When it comes to smoothies, nut milk is the difference between a pedestrian sludge and a heavenly sip. Not the watery, tasteless dairy alternatives at the supermarket—I’m talking about the real stuff: thick, creamy, earthy, and straight chuggable.
No one preaches the nut milk gospel louder than Cristina Baez, the bubbly, behind-the-scenes fixer at Ataula, 180 Xurros [update: now closed], and the women-run Nightwood Collective. (She’s also married to Ataula’s modern Spanish chef, José Chesa; the two met while cooking at Barcelona’s famed Can Fabes.) The former culinary instructor’s secret formula is so good, customers at the NE Broadway xurro café routinely ask for her hazelnut milk straight; hold the coffee. (“I once made pine nut milk,” Baez admits sheepishly. “It was so expensive—José wanted to kill me. But the creaminess was mind-blowing.”)
At home, Baez exclusively uses nut, oat, or rice milk for cereal, pancakes, and especially for her smoothies, which get a spice-heavy upgrade from her Puerto Rican upbringing. Try Baez’s lavish milks straight, or blend up one of her rollicking smoothies: they’ll make sticking to your New Year’s resolutions a cinch.
The Universal Nut Milk Recipe
- 1 cup raw nuts*, oats, or rice
- 4 cups water
- 1 stick Ceylon cinnamon, toasted in a skillet over medium heat
- 3 tbsp brown sugar, maple syrup, or stevia
- ¼ tsp Himalayan pink salt**, or ⅛ tsp sea salt
Soak nuts or grains (except for oats) and cinnamon overnight in the refrigerator in 2 cups water. (According to Baez, soaking creates a creamier texture, and makes it easier to digest.) Pour nuts/grains, cinnamon, soaking liquid, and 2 more cups water into a blender with the sugar and salt and blend on high speed for 4 minutes. Taste for seasoning and blend 4 minutes longer. Strain through nut milk bag or fine mesh strainer. Nut and grain milks will keep in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Shake before use. (Nut milk separates.)
*The fattier the nut, the creamier the milk. Cashews and hazelnuts tend to make thicker milk than almonds, for example.
**Do you really need pink salt? No, but it adds dimension without the harshness of sea salt.
Creamsicle banana bread Oat milk, ice, orange juice, frozen banana, cinnamon, clove, evaporated milk
Tropical superfood Rice milk, ice, frozen pineapple, coconut flakes, coconut oil, turmeric, black sesame seeds, dates
lux berry shake (pictured) Cashew milk, ice, frozen blueberries, frozen strawberries, raw almonds, brown sugar, mint, aji or ancho chile