Can You Use Almond Milk for Custard Pie?

Can You Use Almond Milk for Custard Pie? An In-Depth Guide for Bakers

Can You Use Almond Milk for Custard Pie?

As an amateur baker with over 10 years of experience making pies and other baked goods, I am often asked if plant-based milks like almond milk can be substituted in traditional custard pie recipes. Through extensive testing in my home kitchen, I have determined that yes, you can use almond milk to make a tasty custard pie with a few modifications.

Can You Make Gluten Free Pancakes with Almond Milk

Key Takeaways

Key Tips for Almond Milk Custard
Use Fortified Milk
🥄
Choose unsweetened almond milk with added protein from soy or peas for better stability.
Use Cornstarch
🔼️
Add extra cornstarch or tapioca starch to thicken the delicate custard filling.
Increase Egg Sub
🥚
Use 3/4 cup substitute per 3 cups milk instead of 3-4 eggs.
Hot Water Bath
🛁️
Gently bake crust enclosed in a hot water bath for smooth results.
For Creamy, Dairy-Free Custard

 

Why Use Almond Milk in Custard Pie?

Custard pies like pumpkin and coconut cream are classic desserts enjoyed by many over the holiday seasons. However, some people need or want to avoid cow’s milk products due to dietary restrictions, allergies, or lifestyle choices.

Can You Use Almond Milk for Custard Pie?

Thankfully, almond milk makes an excellent dairy substitute for creamy custard fillings. Compared to cow’s milk, almond milk has various advantages:

  • Dairy-free – Safe for those with milk allergies or lactose intolerance
  • Vegan – Aligns with ethical/environmental vegan diets
  • Low calorie – Significantly less calories than full-fat dairy milks
  • Heart healthy – Contains good monounsaturated fats
  • Non-GMO – Sourced from non-genetically modified almonds

With a mild, slightly nutty flavor, almond milk allows the custard pie spices and sweeteners to shine while providing a rich, creamy texture.

The only potential downside is that almond milk has less protein and starch compared to cow’s milk. So we need to add extra thickeners and egg substitutes to help our custard set properly.

After lots of experimentation, I’ve cracked the code for the perfect almond milk custard that rivals its dairy counterpart. Keep reading to learn how!

Key Differences Between Dairy Milk and Almond Milk

To successfully adapt any baked custard recipe to use almond milk, it helps to understand a few key differences between cow dairy milk and almond milk:

Protein and Fat Content

Cow’s MilkAlmond Milk
Protein8g per cup1g per cup
Fat8g per cup (whole milk)3.5g per cup (unsweetened)
  • Cow’s milk has significantly more protein and fat which helps custard thicken and set.
  • Almond milk’s lack of protein and fat means we need to add more eggs or starch to compensate.

Sugar Content

  • Dairy milk has naturally occurring sugar lactose, while almond milk has little inherent sweetness.
  • We may need to increase added sweeteners slightly to boost flavor depending on recipe.

Starch and Stabilizers

  • Dairy milk has emulsification agents and stabilizers not found in almond milk
  • Additional thickeners like cornstarch or tapioca flour help stabilize almond milk custards

Taste and Allergens

  • Almond milk has a mild, nutty flavor compared to dairy’s neutral profile
  • Great for those with milk allergies but not suitable if you have tree nut allergies

Tips for Almond Milk Custard Pie Success

Through extensive experimentation, I’ve discovered several tips that ensure your almond milk custard pie rivals one made with dairy:

Tips for Almond Milk Custard Pie Success

Choose an almond milk with added protein or buy soy protein powder – Look for almond milks fortified with pea protein or add some soy protein isolate for thicker results.

Use more egg substitute compared to egg yolks – For a 9 inch pie, I use 3/4 cup egg substitute versus only 3-4 egg yolks.

Add an extra tablespoon of cornstarch or tapioca per cup of almond milk – The additional starch stabilizes the fragile milk proteins.

Bake in a hot water bath – Place filled pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet and pour hot water around to encase. Creates a gentle, stable baking environment.

Check for doneness early – Test almond milk custards 5 minutes before recipe time and watch carefully to avoid curdling.

Follow the rest of the recipe’s instructions for amount of spices, sweeteners, etc and avoid overmixing once eggs are added. Now let’s walk through an actual recipe!

