And why does it make lattes taste so dang good?

By Jessica Harlan
February 09, 2020
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For vegans and those with lactose intolerance, plenty of milk-alternative options fill today's supermarket fridges. First came soy milk, then almond milk. Milks made from cashews, pecans, hemp seed, and even pea protein have followed. Now, oat milk has joined the ranks as an affordable, sustainable, and nutritious option. Even sworn cow-milk drinkers enjoy its richness. Read on to learn all about this plant-based beverage, including its benefits.

What is oat milk?

Oat milk likely originated in Sweden, with 27-year-old company Oatly leading the way. Oat milk comes from oats that have been soaked in water, blended, and strained. Many of the nutrients from the oats remain in the milk, and the fine particles give the liquid a creamy texture. Unflavored oat milk retains a faint oat-y flavor.

How is oat milk made?

Commercial oat milk is made by combining oats with water before milling the mixture into a fine consistency. Enzymes are added to break down the oat starch. Then, the bran solids are separated out, leaving behind the liquid base. Additional flavorings and ingredients are added, and it's heat-treated to increase its shelf life before packaging. Oat milk can also be made at home with the help of a cheesecloth or nut milk bag for straining.

Oil (usually sunflower oil or canola/rapeseed oil) is added to commercial oat milk to increase the fat content and mouthfeel. Sugar or flavorings are also sometimes added. The milk is further fortified with nutrients and vitamins to boost its nutritional profile.

Is oat milk healthy?

Oat milk is great for those with a gluten intolerance or soy or tree-nut allergies. Just read the label to make sure it hasn't been processed on the same equipment as these allergens. Lower in calories than soy and cow's milk, oat milk is also a better source of fiber and, surprisingly, has more calcium than cow's milk!

Here's how their nutritional values stack up:

  • One cup of oat milk contains about 80 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fat, 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein. By drinking a cup, you get 20 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin D, 20 percent of vitamin D, 25 percent of vitamin A, 35 percent of calcium, 25 percent for riboflavin, and 100 percent of vitamin B12.
  • One cup of whole cow's milk contains 150 calories, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of fat, 11 grams of sugar, 8 grams of protein, and no fiber. One cup contains 30 percent of your recommended calcium intake and 25 percent of your recommended dose of  vitamin D.
  • One cup of soy milk contains 110 calories, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 4.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein. Its nutritional highlights include 30 percent of the recommended values for calcium; 30 percent for riboflavin; 15 percent each for vitamin D, vitamin A, and phosphorous; and 120 percent for vitamin B12.

How do you use oat milk?

With its creamy consistency, oat milk is perfect for smoothies and coffee. It even froths when used in specialty coffee drinks like lattes. Look for versions like Oatly Barista Edition that contain an acidity regulator, which helps prevent the milk from separating in coffee.

You can also replace cow's milk with unsweetened, unflavored oat milk in many recipes. Like cow's milk, unsweetened oat milk tastes naturally sweet. Try it in quiche, mashed potatoes, muffins, pancakes, and creamy sauces. You can also use it in any recipe that already calls for a plant-based milk like soy or almond milk, such as this Chocolate Pudding recipe.

What is the best oat milk?

You'll notice many brands of oat milk in supermarkets today, whether on shelves or refrigerated in the dairy case. You can find flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and blueberry, or thicker, higher-fat versions ideal for use as a coffee creamer. Popular brands include Silk, Oatly, Califia Farms, Elmhurst, Pacific Foods, and Quaker.

To really maximize the health benefits of oat milk, look for one that doesn't contain carrageenan, a thickening agent thought to cause inflammation and digestive issues, or artificial colors and flavors. And remember to opt for an unsweetened, unflavored version to cut extra sugar.

Related:

We're serving up and celebrating the biggest home-cooking trends from the most enthusiastic cooks we know: our community. We crunched the data from 1.2 billion annual Allrecipes.com visits and 2.5 billion annual page views. Then we dug even further, surveying Allrecipes cooks about what's in their carts and fridges, on their stovetops and tables, and on their minds. Oat milk is just one of the topics they're most curious about. See more of the "State of Home Cooking" special report.