Oat milk is having a major moment right now. Not only are people who do not drink cow’s milk (whether they are vegan, lactose intolerant, or simply grossed out by the thought of drinking the milk of another species) opting for oat milk, but many former cow’s milk-drinkers have been switching to oat milk, too.
That’s because when compared to cow’s milk, not only is oat milk better for the environment, kinder to cows, and better for our bodies, but it’s also super easy and affordable to make at home. Seriously — if you have oats sitting in your pantry right now, fresh oat milk is just a few minutes away. And on top of all that, oat milk is hella yummy.
If you’re curious about the oat milk-making process, pour yourself a glass of ice-cold oat milk, heat up a vegan chocolate chip cookie, and read on for our guide to making the coolest non-dairy milk of the year.
How to Make Oat Milk
Making oat milk is as simple as blending oats and water — with the option of adding salt and a sweetener — and then straining the mixture. Oat milk is one of the easiest plant milks to make is because the oats do not require any soaking ahead of time, as opposed to nut milks made from cashews and almonds, which must be soaked in advance.
Here’s a basic recipe for oat milk, adapted from the blog Minimalist Baker.
Here’s What You’ll Need:
- Cheesecloth, thin cotton bag, T-shirt, or towel; or mesh sieve
- Mixing bowl
- 1 cup of rolled oats
- 4 cups of water
- 1 pinch of salt
- Sweetener, such as 1 pitted date or 1 tablespoon of maple syrup or a dash of sugar
- ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
Oat Milk Recipe:
Put all ingredients in your blender, and blend for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Minimalist Baker warns against blending for too long, as that will slightly heat your oat milk and give it a slimy mouthfeel — and no one wants that. It’s OK if there are still chunks of oats visible in the mixture.
Next, put your cheesecloth, cotton bag, or T-shirt over a mixing bowl, and pour the liquid through it, gently squeezing the bag to get all the liquid out. If you only have a mesh sieve, press down on the mixture with your hand or a wooden spoon to let as much liquid through the sieve as possible. Then, using a clean cloth (or rinse the sieve and use it again), repeat the straining process to make sure no pulp remains. Make sure to save the oat pulp — you can use it in another recipe, or put it in the compost. The oat milk should stay fresh in a sealed container in your fridge for about five days.
Oat Milk Creamer Recipe
To make a thick and creamy oat milk creamer, all you need to do is use more oats and/or less water. Follow the same instructions as above, but use just 1 cup of oats and 2 cups of water. You can always add more water or sweetener as needed to make your oat milk creamer reach your desired consistency. Note that homemade oat milk creamer (as well as regular homemade oat milk) may separate in the fridge, since there are no added stabilizers, unlike store-bought oat milk. For that reason, you may need to give it a quick shake each time you use it.
How to Make Oat Milk Without a Blender
I always thought a blender was necessary to make non-dairy milk — but turns out, it’s possible to make oat milk without a blender! Here are two methods based on the blog Raw and Natural Health. For both of these blender-free methods, be sure to add a dash of salt, and optional sweeter or vanilla extract.
For the first method, simply soak 1 cup of rolled oats in 5 cups of water for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Once the oats are softened, strain the mixture through a cloth or mesh sieve. Then, pour the oat pulp back into the liquid, and let everything sit for another 30 minutes. Then, give the mixture a second and final strain, and you’ll have oat milk.
Raw and Natural Health’s second method is a great option if you have a spice or coffee grinder. Use your grinder to grind up a half cup of dry rolled oats. Just a few seconds in the grinder will turn oats into a fine oat flour. Then, mix the oat flour with a few dashes of water in a bowl, mixing as you keep adding a dash of water at a time. Once you’ve added about 3 cups of water to a half cup of oat flour, pour the mixture into a jar with a tight seal and give it a good shake. If there's still some pulp or oak chunks visible, feel free to strain the mixture. Voila!
Is Oat Milk Good for You?
There are nutritional benefits to pretty much every plant food that we eat — oats included. That said, plant-based foods are healthiest in their whole form. So in the case of oats, the best way to get the most oaty bang for your nutritional buck is by eating oatmeal. Since oat milk breaks down the oats and some parts of the oats are lost in the milking process, oat milk is a bit less nutritious than whole oats, but it’s still good for you. One half cup serving of Bob’s Red Mill’s rolled oats contains 3 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, 16 milligrams of calcium, 2 milligrams of iron, 175 milligrams of potassium, 3 grams of fat, 1 gram of sugar, and 33 grams of carbohydrates; oats are also naturally free of sodium and cholesterol.
