Masala Chai is a traditional South Asian tea composed of spices that have a warming effect within the body. These spices are prized in Eastern medicine for their ability to increase circulation, fight disease and promote overall health. Cardamom, for instance, assists digestion by promoting movement of the intestines, while clove is an expectorant that aids healthy respiration. Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory, used in some treatments against arthritis.
In Western countries, Masala chai is most often made with cow’s milk. In this recipe, Brazil nut milk is used as an alternative to dairy. Brazil nuts are a good source of magnesium and phosphorus and a potent source of selenium, minerals that are responsible for the growth and repair of the body’s cells and tissues. In addition to being plentiful in essential vitamins and minerals, Brazil nuts have a high fat content. This richness makes for a sweet and satisfying milk.
There is no one correct way to make Masala chai, and in fact the spice blend varies from region to region (and person to person!). Use my recipe as a guide and play around with the spices, adding more or less until you have created your own unique, warming chai blend.
NOTE: Though Americans and Canadians get adequate amounts of selenium in their diet, in parts of Europe and Asia, selenium levels are lower. Vegetarians may also intake less selenium than their meat-eating counterparts. But because levels of selenium are naturally high in American diets, consumption of large amounts of Brazil nuts on a daily basis may not be recommended.
For the Brazil Nut Milk:
- 1 cup (133 g) raw Brazil nuts
- 3 cups (700 ml) fresh clean water (plus more for soaking)
- 2-3 medjool dates, pitted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla bean)
- 2 tbsp coconut butter (this is optional; I find this makes the milk creamier and closer to whole milk)
For the Masala Chai:
- 2-inch (5 cm) piece of cinnamon stick
- 2 pieces star anise
- 10 green cardamom pods, smashed OR 1 tsp cardamom seeds (make sure these are fresh for best flavor)
- 6 whole cloves
- 10 whole black peppercorns
- 6 thin round slices of fresh ginger
- 2 cups (500 ml) fresh clean water
- 3 tsp loose black tea leaves (or 2 sachets)
For the Brazil nut milk:
- Put the Brazil nuts in a bowl and cover with clean water. Let sit for 6 hours, or overnight if you can.
- Drain the nuts. Place the nuts in a blender with 3 cups/700ml of fresh water, 2 of the dates, the vanilla and the coconut butter, if using. Blend at high speed for about 1 minute. Taste the milk. If you prefer a sweeter taste, add another date. You can also use coconut sugar, raw honey or other sweetener of choice instead of the dates.
- Set a fine meshed strainer over a clean container. Put a double thick piece of cheesecloth over the strainer, long enough where the sides are hanging down a few inches. If you don’t have the cheesecloth, just the strainer will do, but the final product will be a little grainy. I personally do not mind this, but it’s a personal preference. You can also make your milk in a slow juicer if you have one. You can follow this homemade almond milk recipe, but just sub Brazil nuts for the almonds.
- Pour the blended milk over the cheesecloth. Using a wooden spoon to help push the liquid through, push the nut pieces into the strainer. Continue until you have passed all of the liquid through the strainer. Now pick up the ends of the cheesecloth and hold them as if you were wrapping a package. Twist and squeeze the nut pulp to get out any remaining liquid. Set aside the nut pulp for another use.
- Viola! Nut milk! Keep refrigerated until ready to use, and use within 3 days. This milk will naturally separate during storage; just give it a gentle swirl to re-homogenize.
For the Masala Chai:
- Combine all of the spices in a small pot with the water. Heat the mixture to boiling, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer the spices for 5 minutes (or longer for a stronger chai). Turn off the heat. Mix in the black tea leaves and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine meshed strainer.
- Measure out 1 cup/ 250 ml of the nut milk into a bowl. Slowly pour in 1/2 cup/125 ml of the hot, spiced water into the milk, stirring constantly. Then slowly add the milk and water mixture back into the rest of the spiced water. This tempering technique will heat the milk without causing it to separate and become grainy. Add more or less milk to suit your desired taste. Divide between two mugs and enjoy! You’ll have leftover nut milk for a creamy treat later in the weekend. Enjoy!
Prep time: 6 hours, 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 6 hours, 30 minutes
- Nutrition per serving:
Yields and nutritional information are estimated and will vary depending on produce size and equipment used.