What are plant-based milks?
Alternatives to dairy milk have come a long way in recent years. Long gone are the days where the only alternative was sweetened soya milk that curdled in hot drinks. Now, there’s a plethora of options, from the now mainstream oat, almond and hemp milks to the less common pea, tiger nut and hazelnut varieties. There are so many in fact, it can be a little tricky knowing which one to choose!
The majority of dairy-free milks are made using cereals or grains such as oats and quinoa (yes, quinoa milk is a thing!), nuts including almonds and cashews or seeds, for example, hemp seed milk.
If you’re wondering how on earth you might go about milking an almond, then we’re here to help! Plant-based milks are made by soaking the cereal, grain, nut or seed in water for a few hours, before any additional ingredients are added.
Some are fortified with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D and calcium, whilst others have added stabilisers and preservatives.
If you’ve ever tried standard soya milk in tea, you’ll know that the milk can split, causing it to clump into lumps in your cup – whilst it still tastes ok, it isn’t the most attractive thing to drink. Therefore, there are some plant-based milks specifically created for use in hot drinks to avoid them splitting (which is caused by temperature changes and the acidity of the coffee) and these are usually called ‘barista style’ milks. They can be added as a splash to tea or coffee or to create frothy cappuccinos, without resulting in a curdled, off-putting mess.
Some people choose to make their own dairy-free milk, most commonly using oats by soaking them overnight and then straining the resulting mushy liquid through a muslin cloth to separate the milk from the solids. But thankfully, shop-bought versions are now so widely available, that we can freely experiment with the varieties that suit us best.