We're not nuts for believing in a more sustainable future.
It’s 2022 and sustainability is the need of the hour even within the food space. People are becoming more conscious of their eating habits and actively pushing for more healthy choices to be available in the market. Dairy alternatives are a huge part of this movement for many reasons including dairy allergen avoidance, clean label products, vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian lifestyle compatibility, sustainability, and animal welfare issues.
Soy milk, oats, they’re all having a moment right now, but one of the most popular sources for dairy replacement has turned out to be the much-underestimated category of nuts. An excellent source of fibre and nutrients without any of the environmental fallout, nut alternatives are here to stay. Though it’s by no means a new idea having been mentioned as early as the 13th and 14th centuries, it has taken on a life of its own and science has enabled us to take the concept further than we imagined with a whole host of products that will probably make you forget about dairy altogether.
Whatever your motivation or necessity for dairy-free options, it’s a good time to make the switch and the best part is that a lot of these substitutes can even be made in the comfort of your own kitchen. So let’s get to know some of the main categories we have to explore.
The best known of the nut-food family, nut butter has been around for years but we’re seeing a whole lot more options available aside from the standard peanut. Cashews, hazelnut, macadamia, and any nut that’s high in fat lends itself well to being processed into butter with a little coconut oil that can easily be used as a substitute in almost any situation.
Nut cheese is most often made from cashews, which produce the creamiest cheeses, along with almonds, pistachios, and macadamia nuts, as well as sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Sometimes coconut oil is added for additional firmness at refrigerated temperatures. Depending on the base material, the additions, and the process, you can make hard, soft, meltable or even smoked cheese.
Like dairy-based yoghurts, nut-based yoghurts are an ideal source of fats and protein. They can be an even healthier source of fat and protein because they contain plant-based unsaturated fats. A new favourite among alternative eaters is coconut yoghurt – which admittedly is a bit of a stretch in the definition of a nut – but as usual, the coconut has risen to the occasion.
Nut milk is one of the easiest products to create at home and can be made with virtually any nut you can think of. It starts with removing the shells and toasting the nuts for a deeper flavour. They’re then soaked in water and blended into a paste. The liquid is strained through fine muslin and in some cases flavouring, thickeners, sugar or salt are added to produce a final ‘milk’ product.