When life gives you a windfall of walnuts… this is the way to handle it. A while back I was given 5 pounds (!!!) of walnuts. This is some pretty serious bulk for a household of two, and despite my best efforts at generously nutty yogurt/oatmeal toppings, we’ve been having a hard time putting a dent in the seemingly bottomless bag in our freezer. Until this revelation!
Drinking our walnuts has been a refreshing pleasure, and a simple way to take advantage of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits (they are the only nut with a significant amount of omega 3s!). It’s rich, creamy, and flavored like the pure essence of walnuts. You can drink it straight up, add to smoothies or pour over granola, but my personal favorite application is to use it as a base for hot cocoa. So unique and delicious!
This was my first time making nut milk, and although I’m familiar with the basic soak/blend/strain procedure, I had to wonder what kind of chemistry makes this simple process work so well. After consulting my go-to resource on these matters, I learned that it’s all about the way that nuts store their oils. The healthy fats found in nuts are dispersed in little globules called oil bodies, whose surfaces are covered with proteins and phospholipids to prevent them from merging together. When dry nuts are blended, their oil body surfaces are torn up and the oils pool together – think nut butter. But when soaked nuts are blended, the oil bodies are able to remain intact, and disperse as fat droplets into the water, along with proteins, sugars, and salts – just like milk!
If my geeking out is making your eyes glaze over, whoops. We can move on to the procedure now, which I assure you is really simple…
Start by soaking your nuts in water for a few hours or overnight. This softens them and also helps to remove some of the bitter tannins.
Once they’re soaked, drain them and add fresh water, then whiz it up in a blender.
And the semi-essential tool you’ll need? It’s called a Nut Milk Bag. I don’t normally like to clutter up my kitchen with too many wacky gadgets, but I’ve totally been loving having this in my arsenal. It takes up zero space, it’s super easy to clean, and in addition to the nut milk task I’ve also used it to make cold-brew coffee and to strain homemade broth. I’m in love!
It just takes a gentle squeeze to get out all the good stuff. (Credit for the ruggedly handsome hand modeling goes to Grant. The walnut milk hasn’t made me quite that big and strong yet!)
And voila! I just add a pinch of salt to make the flavor sing, but you can also doctor it up with vanilla or other additions.
Apparently the leftover pulp can be dehydrated to make walnut flour, but since my dehydrator is sadly exiled on the opposite coast in my parents’ storage closet, I haven’t tried it out yet. If you’re already a nut milk DIY-er, I would love to hear your favorite suggestions for nut pulp usage!
I also wish that I knew more about how the nutrients distribute into the milk and pulp fractions… The California Walnut Board provides nutrition information for their recipe, but it’s not clear how it was determined. Aside from that, my research has come up dry. Any insights, intrepid readers?
1 cup walnuts
3 cups filtered water, plus extra for soaking
1 pinch salt
optional flavoring additions (vanilla, cinnamon, etc.)
Place the walnuts along with enough water to cover them in a lidded container. Let them soak in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Drain and rinse the walnuts, and place them into a blender with 3 cups filtered water, salt, and any desired flavorings. Blend at high speed for about 2 minutes, until smooth.
Pour the blended nut mixture through a nut milk bag (or cheesecloth, or a fine mesh strainer) into a pitcher. Chill before serving, and use within 5 days. The milk does separate over time, so be sure to stir or swirl the pitcher before serving.