Sorry, almond milk. But the newest non-dairy milk on the scene, oat milk, is more popular than ever.
You can't scroll through your feed without seeing influencers and bloggers 'gram pics of their oat milk lattes and smoothies. But according to Judith Dodd, RDN, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, oat milk is here to stay.
"Oat milk is the new non-dairy star, likely to rival coconut, almond, cashew, soy, and rice," she says. "It’s lactose-free, smooth, and naturally creamy but not overkill sweet."
"Its texture is great for lattes, and it doesn’t separate when mixed with hot beverages, like many non-diary milks do," says Kelly Jones, RD..
So if your local coffee shop isn't making oat milk lattes yet, it will be soon. Oat milk is just part of life now—and everyone (even non-vegans!) wants to get in on the trend. But should you really buy into the hype?
What is oat milk?
Oat milk is, well, exactly what it sounds like: a non-dairy, vegan milk substitute made from oats. At its most basic form, oat milk is made of oats and water blended together, then strained to create a smooth, creamy liquid. Some brands fortify theirs with extra vitamins and minerals (or add flavors and sweeteners).
Is oat milk nutritious?
Nutrition labels vary between brands, so not all oat milks are created equal. Some, for example, have more sugar than others, depending on added flavors and other factors.
Here's an example of what you'll get in one cup of plain Pacific Foods oat milk:
- Calories: 130
- Fat: 2.5 g
- Saturated fat: 0 g
- Protein: 4 g
- Carbohydrates: 24 g
- Sugars: 19 g
- Fiber: 1.9 g
- Sodium: 115 mg
You'll also get around 35 percent of your recommended calcium intake per cup, and about 10 percent of your daily recommended iron intake. Again, those numbers vary per brand based on how the milk is fortified.
According to Dodd, oat milk also contains small amounts of plant oils, which are heart-healthy unlike the saturated fats found in dairy milk. Plus, oat milk is generally free of allergens like soy and nuts, making it a good dairy-free alternative if you have food allergies. Oats are also usually gluten-free, although you should still check the label before purchasing if you have Celiac disease or another kind of gluten intolerance.
In general, Sandra Grant, RD, says that oat milk usually has less sodium per cup than other non-dairy choices. For example, soy milk has around 124 mg of sodium per cup, and almond milk has 186 mg per cup, compared to oat milk's 115 mg.
According to Dodd, oat milk is higher in fiber than dairy, soy, and almond milks at nearly two grams per cup (compared to soy's 1.5 grams per cup, and dairy milk and almond milk's zero grams per cup).
"But it’s lower in protein than dairy milk, with one to four grams a cup, while dairy milk has about eight grams a cup," says Jones, "and there might be sugar added in a few brands, so check the label to make sure that's not the case."
Nutrition aside, the reason you opt for a certain type of milk or alternative is almost as important as what’s in it: "[Is it] something to add to your coffee or tea, add to your cereal, enjoy as a beverage or smoothie? Use in a recipe? Oat milk seems to have a lot of advantages," says Dodd.
How do I use oat milk?
Think of oat milk as the tofu of milks. It has a neutral taste that works well in a lot of different foods. Try baking with it, stirring it in your coffee, or cooking other grains (like farro) in it, suggests Cheryl Mitchell, food scientist at Elmhurst Milked.
And if you want to really double down on your oats, Mitchell recommends pouring oat milk on top of your oatmeal. "This gives a double benefit of the soluble fibers and nutrition, and keeps your digestive tract in great shape," she says.
According to Dodd, it’s crucial to check the expiration date on all cartons before consuming. Once opened (even if it’s shelf-stable), refrigerate it right away.
What are the best oat milk brands to buy?
If you’re eager to experiment, these are the best oat milk brands on the market, according to RDs, so you can be sure it’ll taste great and have a good list of nutrient-dense ingredients.
1. Califia Farms Oat Barista Blend
“Califia Farms Oat Barista Blend is the most desirable texture for coffee based beverages and steams wonderfully in a creamy latte,” says Jones. It contains no added sugar and is naturally sweet. “This oat milk is made with gluten-free oats and also contains no gums or stabilizers,” she says.
