JOI Nut Bases Aim to Reduce Alternative Milk Packaging

A new way to make your own nut milk and other vegan dairy alternatives.

A jar of JOI almond nut base knocking over milk cartons.

Courtesy of JOI

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Many people are turning to plant-based dairy alternatives, for both environmental reasons and increasing awareness about lactose intolerance. Decreasing the amount of dairy in your diet has big benefits for the climate, but switching from cow’s milk to soy or almond milk still leaves us with the same challenges associated with milk packaging and waste. 

That’s one of the issues JOI nut bases is aiming to tackle. Packaged in recyclable polypropylene plastic jars, one container of this concentrate can replace up to seven 1-quart milk cartons, also known as TetraPaks. Although TetraPaks can be recycled here in New York City, recycling for this type of packaging isn’t available everywhere. 

I had never heard of a nut base before a representative from JOI contacted me. However, we eat a lot of dairy-free products in my household, so I was immediately intrigued. The company sent me several free containers to test. 

You might also be wondering about the environmental impact of nut milk. It’s worth noting that there are pros and cons to every milk alternative, but all non-dairy options have less impact than cows milk. If you really want to limit the impact of your beverage, pick one that’s organic. 

Taste

JOI offers a cashew base, an almond base, an organic almond base, and a creamer base that’s made from a blend of oat, cashews, and hazelnuts. It doesn’t require refrigeration and is shelf-stable for up to 18 months (although you’ll notice a “best by” date that’s about six months out). 

The nut base itself is a very thick paste with some oil on top, similar to tahini or natural peanut butter. The first thing I made with JOI was a basic cashew milk by combining 2 tablespoons of cashew paste per cup of water. I mixed it using an immersion blender, and it turned into a surprisingly pure white liquid. 

Both the almond milk and cashew milk taste the same as their supermarket equivalents, and you also have the freedom to make it thicker and creamier if you prefer. You could make a coffee creamer by blending more base into water, but I don't think I'd add JOI directly to coffee without blending it first. The solids in the milk did settle out a bit overnight, but nothing that a quick stir or shake couldn’t fix – no need to re-blend. 

Left: the cashew nut base. Right: Cashew milk made from a JOI base.
Left: the cashew nut base. Right: Cashew milk made from a JOI base.

Margaret Badore for Treehugger

I also made JOI’s recipe for ranch dressing, using the almond base. It tastes delicious, with a light texture, and is also keto-friendly and gluten-free. The dressing thickened up considerably in the refrigerator if that’s your preferred texture. The nuts themselves are nutrient-rich and also add fiber to any recipe. 

JOI also came in handy when I got halfway through cooking a curry before realizing I was out of coconut milk. I whipped up some cashew-based cream and dinner was saved – and the swap was undetectable amid the spices and herbs. 

The thing that’s really unique about JOI is its flexibility and versatility as an ingredient. For people like me who don’t want to grind cashews, or make oat milk from scratch, the paste is an easy starting point to make into creamy sauces, salad dressings, yogurt, soups or more. JOI publishes a library of recipes, or you could swap it into just about any recipe that calls for non-dairy milk or cream. 

Ingredients

JOI’s super-short ingredients list is refreshing, the almond base is made from just almonds and the cashew base is made from just cashews. JOI apparently stands for “Just One Ingredient,” although the hazelnut/oat/cashew creamer blend is obviously a mix. I could see this product appealing to people who have certain allergies or health concerns and want to avoid ingredients like soy or added sugars. 

Cost

The biggest drawback in my opinion is cost. At my local grocery store, almond or soy milk sells for about $2.50 per quart. The organic options can be found at comparable prices, although some brands charge more for organic milk. The basic milk made from non-organic JOI almond or cashew base runs about $2.70 per quart or about $3.40 for the organic almond paste. You can lower that cost by purchasing JOI by buying in bulk or as a subscription. 

I think the most exciting thing about JOI is how many potential recipes it could be used to make, and that’s where it could really prove its value. The fact that you could use a nut base to make everything from breakfast to dessert (and dairy-free cheese and desserts often do cost more), could eliminate the need to buy any number of other pantry items. 

Containers of JOI nut base in a cardboard box.
JOI two-packs are shipped in a recyclable cardboard box.

Margaret Badore for Treehugger

Packaging

The recyclable jars of JOI arrived packed in cardboard two-pack boxes, surrounded by tissue paper inside another larger cardboard box, all of which is recyclable. I asked JOI if the two-pack is ever shipped on its own, and a representative responded no, adding that: “There's nothing more wasteful than a finished product that gets damaged. Yet, as we grow, our core focus continues to be working towards reducing our packaging needs and improving our overall sustainability efforts.” 

Much like other concentrated household products, like shampoo bars or laundry tablets, cutting the liquid from a product reduces its shipping weight. This in turn cuts planet-heating emissions from the transportation of the product. 

Final Verdict 

This product is not zero waste or plastic-free, but it does take a big step towards cutting down on packaging and shipping emissions. At the current price point, I’m not sure JOI can corner the dairy-free beverage market. But if dairy alternatives are all about having more choices, a nut base is certainly an interesting option that’s sure to appeal to some. Plus, it tastes great.

Learn more at AddJoi.com