Vegan Masala Chai

Vegan Masala Chai tastes just like the authentic Indian chai but without the dairy! Flavored with ginger, cardamom, cloves & peppercorn!
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If you have been looking for the perfect Vegan Chai recipe then look no further! This vegan masala chai is wonderfully spiced and tastes very close to the one made with dairy. You will not miss the dairy at all in this chai!

glass filled with chai and 2 cookies placed on the side

I have been trying various versions of vegan chai for the last 2 years. Initially I was just curious, and then last year I wanted to reduce my dairy consumption and see if it helps my skin (I have severe acne).

So, I went vegan for a month last year and this year again I did the same. Reducing dairy didn’t do much for my skin (I have some other medical condition which contribute to it) but that time when I went vegan, it helped me perfect the recipe for vegan masala chai.

Honestly when I decided to go vegan for a month and see how it works, I was most stressed about my chai. Rest of things were really easy for me as a vegetarian. I am not a huge cheese or ghee, butter fan so I can easily not have them and wouldn’t care. 

But chai is different. You know how it’s for Indians, chai is just not a drink, it’s a part of our existence and there’s no way I could live without it. I need my Indian chai to start my day, nothing else works for me. So my husband who’s really the chai expert in our house began experimenting with all the plant based alternatives. We tried almost every alternative out there.

Experiments with Plant Based Milks in Chai

So, when we started trying to make the perfect vegan chai, we tried different plant based milk. We also tried making chai with different techniques. First, let’s talk about the different plant based milks that we tried in our chai.

Soy milk: just no for me, I couldn’t drink this chai no matter what technique I used. Had a strong after taste.

Coconut milk: again not a fan since it did give the chai a strong coconut flavor which I personally did not like.

Almond milk: slightly better than soy milk. It was better if we heated it separately and then mixed it with the tea but it was still far from perfection.

Oat milk: now, this is where I noticed a huge change. Oat milk could really work with chai, especially if you don’t boil it along with water and spices and heat it separately- it will work well. I loved the brand “Oatly”.

But I still wasn’t 100% happy, it still made me miss my regular chai.

Cashew milk: here comes the game changer! This totally changed my view for vegan chai and made me believe that you could actually make authentic tasting Indian chai with plant based milk.

Over the last few months, I have made several cups of chai using cashew milk and have come up with the perfect ratio and technique to share with you guys!

The cashew milk chai is so close to the real thing guys, honestly it will be hard for you to tell the difference.

Different Technique for Making Vegan Chai

Traditionally when we make chai, we boil the water with spices and then add milk and boil the chai some more. That’s how traditional Indian chai is made.

But in my trials and errors, the same technique doesn’t work with plant based milk. If you add the plant based milk (cashew milk in my recipe) to the boiling pot of chai and let it boil- it changes the final taste of chai. We tried it with all the plant based milks and each time we preferred the chai where the spices and tea leaves were boiled separately and then the hot milk was added to it.

So, to make vegan chai, you first need to boil the spices and the tea leaves separately. Then heat up the milk separately (do not boil) and then mix the two.

This way the chai tastes best! That has been my experience so far.

Ingredients

To make a basic chai, we always need 4 basic ingredients- water, milk (dairy or non-dairy in this case), sugar and tea leaves. Spices are added when we make masala chai.

small bowls filled with spices, tea leaves, sugar and a measuring cup with milk and water
  • Loose tea leaves: to make Indian chai, you do need loose Indian black tea leaves. You can easily find them at Indian grocery stores. There are so many brands and everyone has a personal preference. I like “society” brand.
  • Cashew milk: you need unsweetened cashew milk for this recipe and my absolute favorite is “forager” brand unsweetened cashew milk (not sponsored but I seriously love it).
  • Spices: to make masala chai you need spices like green cardamom, cloves, peppercorns. There’s some ginger as well.
  • Sugar: this is optional and you or may not use it. You can use white sugar, raw sugar, jaggery or whatever you prefer as a sweetener.

Step by Step Instructions

1- Crush the cardamom, peppercorn slightly using a mortar and pestle. Add water to a pan and then add the grated ginger, cloves, crushed cardamom and peppercorn. Let it come to a boil on medium heat. Once it comes to a boil (it takes few minutes to come to a boil) then let it boil for 1 more minute. The color of the water will change at this point as all the spices seep through it.

