Almond milk has become increasingly popular in recent years as a dairy-free, plant-based milk alternative. Its creamy texture and nutty flavor make it a versatile option for cereals, smoothies, baking, and more. However, there is an important step that goes into making homemade almond milk: soaking the almonds first.
What Happens When You Soak Almonds?
Soaking almonds prior to making almond milk serves a few key purposes:
- It activates the almonds – Soaking causes the almonds to start germinating, which activates key enzymes and makes their nutrients more bioavailable.
- It softens the texture – Dry, raw almonds are quite hard. Soaking softens the nut meat and makes it easier to blend into milk.
- It removes phytic acid – Almonds contain phytic acid, which can inhibit nutrient absorption. Soaking helps reduce phytic acid levels.
- It removes some bitterness – Some of the bitter compounds in almond skins leech out during soaking, resulting in a sweeter milk.
Essentially, soaking starts the process of breaking down the cellular structure of the almonds. This makes their nutrients more accessible and leads to better consistency and flavor in the finished almond milk.
How Long Should You Soak Almonds?
Most recommendations are to soak almonds for 8-12 hours, or overnight, before making almond milk. Here are some tips for soaking times:
- At minimum, soak for 8 hours. This will allow some of the benefits of soaking to take effect.
- 12-14 hours is ideal. This allows ample time for the almonds to soften and activate without soaking too long.
- Don’t exceed 18 hours. Soaking for too long can lead to oversaturation and loss of nutrients.
- The time can vary based on water temperature. Warmer water may soften almonds faster, while cooler water will take longer.
Play around to see what timeframe works best for your schedule. Overnight or during the workday tend to be convenient soaking windows for most schedules.
Does Soaking Almonds Remove Nutrients?
A common question is whether valuable nutrients leech out of the almonds during the soaking process. Here is a look at how soaking impacts different nutrients:
- Protein – The protein content remains unchanged during soaking.
- Fat – The total fat content also remains stable, though some polyunsaturated fats may degrade over long soaking times.
- Vitamin E – This fat-soluble vitamin is retained during soaking.
- B Vitamins – These water-soluble vitamins may leech out at higher amounts into the soak water.
- Phytic Acid – About 50-70% of phytic acid is removed with 8-12 hours of soaking.
- Minerals – Small amounts of minerals like calcium, zinc, and iron may leech out.
While some water-soluble nutrients are lost, the overall nutritional value remains high. Any leeched nutrients also go directly into the soak water, which can be used for the almond milk itself or other recipes.
Do You Have to Soak Almonds for Almond Milk?
Technically, you don’t have to soak almonds before making almond milk. However, soaking them is highly recommended for the best texture and flavor.
If you don’t soak the almonds first:
- The almond milk may have a grittier, chunkier texture instead of being smooth.
- The raw almond flavor will taste very strong and bitter.
- Almond skins can give the milk a darker, opaque appearance.
- Nutrients like protein, omega-3s, and calcium may not be as bioavailable.
You can still make almond milk with dry almonds in a pinch, but soaking them really improves the milk’s quality. Even just a brief 4-6 hour soak makes a noticeable difference.
Does the Water Ratio for Soaking Impact the Almond Milk?
Yes, the ratio of water to almonds during soaking can impact the finished almond milk too. Here are some soaking water tips:
- Use at least twice as much water as almonds. This ensures even soaking and rinsing.
- Too little water can lead to mold growth on the almonds.
- Using too much water may dilute the almond flavor and proteins.
- Warmer water temperature helps the almonds soak more efficiently.
A good rule of thumb is 2-3 cups of water per 1 cup of almonds. The almonds should move freely in the water as they soak.
Do You Have to Soak Almonds in Hot, Warm, or Cold Water?
You can soak almonds in any temperature water. However, there are some factors to consider:
- Hot water – Around 180°F is ideal. It softens the almonds quickest.
- Warm water – 110-120°F water still helps speed soaking but without damaging nutrients.
- Room temperature water – 68-72°F works but will require a longer soak time.
- Cold water – Almonds soak most slowly in 40-50°F cold water.
