You may have adopted almond or other non-dairy milk (or “mylk,” in some circles) into your diet by pouring it over cereal or drinking it straight up. Good for you! Non-dairy milk is a healthy choice over cow’s milk. But can you cook with it?
You can indeed cook with almond milk and all the non-dairy milk varieties. But it helps to keep some tips in mind, depending on how you are planning to use the milk. I’ve tried every non-dairy milk type I could get my hands on, and experimented with them in both sweet and savory dishes. Here’s everything I’ve learned.
Can You Boil Almond Milk?
It’s fine to boil almond milk, as for adding to coffee or tea. Don’t bring almond milk to a rolling boil, however, or it could scorch or curdle. Heat it slowly, stir often and bring it only to a simmer, then turn off the heat. Using a double boiler can help ensure gentle heating. Cooking almond milk in the microwave works well too; again, take care not to bring it to a full boil.
These same tips apply for boiling any non-dairy milk, be it soy, cashew, macadamia, etc.
Can You Use Almond Milk in Mac and Cheese?
Yes, almond and other non-dairy milks work great in mac and cheese. Just be sure you are using an unsweetened variety. You may want to avoid oat milk in any savory dish, as it has a sweeter taste than almond and other milks. Follow the tips above if you heat the milk first when making the sauce.
Can You Use Almond Milk in Mashed Potatoes?
Yes, almond milk and other non-dairy milks work well in mashed potatoes. Again, be sure to use unsweetened varieties, and avoid oat milk due to its natural sweetness. Follow the tips above when heating the milk.
Can You Bake With Almond Milk?
You can bake with almond or other nut milk using a 1:1 ratio of nut milk to cow’s milk.
Most store-bought nut milks are thinner than cow’s milk (especially whole or 2% cow’s milk). This means that baked goods made with almond milk may cook more quickly than if made with cow’s milk, as the water content evaporates more quickly. Check often during baking to avoid burning.
Because almond milk has a lower fat content than cow’s milk, baked goods made with almond milk, and other lower-fat, non-dairy milks, may not brown as much. They will still taste great; just be prepared for a slightly different appearance.
Can You Whip Almond Milk?
Almond milk and most of the other non-dairy milks do not whip up like cream, unfortunately. However, canned coconut milk does whip well. Use full-fat coconut milk (not the beverage type of coconut milk), and treat it just like you would cream from cows.
Is There a Nut Milk/Vegan Substitute for Buttermilk?
Yes, you can use almond or other non-dairy milks to substitute for buttermilk. Just add one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a cup of the unsweetened milk and let it sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes. Depending on the water content of your non-dairy milk, you may need to add more lemon juice or vinegar; you can taste it to decide. Although the result won’t be quite a thick as buttermilk made from cow’s milk, it will have a sour, buttermilk-like flavor.
Is There a Nut Milk/Vegan Substitute for Cream?
You can indeed make a vegan cream using non-dairy milk. The easiest approach is to use full-fat coconut milk from a can. When you open a can, you will usually find a layer of cream at the top that you can skim off and use directly for a very thick cream.
For cream with a consistency similar to dairy cream, use the entire contents of the can of coconut cream, stirring the separated parts together.
See above for how to make vegan whipped cream from coconut milk.
Alternatively, you can make cream from nuts—cashew works especially well. Cashew cream is the basis for many vegan dishes that mimic dairy-focused recipes like mac and cheese. You can also use cashew cream as a base for dips, and as a replacement for alfredo or bechamel sauce. Here is a great recipe from Wholefully.com.
Can You Freeze Almond or other Nut Milks?
Unfortunately, no. Almond and other nut milks separate when thawing and result in an unappetizing mess.