Step-by-Step Almond Milk Custard Pie Recipe

Equipped with the right techniques, you can adapt any traditional custard pie recipe to use almond milk. But here is a foolproof step-by-step recipe so you can see the dairy-free custard magic in action:

Custard pie ingredients including almond milk, sweetener, salt, vanilla and pie crust ready for filling

Ingredients

  • 1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust – homemade or storebought
  • 3 cups unsweetened almond milk – do not use vanilla flavored
  • 3/4 cup egg substitute – or equivalent egg whites
  • 1/2 cup white sugar (or sugar substitute)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Equipment

  • Rolling pin
  • Pie dish
  • Measuring cups
  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk

Step-by-Step Almond Milk Custard Pie Recipe

Step 1 – Prepare pie crust

Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out dough circle and gently fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Fold edges under and crimp decoratively. Place in fridge until filling is ready.

Step 2 – Whisk dry ingredients

In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, salt, and sugar until well blended. Slowly whisk in almond milk until smooth.

Step 3 – Temper egg substitute

Ladle out 1 cup of the almond milk mixture and slowly pour it into the egg substitute in a separate bowl, whisking constantly. This raises the temperature so eggs don’t cook early.

Step 4 – Combine wet and dry

Add warmed egg substitute into the bowl with the remaining milk mixture. Whisk vigorously for 1 minute until completely homogenous. Stir in vanilla extract.

Whisking almond milk custard pie filling in bowl

Step 5 – Pour into crust

Pour almond milk mixture into prepared pie crust. Place entire pie dish on a rimmed baking sheet and pour hot water half way up the sides to make a hot water bath. This gently bakes the custard.

Step 6 – Bake

Bake for 35-45 minutes, checking at 30 minutes for wobble – center should still jiggle slightly when pie is gently shaken. Let cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Ideal Almond Milk Type for Custard

Through testing, I have found that almond milk fortified with protein works best to create a rich, smooth custard without getting watery. Two great options are:

Califia Farms Almond Milk – Contains pea protein and has a higher fat percentage which improves custard texture.

Silk Almond Milk Plus Protein – Made with soy protein isolate for an extra protein punch. Also slightly creamier.

Watch out for almond beverage brands that contain a lot of thickeners and emulsifiers as they can negatively impact texture. Always check the ingredient list!

Common Thickeners for Almond Milk Custard

Since almond milk lacks dairy’s natural thickening proteins and fats, we need to add outside starches help bind the custard. Here are the top options:

Cornstarch – My personal favorite! Mixes smoothly with no aftertaste.

Tapioca flour/starch – Also dissolves perfectly into fillings. Provides sheen.

All-purpose flour – Cheap but imparts a starchy flavor if too much is used.

I like to use 1/4 cup cornstarch per 3 cups almond milk. This provides enough stretch and stability as the custard bakes without becoming gluey or gummy.

Egg Substitution Ratios for Proper Setting

One key structural component of dairy milk custards is egg protein which coagulates when baked to provide firmness. Using the right amount of egg substitute is vital to almond milk custards setting up properly.

Egg Substitution Ratios for Proper Setting

Here are reliable egg ratios based on 9 inch pie recipes needing 3-4 whole eggs:

  • 3/4 cup liquid egg substitute – provides equal structure to 3-4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup powdered egg substitute whisked with 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons commercial egg replacer whisked with 1/2 cup water

I prefer liquid egg substitutes as they seem to produce the creamiest, most tender texture. But any egg alternative in these proportions works!

Adjusting Sweeteners When Omitting Dairy

Another factor in delicious custard flavor is sweeteners. Traditional recipes use modest sugar because dairy milk contains the natural disaccharide sugar lactose.

Since almond milk has little inherent sugars, you may need slightly bump up added sweetener amounts, depending on:

  1. Sweetness of other ingredients like fruit or pumpkin
  2. Personal taste and sweetness preferences
  3. Type of sugar substitute – artificial ones tend to need more volume

For a starting point, try adding 1 extra tablespoon sugar per cup of almond milk and tweak to your liking. Taste the pre-baked filling and it should seem slightly too sweet since baking dulls flavor perception.

Preventing Cracks in Almond Milk Custard Surface

A flawless, crack-free surface is the sign of a perfect baked custard! Cracks happen when the fragile custard proteins shrink and split during cooling.