Warmer temperatures are preferred since they reduce the time needed. But any water temperature can be used if you adjust the soak time accordingly.
Should You Soak Almonds in Salted Water?
Salt isn’t necessary for soaking almonds, but a pinch of salt in the soak water can help in a couple ways:
- Salt helps soften the almond skins to release better during blending.
- A touch of salt brings out the almond flavor and balances bitterness.
Just 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt per cup of soak water is sufficient. Make sure to taste the almond milk before adding any more salt.
Should You Soak Almonds in Lemon Water or Vinegar?
Acidic soaking liquids help leech phytic acid out of almonds more effectively. Options include:
- Lemon juice – 1 tablespoon per 1 cup almonds
- Apple cider vinegar – 1 teaspoon per cup almonds
- Whey – 1 tablespoon per cup almonds
The acids break down the phytic acid while imparting extra flavor. Just soak for 8-12 hours as usual after adding the acidic liquid.
Do You Have to Soak Almonds in the Fridge?
Storing soaked almonds in the refrigerator is recommended for food safety:
- Bacteria multiply faster at room temperature, so refrigeration inhibits this.
- The cold temperatures also prevent fermentation as the almonds soak.
- Soaking in the fridge may take a few hours longer but is worthwhile.
Be sure to soak almonds in a covered container in the fridge. Then drain, rinse, and blend into almond milk promptly after removing them.
Should You Rinse Almonds After Soaking?
Rinsing soaked almonds is an important step:
- It washes away any bitterness or phytic acid leeched into the water.
- Rinsing prevents the soak water from diluting the almond milk’s flavor.
- Any sediment or almond skins are rinsed off for a smoother milk.
Be sure to drain off the soak water completely, then rinse the almonds very well 2-3 times in fresh water before making your almond milk.
Can You Soak Almonds Too Long?
It is possible to soak almonds for too long. Here’s what to watch for with prolonged soaking:
- After 18-24 hours nutrients may leech into the water.
- The almonds’ cell walls break down too much, making a mushier milk.
- Oversoaked almonds are more prone to spoilage.
- Fermentation can occur, making the almonds taste boozy.
Ideally soak for the recommended 8-12 hours for best results. If leaving longer, store soaked almonds in the refrigerator.
Do You Have to Soak Almonds for Raw Almond Milk?
Soaking is especially important when making raw almond milk, for a few reasons:
- It makes the hard, fibrous almonds easier to blend smoothly.
- Soaking removes compounds and enzymes that inhibit digestion.
- The nutrients become more bioaccessible without heat pasteurization.
- It removes some of the antinutrients that can limit mineral absorption.
Soaked almonds make the nutrients in raw almond milk more available. The soak water can even be used instead of fresh water.
Can You Make Almond Milk Without Soaking the Almonds?
Technically, you can make almond milk without soaking the almonds first. However, it is really not recommended, for a few reasons:
- The almond milk will be quite gritty and pulpy from the hard almond pieces.
- The raw almond flavor will be very pronounced and bitter tasting.
- Almond skins can give the milk a thicker, darker appearance.
- Valuable nutrients like healthy fats, protein, and minerals may be less bioavailable.
While it’s possible to skip soaking, the almond milk will be inferior in both texture and taste. Even a brief 4-6 hour soak improves the end result.
Can You Make Almond Milk With Almond Butter?
Almond butter can be used to make almond milk, but keep a few things in mind:
- The milk may be thicker and more opaque from the blended almond solids.
- Added oils or salt in the almond butter will affect the nutrition and flavor.
- Roasting almonds before making almond butter also impacts the taste.
- Almond butter is more processed so may have fewer nutrients than soaked almonds.
For the freshest, most natural almond milk, soak whole raw almonds. But in a pinch, almond butter works too.
Soaking almonds before making homemade almond milk makes all the difference in achieving the perfect texture and flavor. Allowing the almonds to soak for 8-12 hours softens them up, removes phytic acid and bitterness, and makes their nutrients more bioavailable. While it adds an extra step, the improvements to the almond milk make it well worth taking the time to soak your almonds first.