Vegan buttermilk – four variations

During my pre-vegan days, every Navratri I would offer my friends badam milk (almond milk) as a prelude to snacks before handing over haldi-kukum.  It was a tasty drink.  How can almond ground and added to milk, boiled and reduced to half its volume and sweetened with sugar, garnished with bruised saffron threads not be tasty?  But that was the before I woke up to the cruelty involved.

The first year I became vegan, I was at a loss as I did not have a good drink to replace the almond milk.  The vegan almond milk I take consists of only almonds and it was not a viable choice.  I only offered water and snacks.  I did not like the idea of juice as it is not in keeping with tradition.

Last year, I made this quick, tasty and very healthy drink conceived that afternoon.  It must have been one of those days when a friendly fairy must have been around, raised her wand and decided to spring an idea on me. I am sure I heard the ‘bulb’.

A few days earlier I had prepared basil pesto,  and as always my refrigerator had a good stock of cashew yogurt.  I think it was probably only the second or third time that I was preparing cashew yogurt.  I mixed a small quantity from both, ran in the blender, and tasted.  The concoction was surprisingly tasty. I made a big batch and decided to serve my friends.

This is not your regular buttermilk.  Though a new recipe, the plain and spiced recipes taste exactly like, perhaps better better than the original.  How else can cashew taste?

Dish: Vegan Buttermilk and its variations [Neer mor, chaas and basil-pesto buttermilk]
Yield: About 5-6 cups depending on dilution


Cashew yogurt – 1 cup [Recipe here]
Basil pesto – 1 cup [Recipe follows]
Salt and pepper to taste
Lime – 1/2 tsp. if needed


Sour cashew yogurt is the best choice for this recipe.  I found that fresh cashew yogurt tastes best when it has just set, and if it is allowed to ferment for a long time, it bubbles and smells yeasty.  Now this recipe does not taste good without sour buttermilk!  In order to let it turn sour, I place just-set yogurt in the refrigerator overnight to arrest the fermentation.    Next morning remove and dilute the yogurt to desired consistency.  Leave diluted yogurt, covered at room temperature for about 4-5 hours.  This time the yogurt will ferment gradually without forming bubbles or any unwanted smell.  Repeat this (refrigeration and fermentation) for two days and you will perfect sour cashew yogurt, ideal for preparation of buttermilk.  You can also let the thick cashew yogurt ferment and dilute at the end of the fermentation process. The thick yogurt can be used as to replace sour cream in baking, or for cooking kadhi, and other Indian yogurt based dishes.

At this stage you can make any of the four types of buttermilk detailed below.

( Ideal dilution for me is to whisk 2.5 cups of water to one cup of cashew curd.  But this varies as per taste.  Some like their buttermilk thick while I like it almost watery.  If, after dilution it needs more sourness add juice from half a lime.)

Vegan buttermilk – mor

Mor (Pronounced as ‘more’):  Add salt and pepper and enjoy a simple buttermilk sans frills.

Neer mor: Season it with mustard seeds, ginger, chilli and curry leaves.

Vegan spiced buttermilk – chaas

Chaas: Pound chilli, curry leaves and ginger together till granular.  Mix with the ‘mor’ or buttermilk.  Adjust salt.  No need to add pepper.

Make vegan buttermilk with basil pesto:

Add 1 cup of pesto to every three cups of diluted buttermilk and run in the blender.  Ratio may be varied as per taste.  If needed add some lime juice to make it slightly tangy.

Recipe: Basil Pesto recipe
Recipe modified from Jamie Oliver

This can be made in a blender but I like to make it in my stone/wood mortar, as it preserves the flavour of basil better than in a blender.  The basil remains coarsely crushed and the pine nuts remain granular.  That imparts major taste.  If you prefer a smooth pesto, use a blender.


Fresh basil, leaves picked and cleaned – 2 cups

Extra virgin olive oil – About 3 tbsps.

Pine nuts, toasted – A fistful

Fresh garlic cloves – 3

Pink salt / Saindhav namak – To taste

Black pepper, coarsely crushed (optional) – To taste


Pound the garlic, basil without oil in the beginning in the mortar, till the basil gets bruised.  Took me about 5 minutes.  Use a spoon to push down leaves from the sides if needed.

