Vegan Chai is an allergy friendly twist on my family’s traditional Pakistani chai recipe that I learned to make from my mom. Tips are included for making the creamiest Vegan Chai.
Vegan Chai is part of our series “Flavors of Culture”
The perfect cup of vegan chai
Chai is one of my all-time favorite beverages. It is a special drink meant to be shared with family and friends. Growing up, there was always a pot brewing in my house.
There is an art to learning how to make the perfect cup of chai although, in my opinion, it has less to do with ingredients and more to do with the method of preparing it.
Making chai at home is not meant to be complicated. Although it can seem intimidating, it is easier than you think! You can adapt traditional chai and make your very own vegan chai, without compromising taste or quality.
Chai literally means tea. Many people in North America associate chai as a flavor like in a chai spiced latte but this is a Starbucks invention. Often I hear people refer to chai as “chai tea” but essentially you are saying tea tea. The correct term to use is simply chai!
What is chai?
Although there are variations with method and ingredients, chai is usually prepared with black tea, water, milk and spices. Chai is boiled multiple times, simmered and strained to create a creamy delicious beverage.
The Flavors of Vegan Chai
In Pakistan, where my parents grew up, chai is made with whole green cardamom pods and in other South Asian countries such as India, masala chai is common.
Masala means spices and the combinations vary based on region, family and personal preferences. Masala chai can be made with whole or ground spices, which include but are not limited to, cardamom, cloves, ginger and cinnamon. Some people like to add black pepper, star anise, nutmeg and even fennel.
Today there are many store-bought blends on the market, but my preference is to use whole spices for the freshest taste. Using whole spices and creating my own blend is also more allergy safe for my family.
Chai is commonly made with black tea such as Assam, Darjeeling or English Breakfast.
In my home, we use black tea bags to get that authentic chai flavor. Tea bags are associated with a lesser quality processed tea but I believe the taste can’t be beaten. If you prefer to use a higher quality loose leaf tea, be aware that you will get a slightly different taste.
milk or mylk?
Typically, chai is made with full fat or two percent cow’s milk. Chai traditionalists will swear that whole milk is best to develop the creamiest consistency.
However, with food allergies on the rise, plant-based mylk (or milk) makes a nice alternative for an inclusive chai.
I find that some plant based mylks separate when boiled so my preferred choice is oat mylk because it holds up well and creates a full-bodied vegan chai. On the other hand, if oat mylk is not an option, soy and coconut mylk are a few other favorites.
For more on whether to call it milk or mylk, check out our episode on the Itch Podcast: Using Inclusive Language When Talking about Food Allergens.
Chai is sweetened with sugar and a lot of it. I like my chai without sweetener. Some people believe that adding sugar brings out the flavors of spices so go for it if you want to zest it up!
I love to use date syrup or a splash of maple syrup to make it refined sugar-free.
My reimagined recipe for Vegan Chai
To sum up, Chai is a celebratory or anytime drink. My family’s Pakistani chai recipe made with oat milk is a version that even pleases my mom. You can share this vegan chai with family and friends!Print
Vegan chai is made with a few simple ingredients. My family’s Pakistani chai recipe adapted using oat milk.
1 ½ cups water
¾ cup oat milk or plant-based milk of choice
3 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed with pods
1 black tea bag (I like PG Tips) or 2 teaspoons loose leaf tea
2 teaspoon sweetener of choice; sugar, maple or date syrup (optional)
- Use a heavy bottom saucepan, about 1.5- 2 quart size. Add water and a tea bag. On medium-high heat, stir once. Bring to a boil.
- When the tea reaches a full boil, add cardamom (with pods) and milk. Stir together.
- Wait for chai to come back to a boil, until the liquid reaches the top lip of the pot. Adjust heat to high. Do not walk away at this point because you want to keep an eye on the chai, making sure it doesn’t spillover.
- Just before chai reaches the top, decrease heat to low.
- Simmer for five minutes.
- Using a small tea strainer pour chai into your cups. Aim from high above to make it frothy.
- Add sweetener of choice (optional)
- Plant-based milks like nut milks can sometimes separate so experiment! Oat milk is preferred. Soy and coconut milk are nice options too.
- Tea bags vary in strength. Add up to 2 tea bags if desired. Adjust milk to desired consistency.
- Switch up spices; add vanilla extract, whole cloves, 1/2 cinnamon stick or any warming spice.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Beverages
- Cuisine: South Asian
Keywords: vegan, vegetarian, chai, beverages, tea
Tools to make Vegan Chai
Treats to serve with Vegan Chai
More Flavors of Culture recipes
Shahla is a mom of two girls who live with multiple food allergies, asthma and eczema. Shahla is trained as a Holistic Chef who wants to share the comfort that cooking has brought her family. She believes that everyone, regardless of dietary requirements, deserves a plate full of color and flavor.