Non-dairy milk choices continue to expand, but oat milk is one of the newest and most popular vegan options. We look at how oat milk is made, how good it is for you (and the planet), how it tastes, and even how to make your own if you’re so inclined.
Lately, there is a milky revolution going on and, no, I am not referring to “Milk” the drag queen. Oat milk has been aggressively pushing its way into many a menu and, to be honest, I’ve had conflicting feelings. Oat milk, from the outside, feels trendy, pretentious, and a little basic. The types of people I have seen ordering an oat milk latte are the same that go to SoulCycle, are on on-again-off-again vegetarians, and avoid carbs like the plague. But we cannot judge people based on stereotypes and this vegan, non-dairy milk shouldn’t be judged in darkness.
There is actually nothing wrong with oat milk or anyone who does those things. I suppose I just missed the memo as to why everyone is making the switch. Also, it is just so easy for food fads to come and go, so I try not to get wrapped up in the excitement. I still remember when I first spotted rice milk, hazelnut milk, and cashew milk at supermarkets. Somehow, though, almond milk and soy milk have so dominated the alternative milk market that I almost forgot they existed. Oat, however, is still steadily gaining steam, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t do a deeper dive on this alt milk du jour.
Related Reading: The Best Ways to Use Non-Dairy Milks Besides Cereal
What Is Oat Milk, Exactly?
First, let’s break down what we are actually talking about here. A.k.a what is oat milk? If you brush aside any sort of fortification, oat milk is simply oats that have been soaked in water, blended, and then strained. Because oats absorb more water than nuts, more of the oats break down and transfer into the oat milk. The result is a thick and creamy texture which drinks more like cow’s milk than even your nuttiest non-dairy milk. Even unsweetened oat milk has a bit of natural sweetness (much like cow’s milk), so the flavor of oat milk is actually quite enjoyable to the modern palate.
Oatly! Original Oat Milk, $4.99 at Target
Try it for yourself.
So, it tastes great. Good. But so does anything once you are used to it. Why are people trying to push this new milk so hard?
What Are the Benefits of Oat Milk?
Besides being one of the best tasting vegan milk options, one reason oat milk is revered is the low environmental impact. Little did we know, 80 percent of the entire world’s almond crop is grown in California, which has been suffering from droughts for the past couple years. It takes five liters of water to grow an almond and 100 liters of water to produce 100 milliliters of milk. That is a lot of water in a state with little to spare. By switching to oat milk, you can certainly lower your carbon footprint.
Another reason, in a world full of allergies, is that oat milk tends to fit most people’s dietary restrictions. It’s nut-free, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free (as long as the process plant is certified gluten-free), and vegan.
Califia Farms Oat Barista Blend Oat Milk, $3.58 from Walmart
More and more brands are getting into the oat milk game.
OK, But Is Oat Milk Actually Good for You?
As far as vitamins and minerals go, hell yes. Oat milk is vitamin-rich containing 10 minerals and 15 vitamins as well as a strong dose of calcium and iron too. If you want to avoid dairy—whether you have lactose intolerance or are motivated by the desire to eat a plant-based diet—you will still be getting great nutrition from oat milk.
Oat milk is also low in fat and contains zero grams of saturated fat. Oh hey, summer body! Finally, it’s a great source of fiber, so your digestive system will thank you.
Where it comes up short is with protein, containing no meaningful amount, whereas regular cow’s milk and most other dairy alternatives contain as much as 8 grams of protein per serving. Oat milk also contains roughly 30 more calories per every one cup serving, than 1 percent regular dairy milk.
How Can You Use Oat Milk?
Because of its light but creamy texture and pleasant taste, oat milk is a favorite in cold brew and other coffee drinks; some brands even foam like regular milk (look for oat milk labeled “barista”), making oat milk lattes a big hit.
Pacific Natural Foods Oat Milk Barista Series (4-pack), $18.70 from Amazon
Often used in coffee shops, so why not at home?
You can add it to smoothies, oats, or chia pudding too.
Oat milk can be used 1:1 for cow’s milk in baked goods, though it sometimes causes separation issues in bread. And because its flavor isn’t too intense, it can even be used in vegan “cream” soups and sauces. It’s not as thick as coconut milk, so it’s not a great substitute for that. But oat milk is great for cereal, and many enjoy sipping it straight-up (alongside chocolate chip cookies or otherwise). You can even find some vegan oat milk chocolate on the market.
Where Can You Buy Oat Milk?
Now, where can you get it? You’ll find at least a few brands of oat milk in most grocery stores but can also order it easily online. Oatly, a Swedish company leading the charge as one of the most recognizable and widely available brands (they’ve even got decadent vanilla and chocolate oat milk for the kiddies). You can order from them or if you are just dying to try out an oat milk latte, or drop some in your coffee, use their Oatfinder to find a coffee shop near you.
If that doesn’t work—or if we’re hit with more oat milk shortages as its popularity rises—just make some yourself. My personal favorite homemade oat milk recipe is on The Green Creator. Simple and easy, with a snappy video so you don’t get lost, but there are plenty of other resources online—including Chowhound’s oat milk recipe.
- 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
- 4 cups water, ice cold
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup or other sweetener (optional, and adjust to taste)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
- other flavorings as desired, such as: 1 teaspoon cinnamon or 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- Place the oats and cold water in a blender. If your water isn’t super cold, add a few ice cubes; this helps prevent slimy oat milk.
- Add whatever other flavorings and sweetener you’re using, if any.
- Blend for 20-30 seconds (no longer or your oats may overheat and get slimy).
- Pour the mixture into a nut milk bag set over a large bowl and firmly squeeze to get the liquid out, but not too aggressively (as that can also result in slimy oat milk).
- If you see a lot of sediment, you can strain a second time, either through the nut milk bag again, or through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
- Pour oat milk into a mason jar or other tightly lidded container and store in the fridge for up to one week.
- Separation is natural, so be sure to shake your oat milk before using!
Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.