If you’re drinking fortified store-bought oat milk, you’ll be getting additional nutrients. One cup of Oatly oat milk contains 5 grams of fat, 100 mg of sodium, 3 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein, and 16 grams of carbohydrates; it is also free of cholesterol. Homemade oat milk would have a similar nutritional profile — but that depends on your oats-to-water ratio, as well as how much salt and sweetener you add. Additionally, thanks to being fortified, a serving of Oatly also contains significant amounts of vitamin D, calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and phosphorus.
Oat Milk Versus Dairy Milk
How does oat milk stack up to dairy milk? There are so many benefits to choosing oat milk over dairy milk in terms of the environment, the animals, our personal health, and our wallets.
Is Oat Milk Healthier Than Dairy Milk?
As mentioned above, oat milk can be very nutritious, with the exact nutritional profile depending on the brand, how much sweetener it contains, if you make it yourself, etc. According to Good Housekeeping, one cup of fortified oat milk and one cup of fortified cow’s milk both contain 20 percent of your daily value of vitamin A and D; fortified oat milk also contains similar amounts of healthy vitamins and elements that cow’s milk contains, such as B12, calcium, and riboflavin. People often drink cow’s milk to get nutrients like protein and calcium, both of which can be found in oat milk, but typically in smaller amounts. That said, there are so many other sources of plant-based protein and calcium that you can easily incorporate into your diet to ensure you are getting enough of those nutrients.
There are also plenty of things found in dairy milk that you won’t find in oat milk (or any other non-dairy milk, for that matter). Cow’s milk contains dietary cholesterol — one cup of 1 percent milk contains 15 milligrams of cholesterol — which can raise LDL (low density lipoprotein), aka “bad cholesterol.” When we eat animal products (animal products are the only foods that contain cholesterol), our LDL cholesterol increases, which builds up in the blood vessels, and can lead to heart disease, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and more. In addition to cholesterol, dairy milk is naturally high in sugar (one cup of 1 percent contains 15 grams of sugar) and sodium (160 milligrams). Not to mention, whether or not growth hormones are given to cows, all dairy milk still contains hormones, since milk comes from a cow’s mammary glands (just like breast milk produced by humans).
Is Oat Milk Better for Animal Welfare?
In terms of animal welfare, oat milk undoubtedly comes out on top. To produce dairy milk in the factory farming industry (where most of the animal products we consume come from), farmers artificially inseminate female cows. After a cow gives birth, her baby is taken away from her, so that her milk can be taken by the farmers to sell. There are plenty of videos online of mother cows crying out for their babies after this emotional moment. If she gives birth to a female calf, that baby will have the same fate as her mother; but if she has a boy, he will live the first few weeks of his life in a small crate, and then be slaughtered and turned into veal (since he cannot get pregnant and produce milk). So unfortunately, the veal industry and the dairy industry are one in the same. After her baby is born, she is given steroids and hormones to increase milk production, and she is strapped to a machine that takes her milk — and when her production goes down, the procces starts all over again.
To make oat milk, no animals are needed — all we need is oats and water, which are far more animal-friendly than the cruel process behind dairy milk.
Is Oat Milk Good for the Environment?
All non-dairy milks have a significantly lower environmental impact than cow’s milk. That’s because the amount of resources needed to make dairy and the emissions dairy farming produces. As explained by the NRDC, to raise cows for dairy, you also need to grow grain to feed them (which requires plenty of water and typically pesticides); water for them to drink; land for them to live on; and constant electricity in factory farms for lighting, milking devices, and more. For oat milk, all you need is is oats and water — and if the oats are grown non-organically, pesticides are used. While pesticides do have a negative impact on the environment, more pesticides are used in the production of non-organic dairy milk, since the grains grown to feed the cows are sprayed with pesticides as well.
And in terms of emissions, cows actually release greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide (mainly by passing gas), which trap heat in the atmosphere, and contribute to global warming.
According to a 2018 study by the University of Oxford, and as reported by the BBC, a glass of cow’s milk requires more than 10 times as much land as a glass of oat milk. In fact, oat milk is one of the lowest-impact non-dairy milks on the market.
Other Benefits of Oat Milk
Besides everything listed above, switching from cow’s milk to homemade oat milk will save you a pretty penny. At many grocery stores, you can buy a pound of oats in the bulk section for $1 to $1.50 a pound — and that pound of oats can produce many jugs of oat milk. Plus, if you do shop for your oats in the bulk section with your own reusable cotton bag or jar, your oat milk will be totally package free and zero waste.
Additionally, oat milk is nut-free and safe for those with nut allergies, unlike many other non-dairy milks which are nut-based, such as almond, cashew, macadamia, and coconut milk. Also, as long as you use gluten-free oats, oat milk is gluten-free. Furthermore, oat milk is probably the easiest and quickest non-dairy milk you can make, since the oats do not require any soaking.
Happy oat milking!