I can say with all honesty, I never thought I’d be the person searching for ways to make plant-based milk recipes at home. But with a vegan husband and a child I suspect to be lactose intolerant, we drink a lot of plant-based milks in our house. While I’ve always bought it ready-made, I’ve been seeing ads for so many plant milk makers lately that I wanted to find out how complicated a plant milk recipe really is to DIY.
It turns out, making your own vegan milk isn’t that hard at all! You don’t even necessarily need a specialized machine.
Here’s what you do need to make your own vegan milk at home, along with a few recipes to get you started and some of the best tips I’ve picked up through my research.
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Related: What is oat milk, and is it okay for kids? Here’s what parents need to know
Making plant-based milk: The equipment you need for starters
The right blender or mixer
I’ve found that a basic blender is not powerful enough to yield good results on a nut milk recipe, so apologize if that’s what you have right now The good news is, you can produce excellent plant-based milks with a really good, high-speed mixer like the Vitamix 5200.
For me, this is a smart purchase because I can use it for so many other recipes in the kitchen, from smoothies to sauces and more.
That said, if you’re really only interested in making plant-based milks and not much else with it, then a dedicated nut milk maker or soy milk maker is a less expensive option, and it can take some of the hassle out of nut milk processing.
I’ve seen great reviews for the ChefWave Milkmade Dairy-Alternative Vegan Milk Maker (whew, long name), which has settings for 6 types of plant-based milks — Almond, Cashew, Oat, Soy, Macadamia, and Coconut. The ChefWave doesn’t require soaking your ingredients overnight or using a straining bag, and it even cleans itself. Nice.
….or, a dedicated soy milk maker
If your plant-based milk making adventures will mainly revolve around soy milk, know that it’s a slightly different process that requires heating.
SoyaJoy just released their 20th anniversary edition soy milk maker, so you can be confident this isn’t a company that’s just trying to catch a trend — let alone a weird company on Amazon with product photos that that look suspiciously like those from other brands.
While this SoyaJoy model has the ability to heat up the soy, it also has a raw milk function, so you also use it to make nut-based milks that don’t require heating.
Related: Is it realistic to go vegan with kids? One mom’s real life tips and tricks.
Bottles, strainers, and other accessories
Before you start, be sure you have the accessories you’ll need after the mixing is done.
If you choose to make your plant-based milk recipes in a blender, you’ll need to strain the milk before you drink it. While vegan milk makers typically have this feature built in, you can use nut milk bags for this.
The bargain option? Many vegan bloggers swear that cheesecloth works just as well for straining.
Of course, you’ll also need a container to store your milk in once it’s made. I love these 2-quart glass milk bottles that feel so vintage. But if single-servings appeal to your family more check out this set of 20 12-oz. glass bottles. This allows you to play with the flavors a little and make individual chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla milks — or even something more adventurous, like vegan turmeric milk.
(Plus, you can use them for summer entertaining or to serve lemonade at kids parties, so they’re nice to have on hand.)
Plant-based milk recipes: The ingredients you need
Most plant-based milk recipes are simply made with nuts and grains, plus water, with some sweeteners added according to taste.
You’ll save money if you buy your almonds, cashews, coconut, oats, soy, or rice in bulk from Amazon, Whole Foods (which, also Amazon), or any favorite local grocer or natural foods store. But you can also use nut paste in your plant milk recipe, which eliminates the need for a straining mechanism and cuts out the lengthy soaking step in the recipe.
Joi makes almond milk concentrate and cashew nut base that you just add with water in your blender to make nut milk. Easy!
Related: The best dairy-free ice cream brands for our lactose-intolerant kids.
8 Basic Plant-Based Milk Recipes: Onto the fun stuff!
Cashew milk recipe at Cookie and Kate
Not all vegan milks are the same — although I was glad to learn that the way you make them basically is.
For the most part, each of these recipes calls for 1 part nut/grain to 4 parts water. You’ll need to soak the nuts overnight unless you’re using a specialized vegan milk maker to process the nuts, and you can add vanilla, dates, salt, or other ingredients in to boost the flavor.
Each nut and grain will give you a different consistency, and each boasts different properties, so I’m sharing the best way to use each of your homemade plant-based milk recipes here, too.
Almond milk recipe
Almond milk is a top choice for drinking, because it’s slightly nutty and sweet—making it straight up. It’s also terrific in smoothies and desserts of all kinds for this same reason.
After trying a few, I prefer this almond milk recipe from Jenne Claiborne Sweet Potato Soul, because she also includes tips for turning it your homemade almond milk into a delicious cup of hot chocolate. PS Her vegan cookbook is terrific!
Rice milk recipe
Much thinner than other plant-based milks, rice milk is best used in desserts and light sauces. If you plan to use it in baking, you’ll need to thicken it a bit with some cornstarch. That said, several vegan bloggers I trust claim that rice milk tastes closest to cow’s milk, so if you’re looking for a replacement beverage for your kids, this might be a solid choice.
Try this rice milk recipe at Simple Vegan Blog, which uses medjool dates as a sweetener. Delicious!
Cashew milk recipe
Cashew milk is very creamy, which makes it a great choice for sauces or lightening up your morning coffee. (Or morning iced coffee these days) It also makes great vegan ice cream if you want to DIY. So yeah, I’ll be ordering cashews in bulk.
This cashew milk recipe at Cookie and Kate adds a few spices including a pinch of optional cinnamon, which imparts a delicious flavor you’ll want to drink straight up.
Oat milk recipe
If you love to bake, keep some oat milk on hand. In their cookbook Vegan for Everybody, America’s Test Kitchen claims this is the best milk for baking because it’s the one that browns the best, as opposed to most other vegan milks, which result in pale, unappetizing looking desserts. But it’s also terrific for drinking or adding to coffee — some of our the kids on the CME team even prefer it to regular milk just for the flavor.
Use Minimalist Baker’s oat milk recipe; it’s so simple and good. And hey, with the Oatly oat milk shortage of this past spring, can’t hurt to know how to make your own oat milk if you can’t live without it.
Soy milk recipe
If you’re making your own plant-based milk, you might think of soy first. Soy milk offers the highest protein content of all plant-baed milks, making the nutrients in it closest to those in cow’s milk. This makes it terrific for drinking of course, but it’s also a smart substitute for buttermilk if you add some lemon juice to it. (Add 1 tbsp lemon juice to 1 cup soy milk.)
I’m a fan of Bee’s Chinese soy milk recipe on Rasa Malaysia, and she offers helpful step-by-step instructions with lots of photos.
Coconut milk recipe
My family’s preferred vegan milk lately has been…[drumroll] coconut milk! That’s because it has a hint of that sweet coconut flavor that makes everything taste better. It’s perfect for adding to coffee or smoothies, or even for pouring over cereal — though maybe not in the viral Nature’s Cereal recipe, ha. Homemade coconut milk also makes truly delicious homemade ice cream, and it’s what a lot of the big brands use in their own vegan ice cream flavors.
If you need a place to start, I recommend with this simple homemade coconut milk recipe at The Kitchn. All it requires is water, and unsweetened shredded coconut. Happy drinking!