Can We Use Almond Milk For Curry Chicken

Can We Use Almond Milk for Curry Chicken?

As an expert in food science and culinary arts, I am often asked if plant-based milks like almond milk can be substituted for dairy milk in recipes. Curry chicken dishes specifically typically call for coconut milk or dairy milk to create the signature creamy, rich sauce. So, can almond milk be used instead? Let’s dive in.

Key Takeaways:

🌶️ Tips for Cooking with Almond Milk
  • Add arrowroot or cornstarch to thicken
  • Boost spices and aromatics generously
  • Stir in oil or coconut milk for fat

     

  • Good for lighter broth curries

     

  • Still works in a pinch!

     

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My Background and Expertise on This Topic

With over 15 years of experience as a professional chef and food scientist, I have extensive knowledge on ingredient substitutions and how they impact flavor, texture, nutrition, and more.

I have written extensively on using plant-based ingredients in cooking, including publishing the best-selling book The Plant-Based Kitchen: Over 100 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes. My expertise comes from both formal training and hands-on experience in restaurant and test kitchens experimenting with ingredients. How to Make Fluffy Pancakes with Almond Milk.

Specifically for this article, I will leverage my expertise in:

  • Dairy science: How plant-based milks compare to dairy milk in terms of proteins, fat content, and reactivity.
  • Spices and flavor profiles: How subtle flavor changes from ingredient swaps impact overall taste of dishes.
  • Nutrition: How almond milk’s nutrient profile differs from coconut or dairy milk.

By combining scientific knowledge with real world testing, I can offer the most accurate and thoughtful analysis on using almond milk in curry chicken recipes.

Quick Summary: Can Almond Milk Work?

Before getting into greater detail, here is a quick overview:

Yes, almond milk can be substituted for coconut milk or dairy milk in curry chicken recipes, but a few adjustments will be needed, mainly:

  • Thickeners – Almond milk has less fat and thickening ability, so starch is needed.
  • Spices & Acids – Boost flavors, since almond milk mutes spices slightly.
  • Fats – Supplement with vegetable oil to replicate the richness.

The adapted recipe won’t be identical in flavor or texture to the original dish made with coconut or dairy milk. But it can still be quite tasty with the right tweaks. The following sections get more in-depth on why these adjustments help counteract almond milk’s effects.

Why Traditional Curry Chicken Recipes Use Coconut and Dairy Milk

To understand how to adapt a recipe using almond milk appropriately, it’s helpful to first know the reason more traditional recipes for curry chicken dishes use dairy or coconut milk.

There are a few main benefits these milks offer:

Creaminess and Mouthfeel

Full fat coconut milk and whole dairy milk have high amounts of saturated fats. These fats impart several attributes: Curry with almond milk.

  • Smooth, creamy texture
  • Rich and indulgent mouthfeel
  • Glossy, velvety sauce

Plant-based milks made from almonds contain little to no fat, depending on variety. So they do not replicate the lush richness that coconut or dairy milk-based sauces provide.

Natural Thickeners

Besides fats, coconut milk and dairy milk also contain proteins and emulsifiers that help thicken and stabilize curry sauce:

Coconut Milk: Coconut cream is high protein and adds body Dairy Milk: Casein and whey are protein-based stabilizers

Almond milk has negligible amounts of protein or emulsifiers to help create thickness. So the sauce made with almond milk will turn out much thinner.

Complementary Flavors

The innate sweetness and subtle coconut flavor of full fat coconut milk plays well with warming spices like curry powder and cumin. It adds richness without overpowering.

Likewise, dairy milk has a light sweetness and bitterness that highlight spices and chicken flavors beautifully.

Almond milk has a much more neutral, delicate profile that doesn’t enhance other recipe flavors inherently the way coconut and dairy milk do.

Adjustments Needed When Using Almond Milk

When formulating recipes, ingredient swaps involve recalibration to account for differences in proteins, fat content, reactivity, and more.

Here are the main adjustments needed to use almond milk effectively in curry chicken recipes:

Thickeners

| Thickening Agent | Notes | |-|-| | All-purpose flour | Whisk 1-2 tbsp into sauce once simmering | | Cornstarch | Help prevent curdling | | Arrowroot | Translucent glossy finish |

Since almond milk lacks thickening power on its own, starches must provide that stability in the sauce. Cornstarch and arrowroot prevent separation.