2- Add the loose tea leaves and let it boil for 1 more minute. Meanwhile heat cashew milk in another pan or using a steamer. You don’t need to boil it, just heat it up.

3- After 1 minute, remove the pan from heat and strain the chai into a cup using a strainer.

4-Also strain the hot cashew milk through the same strainer. Now, add sugar to taste, stir well  and serve hot!

step by step picture collage of making vegan chai

Serve this vegan masala chai with crispy cookies (we call then biscuits in India) like these jaggery cookies!

glass of chai with cookies placed on the side

Tips & Notes

  • Other spices like fennel seeds, cinnamon can also be added to chai.
  • The spices in the chai can be modified to taste. Don’t like ginger? Skip it or use half the amount. Like more of green cardamom? Double the amount.
  • This chai is best served immediately. I won’t recommend making the chai and then re-heating it- doesn’t taste the same.
  • If you can’t find cashew milk, the next best alternative is Oat milk. I recommend “Oatly” brand and I like the one which comes in blue carton. Follow the same recipe, just use oat milk in place of cashew in that case.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which vegan milk is best for chai?

As I mentioned above in detail, in my experience cashew milk works best and oat milk comes a close second.

Does chai have dairy?

Yes, traditional Indian chai is always made with dairy.

How do you make chai from scratch?

Chai essentially has 4 components to it- water, tea leaves, milk and sugar. Everyday chai in India is usually made with milk, tea, sugar and water only. Masala chai has added spices to it. In this vegan version, we replace the milk with non-dairy/plant based milk.

What is the best kind of sugar to be used in chai?

Sugar is optional when it comes to chai. A lot of people drink chai without any sugar. I personally love jaggery in my chai but you can use regular white sugar or any raw sugar if you like. Some people also like honey in their chai.

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Vegan Masala Chai

glass filled with chai and 2 cookies placed on the side
Manali
Vegan Masala Chai tastes just like the authentic Indian chai but without the dairy! Flavored with ginger, cardamom, cloves & peppercorn!
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 2 mins
Cook Time 8 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Drinks
Cuisine Indian
Servings 2 small cups
Calories 13 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water 240 ml/8 oz
  • 1/2 inch ginger grated, or to taste
  • 3 whole green cardamom slightly crushed
  • 2 black peppercorns slightly crushed
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon loose tea leaves black tea, I used society brand
  • 1/3 cup cashew milk 80 ml, unsweetened, I love "forager" brand cashew milk
  • sugar, jaggery to taste

Instructions
 

  • Crush the cardamom, peppercorn slightly using a mortar and pestle. Add water to a pan and then add the grated ginger, cloves, crushed cardamom and peppercorn. Let it come to a boil on medium heat. Once it comes to a boil (it takes few minutes to come to a boil) then let it boil for 1 more minute. The color of the water will change at this point as all the spices seep through it.
  • Add the loose tea leaves and let it boil for 1 more minute. Meanwhile heat cashew milk in another pan or using a steamer. You don't need to boil it, just heat it up.
  • After 1 minute, remove the pan from heat and strain the chai into a cup using a strainer.
    Also strain the hot cashew milk through the same strainer. Now, add sugar to taste, stir well  and serve hot!

Notes

  • Other spices like fennel seeds, cinnamon can also be added to chai.
  • The spices in the chai can be modified to taste. Don’t like ginger? Skip it or use half the amount. Like more of green cardamom? Double the amount.
  • This chai is best served immediately. I won’t recommend making the chai and then re-heating it- doesn’t taste the same.
  • If you can’t find cashew milk, the next best alternative is Oat milk. I recommend “Oatly” brand and I like the one which comes in blue carton. Follow the same recipe, just use oat milk in place of cashew in that case.

Nutrition

Calories: 13kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gSodium: 36mgPotassium: 36mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 2IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 16mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @cookwithmanali or tag #cookwithmanali!

2 thoughts on “Vegan Masala Chai

  1. 5 stars
    Such an excellent recipe Manali. I was having the hardest time finding a perfect Vegan Chai recipe. I am glad to say this is the one. Cashew milk and adding it separately to the tea was the game changer. Thanks for another fabulous recipe.

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