Vegan milks made from soy, almonds, and rice have been around for decades, but oat milk is a relatively new concoction. The first brands appeared in the 1990s but these products didn’t gain widespread appeal until around 2015. Soon thereafter, oat milk captured the #3 sales position after almond and soy. No doubt this sudden surge in popularity arose from market leader Oatly’s eye-catching packaging and whimsical advertising campaigns.
Overnight success often denotes a fad destined to flame out. But oat milk is here to stay. It tastes great. It requires far less water to produce than almond milk. And it blends better into coffee than do other non-dairy milks—although vegan coffee creamers of any variety also do the job perfectly.
Oat Milk and Nutrition
Why do people despise skim milk? Because it’s untasty and unsatisfying. Without some fat, any kind of milk will lack good mouthfeel and subtle flavors. Since oats are nearly fat-free, commercially produced oat milks contain added vegetable oil. Oatly includes canola oil, and Silk contains sunflower oil.
It’s therefore fair to say that soy milks are more of a whole food than oat milk. Since soybeans naturally contain significant amounts of fat, there’s no need for soy milk companies to add refined oils to their products.
Soy milk is also a much better source of protein than oat milk. Although 14 percent of calories in oats come from protein, much of this protein is removed when the oats are processed into milk. Pacific Foods’ offering contains much more protein than competing brands, but it still doesn’t compare to soy milk which has nearly twice the protein.
Although it’s not the most nutrient-dense dairy alternative, nobody can credibly call oat milk junk food. All in all, consider oat milk a step up from almond or coconut milk in terms of nutrition, but a couple steps down from soy milk or pea-based milks like Ripple. That said, thanks to fortification many brands contain significant amounts of calcium, vitamin B12, and Vitamin D. Oatly even contains some DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid normally obtainable only from expensive supplements.
As long as the rest of your diet is sensibly planned, taste rather than nutrition should probably dictate which sort of dairy-free milk you choose. No matter what brand you purchase, picking an unsweetened variety makes terrific sense. You’ll probably end up developing a preference for the sugar-free varieties after just a carton or two.
Oat Milk Brands
As with other types of vegan milks, oat milk is available in plain, unsweetened, vanilla, and chocolate varieties. The top brands offer each of these flavors.
Most of these products are kept alongside cows’ milk in the dairy case. Brands in aseptic packaging can be kept in your pantry until opened. Upon opening, keep refrigerated and finish within one week.
- Califia Farms: Oatmilk (refrigerated)
- Chobani: Oat (refrigerated)
- Elmhurt: Milked Oats (aseptic)
- Mooala: Plant-Based Oatmilk (aseptic)
- Oatly! Oatmilk (aseptic and chilled varieties)
- Oatsome: Organic Oat Drink (refrigerated)
- Pacific Foods: Oat Plant Based Beverage (aseptic)
- Planet Oat: Original Oatmilk (refrigerated)
- Silk: Oatmilk (refrigerated)