amy chaplin

celebrating the art of eating well

chai + homemade almond milk that won’t curdle

POSTED ON February 25, 2015


Tis the season of chai in my house

The weather this winter, marked by months of sub-zero temperatures, snow and even blizzards has me craving warm, invigorating drinks. I’ve always liked chai, the spicy Indian tea when it’s well made – not that easy to find outside of your own kitchen– but haven’t, up until now, found the right moment to drink it. When I have, the dilemma of what milk to add has, more often than not, stumped me.  The reason being, that good strong chai is made up of quite a bit of milk. As much as I love almond milk on or in breakfast, I’m not crazy about the way it curdles in hot drinks—I realize that packaged almond milk doesn’t do this but I have no desire to drink it because the ingredients, flavor and packaging are so questionable.

My friend Gabby told me about her success with blending sunflower lecithin into almond milk to stop the curdling but it took me literally years to try it out. Firstly because sunflower lecithin is not that easy to purchase and then when I finally ordered it, the jar sat it my fridge for another couple of months before I actually tried it. When I finally did, I wondered why it took me so long! It creates a creamy and rich nut milk that’s perfect for hot drinks.

Made up of essential fatty acids and B vitamins, lecithin supports healthy function of the brain, nervous system and cell membranes.  It also lubricates joints; helps break up cholesterol in the body and can be used topically to help heal wounds.

Sunflower lecithin has a thick, dark and sticky consistency with a nutty-seedy rich smell and surprising pleasant flavor. It is a natural emulsifier, binding the fats from almonds (or other nuts) with water creating a creamy consistency.


If you add the right amount of sunflower lecithin the flavor of your almond milk is only slightly altered and it actually tastes really good. I have found that if the almond milk boils at all it will separate so just be sure to remove from heat just as it starts to simmer. I also added some coconut butter to the milk to give it a bit more richness and body, which feels necessary on these freezing days, but you can leave it out. Don’t be tempted to use coconut oil in its place as it will separate and also solidify when refrigerated.  I used this brand.


Your kitchen will smell deliciously fragrant with cardamom, star anise, ginger and cinnamon simmering on the stove. Since I wanted to create a caffeine free chai I used rooibos tea. If you decide to make it using black tea then I think you could reduce the amount. I also added turmeric, which not only enriches the color and medicinal value but adds a depth of flavor that I find you miss without the black tea. It’s really important that you end up with a good strong brew to which the milk is added. As much as I like to avoid adding sweeteners to anything but dessert, I have to say that this drink definitely benefits from a touch of honey or other sweetener of choice.


If you’re not up for making your own chai tea base, I have found these brands to be a good substitute. Both are caffeine free:

Rishi Tea’s West Cape Chai (loose leaf)—very fragrant with and rich tasting; and Numi Rooibos Chai (tea bags) – I find they need to be simmered to get a good strong flavor. I also like to add a bag of Biodynamic Turmeric Cinnamon tea from The Republic of Tea for the added warmth and benefits of turmeric.

Ps I also posted a recipe for a warm chai smoothie on Healthy Eats a few weeks ago. Check out the recipe here is you haven’t already seen it!



Chai tea

I have made this recipe both with dry turmeric pieces, which you can get in herb shops like Flower Power in New York or Indian markets—and with fresh sliced turmeric root. If you only have turmeric powder you could try adding 1 to 2 teaspoons or more but I would add it when you add the tea. Since I toast the spices before crushing and simmering add fresh turmeric at the same time as you add the fresh ginger.

Serves about 4


2 tablespoon dried turmeric pieces or 3-inch piece fresh turmeric, sliced

2 tablespoons fennel seeds

2 cinnamon sticks, broken

1 teaspoon cloves

2 teaspoon black peppercorns

12 star anise

2 tablespoon cardamom pods

3-inch piece fresh ginger, chopped

6 cups filtered water

6 tablespoons rooibos tea

Almond milk to serve, recipe below

Coconut sugar or raw honey to taste


Combine turmeric (if using dry pieces), fennel, cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns, star anise and cardamom in a skillet over medium high-heat and toast until fragrant bout 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and pulse a few times in a spice grinder or crush spices with the end of a flat rolling pin or jar. Add to a medium saucepan along with ginger (add fresh turmeric now if you didn’t use dry) and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover pot, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, add rooibos, cover and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain into a jar and rinse pot. You should have about 4 cups chai.

To serve:

For each serving of chai, warm 1 cup of chai tea in a small pot until it simmers. Whisk in ½ cup of almond milk (recipe below) and warm until mixture has just started to simmer. Stir again if needed (sometimes you will see a bit of separation when almond milk heats but it should come together again after a quick whisk). Add a spoon of your sweetener of choice. Pour into mug and enjoy warm.


Almond milk that won’t curdle!

This almond milk makes more than what you’ll need for 4 cups of chai but it keeps well for about 5 days and is also delicious on your breakfast or in smoothies. Feel free to halve it.

