While nut milks as we know them in the States have yet to take off successfully in India, what we have had for hundreds of years is nutty milk, as in ground nuts mixed into and warmed in organic milk. Badam milk, which literally translates to “almond milk,” is popular throughout the peninsula, but I like it’s even richer sister, masala milk, which incorporates almonds, cashews, and pistachios. Saffron, not turmeric, gives this drink its bright yellow hue.
In Chennai, there’s a beachside location of the worldwide idli-dosa chain Saravana Bhavan where my family and I often drive, post-dinner, to enjoy glasses of the stuff straight from the giant vat in which it is made (right outside the entrance). This recipe is based on that version.
It can be enjoyed hot or chilled, but it's very rich, so serve in small cups. —Nikkitha Bakshani
organic dairy milk
stick cinnamon (1-inch or longer)
1-inch knob of ginger
cloves (or sub with 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg or allspice)
Grind the nuts into a paste using a coffee grinder or food processor. You can also chop finely.
In a deep non-stick pan, bring the milk to a boil. When it is warm, take 2-3 teaspoons of the milk, put it in a small glass, and add the saffron threads. Set aside. Prep the rest of the ingredients as the milk heats up.
Once the milk comes to a boil, reduce it to a simmer and add the cinnamon, ginger, cloves (or substitutes), and cardamom (whole crushed pieces or just the inside seeds, up to you). Bring back to a boil, mixing the whole time, until the milk is slightly reduced and smells fragrant, 3-5 minutes. Bring back to a simmer and remove the cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger pieces with a strainer or spoon. Add sugar, nuts, and the saffron milk. Boil for 4-5 minutes, mixing the whole time.
This can be enjoyed hot or cold. To serve it hot, pour into glasses and use a pinch of saffron and crushed pistachios for garnish. To serve it chilled, decant into a container and place in the fridge to drink anytime.