Whether you’re completely dairy-free or you just prefer milk alternatives in your coffee, your milk options at this point may seem endless: soy milk, rice milk, almond milk…but have you tried oat milk? If not, this is what you’re missing.
Oat milk is made from steel-cut oats (or whole oats) blended with water, then strained to create a smooth, creamy liquid. You can buy it premade (Oatly, Elmhurst, and Pacific are popular picks) or make it yourself. Like with all non-dairy milks, be sure to read the label before you purchase. Some brands fortify their oat milk with additional vitamins and minerals (like calcium and vitamin D), while some add sweeteners or flavors. It’s a good non-dairy option for anyone with a nut allergy or gluten sensitivity; just make sure the label says the oats were processed in a gluten-free facility, as some oats are processed on the same machines that process wheat.
Because oats absorb water so well (hello, oatmeal) oat milk is typically pretty dense with the nutrients oats already have, including fiber, protein, and iron. Compared with other non-dairy milks—soy, nut milks, rice, hemp—only soy is higher in protein. One study in men with high cholesterol also suggests that regular consumption of oat milk may help to lower elevated cholesterol levels, following an earlier small study of healthy men and women which found similar results.
It’s also a good choice if you’re worried about environmental impact. A Swedish study found that the production of oat drinks has a lower impact on the planet—looking at production, manufacturing, packaging, and transportation—than both traditional milk and soy milk.
So what does oat milk taste like? Surprisingly, a lot like cow’s milk, but with a slightly, well, oat-y aftertaste. Oat milk is thicker and naturally sweeter than many non-dairy milks (think somewhere between 2 percent and whole milk), but still light. It works well in everything from your morning coffee and cereal to most recipes, including soups, curries, mashed potatoes, and baked goods. Try using it in recipes that contain oats to really up the oat flavor, like this savory pepper shrimp with pecorino oats, honey-oat quick bread, or (of course) in chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. (If you’re in a hurry, you can also just make a bowl of oatmeal.)
If you’re ready to give it a try, you can buy oat milk online or in many grocery stores, or ask for it in your next latte at a coffee shop. Prefer to make your own blend? Mix one part steel-cut oats or whole oats with two parts water, cover, and allow to soak overnight. Then, pulverize the oats-and-water mix in a blender until super-smooth. Strain using a cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer, and store in the refrigerator.
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