Here are my 11 top tips:
11 Tips For Cooking With Almond and other Non-Dairy Milks
- In recipes, use a 1:1 ratio of almond or non-dairy milk to cow’s milk
- You may need to shorten baking times due to the higher water content in baked goods
- Avoid cooking with acidic foods like tomatoes or lemons, as they could curdle the milk
- Avoid bringing to a rolling boil, as non-dairy milk scorches easily
- Be sure to choose unsweetened varieties for savory dishes
- Avoid oat milk in savory dishes, as it has a naturally sweet taste
- Avoid rice milk when baking; it has a very high water content and will throw off your recipes
- When using with a sauce or you need thickness, like with pudding, you may want to add a thickener such as cornstarch or flour
- Use a thicker variety like soy milk for consistency closer to cow’s milk
- One of the thicker nut milk brands is Milked. They use more nuts per ounce than other store-bought brands, so their milks have a heartier structure
- Consider making your own nut milk for a thicker consistency, fresher taste, and additive-free result. The Wellness Mama has tips and a great recipe here. Use a ratio of 1 cup of almonds to 4 cups of water. The result will be a thicker milk than store-bought.
Which non-dairy milk to choose for which recipe:
Note: these recommendations are based on unsweetened varieties:
|Non-Dairy Milk||Recipe/Best Use in Cooking|
|Soy||Your best go-to substitute for milk. It is closest to milk in consistency and has a neutral flavor. It stays stable at high temperatures. It is a myth that soy causes breast cancer; in fact, it is protective (it won’t cause man boobs either!) Soy’s high protein content makes it the best choice for curdling when making home-made vegan buttermilk.|
|Almond||The almond flavor is typically very mild, depending on the brand. I prefer to use it in sweet dishes. Great for baking.|
|Macadamia||Use as you would soy or almond milk, in sweet or savory dishes. It has an even more neutral taste than almond milk.|
|Hazelnut||Use as you would soy or almond milk, in sweet or savory dishes.|
|Cashew||Cashew milk is very creamy. Per this article, it’s your go-to for making vegan cream. Works well in both sweet and savory dishes.|
|Walnut||Use as you would soy or almond milk, in sweet or savory dishes.|
|Hemp||High in protein, with a thick consistency. Its pronounced flavor makes me avoid it for cooking, but you can try it. I would stick to using it with savory foods.|
|Flax||Use as you would soy or almond milk, in sweet or savory dishes.|
|Coconut||Note there are two varieties: the beverage available in the milk aisle, and the canned version, which is like condensed milk. Use the beverage in smoothies, tea and coffee. The canned variety is great in dishes calling for a thicker, richer milk. Great in curries and sauces. The coconut flavor will be noticeable.|
|Oat||Its naturally sweet flavor means it is best for baked or other sweet goods, not savory. It froths well for hot beverages.|
|Rice||Its thinner texture means it is not as well-suited for baked goods. You will likely need to add a thickener if you do try it in baking.|
|Pea||Thick and creamy, pea milk works anywhere you’d use soy or almond milk, in sweet or savory dishes. It does not have a pea flavor.|
If you’re wondering why cooking with almond milk is a good idea, here is a summary of its benefits over cow’s milk:
Why is Almond Milk Better Than Cow’s Milk, Anyway?
- No hormones, which are both naturally-occurring in cow’s milk and added by manufacturers
- Lower in calories
- Rich in vitamin E, not found in cow’s milk
- Doesn’t spike blood sugar (unsweetened varieties) as the naturally-occurring sugar in milk does (including skim milk)
- The healthy, oleic acid in almond milk is linked to a lowered risk of heart disease
- Dairy cows have terrible lives. It’s a fact that many of us don’t want to face, but the mass production of animal foods is a cruel business. Read more at AnimalEquality.org here.
Happy, healthy cooking!
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- Kim, Y., Keogh, J., & Clifton, P. M. (2018). Nuts and Cardio-Metabolic Disease: A Review of Meta-Analyses. Nutrients, 10(12), 1935. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10121935.
- Huth, P. J., Fulgoni, V. L., 3rd, & Larson, B. T. (2015). A systematic review of high-oleic vegetable oil substitutions for other fats and oils on cardiovascular disease risk factors: implications for novel high-oleic soybean oils. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 6(6), 674–693. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.115.008979.
- Messina, M., & Wu, A. H. (2009). Perspectives on the soy-breast cancer relation. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 89(5), 1673S–1679S. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736V.
- Messina M. (2010). Soybean isoflavone exposure does not have feminizing effects on men: a critical examination of the clinical evidence. Fertility and sterility, 93(7), 2095–2104. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2010.03.002.