Per serving: 130 calories, 7 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 105 mg sodium, 14 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 1 g protein
2. Elmhurst Milked Oats
Elmhurst Milked Oats is a newer shelf-stable product that is available in single-serve containers, which is an option for on-the-go and for kids to take to school, says Jones. Per serving, you’ll get four grams of plant-based protein, to help you stay full.
Per serving: 100 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 120 mg sodium, 18 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 4 g protein
3. Quaker Oat Beverage
Quaker oat milk has four grams of satisfying fiber that may also help improve cholesterol levels and gut health, says Jones.
Per serving: 50 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 65 mg sodium, 10 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 5g sugar, <1 g protein
4. Oatly Low Fat Oat Milk
“An oat milk with very simple ingredients, this one from Oatly is available at most grocery stores. You can choose between this low-fat version or their full-fat oat milk , (higher in unsaturated fat) which is extra creamy for frothing into coffee,” says Maggie Michalczyk, RD. “P.S. they also make chocolate oat milk and oat milk non-dairy ice cream if you're jumping on the oat train full force,” she says.
Per serving: 90 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 100 sodium, 16 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 3 g protein
5. Califia Farms Unsweetened Oat Milk
“This oat milk from Califia Farms is made without gums and stabilizers, and is extra smooth, making it perfect for smoothies and coffee,” says Michalczykl. Plus, the unsweetened version is very low in sugar compared to other oat milks on the market, she says, with just two grams total.
Per serving: 100 calories, 7 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 100 sodium, 9 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 2 g protein.
6. Pacific Foods Organic Oat Plant Based Beverage
“Made with a little extra fiber from the oat bran in the ingredients, this oat plant-based beverage is a good choice at the grocery store and it's free from carrageenan and soy,” says Michalczyk. It has some sugar, so keep that in mind, though.
Per serving: 130 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 105 sodium, 25 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 17 g sugar, 4 g protein.
7. Thrive Market Organic Oat Beverage
Made with just organic oats and water, this oat milk option is great if you're already ordering a bunch of stuff off of Thrive Market and want a cost-effective option, says Michalczyk. In terms of ingredients, it’s super low in sodium, which is a plus.
Per serving: 110 calories, 2 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 35 sodium, 20 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 3 g protein.
8. Mooala’s Organic Coconut Oatmilk
“I love Mooala’s Organic Coconut Oatmilk as its flavor and ingredient profiles differentiate it from other oat milk products on the market. It’s delicious and creamier than many others since the oat flour is blended with coconut cream and cinnamon, without any added sugar or unnecessary oils,” says Jones. What’s more, it boasts 30 percent of your daily value of calcium, which is the same you would get from a glass of dairy milk.
Per serving: 50 calories, 3.5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 130 mg sodium, 3 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 1 g protein
How to make oat milk:
If oat milk hasn’t yet come to a grocer near you, pick a rainy day and DIY it.
- Pick your oats. Old-fashioned or rolled oats are likely to blend more easily, compared to say, steel cut oats. "You may want to be sure that the oats used are labeled gluten-free if there are a health issues for Celiac or wheat allergies," says Dodd. While she says oats are naturally gluten-free, there can be cross-contamination if wheat or rye are processed in the same equipment or air space, where grain dust in the air is likely to be present.
- Soak the oats. This isn't necessary if you’re using a high-speed blender, but if your blender is on the weaker side, soak them in the refrigerator for three to four hours, she says.
- Strain and squeeze. Dodd says to pour the mixture in a nut milk bag or cheesecloth, and squeeze into a durable container like a mason jar.
- Repurpose the leftovers. Once there's no more liquid coming from the nut bag or cheesecloth, Dodd says you can either compost the oat pulp or use it as fiber-rich mulch. "I could see using it as a filler in meatloaf, vegetable patties, or tuna or salmon patties," she says.
- Consume. Always shake the mixture before using to guarantee a smoother texture. Dodd says to feel free to add your favorite type of sweetener or vanilla extract.
- Store it safely. Store-bought brands are shelf stable until opened, then last seven to 10 days after opening in the refrigerator (depending on the package expiration date). But homemade oat milk only lasts two to three days (at most) in your fridge so it’s best enjoyed ASAP.
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