I have never liked cow's milk. I used to force myself to drink it for the calcium until I discovered soy milk. You can read my thoughts on soy milk here. When I discovered almond milk, I was in heaven. And then, about a year ago, I found cashew milk in the grocery store refrigerator. After one taste, I was hooked! It was so creamy, just thick enough and just simply delicious. And expensive! I think I bought one carton and sadly said goodbye to the luxury.
I returned to buying organic soy and almond milk. I had read several blog posts about making almond milk at home but it was actually too expensive...we go through lot of milk and homemade milks only have a shelf life of a few days. And my older daughter is allergic to raw almonds, so I had to buy soy milk anyway.
Then an ingredient called carageenan hit my radar. In a very negative way. The problems associated with it are just scary! But as I did my own research, I found that it may not be as bad as all the hype suggests. Still, I felt like if we could avoid it, maybe we should. You can read more about carageenan here. As always, I suggest you do your own research and make the decision that sits best with your family.
As cashews are a bit less costly than almonds, I decided to see how much more money I would spend making my own cashew milk as opposed to buying almond and/or soy milk. As it turns out, the cost is only about $5 more per month if I sort of ration our consumption, which hasn't been so difficult. I don't always need milk for smoothies--we actually prefer most fruit smoothies blended with a bit of water, and as long as I have other options for breakfast, we aren't using as much for cereal. The downside is that I have to make milk about every 5th day. The upside? No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives and no potentially dangerous additives like carageenan. I feel the pros outweigh the cons!
Cashew milk is very easy to make. Just soak raw cashews overnight in filtered water. Drain and rinse well and add to a high-speed blender with water. Blend until completely smooth. I use the smoothie blender cups that came with my NutriNinja blender with Auto IQ and blend in batches. It takes a bit longer but I seem to get a smoother result. And even with that added time, the whole process is only about 10 minutes, including clean-up! After blending, place a nut milk bag over a large bowl or pitcher and strain to remove any pulp. You can strain as many times as you feel you need to get a nice smooth milk. When I use the blender cup, I blend 3 times and strain once. After straining, pour back into the blender and add a pinch of salt, vanilla extract and liquid sweetener to taste, Refrigerater in a glass container (I found this one at Walmart for $4.98.) for about 4 days. Make sure to shake well before using as it will separate upon standing.
This milk is delicious by itself, in smoothies, oatmeal and cereal and can be used in any baked goods calling for milk of any kind. You can also leave out the vanilla and sweetener if you need to use it for savory dishes. I usually pour off a bit before adding the vanilla and maple syrup just for that purpose.
I usually double or even triple this recipe to make sure I have enough for whatever uses I have planned. This morning, I made a quadruple batch because I'm working on a buckwheat freezer waffle recipe...be watching for that!
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Homemade Cashew Milk (Prep Time:5-10 minutes Yield: About 4 cups)
1 cup raw cashew pieces
3 to 3 1/4 cups filtered water (depending on how thick you like your milk)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons liquid sweetener of choice (I use pure maple syrup)
Pinch of salt to enhance the sweetness
Cinnamon, to taste, optional
1. Soak cashews overnight. Drain and rinse well. Put into blender pitcher and add water. Blend until completely smooth.
2. Using a nut milk bag or fine mesh strainer (cheese cloth is also an option) placed over a large bowl or pitcher, slowly pour milk through. Allow to completely strain. You can strain more than once if you feel you're getting a lot of pulp.
3. Return the milk to the blender pitcher (I recommend rinsing it first), add the remaining ingredients, if using, and blend again for about 10-15 seconds. Pour into a glass storage container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
When I use the blender cup and blend in batches, I get almost no pulp and only have to strain once. If you have a lot of pulp and have a hard time throwing it out, you
can add it to oatmeal or smoothies.