Makes 4 cups


1 cup whole raw almonds, soaked overnight in filtered water

4 cups filtered water

1 ¼ teaspoon sunflower lecithin

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons coconut butter

Tiniest pinch sea salt


Drain and rinse almonds and add them to an upright blender with filtered water. Blend until smooth and strain using a nut milk bag or a strainer lined with a thin kitchen towel or several layers of cheesecloth. Squeeze out all the milk from the almond pulp. Save pulp for another use or compost it. Rinse the blender and add strained almond milk along with remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and frothy, pour into a jar, seal and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

copyright @amychaplin 2015

POSTED IN drinks

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  • Natalia says:

    You made me curious about using sunflower lecithin in almond milk. I bought some last year and I had to throw away a big part of it after several months as couldn’t stand its taste in vegan cheesecakes. Thanks God, I saved a little bit of it so I will try it tomorrow in a shake. Thank you, Amy!
    Tomorrow it’s the big day as your book should arrive and I have been seriously counting the days( now the hours) …

  • thefolia says:

    Viva la chai tea…made right this is my favorite beverage. Thanks for the interesting tip about sunflower lecithin.

  • Kristine says:

    Is coconut manna the same thing as coconut butter?

    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Hi Kristine,
      No, but you could add a touch to your chai as it warms if you want the extra richness. If you add it to the milk it will solidify when the milk is cold.
      I do love their coconut oils.
      Let me know how you go!
      Amy x

      • joanne says:

        I’m wondering about the coconut butter.. since it naturally has some oil in the butter, won’t it harden once the almond milk is put in the refrigerator? Also, I don’t like anything spicey (hot), so is there any ingredients in the chai that I might want to use less of or not use at all? Thanks!

  • Olivia Lane says:

    This all sounds so good!!!
    Do you think adding sunflower lecithin could make my homemade vegan ice cream creamier? My current recipe always gets hard and icycle-y in the freezer.

  • Dear Amy,
    I love this post, beautiful!
    And as I love also chai tea I would like to share with you my own version of this delicious tea. Please be so kind to take a look at it
    It is written in Spanish, but you know, food as well as music are universal languages…
    Take care!

  • What a great primer for making quality chai tea at home. I love the flavors of chai but rarely have it out because of the caffeine and quality, as you say. So I make a simplified version at home, also with rooibos as the base, but I’ve been needing to improve upon it. So I am excited to see your thoughtful and well-executed recipe. And nut milk that doesn’t curdle?! Genius, will have to get some sunflower lecithin when I’m back in the US.

  • Amy! This is genius! I am trying it today…. can’t wait.

  • This is great. I’ll try and get my hand on sunflower lecithin and let you know how I get on 🙂
    Thanks for this awesome suggestion.

  • Gretchen says:

    Amy, this looks delicious- the perfect remedy for my Chicago deep freeze!
    I’m wondering if you think sunflower lecithin added to nut butters might help keep them from separating into oil and solid components, similar to how some store bought brands use palm oil?
    Much appreciated.

    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Hi Gretchen,
      I’m not sure it would but might be worth a try….although since its an extracted food I wouldn’t want to eat too much of it.
      Let me know if you try it!
      Amy x

  • Lyndsey says:

    Where did you find the sunflower lecithin?


  • Lyndsey says:

    Thanks so much!!!! I am excited to try this;)

  • AJ says:

    Hi Amy, this sounds delicious! I use almond milk a lot for sauces, hot drinks etc and often wonder if it’s ok to do so for fear of the making the fats ‘unstable’ . Do you know anything about this? Many thanks x

  • Ana says:

    I do the same when I make nut milks or when I make hemp milk, use a bit of sunflower lecithin, it does wonders doesn’t it?!
    Your blog and instagram are both awesome, love your pics!

  • Gabrielle says:

    Darling Amy! So happy you finally tried the sunflower lecithin! Its a game changer for sure. Thanks too for the shout out

  • Cheryl says:

    I make up the dry chai mixture with rooibos tea leaves. I then add enough boiling water to make it slushy (only a little bit to cover the spices). Then I add some honey to the spice and tea mixture and store this in the fridge. When I want a gorgeous spiced chai latte I simply heat some macadamia milk (you can make your own ) froth it with a hand held milk frother and add a spoon of the chai mixture into an infuser and let it steep. Pour this into your cup and enjoy. Top up as you need!

  • Interesting. Now that you mention it, I have seen even boxed AM curdle. I never thought that was what I was looking at though. Good to know.

  • Eliza says:

    This looks beautiful!! I’ve always wanted to make my own chai. How long would this mixture keep? Wondering if I could make quite a large batch and keep it in the fridge or even freezer?

    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Thanks Eliza,
      I think it keeps well for a couple of weeks in the fridge and I guess you could also freeze it for longer periods.
      Let em know what you do.
      Amy x

  • Izaak says:

    The Recipe is so delicious and tasty. I have tried many such similar recipes but none have worked so great for me. Thanks a lot for those detailed and step by step instructions that made it easier to get the job done in no time. I love almond milk and I am greatly fascinated by its health benefits around us. Here I also have some info regarding almond milk that will be a great value to all its readers.

  • Diane says:

    Hi Amy,
    I just found your website and bought a copy of your book. They are both absolutely amazing. I have a quick question about coconut butter, coconut milk and other coconut products. For some reason these products do not agree with me. Is there any substitutes that you would recommend? Can I use ghee instead? Could I also use homemade cashew or macadamia nut milk for coconut milk in frostings?


    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Hi Diane,

      I’m so happy that you’re enjoying the book! In savory recipes you can absolutely use ghee. For frostings the other milks won’t set the same as coconut. Coconut oil and fat is solid at room temp where as the others are not and won’t set when chilled. For the homemade coconut milk in curries, you can absolutely use other nut milks.

      Happy cooking!

      Amy x

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