What’s the Deal With Oat Milk?

Sometimes my inner monologue takes on the uncanny voice of a millennial Seinfeld – typically in response to newfangled products or trends that I don’t totally understand yet. For instance, I’ve been hearing a lot about this new thing called oat milk and wondering – seriously, do we need another milk? I feel like I’m shooting from the hip every time I shop in the dairy section with its already overflowing cornucopia of substitutes. Since when did you need a Ph.D. to go dairy-free?

The New York Times wrote about oat milk back in January, so the train has already left the station on this one. The oat milk “moment” is officially underway – in fact, I would say this is oat milk’s year. Always down to do some food sleuthing, I set out to solve the mystery of the latest plant-based milk and how it stacks up against the competition.

What does oat milk taste like?

The taste is… surprisingly delicious. When I look at a canister of oatmeal, I’m not thinking mmm, that would make a yummy milk, so it sort of blows my mind that it tastes so good. I tracked down a carton for my research, and my boyfriend and I decided we like it even better than the almond milk we usually get.

I love the mild sweetness of oat milk. It’s definitely lighter than cow’s milk, and I would say the same compared to almond milk, as well. Perhaps its flavor is most reminiscent of rice milk. My editor weighed in with a video taste test. “It’s so… oaty,” she said after taking a swallow – both hilarious and 100 percent apt. That could be a good or bad thing depending on how much you like oats…

Where can you find oat milk?

If oat milk sounds pretty good to you right about now, don’t get too excited. Tracking down a taste is harder than you think. First, I hit up my neighborhood grocery store – a large location of an upscale chain in a nice-ish part of Hollywood – and came up empty-handed. And if something isn’t readily available in Los Angeles, that certainly doesn’t bode well for its procurement in middle America. Ultimately, I found some at Whole Foods, but oat milk only got a tiny sliver of shelf space compared to the wall of other faux dairy options.

Nationwide, your best bet is probably a boutique coffee shop because baristas are actually key in proselytizing the good news about oat milk as part of major Swedish brand Oatly’s evangelism efforts in America. The strategy is working. According to The New York Times, the company’s presence to spread exponentially from 10 locations in New York to more than 1,000 locations across the country in a mere year. You can use the Oatfinder on their website to find the closest café that carries it.

Can you make oat milk at home?

Take the matter into your own hands and get your fix DIY-style by making some homemade oat milk yourself. Whipping up a batch is easier than you think and it only takes about two minutes!

The recipe for oat milk is quite simple, indeed.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • a pinch of sea salt

Directions: Blend until “well incorporated,” or for about 30 seconds. Slowly pour into a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl, then pass the oat milk through the strainer once more into a jug or pitcher with a lid. Observe a strict no-oats left behind policy by saving the leftover oats to be repurposed into another dish. One batch will last about five days refrigerated in an airtight container.

If you get on an oat milk kick, this recipe for chocolate oat milk from The Conscientious Eater looks pretty tempting, as well.

When should you drink oat milk?

While so far my oat milk experience has been limited to drinking straight and enjoying with breakfast cereal, it has my strong endorsement for both. In addition, the folks over at Bon Appetit suggest using oat milk as a milk substitute for baked goods, puddings, and dressing up your morning coffee. Apparently, it’s best when steamed or simmered. For a simple, delicious treat, they recommend adding a dash of cinnamon after warming it up on the stove.

Is oat milk good for you?

If you happen to be lactose-intolerant or vegetarian, oat milk might be just what the doctor ordered. Oat milk is vegan, as well as naturally dairy, nut, soy, and gluten-free – though of course, you have to keep an eye out because it may be processed in the same facility as those allergens or contain sneaky additives. However, the oat milk brands I encountered in my research seem to appeal to their health-conscious clientele. Oatly, for one, is non-GMO.

Oat milk is rich in fiber compared to cow’s milk – nine percent recommended daily allowance – and even edges out the OG in terms of calcium.

Oat milk crushes cow’s milk in the vitamin A and iron departments, with 10 percent RDA for each.

Plus, it doesn’t have any cholesterol. Up against other kinds of plant-based milk, oat milk has more protein.

But on the cons list, oat milk has significantly more calories and carbs (almost double that of almond milk). Check out the nutrition label of the Pacific Foods vanilla oat milk I picked up.

In a broader sense, yes, milk alternatives offer some nutritional value, New York University professor Marion Nestle wrote in an email to The Independent, “but as is the case with most processed foods, eating the original – almonds, oatmeal or whatever – is always better.”

Is oat milk eco-friendly?

Very. Almond milk was my longtime favorite milk substitute, but I started feeling guilty about its environmental impact as an Angeleno in the midst of California’s latest drought. This Slate piece by Maria Dolan argues that while it takes water to grow almonds, it’s not nearly as much as a lot of other popular food crops – and milk from an animal would take far more.

I was delighted to discover that oat milk has an even lighter ecological footprint since oats require only one-sixth the amount of water that almonds do for their growth.

In my own mental equation, the surplus calories and carbohydrates of oat milk over other types of milk are completely offset by its ease on the environment.

So that’s the scoop on oat milk from me, its newest fan. I understand the hype now, and I think it’s well-deserved. The oat milk revolution is happening all around you. Won’t you join us?


About the Authorcourtney-kocak

Courtney Kocak is a writer on Amazon’s Critics’ Choice-nominated animated series Danger & Eggs. Her other bylines include the LA Times, Bustle, xoJane, LadyGunn, Nerve, and many others. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @courtneykocak.

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