Vegan Chai is something that I have come to love ever since I have started my transition towards eating more plant based food. While I am not fully vegan, I do try to go fully plant based every now and then. And you know what is the hardest part for me during that time? Chai or in layman terms, milk tea. In this post, I will walk you through brewing some flavor packed Chai that is dairy free and delicious.
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If you have been following me on Instagram, you will definitely know that I am a Chai person. Weekends without this refreshing hot drink feels incomplete. While I am in the vegan phase, making the perfect cup of hot milk tea is a challenge.
And I can now safely say that I have found a solution to that situation in this fail-safe recipe. Let us now take a look at what we need to get this tea going.
What is Chai?
Wait let me rephrase. What is Masala Chai? Masala in Hindi refers to spices. And Chai is tea made with milk. So ideally, this is a heavenly concoction of spices, tea dust and milk.
Served with some Pakoras, Bajji or even a sandwich, it is the drink that many in India start their day with.
There are so many ways to make Masala Chai. Some people use a Chai spice blend. I learned how to make Chai, this way when I used to live in Baroda. My method calls for pounding whole spices and herbs and simmering it with the tea dust.
Experiments with plant based milks in Chai
I have experimented making Chai tea with different types of non-dairy milk. Two options that worked the best are unsweetened oat milk and unsweetened cashew milk. Coconut milk, soy milk and rice milk were disasters but hazelnut milk and almond milk chai were passable.
Check my recipe notes to understand about using non-dairy milk in chai tea better.
Spices and herbs
We will be using cinnamon, cloves, whole black peppercorns and green cardamom from our spice cabinet. You will also need some ginger root, fresh mint leaves and a few stalks of lemongrass. Lemongrass is optional but highly recommended.
For this tea, black tea dust works best. You can find this in Asian stores or Indian grocery stores. Nowadays, this is available in tea boutiques as well. My personal favorite brands are Red Label and Taj Mahal.
Since the concept of tea has evolved so much, we also have flavored tea dust in the markets now. But I prefer the good old regular black tea dust.
Plant based milk
Like I mentioned earlier, I am using unsweetened oat milk in this recipe. I will not recommend switching to any other non-dairy milk because the proportion of water to tea dust to milk varies for every kind of plant based milk out here.
Okay, here is my pet peeve about chai. While I can drink coffee without sugar, I just cannot enjoy my milk tea without sugar. If you prefer your tea without any sweetener, then, I am truly jealous.
I have used Gula Melaka; which is the local coconut palm sugar that we get here. Raw cane sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup, coconut sugar and regular granulated white sugar will work here too.
Chai is best enjoyed hot. And the vegan version is no exception. Reheated chai just tastes different. I will not recommend brewing large batches of this beverage for this reason.
Unsweetened oat milk is my first choice. Cashew milk that is unsweetened also works well.
To avoid plant based milk tea curdling, always heat or simmer on very gentle heat. Simmering on high temperatures curdles the milk because the pH levels in plant milk are way lower than what they are in dairy milk.
Here are some tips to brew that perfect vegan Desi Masala Chai.
- Always simmer the tea dust and spice blend first together. This is our tea decoction or liqueur.
- Use Indian style black tea dust for best tasting chai.
- Once you have added the plant based milk, reduce the heat to the lowest temperature and simmer for just 2 to 3 minutes.
- Do not add the sugar until the mixture has simmered for at least 2 to 3 minutes. When you add sugar before the milk has been infused fully with the chai concentrate, the chai tastes milky and flavorless.
- Non dairy milk should never be simmered on high heat because it curdles very quickly.
- Always shake your milk carton well before using the milk.
- I recommend using room temperature milk since chances of curdling is lower in this case. Let me explain. When you add cold milk to hot tea concentrate, it tends to curdle quickly because of the sudden temperature shift.
DIY Chai Spice Blend
If you cannot source ginger and lemongrass, you can still make this tea. And if you are a big fan of Masala Chai, then you will definitely need this easy Chai spice blend.
To make a quick Chai spice, add 6 green cardamoms, 1 inch stick cinnamon, 3 cloves, 10 whole black pepper corns, 1 tsp ground ginger and 1/2 tsp ground allspice to a nut grinder. Blend to a coarse powder.
You will need 3/4 tsp of this blend to brew this chai tea. Store this blend in an air tight jar in a cool cabinet. This makes about 6 servings of chai tea.
How to make the best vegan Masala Chai?
Steps 1 and 2
Add the whole spices (green cardamom, whole black pepper, cloves, cinnamon) along with the peeled and chopped ginger, lemon grass and mint leaves to a mortar and pestle.
Steps 3 and 4
Pound this to a slightly coarse mixture. Set aside. To a saucepan, add 1 cup water.
Steps 5 and 6
Tip in the 2.5 tsp black tea dust and the pounded spice and herbs mixture.
Steps 7 and 8
Bring this mixture to a rolling bubbling boil. This takes about 4 to 5 minutes on medium heat. When ready, reduce the heat to the lowest and add the unsweetened oat milk.
Steps 9 and 10
Stir a few times to combine. Simmer on lowest heat possible for just 2 to 3 minutes. Now, add the sugar.
Steps 11 and 12
Stir well to combine. Continue to simmer for 1 to 2 minutes on low heat.
Steps 13 and 14
Switch off heat. Strain the chai through a fine mesh strainer. Pour into individual cups and serve hot.
We love enjoying a cup of piping hot Chai tea with our breakfast. This is a sacred routine in our house especially during the weekends. Do you have such a coffee or tea routine? Tell us in the comments.
Vegan Masala Chai
- 1 Saucepan
- 1 mortar and pestle or a small coffee grinder
- 1 fine mesh strainer
- 1 set of measuring cups and spoons
Herbs and spices
- 1 tbsp ginger grated and peeled
- 5 whole green cardamoms
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1/2 inch cinnamom stick
- 2 cloves
- 2 inches lemon grass chopped roughly
- 5 fresh mint leaves or 1/4 tsp dried mint leaves
- 1 cup water
- 2 tsp black tea dust please refer blog post for more details
- 1 cup Unsweetened oat milk
- 2 tsp raw cane sugar or any sweetener of your choice
- Add the whole spices (green cardamom, whole black pepper, cloves, cinnamon) along with the peeled and chopped ginger, lemon grass and mint leaves to a mortar and pestle.
- Pound this to a slightly coarse mixture. Set aside.
- To a saucepan, add 1 cup water, 2.5 tsp black tea dust and the pounded spice and herbs mixture.
- Bring this mixture to a rolling bubbling boil. This takes about 4 to 5 minutes on medium heat.
- When ready, reduce the heat to the lowest and add the unsweetened oat milk.
- Stir a few times to combine.
- Simmer on lowest heat possible for just 2 to 3 minutes.
- Now, add the sugar and stir well to combine.
- Continue to simmer for 1 to 2 minutes on low heat.
- Switch off heat. Strain the chai through a fine mesh strainer.
- Pour into individual cups and serve hot.
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Nutrition values are provided here as a courtesy and are only a rough guide. Please consult a health care provider if you have any concerns.
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