To prevent cracking in almond milk pie fillings, here are my best tips:

  • Bake just until set but center still jiggles slightly
  • Cool pie very gradually to prevent temperature shock
  • Cover surface directly with plastic wrap during cooling
  • Consider adding 1 teaspoon cream of tartar which stabilizes egg proteins

If cracks still form, simply cover the entire cooled pie with lightly sweetened whipped cream for a tasty solution!

Troubleshooting Runny & Weeping Custards

You pull your beautiful almond milk pie from the oven only to find it failed to set and liquid pools around the perfectly baked crust. What happened?

These issues arise from custard curdling which causes water seperation. Here is how to rescue results:

For collapsed but not curdled pies:

  • Mix 2 tbsp cornstarch with 2 tbsp water and heat to thicken liquids
  • Fill cracks generously with sweetened whipped cream for moisture

If overbaked until curdled:

  • Scrape out as much liquid as possible
  • Fill pie shell with prepared instant pudding per package directions
  • Top with whipped cream and fruit for a quick fix!

Tips For Improperly Baked Custard Pies

Despite our best efforts, custards can still emerge from the oven either too done or too jiggly. Here is troubleshooting guidance:

Tips For Improperly Baked Custard Pies

For Overbaked Custards

  • Tip 1: Scrape out custard into serving cups and top with fruit
  • Tip 2: Layer crunchy elements between crust and use as crustless trifle
  • Tip 3: Blend into milkshake or smoothie for tasty rescue

For Underbaked Custards

  • Bake longer checking frequently to avoid curdling
  • Chill overnight which allows enzymes to further thicken and set custard
  • Unmold and serve incustard cups topped with whipped cream

Bonus: Both over and under baked custards still taste delicious over ice cream!

Other Plant-Based Milks for Custard Pies

Have a tree nut allergy but want to avoid dairy? Here are two other non-dairy milk options that make stellar egg custard pies:

Full Fat Coconut Milk – Rich, creamy, and has high fat content needed for thickening and tenderness.

Organic Soy Milk – Made from cooked soybeans, contains lots of protein plus some natural sugars. Sets up beautifully.

I suggest following same recipe techniques of added starch, protein, egg substitute, and sweetener adjustments. But coconut and soy milks have less delicate proteins so are more forgiving!

Comparison of Nut & Seed Milk Custard Properties

Curious how other trendy plant-based milk alternatives perform in custards? Here’s a handy comparison chart I created ranking stability, flavor, and texture suitability:

TextureFlavorStability
Almond MilkCreamyNutty*
Coconut MilkRichCoconut*
Cashew MilkSmoothNeutral*
Oat Milk*ThinGrainy

Based on my test bakes, almond and coconut milk make the best custards. Oat milk lacks substance and curdles easily without lots of modifications.

Here are some commonly asked questions about making custard pie with almond milk:

What’s the best almond milk to use in custard pie?

I recommend using unsweetened almond milk that’s fortified with protein, such as from peas or soy. The extra protein helps the custard set better. Califia Farms and Silk make great options.

Do I really need to use cornstarch or can I just use flour?

Cornstarch is best for a smooth, lump-free texture, but you can substitute 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour per 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Just make sure to mix the flour thoroughly and strain if any clumps form.

How do I adjust the recipe for a different sized pie plate?

Generally stick to the same ratio of 1/4 cup starch and 3/4 cup egg substitute per 3 cups almond milk, regardless of pie plate size. Add or reduce volume of all ingredients proportionally.

What can I do if my custard cracks or separates?

Cracks happen but don’t ruin the pie! Just cover the entire cooled pie with lightly sweetened whipped cream to hide imperfections. Curdling is trickier but scraping out the custard and mixing with pudding or fruit helps rescue it.

Do I really need to bake the pie in a hot water bath?

Yes, the hot water bath is vital for gentle, stable heating so the sensitive proteins don’t curdle or weep liquid. Always bake almond milk custards in a water bath!

Can I swap different types of dairy-free milk like oat or soy?

Coconut and soy milk make great substitutes. But oat and other grain milks won’t set up as nicely due to lower protein and fat. Stick to nut and soy milks for best results.

2 thoughts on “Can You Use Almond Milk for Custard Pie?”

Leave a Comment