothies.
How Do You Make Nut Milk with Nut Butter?
The first, and arguably hardest, part of making nut butter nut milk, is finding the raw nut butter. My regular grocery chain didn't carry either raw almond butter or raw cashew butter, but a local Whole Foods did (you can order also online and have it shipped to you).
Then you blend just a few tablespoons of this nut butter with water in your blender until smooth and creamy, so you'll still have to clean your blender with this method.
3 tablespoons cashew butter (2 ounces) + 12 ounces of water
The taste was surprisingly good despite my initial skepticism. It was still sweet and creamy like I'd expect homemade nut milk to be, but not nearly as strong as the homemade stuff. You could probably bump up the amount of butter called for in Wright's method and get a nuttier milk, but then you'd definitely have more expensive milk per batch. I also prefer a smoother milk, so for me this method still requires straining.
What about the cost?
A 16-ounce jar of raw cashew butter from my local Whole Foods cost me a whopping $17.99. Considering that this nut milk method uses just 2 ounces of the butter for each 1 1/2 cup batch, you can get roughly six (16-ounce) batches of nut milk that equal the volume of our homemade version, so it still comes in at about $3 a batch — not any more or less expensive than the homemade version.
The Final Verdict
Verdict: This is a not a mind-blowing tip.
This tip is smart, but its not "better, faster, or less-pain-in-the-neck." It certainly works and the results are fine, if not a little weak in the flavor department. If you increase the volume of nut butter called for, you're making a much more expensive batch of milk. Yes, you skip the soaking step — which leaves me with some questions about how nut butter nut milk might affect digestion, as soaking removes some unwanted enzymes from the whole nuts. What time you save might be spent looking for the raw nut butter on the store shelf. Nevertheless, you still have to dirty your blender and a strainer using the nut butter method.
Making nut milk from nut butter is a smart tip to know, though, especially if you ever find yourself in a pinch in the kitchen wanting a non-dairy milk and being out of whole raw nuts.