Photo by Ruta Smith

Ditch the Dairy

The rise in alternative milks using almonds, oats and even peanuts or pecans has put the heat on traditional dairy milk, as these substitutes provide an equally creamy and delicious option to use in coffee drinks, baked goods or savory bites. Several restaurants in Charleston offer non-dairy milk substitutes, but only a select few make their own in-house.

Locally, Babas on Cannon, Huriyali and Carya make nut milks with overall wellness and flavor in mind, transforming plant-based regional ingredients into dairy-free delights. The City Paper got the inside scoop from these small business owners on the inspiration for their made-in-house peanut, almond, cashew and pecan milks.

Peanut milk, Babas on Cannon

In search of a locally sourced and more flavorful non-dairy milk, the team at Babas on Cannon created their own house-made peanut milk. According to owner Edward Krause, it’s easier to make than you might expect. 

“It’s very straightforward — we use peanuts, the sweetener is sorghum that we get from Tennessee, then we add in fleur de sel and filtered water,” he said. “Once we went down the Southern nut milk route, we committed to sourcing as much as we can regionally.” 

Sweetening the peanut milk with sorghum not only contributes to the flavor — it also caramelizes and balances out the bitter notes of the coffee when steamed, Krause said. Babas’ peanut milk also delivers the bold flavor non-dairy milk enthusiasts are looking for. 

“A lot of people ask what the peanut milk tastes like, and that makes sense because a lot of nut milks are pretty neutral — but it’s really peanut-y,” Krause said. 

Babas’ most popular menu item featuring the alternative milk is its peanut mocha — think Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in a glass. Patrons can also substitute peanut milk in any of Babas’ coffee drinks, or you can just drink it straight from the glass. 

“Ultimately, our patrons want a delicious milk alternative, they just don’t know it exists,” Krause said. “There are kids that will just get a glass of peanut milk to drink, and that’s such a win.”

Photos by Ruta Smith

Cashew and almond milk, Huriyali

When Ruchi Mistry and Tom McFall opened Huriyali six years ago, non-dairy milks weren’t mainstream like they are today. 

“In the time that we’ve been open, there has been a huge cultural shift and growing awareness of sustainability, eco consciousness and general wellness,” McFall said. 

Disappointed with the number of preservatives in most commercial nut milks, the couple started making their own almond and cashew milk. 

Huriyali’s almond milk is a simple combination of organic almonds, filtered water and organic medjool dates. The milk adds freshness to organic smoothies, house-made chocolate drizzle for acai bowls, and it can even be used in savory items like Huriyali’s vegan cashew nacho cheese. 

“Whenever a recipe calls for milk, we substitute it with our house milk,” McFall said. “We do not use dairy milk in any of our recipes at Huriyali.” 

The cashew milk has a few more ingredients. Organic cashews are combined with organic medjool dates, vanilla, filtered water and a touch of pink Himilayan salt.  

“Our cashew milk is creamier and sweeter than our almond milk, while our almond milk has a distinct cherry flavor,” McFall said. 

Guests can enjoy these house-made concoctions in any of Huriyali’s coffee drinks, and 16-ounce bottles are available for customers to take home upon request. Mistry and McFall emphasized their belief that non-dairy milk doesn’t just have to be a vegan alternative. 

“There’s such a variety of different nut milks,” Mistry said. “Every nut has its own flavor profile, and you can open the door to creativity for your beverages.”

Photos by Ruta Smith

Pecan Milk, Carya

Carya Pecan Milk co-founders Sarah Elgradawy and Emily Lippes’ new company swaps California almonds for South Carolina pecans, bottling their house-made milk and delivering it to locals in search of a flavorful alternative. 

“Pecans pack a huge punch nutritionally. They are packed with vitamins and antioxidants. Antioxidants help with the aging process, degenerative diseases, etcetera,” Lippes said. “They say an apple a day, but it can also be a handful of blueberries and pecans.” 

Carya’s pecan milk is made from all-local ingredients including pecans from Yon Family Farms, Bulls Bay Sea Salt and R&R Acres honey. Elgradaway is stepping away from the business, but Lippes is keeping Carya’s mission alive, sharing the company’s all-natural pecan milk with Charleston at the Sea Island Farmers Market, Charleston Farmers Market and Sunday Brunch Farmers Market at the Pour House. 

“The three cornerstones of our business are flavor, health and environment,” Lippes said. “Normally you would think it would be tough to get all three, but they really fit together.” 

Like other alternative milks, pecan milk can take the place of dairy in any recipe, Lippes said. Try adding it to your morning coffee, smoothie or breakfast. 

“My very favorite thing to do with the pecan milk is to put it on top of oatmeal,” she said. “It’s a little bit nutty, a little bit sweet, and has that cinnamon in it. Just a tablespoon on top of it really heightens the dish.”