Creamy Nutella Milk (Dairy Free Chocolate Hazelnut Milk)

While cleaning out my freezer the other day, I found a bag of raw hazelnuts leftover from a homemade condiments cooking class I taught a couple months ago. We had used some of them to make homemade nutella, and I had packed away the leftovers for  a future project that I never quite got around to.

While looking at them, I suddenly got the idea to make a homemade nut milk with hazelnuts as the base and raw cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, and maple syrup as flavoring. Essentially, a kind of "nutella milk" that could be enjoyed for breakfast or as a dessert.

Making homemade nut milks is a simple process. (You may have already tried my homemade pecan milk recipe, which is similar to this one.) The nuts are soaked in water for anywhere from 8 to 24 hours, during which they will swell up and soften. This step can be frustrating if, like me, you prefer instant gratification when it comes to recipes, but it is necessary and actually much better for your digestive system.

Some people find that they have trouble digesting raw nuts. The reason for this is that all nuts (and seeds) naturally contain high amounts of enzyme inhibitors that are designed to keep the nuts from sprouting prematurely. In nature this makes sense because it gives the squirrel a chance to run off with the nut so that it can then sprout elsewhere. But it can wreak havoc on the digestive system and also make it more difficult for your body to absorb all the good nutrients in the nuts.

Soaking nuts in warm water with a touch of salt help combat this by neutralizing the enzyme inhibitors and simultaneously promoting the development of new and beneficial enzymes. Essentially, by soaking them, you're giving the nuts a head start so that when you finally consume them, you're body won't have to work as hard to break them down. Soaking the nuts also makes them softer, which will make it possible to puree the nut milk as thoroughly as possible, making for a really rich final drink. This is actually a very traditional way of preparing nuts, seeds, and grains, and one which has been followed for thousands of years.

For the chocolate element in my nut milk, I used a combination of raw cacoa nibs and unsweetened cocoa powder. I liked the layers of flavor using both added, but if you don't have--or can't find--one or the other, you can just use all of either kind. I also added a tiny bit of vanilla extract and a pinch of salt to balance out the flavors. Sweetener is totally optional, but I like how it worked. I chose to use some dark Grade B maple syrup and was thrilled with the way it tasted. Honey, stevia, or regular sugar would also work.

The finished milk keeps for about 3-4 days in the refrigerator. I store mine in a glass mason jar and shake it up well before pouring into my glasses (the solids in the milk tend to settle after it's been sitting for a few hours). You can also freeze a portion of this to consume later, if you'd like.

A nut milk bag or thin muslin bag is very useful for straining the milk, but I actually just use a fine sieve layered with some cheesecloth. In a pinch, I've also layered a colander with paper towels. Clean (preferably nude to avoid leeching of dyes) pantyhose also work.

I've been enjoying a large glass of this for breakfast with a little sprinkle of cinnamon on top. It's also great in coffee or tea, and can be heated up for a cozy nighttime beverage on a cold night.

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Creamy Chocolate Hazelnut Milk (Dairy Free)
Makes about 4-5 cups

Print this Recipe

Ingredients
3-4 cups warm filtered water (for soaking)
1 tablespoon sea salt (if you can get it, use celtic sea salt)
2 cups raw hazelnuts (skin on or off is fine)
4 cups cold filtered water
1/2 cup raw cacao nibs
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
sea salt

Directions
First soak the nuts: Combine the 4 cups warm water and sea salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Add the raw hazelnuts, making sure the nuts are covered with water completely. If necessary, add more water. Cover and let soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24.

Drain the nuts and rinse with cool water. Proceed with recipe.

Prepare a fine sieve or colander by lining with cheesecloth and placing it over a large bowl. If you have a nut milk bag, use that.

In a large blender, combine the soaked hazelnuts with 4 cups of fresh filtered water (not the same water you used for soaking), the cacao nibs, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and maple syrup. Puree in the blender until completely smooth (about 1-3 minutes on a standard blender; less if you have a high-speed blender like a VitaMix).

Pour the pureed mixture through the sieve, using a spoon to push the liquid through. Strain well, squeezing the cheesecloth at the end to expel all the liquid. TIP: reserve the nut and cocoa pulp to add to baking recipes or for making crackers. I keep mine in my freezer and add to banana bread, muffins, or pancake batter.

Taste and add additional sea salt or maple syrup, if desired. Transfer to a glass jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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