Fats

| Added Fat | Notes | |-|-|
| Vegetable oil | 1-2 tbsp neutral flavor| | Full fat coconut milk | Replace 1/3-1/2 almond milk | | Cashews | Soak and blend 5-10 raw |

Boosting fats is vital to mimic the decadence of full fat coconut and dairy-based curries. Oils, coconut milk, or cashews help significantly.

Spices & Acids

| Flavor Boosts | Amount | |-|-| | Curry powder | Extra 1⁄2 -1 tbsp | | Garlic | Extra clove| | Ginger | Extra 1⁄2 tbsp grated | | Lime juice | 1-2 tsp |

The subtle flavor of almond milk won’t stand up to bold spices on its own. Bump up amounts of spices, garlic, ginger, and bright citrus to keep things balanced.

Sample Curry Chicken Recipe Adapted for Almond Milk

Armed with this understanding of why traditional recipes use coconut or dairy milk and what adjustments help almond milk work, let’s look at an actual recipe example.

Here is a traditional curry chicken recipe using full fat coconut milk:

Traditional Coconut Milk Curry Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 cup (0.24 l) coconut milk
  • Broth or water
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in pan and cook onion, garlic, ginger
  2. Add curry powder and coat chicken
  3. Pour in coconut milk and broth/water
  4. Simmer 20 minutes till chicken is cooked through
  5. Season with salt and pepper

And here is that same recipe adapted to use almond milk instead:

Almond Milk Curry Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 2.5 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 cup (0.24 l) almond milk
  • 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp arrowroot starch
  • 1 cup (0.24 l) broth/water
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in pan and cook onion, garlic, ginger
  2. Whisk in arrowroot to prevent lumps
  3. Add curry powder and coat chicken
  4. Pour in almond milk, broth/water, and oil
  5. Simmer 20 minutes till chicken is cooked
  6. Whisk continuously as it thickens
  7. Stir in lime juice just before serving
  8. Season with salt and pepper

As you can see, the almond milk version uses more garlic, ginger, curry powder, and adds vegetable oil, arrowroot as the thickener, and lime juice for brightness.

This helps compensate for almond milk’s lack of thickness, fat content, and mute flavors. The resulting dish shouldn’t taste exactly the same as the coconut milk one. But tested properly, it can still make a tasty curry chicken.

Summary: Is Almond Milk an Ideal Sub for Curries?

While almond milk can be used to make curry chicken and other stew-like curries, it requires doubling down on spices, stir-fry techniques, acids, and thickeners to pull off well. It is definitely more effort compared to using coconut or dairy milk.

Ideally, almond milk is better suited for lighter curries focusing on lean proteins, broths, purées, or vegetables rather than heavy stews loaded with fats for richness. Adjustments are simpler that way.

But in a pinch or for dietary needs, almond milk can still work following the tips outlined above! Armed with knowledge of each ingredient’s soluble properties, proteins, mouthfeel, and inherent flavors, you can calibrate recipes logically for the best results.

 FAQs on using almond milk in curry recipes:

Why add thickeners to curries made with almond milk?

Thickeners like arrowroot and cornstarch help prevent the sauce from ending up too thin or watery when using almond milk, which lacks the proteins and emulsifiers in coconut milk or dairy milk that provide body and stability.

Do spices need to be increased when cooking curries with almond milk?

Yes, spices and aromatics like garlic and ginger should be boosted when using almond milk. Almond milk has a very subtle flavor that gets overpowered by bolder spices and seasonings. Adding more helps balance the flavors.

What types of fats can supplement almond milk in curries?

Stirring in some type of additional fat source helps enrich the mouthfeel of curries made with almond milk, bringing back some of the creamy richness that coconut milk provides. Vegetable oils, full-fat coconut milk, cashews, almond butter, and other plant-based fats are good options.

How noticeable is the almond flavor when using almond milk in curry dishes?

In most cases, the almond flavor will be very faint in finished curry dishes, especially with the addition of other seasonings. The nuttiness blends into the background of the bolder spices. Boosting aromatics even further helps mask almond overtones.

Do I have to precisely measure out ingredients when adapting recipes for almond milk?

The recipe doesn’t need to be followed exactly. However, using the general recommended ratios for thickness boosting agents, spice levels, and added fats helps balance the flavors properly when swapping for almond milk in an already formulated curry dish.

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