Almond milk has become an increasingly popular plant-based milk alternative in recent years. With its creamy texture and nutty flavor, almond milk is often used as a dairy substitute in coffee, smoothies, cereal, and more. But is almond milk really just nut juice? Let’s take a closer look at how almond milk is made and examine the key differences between almond milk and nut juice.
How Almond Milk is Made
Almond milk is made by soaking almonds in water, then blending them with additional water until smooth and straining out the solids. The basic process is:
- Soak raw almonds in water overnight or boil them briefly to soften
- Drain and rinse the almonds
- Add almonds and fresh water to a high-powered blender
- Blend on high speed until the almonds are pulverized and the mixture is smooth
- Strain using a cheesecloth, nut milk bag or fine mesh strainer
- Press out any excess liquid from the pulp
- Store the milk in the fridge for up to one week
This results in a non-dairy milk with the flavor and nutrition of almonds that can be enjoyed on its own or used for cooking and baking. Some key steps like soaking help make the almond’s nutrients more bioavailable. The straining process separates out the fibrous pulp, resulting in a smooth, milky liquid.
Nut Juice vs. Nut Milk
Nut juice on the other hand is made by pressing or juicing nuts directly until their liquid is extracted. The process is similar to how olive oil or other pressed oils are made. With nut juices like almond juice, the nuts are pressed until their oils and moisture are released, resulting in a thick, pulpy liquid. The solids are then filtered out, leaving the extracted nut juice behind. This juice contains the pure oils and nutrients from inside the nuts, but has a thicker, more concentrated texture and flavor. Almond juice for example is thick and almost syrupy, with an extra bold nutty taste.
In comparison, almond milk is much thinner and more watery, since water is the main ingredient added to the soaked, blended almonds. Almond milk has a lighter flavor and consistency that’s closer to regular dairy milk. The strained pulp is removed, leaving behind a smooth, milky beverage. Almond milk is also commonly fortified with vitamins and minerals to boost its nutritional value. Overall, its flavor and nutrition are more diluted compared to straight pressed almond juice.
The nutrition profiles of almond milk versus almond juice reflect their different production methods. Here’s a comparison of the basic nutrition facts in one cup:
|Nutrient||Almond Milk||Almond Juice|
|Vitamin E||4-6% DV||14% DV|
|Calcium||20-45% DV||2% DV|
As you can see, almond juice is significantly higher in calories, fat, and vitamin E. Almond milk is lower in calories but contains more calcium thanks to fortification. Almond juice boasts the concentrated nutrition of pressed almonds, while almond milk has the lower fat content and lighter consistency of a dairy milk alternative.
Uses in Cooking
Due to their different textures and flavors, almond milk and almond juice each excel in certain cooking applications. Almond milk can be enjoyed as a beverage on its own. Its neutral flavor also makes it suitable for recipes like smoothies, oatmeal, and coffee drinks. Almond milk can be used for baking quick breads and desserts too, replacing regular milk in recipes. However, the lower fat and protein content of almond milk means it won’t perform the same as whole dairy milk for cooking purposes.
Almond juice has a much fuller, richer almond flavor that stands out more when used unheated in drinks or dishes. Its thick texture also lends well to smoothies for a creamier consistency. You can drizzle almond juice over yogurt, oatmeal, or fruit for an extra nutty taste and nutrition boost. Almond juice can provide moistness and flavor to baked goods without thinning out batters as much as almond milk. But the bold nuttiness and thick mouthfeel of almond juice may overpower more delicate recipes.
Almond juice is generally more expensive than almond milk, since it requires more almonds to produce. The production process for almond juice is also more complex compared to blending soaked almonds and water to make milk. On average, a 32oz carton of almond milk costs around $3-4 while a 16oz bottle of almond juice can cost $8-12.
Both almond milk and almond juice have environmental considerations when it comes to water usage, land use, and sustainability. California produces over 80% of the world’s almonds and requires significant water irrigation for the thirsty almond trees. However, studies show that compared to almond milk, almond juice has a lower environmental impact for water use, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. Producing straight pressed juice requires fewer almonds than making a nut-based milk. The pulp leftover from almond juice can also be repurposed, while the pulp from almond milk is discarded. So almond juice has a slight edge when it comes to eco-friendly production.
Is Almond Milk Just Nut Juice?
Based on the differences highlighted here, almond milk is definitively not the same as almond juice or other nut juices made by pressing nuts directly. While both contain almond nutrients and flavor, they have distinct textures, appearances, production methods and overall nutrition profiles. Simply put:
- Almond milk is a combination of soaked, blended almonds and water that is strained to remove pulp. It has a thin, milky consistency.
- Almond juice comes from pressing whole almonds until the oils and moisture are extracted. It has a thick, concentrated texture.
Almond milk makes an appealing vegan substitute for dairy milk that works well in drinks and cooking. Almond juice showcases the distinctive nut flavor in a thicker beverage that can add richness and body when used in smoothies, desserts or drizzled over dishes. While almond milk is often seen as more of a dairy alternative, almond juice lets you appreciate the nuts in their fresh, concentrated form. At the end of the day, the choice between almond milk or juice comes down to texture and taste preferences for your recipes.
Almond milk has definitely carved out a niche as a popular, plant-based milk substitute, but it’s a different product from almond juice nutritionally and preparation-wise. Almond juice captures the intense essence of almonds, while almond milk offers a lighter diluted beverage that’s better suited for drinking and cooking. Both have unique advantages and are made using different processes. So no, almond milk is not just simply nut juice with water added. It’s its own type of non-dairy milk alternative. The rise of almond milk in no way takes away from the merits of almond juice too. There’s room in the plant-based world for both of these tasty almond-based beverages!