Almond, soy, and coconut milks are fine alternatives to dairy milk, but I use each of them sparingly due to their taste complexities. And when I say taste complexities, I mean outright peculiarity. Almond milk tastes exceptionally nutty, soy milk tastes too beany to me, and coconut milk tastes like a sweet, floral tropical island.
Each of these definitely has a place in my kitchen, but the plant milk I turn to every single day is cashew milk.
I stir cashew milk into my coffee and blend it into my smoothies. I add it to vegetable soups to make them thick and creamy. I pour it over cereal or into oatmeal. I even whisk it into eggs before scrambling and mix it into curries near the end of simmering for richness. After years of sweet and savory cooking, I now believe cashew milk is the most superior and versatile plant milk, and here's why.
The thing about cashew milk is its flavor profile is very mild. When made at home with just water, salt, and cashews, it tastes plain — in the best way possible. It's a little salty, a little sweet, and only a little bit nutty. Cashew milk lets other flavors shine; it boosts the flavor of everything rather than taking over (like coconut milk does). And cashew milk's mouth feel and viscosity is comparable to cow's milk — it's not gritty or glutinous, only smooth and fluid!
Cashew milk's taste and mouthfeel make it just as well-suited to savory dishes as it is to sweet baked treats. I use a homemade batch that mimics the consistency of skim milk (made with more water) in my blueberry scones, and I pour a thicker batch that mimics whole milk or light cream (made with less water) into my pasta alla vodka sauce. And it's a stunning base for homemade ice cream; unlike lighter coconut and almond milks, cashew milk ice cream is just more buttery and velvety.
I know cashews carry a bad rap for being expensive, but they're no more expensive than any other nuts. Cashews do cost anywhere from $8 to $10 per pound in a grocery store, and organic nuts can add on a couple more dollars, but since four cups of homemade cashew milk require only one cup (about four ounces) of cashews, I'm spending only $2 to $2.50 per batch. If I use four cups of cashew milk per week, that pound of cashews lasts nearly a month.
Get the recipe: How To Make Nut Milk from Almonds, Cashews, or Any Other Nut
I mainly use cashew milk because it's lower in calories (it has no naturally occurring sugars), vegan, and free of lactose, dairy, soy, and gluten. It has less protein than cow's milk, but it's filled with vitamin E and fiber. The fiber isn't strained away from a homemade batch of cashew milk made in a powerful blender because the blender pulverizes it so finely that there's nothing to strain.
If you want to give cashew milk a go, the store-bought sort works well, too. Look for an unsweetened variety for greater versatility in your recipes. While the homemade kind lasts about five days in the refrigerator, the store-bought kind can last up to 10 days (since stabilizers are added to extend the shelf life).
Have you tried cashew milk? Do you buy it at the store or make it yourself?