Move aside, almonds. The darling of the dairy-free aisle is made with a modest pantry staple: oats.
I was first introduced to oat milk at The Visit Coffee Roastery in Berlin; the cafe uses a popular Swedish brand, Oatly, that is specifically processed to withstand the heat of steaming and foaming. The neutral flavour and creamy texture it gave my morning cappuccino were a marvel.
While this trendy alt-milk is slowly making its way onto store shelves (in Canada brands like SoFresh and Dream are stocked in the dairy aisle), it often contains additives to bleach and thicken the beverage for a more appealing look and creamier consistency (ie. tricalcium phosphate and carrageenan). I wanted to create a homemade version (scroll down for the recipe) that streamlines the ingredients to two essential components: oats and water. And while latte-art-worthy microfoam isn’t replicable with the homemade version I came up with, it is a silky-smooth recipe worthy of your daily coffee, tea, or—for lactose-intolerant people like myself—simply for drinking.
Almond milk vs oat milk
Admittedly, our homemade oat milk doesn’t have the same nutritional value as other dairy-free beverages (like almond milk) on store shelves, which are often enriched with added calcium and vitamins. But you can get the full nutritional benefits of oats by saving the oat pulp after straining out the milk. I like to warm it up with maple syrup, blackberries and a bit of the oat milk for a healthy breakfast.
Here are a few other reasons why we’re loving homemade oat milk:
Oat milk is cheaper than other dairy-free beverages
If you do the math, a 700-g pkg of generic steel-cut oats will set you back about $4. Each cup of oats (160 g) will yield about 3 cups of oat milk. This means means 1 cup of oat milk will cost about 30 cents a glass!
Oat milk requires just two ingredients
You don’t need a fancy blender, either. Soaking the steel-cut oats overnight softens the kernel and starch, making the oats easier to blend. But don’t forget to strain and rinse the oats after soaking; that water absorbed some of the excess starch, and whirling the oats in fresh, cold water will give the resulting milk a better consistency. (But resist the urge to whirl it for more than 30 seconds—over-blending the oat milk can make it gloopy instead of creamy.)
It’s vegan and allergen-friendly
In addition to being dairy-free, this oat milk is also free from nuts, tree nuts, lactose, soy, and gluten. (Just make sure the oats you buy are certified gluten-free. All oats are naturally gluten-free, but are commonly processed in facilities that also process wheat.)
Oats contain a high amount of beta-glucan, a soluble fibre that forms a thick gel by absorbing water in your digestive system, aided by internal body heat. This fibre “swelling” is what keeps us feeling full. Consequently, this is why heating homemade oat milk isn’t advisable, it will thicken into a gelatinous consistency and make it challenging to drink as a beverage.
The neutral flavour makes it versatile
A glass of homemade oat milk tastes a bit like, well, oatmeal! However, when using it in recipes, oat milk doesn’t overpower the dish like a coconut milk would. It’s a great dairy alternative to have with cereal or granola, and adding a dash of vanilla and honey can boost its drinkability in a big way (if you’re not sold yet).
How to make oat milk
Oat Milk Recipe
Prep: 5 min
Total: 9 hours 5 min
Makes: 3 cups
- 1 cup steel-cut oats
- Soak the oats with cold tap water in a medium bowl. Cover and let stand at room-temperature for 8 hours, or overnight.
- Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, then rinse the oats well under cold tap water. Combine the drained oats with 3 1/2 cups cold water in a blender. Whirl on high until the oats are just ground, 20 to 25 sec. (If you’re using a Vitamix or another high-powered blender, reduce the whirling time to 10 sec. Pulverizing the oats for much longer will give the milk a gloopy consistency.)
- Pour the mixture through the sieve into a large, clear measuring cup. (Reserve the oat pulp for another use.) Refrigerate the oat milk until you see a darker layer form at the bottom of the measuring cup, separating the milk from the oat pulp, about 1 hour. This step will remove the grit or chalkiness common with homemade dairy-free beverages.
- Without stirring or shaking, carefully pour the oat milk into a large bottle or pitcher, leaving any remaining grit behind in the measuring cup.
- Refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days. Shake or stir before use, adding vanilla, maple syrup or honey for sweetness, if desired.
Ingredient Tip: Make sure you use a recently purchased package of oats. For one of my recipe tests, I used a bag of oats that has been sitting in the cupboard for almost a year. The resulting beverage tasted like a stale pantry.
Quick Hack: In a pinch, you can substitute large-flake rolled oats for steel-cut oats (and cut the soaking time down to 30 min). Rolled oats will give you a milk with less creaminess and body, but you’ll have homemade oat milk at your fingertips within the hour.