First there was soy milk. Then came its cousin almond milk, and almond milk's sibling cashew milk. Then flax, hemp, coconut, rice and even banana joined the milk family. One very welcome addition -- as evidenced by the 686% surge in sales in 2019 -- is oat milk.
This creamy non-dairy beverage rose to the top of the alt-milk hierarchy likely because it offers key benefits that modern consumers are looking for -- sustainability and solutions for dietary concerns -- and still hangs on to the one thing that many non-dairy milk products lack -- flavor.
Oat milk is another vegan product that looks like it's here to stay, joining the ranks of vegan cheese and plant-based meat. Here, learn how oat milk is made, if it's healthy and what brands to buy.
Oat milk is milk made from oats -- not a hard name to decipher. But there is something special about oat milk compared to other alternative milks: It's actually thick and creamy like full-fat cow's milk, but without the same amount of fat, calories and lactose in dairy milk.
Other plant-based milks, such as almond and cashew, tend to be watery or on the verge of flavorless, whereas oat milk is richer in both taste and texture. But how does the magic happen? How can oats turn into a beverage that has die-hard coffee lovers replacing their almond milk lattes with oat milk counterparts?
It's all in the manufacturing process: Oat milk is made by soaking oats in water (usually steel-cut oats), blending the mixture and straining the mixture to remove the pulp. That's a simplified version of the process and something you can do at home -- in oat milk manufacturing plants, there are vats and lots of machinery involved.
Mass-produced oat milk also requires use of food additives to achieve the desired texture and nutritional quality, as well as shelf stability for non-refrigerated versions.
Is oat milk healthy?
The nutritional quality of oat milk depends on the brand you buy, just like the healthiness of other plant-based milks depends on the brand. Plus, everyone has different nutritional needs, so it's hard to say whether oat milk is objectively healthy or not.
The main ingredients in oat milk are oats and water, and most commercial oat milks are fortified with vitamins and minerals to make up for what's lost during production. So those things are good, but things get a little sticky when you keep moving through the ingredients list.
Many oat milks contain added sugar and oils for taste and texture, as well as other food additives, such as thickening agents and preservatives -- but these things are really nothing to worry about unless you have an intolerance to them or just prefer to avoid them.
Oat milk can be a good choice for people who have lactose intolerance, nut allergies or soy allergies, in which case dairy milk, soy milk and nut milk are off the table. Oat milk may not be a good choice for people with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, except for certified gluten-free oat milks. It can also be a great alternative to dairy milk for people following a plant-based diet.
Oat milk tends to have more fiber, sugar and carbs than other plant-based milks, and it also generally has more calories. Again, not necessarily bad things, but factors to consider if you are watching your carb, sugar or calorie intake.
Drink it, put it in smoothies, pour it over cereal, add it to your coffee, stir it into oatmeal for double the oat power. You can use oat milk to make pancakes and waffles, thicken soups and stews, make homemade sauces and bake desserts, too. Basically, oat milk can serve as a replacement for dairy milk or a different plant-based milk in just about every scenario.
Oat milk brands
Oatly may be the most popular brand of oat milk to date, known for its velvety texture and carefully sourced ingredients -- all Oatly products are made with gluten-free oats and non-GMO oils. Oatly makes a few different oat milk products, including a barista blend praised for its ability to steam like cow's milk and make for great lattes.
Most grocery stores and health food stores stock oat milk these days. You can likely find multiple brands at your local supermarket. You can also order shelf-stable versions of some oat milks online. Use the store locators for the brands below to find oat milk near you:
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.