Homemade rice milk natural, budget friendly, healthy and hypoallergenic
Rice milk may not be among the most nutrient-dense plant-based drinks, but it is still a valid and delicious alternative to cow’s milk.
Decidedly lower in allergenic substances, rice milk (better if homemade) convinces and seduces more and more people among vegans, lactose intolerant or soya intolerant (see here the perfect recipe for soya milk); or people who simply want to reduce their consumption of animal products without any particular health problems. Homemade rice milk can also be a very sustainable choice when local/national, organically cultivated rice is used.
I mainly use it for culinary preparations: cakes or puddings, my beloved morning porridge (see the perfect recipe here), or even to make golden milk (discover all the benefits of the tastiest Ayurvedic remedy there is).
Rice milk or rice drink?
In anticipation of the usual objections, I will take the opportunity to clarify a complicated matter: according to the Codex Alimentarius, only animal milk can have this denomination; the rest are commonly equated by color and concept of use, but in reality they are technically drinks (rice, oat, soya, almonds, etc.).
Having therefore made due clarification for the discerning, I choose to use the term ‘milk’ for the drinks in question as well, because this is how they are now widespread and known.
Differences between homemade and industrial rice milk
The only three perceptible differences are:
– the price: homemade rice milk costs about 1/5 of that in the supermarket, even using organic rice;
– the taste: the industrial one is sweeter and definitely more pleasant;
– the look: the industrial one is more stable, less slimy and does not separate easily.
The first point is a nice confirmation that healthy eating can be inclusive for all budgets.
To understand the second and third points, suffice it to say that industrial processes and the use of technological additives make it possible to obtain an entirely different product (except for the color).
Why is homemade rice milk less sweet than store-bought rice milk?
Incredible, but true, commercial rice drink is definitely sweeter – and, I admit, much better – than homemade.
However, how can it be so sweet if the words ‘No Added Sugar’ are prominently displayed on the label? If you look closely, this warning is followed by an asterisk (*), which leads us to another stunning inscription ‘Contains naturally occurring sugar’. Yet I am certain that our beloved risotto is not sweet at all; and to make the rice pudding, we have to add a generous dose of sugar.
The more wary can check with their own eyes the nutritional values on a packet of rice and discover that this cereal contains no sugar but only starch and fiber: just 0.4 g of sugar in 13 g of carbohydrates.
So what is the truth? Don’t worry, there is no trickery, just a part of the production process is tacit.
I had already dealt the enzymatic treatment of starch in the article on homemade oat milk. With this technique, thanks to the use of amylases (α-amylase, β-amylase, glucoamylase) in three different phases, the starch, which is a complex carbohydrate (polysaccharide), after being gelatinized in the presence of water and heat, is depolymerized in the liquefaction phase; then through the phase known as saccharification it breaks down into simple sugars, thus increasing the sugar taste and digestibility .
Sugar levels in 4 different brands of commercial rice drink
– brand A) 13.5 g carbohydrates of which 8.5 g sugars;
– brand B) 14.0 g carbohydrates of which 6.5 g sugar;
– brand C) 13.0 g carbohydrate of which 6.6 g sugar;
– brand D) 10.0 g carbohydrates of which 4.0 g sugars.
So here’s the mystery: since we normally don’t use these enzymes at home, the rice drink we obtain is much less sweet and less pleasant than its industrial rival. Even if we try to break down the starch into sugars by pressure cooking for a longer time (about 2 hours), the result is still far from that obtained industrially.
And why are enzymes not included in the list of ingredients?
Enzymes are part of the ingredients named as ‘processing aids‘ and it is not illegal to omit them on the label; on the other hand, there is no trace of their presence in the final product as they are removed at the end of the process by sterilization and/or filtration.
Which to choose?
Although less good, homemade rice milk is still my favorite; not only because of its cheapness, but especially because it is less linked to the world of GMOs.
Industrial enzymes (almost always) are obtained from genetically modified microorganisms (unless otherwise specified; the only real exception are organic products that use enzymes generated from non-modified microorganisms .
Ingredients for homemade rice milk
1 cup of already cooked brown rice (best if freshly cooked)
4 cups of hot water, or lukewarm if possible; cold water is not recommended
Optional ingredients (optional, but serves to improve the flavor)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder, or vanilla
2 chopped dates, or 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup or other natural sweeteners
1 pinch of integral salt
Nothing could be easier!
To make a good homemade rice milk, you basically need cooked rice, water, a blender and a strainer.
Before cooking the rice you have to wash it well and then leave it to soak for a few hours: this will not only reduce the cooking time (especially brown rice can be very hard to cook), it will also reduce the arsenic content naturally present  in rice (read more about this here).
As always, I recommend the use of a pressure cooker for cooking rice, both for environmental and economic reasons; as well as for convenience: can you compare 18 minutes with 45!
Once cooked, drain the rice and as soon as it has cooled a little, transfer the required amount to the food processor’s container.
Add the lukewarm water and start processing for a few minutes until smooth. You can adjust the density by adding less or more water than suggested.
In case you want to enhance the flavor with salt, spices and dried fruit, mix for one last time with the optional ingredients.
Now all that remains is to strain it. You can make the filtration easier by waiting at least half an hour for the fibrous parts to settle, and without shaking the bowl too much so as not to stir the strain.
In case you want it to taste more velvety, you can pass it through a fine-mesh strainer twice.
Then transfer the homemade rice milk into a bottle with a lid and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Good revolution to all
1) Sethi, Swati et al. “Plant-based milk alternatives an emerging segment of functional beverages: a review.” Journal of food science and technology vol. 53,9 (2016): 3408-3423. doi:10.1007/s13197-016-2328-3
2) WHITEHURST, Robert J.; VAN OORT, Maarten (ed.). Enzymes in food technology. Singapore: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
3) ZHU, Yong-Guan, et al. Exposure to inorganic arsenic from rice: a global health issue?. Environmental pollution, 2008, 154.2: 169-171.
4) Hocking A.D., Ailsa D. Bacillus Cereus and Other Bacillus Species. In: Hocking A.D., editor. Foodborne Microorganisms of Public Health Significance. 6th ed. Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology Inc.; North Ryde, Australia: 2003
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