When we think of ‘power drinks’, smoothies or green juices usually are the ones that spring to mind. Here at the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, we love our dairy-free smoothies but we also like to make homemade dairy-free elixirs (in fact, there is a full module dedicated to them in the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program). They’re wonderful in cool weather, and also make a great morning pick-me-up or an evening soother depending on the nutritional power we pack into them.
So what is an elixir exactly? Technically, an elixir is sweet liquid that is used for a medicinal purpose, but we’ve expanded and altered this for a culinary nutrition context. We like to think of dairy-free elixirs as beverages that can serve as a light meal or snack, while also supporting our health in a targeted way.
If you’d like to know our tips and tricks for making delicious dairy-free elixirs, we’re sharing our how-to, DIY guide with you today.
DIY Guide To Dairy-Free Elixirs
Step 1: Choose the purpose of your drink
A dairy-free elixir is tasty of course, but we also like to include a culinary nutrition purpose. The health goal behind your drink will depend on what time of day you’re drinking it, your activity levels, and your personal health situation. Some common purposes to consider are to:
- help wake you up in the morning and give you an energy boost
- help you wind down and relax at the end of the day
- encourage sleep
- balance hormones
- reduce inflammation
- diminish stress and anxiety
- support a health weight
Your drink may have more than one purpose. Consider choosing a primary purpose to focus your recipe creation, and secondary and even tertiary purposes can stem naturally from there. A lot of whole food ingredients don’t have a single action – most foods have a multitude of benefits so no matter how you slice it, you’ll be reaping a lot of good stuff.
Step 2: Select spices, herbs or superfoods that have a particular action
In order to fulfill the purpose you chose in step 1, you need to pick a couple of key herbs and spices that will help you on your journey. The plant world is packed with a ton of options you can choose from. Here are some of our faves.
- Anti-inflammatory: ginger, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, jasmine, berries, cayenne (if you’re not avoiding nightshades)
- Hormone-balancing: maca, ashwaghanda, black cohash, cinnamon, adaptogenic herbs (see below)
- Adaptogenic (these will help you respond to stress): ashwaghanda, holy basil, rhodiola, reishi, ginseng, licorice root
- Digestive-supportive: peppermint, fennel, chamomile, gentian, ginger, lemon, anise, cardamom, lemongrass, slippery elm, marshmallow root
- Detox/cleansing: milk thistle, lemon, cayenne, ginger, turmeric, dandelion root, Dandy blend
- Immune support: astragalus, echinacea, chamomile, orange + grapefruit peel, lemon, rosepetal, reishi, chaga
- Calming: Lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, passion flower, vanilla, catnip
- Energy boosting: rhodiola, ginseng, ginko biloba, green tea, cordyceps
- Antioxidants: raw cacao powder, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, matcha
Word to the wise: don’t add too many of these at once. They have strong flavours and you don’t want your elixir to taste weird or gross. Play around with flavour profiles and find the combos that you like.
Step 3: Consider your base liquid
Most of your elixir is going to be liquid and there are a few things we like to use:
- a cup of our favourite tea (you can pick one that complements the purpose of your drink)
- nut or seed milk
- coconut milk
- oat milk
- plain hot water
Step 4: Pick a healthy source of fat
Nutritious fats are essential for health – they provide a good source of energy, form our cell membranes, generate our hormones, protect the nervous system, nourish our skin, hair and nails, and much more. Adding fats to your dairy-free elixirs helps to make them satiating and add creaminess to the drink. Some fat options are:
- Coconut oil
- Flax seeds and oil
- Hemp seeds and oil
- Chia seeds and oil
- Nut/seed butters
- Olive oil
- Walnuts and walnut oil
- Cacao butter
We like to add at least 1-2 Tbsp of fat.
Step 5: Include a bit of protein
Protein helps with healing and repair, supporting the immune system, increasing energy and building muscle – and we often don’t get enough of it in our diets (you can discover 21 ways to sneak more protein into your day here.) The fat + protein combo elevates your dairy-free elixir from a drink to a full meal.
You can choose one (or more) protein options:
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Nut/seed butters
- Bee pollen
- Protein powder (here’s a comprehensive guide to protein powders)
We like to add at least 1-2 Tbsp of protein.
Step 6: Add a natural sweetener (if necessary)
Dairy-free elixirs are typically sweet. It’s possible to make a savory elixir, but really, those are actually soups. Some herbs and spices can taste sweet (licorice, cinnamon, etc.) so you may not need much to sweeten; still, we do recommend a little bit!
Some of our favourite natural sweeteners:
- Raw honey
- Goji berries (these are also a great source of amino acids)
- Maple syrup
- Coconut syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Monk fruit
- Fresh fruit (eg applesauce)
Step 7: Blend and make sure it’s delicious!
You can use a high-speed blender to whip up your elixirs or use a regular blender. Just be mindful of blending hot liquids – please be careful! Depending on the ingredients you are using and how easily they dissolve, you can also whisk your elixir on the stovetop in a small pot.
Always taste your dairy-free elixirs before drinking or serving. You may need to adjust the quantities or add more natural sugars. We also like to add a pinch of salt to elixirs to help enhance the sweetness.
More Tips for Dairy-Free Elixirs
- Buy a good, strong thermos or reusable mug so you can take them to go in the morning. No need to stop by the coffee shop!
- Buy herbs and spices in small quantities to ensure they are fresh and potent.
- If you have a frother, froth some dairy-free milk and get creative with your elixir art.
- Make your dairy-free elixir extra special by adding a dollop of coconut whipped cream.
- Got extra nut pulp on hand? Toss in a spoonful for extra fibre.
- Stock your pantry so you have everything on hand to make an elixir at a moment’s notice.
- In warm weather, use a chilled base liquid or serve with ice.
- Batch prep your elixirs by adding everything except for the liquid to a small jars or baggies. When you’re ready, heat up your liquid, add the contents of the jar and blend. This helps you to make your morning elixirs much quicker and easier!