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A collage of ghee, pesto, nut butter, and almond milk

Walk into a supermarket and you’re met with a constellation of choices. Shelves of various dairy-free milks. Row upon row of different nut butters. Dozens of bottled salad dressings in every imaginable flavor.

It’s convenient to buy these items, but there’s also value in learning to make them yourself. You might discover that your favorite version of vinaigrette includes a dab of spicy horseradish. Perhaps you’ll be happier blending up some nut milk at home and avoiding the gums and emulsifiers in most commercial brands. You may find it cost-effective to make your own ghee, or simply enjoy the ability to mix up a homemade pesto that tastes exactly how you like it.

Think about these as flexible formulas rather than strict recipes. They’re all customizable — each can be seasoned to suit your tastes, or tweaked to include whatever greens, herbs, or nuts you have in your kitchen. Once you’ve mastered the steps, you’ll be able to keep your favorites on hand to add some extra flavor to your next meal.

Anything Pesto

A jar of pesto topped with toasted pine nuts

Makes about 2 1/2 cups
Prep time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup nuts or seeds (pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, or pumpkinseeds)
  • 3 cups tightly packed chopped greens (choose one or mix: basil, spinach, cilantro, kale, beet greens, carrot greens, arugula, dandelion greens)
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese (Parmesan, pecorino Romano, aged Asiago, aged Manchego, aged Gouda, or cotija) or nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbs. acid (lemon juice, lime juice, apple-cider vinegar, white-wine vinegar, or champagne vinegar)
  • 1 tsp. lemon or lime zest
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread raw nuts or seeds on a large rimmed sheet pan and bake until fragrant and toasted, about 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Allow nuts to cool for a few minutes.
  2. Add toasted nuts to a food processor with greens, cheese, acid, zest, salt, pepper, and garlic. Pulse until ingredients are all finely chopped.
  3. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and process until the mixture forms a rough paste. Process until desired texture is reached; add more olive oil, a teaspoon at a time, for a smoother pesto.
  4. Scoop pesto into a clean jar and drizzle a layer of olive oil on top to prevent browning. Seal the jar and store in the refrigerator for up to four days.

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Infused Ghee

A jar of homemade ghee

Makes about 3/4 cup
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic, grassfed butter, cubed

Aromatics (optional; pick one or more from the list below)

  • 8-10 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 4–6 sprigs fresh hard herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, or bay leaves)
  • 1 jalapeño or other chili pepper, halved, with or without seeds
  • 2–3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 vanilla bean

Directions 

  1. Place a medium-size, heavy-bottom pot over medium-low heat. Add butter and stir occasionally until completely melted. Reduce heat to low and allow butter to cook until the white, foamy whey rises to the top, about five minutes. Use a spoon to skim off the whey and reserve for another use. (You can stir the whey into mashed potatoes, cooked grains, or grilled vegetables to add a buttery flavor.)
  2. Add aromatics and continue to cook the butter over low heat. After about 10 minutes, you’ll see the milk solids beginning to gather at the bottom of the pot. After another 10 to 15 minutes, when the milk solids are browned and the ghee is deeply golden and fragrant, turn off the heat.
  3. Remove and discard aromatics, then use cheesecloth or a tea towel to strain the ghee into a clean canning jar. With the whey removed, the ghee can be stored at room temperature for up to three months.|

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Nondairy Milk

Almond milk and almonds

Makes about 3 1/2 cups
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus 8 to 12 hours soaking time

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw nuts or seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pumpkinseeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, or sunflower seeds), rolled oats, or shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 7 cups filtered water, divided
  • 1/8 tsp. sea salt

Mix-Ins (optional; pick one or more from the list below)

  • 2 or 3 pitted Medjool dates
  • 2 tbs. cocoa powder
  • 2 tbs. matcha powder
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric

Directions

  1. If using nuts, place in a small bowl and add about 3 cups cool filtered water — enough to cover the nuts by a few inches. Cover the bowl and soak nuts at room temperature for eight to 12 hours. Drain nuts in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly.
  2. Add nuts to a blender with remaining 4 cups filtered water, salt, and any additional mix-ins. (If using oats or coconut, start with this step.) Blend until completely smooth and creamy, about three to five minutes.
  3. Use cheesecloth, a tea towel, or a nut-milk bag to strain the milk into a clean canning jar. Squeeze the leftover pulp as necessary to extract all the milk. Reserve pulp for another use. (See “How to Use Nut Pulp” for ideas.)
  4. Seal the jar and store milk in the refrigerator for up to one week. Separation is natural; just shake the jar to recombine the contents before serving.

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Nut or Seed Butter

A jar of nut butter

Makes about 2 1/2 cups
Prep time: 25 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 3 cups raw nuts or seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pumpkinseeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, or sunflower seeds)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Mix-Ins (optional; pick one or more from the list below)

  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tbs. cocoa powder
  • 2 tbs. honey
  • 3–4 tbs. coconut oil (for a smoother nut butter)

Ingredients

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread raw nuts or seeds on alarge rimmed sheet pan and bake until fragrant and toasted, about 10 minutes, stirring halfway through. Allow nuts to cool for a few minutes.
  2. Add roasted nuts to a food processor and process until creamy, about 10 to 15 minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides as necessary. Do this in stages, three to four minutes at a time with breaks in between, so your food processor doesn’t overheat.
  3. Add salt and any other mix-ins and process until combined. For a smoother, creamier result, add coconut oil and process once more.
  4. Scoop nut or seed butter into a clean canning jar and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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Salad Dressing

Homemade salad dressing

Makes about 1/4–1/3 cup
Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs. acid (lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice, grapefruit juice, balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar, rice vinegar, apple-cider vinegar, white-wine vinegar, or red-wine vinegar)
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbs. oil (extra-virgin olive oil, toasted or untoasted sesame oil, grapeseed oil, avocado oil, walnut oil)

Mix-Ins (optional; pick one or more from the list below)

  • 2 tbs. minced fresh herbs or 2 tsp. dried herbs (parsley, cilantro, thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, chervil, dill, basil, mint)
  • 2 tbs. something creamy (mayonnaise, yogurt, sour cream, crème fraîche, mashed avocado, coconut cream)
  • 2 tsp. something flavorful (horseradish, tahini, mustard, sriracha, chili garlic paste, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce)
  • 1 ½ tsp. minced aromatics (garlic, shallot, ginger, chili pepper, scallions)
  • 1/2 tsp. citrus zest (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit)
  • 1/2 tsp. sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave, granulated sugar)

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients except the oil. Add the oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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This article originally appeared as “Made From Scratch” in the September 2020 issue of Experience Life.

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