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JOI’s milk alternatives are a new kind of pantry staple

JOI’s almond and cashew milks are made of nuts, without added sugar or stabilizers. The company started as a way to solve a trifecta of pain points: how to simplify the process of making milk at home, how to make alternative milks more sustainable, how to end up with a product with a minimal and healthy ingredient list. (The name JOI stands for “just one ingredient.”) Though currently packaged in plastic, the company says a 15-ounce container of JOI almond base can make seven quarts of milk, replacing multiple plastic-lined cartons and resulting in a lower carbon footprint from not shipping all that water weight. JOI CEO Hector Gutierrez says they’re looking to move to glass containers, which could more easily be recycled, in the future.

JOI’s milk alternatives are a new kind of pantry staple

To Gutierrez, the company’s products, basically a nut paste or concentrate that JOI has dubbed a “nutbase,” fit into a new category: not quite plant milk, not quite nut butter, able to be both sweet and savory (more on that later). It’s worth noting there are recipes online for making nut milk by blending almond butter with water; I haven’t tried that method, but Gutierrez claims it wouldn’t be the same as using JOI. “Our process is inherently different from making nut butters,” he says. Sharing just how different is “a line that we dance around,” he adds, hesitant to reveal JOI’s particular method of milling its whole almonds and cashews. According to him, blending a nut butter wouldn’t give the same binding experience, and the JOI method means a smaller particle size that better emulsifies with water.

Across a few weeks, I blended up small pitchers of milk, controlling the size so it wouldn’t spoil before I could use it up (even in small portions the almond milk would separate slightly in the fridge, but a quick shake brought it back together) and adding different levels of sweeteners or flavors like vanilla. That variety was key; flavored, sweet milks are good to have in your fridge for your coffee, but not when you’re looking to make a plant-based roux or béchamel for dinner.

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