Add pine nuts and further pound till the pine nuts are well crushed and evenly distributed into the mixture.  Another ten minutes.  You will need to scrape the sides with your hand and push the mixture into the center occasionally.

Add oil, salt and pepper and mix everything with the pestle, pounding as you do so.  Two minutes of this and you are done!

Use this as a sandwich spread, to coat your pasta, instead of tomato sauce over your pizza,  or make an innovative chaas!

I used as less olive oil as possible – about 2 tbsps.  You can try it too, but a classic pesto should have strong flavour of olive oil, hence the extra tablespoon in the recipe!


Harini is a vegan food photographer, writer and recipe developer. She also loves feeding birds, reading, watching crime thrillers, and travelling amongst other things.

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  • Meenakshi

    Hi, Love your presentation! Where do you buy those awesome looking earthern cups from?

    • Harini

      Thank you, Meenakshi! I purchased those long back at an exhibition in Bangalore. 🙂

  • Anu

    Awesome is too less a word! Mor is something I missed a lot since turning vegan. Not anymore. Thanks!!

    • Harini

      Thanks, Anu! Try it and let me know whether you like it. 🙂

  • Preethi

    Thanks for the recipe! totally sluuurp!! I tried everything possible to make our southindian “mor” but terrible failed in my attempts, this should do wonders 🙂

    • Harini

      Welcome, Preethi! I am sure you will find this very easy and satisfying! If something goes wrong, do write in and I will do my best to help you out. 🙂

  • PinkPolkaDot

    Very interesting!! This is totally new to me!

  • Beena

    I’m discovering your website thanks to Facebook today and I find it absolutely great! I was born in Kerala and I really miss my “mor” here in France

    • Harini

      Welcome Beena and thank you for your kind words.:)

  • Simone

    Lovely lovely photos Harini and thanks for teaching some interesting details about vegan cooking! I might try to make this one day!

  • Priya (Yallapantula) Mitharwal

    Yum !!! I am drooling over your recipes and presentation. I never heard of cashew yogurt before, I would love to try it out 🙂

  • Ashwini

    Hellos…the crockery…esp the “kulhad” is good as usual…the photography lovely…and the recepie for pesto…with plain indian and readily available ingredients is lovely too…thanks for making me take one more step towards veganism

    • Harini

      Thanks Ashwini! And that’s great news! There is no thumbs sign I know of otherwise I would have shown that here. 😀

  • Priya Sreeram

    loved the pesto buttermilk, lovely !!

  • Sra

    How innovative, Harini! Lovely fotos!

  • sreelu

    beautiful pics Harini, just want to gulp straight out of the beautiful pot.Lovely pics

  • Rachana

    I love buttermilk with curry leaves and ginger. Your clicks are stunning.

  • Lata Raja

    Excellent!!! Without knowledge of what happens with refrigeration, I had kept my cashew yoghurt in the fridge for few days before using it in a dish that called for sour curd and found that the taste was rich owing to the cashews. Now mor with this sounds very delectable.

    • Harini

      Thank you, Lata. I would not have posted this had you not given me a feedback about the cashew yogurt.:)

  • Susmitha - Veganosaurus

    The basil pesto mor sounds so yum!! Funny you should think it up in the rainy season. Goes to show how being vegan can make us confident enough to drink summer (body cooling) drinks in any season and be just fine! 🙂

    • Harini

      I did not think that until you pointed it, Susmitha!! I have it about once a week or so and it just did not strike me that we do not have such drinks in rainy season. Maybe the basil did not bring cold or cough! These pictures were taken way back, but I still make the drink whenever I have basil pesto.:)

  • Nishi

    Gosh Harini!!! The cashew Butter milk looks so wonderful. Each shot is better than the other 🙂

  • Nithya

    Wow.. this is a fantastic variation to the usual butter milk. Looks damn yummy too 🙂 Love your clicks always 🙂

  • Aurea Conroy

    your pictures are SO consistently lovely!
    and your post is filled with such practical, exotic and delightful information stimulating all my senses! thank you.. i hope to try it myself. but regarding the chili crowns – do you mean the stems? or the flesh around the stem? or both? or something completely different??.. i’m just a bit confused about that bit

    • Harini

      Aurea, thank you! I mean stems. Just pluck the stem off the chilli and use it immediately. A friend of mine tells me that she tried with stems of dried red chillies and that works too. Will update with some pictures to make it clear.

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