Oat Milk, My Oat Milk

Never in my pushing-40 years have I desired an alternative to cow’s milk. Ever. Writing this post is the biggest surprise to my former future self. Past Zoe is questioning my life choices.

But as I’ve gotten older and have begun choosing healthier options when it comes to nutrition and self-care, I have started doing things such as consciously eating less meat. Some days are wholly vegetarian but I consider it a good day if only one of my meals out of three has meat in it. Same goes with dairy. While you’ll have to pry cheese from my cold dead hands, milk has slowly been less of a priority on my grocery list. In my household, it’s used far more for cooking than consuming as a drink or even putting on cereal. And the longer I go without drinking it, the more I notice its nefarious side effects on my digestive system. Cookies and milk, a rare treat but didn’t used to be in my younger years, is now a loaded decision. Do I risk the effects of all the refined sugar, fat, calories, and effects of the milk?

I’m unsure where the idea germinated but I know I read an article, likely from Twitter, about oat milk’s prevalence (really, a comeback). It was specifically about Oatly! (more on that in a bit) but the result was a kernel–or oat, if you will–lodged itself in my brain until I succumbed to the temptation to experiment with oat milk to see if it could be a true alternative to cow’s milk.

Being the researcher that I am, I looked up articles and reviews on the available brands of oat milk out there and which ones were getting rated as best tasting. Three brands rose to the top of most people’s lists (including general availability): Pacific Foods, Califia Farms, and Oatly!, the exclamation point of which is part of their branding.

Initially, I couldn’t find Pacific Foods or Oatly! but I did find Califia Farms. I found their unsweetened oat milk at Meijer and bought myself a bottle. It was in the regular refrigerated milk area. I’ve since learned that Pacific Foods is unrefrigerated and not sold in the milk fridges.

Thoughts on Califia Farms: the color of it looks a bit bluish gray, similar to skim milk, which I’ve always abhorred. While unsweetened, it does have a sweeter, distinctive oat flavor, similar to what you would find if you had eaten a bowl of Cheerios and you’re down to the remaining milk in the bowl. All told, I preferred using this milk in smoothies but not on its own and not in coffee. Still, if it’s the only kind I could find, it would be just fine as an alternative milk.

Eventually, I did manage to find Oatly! sold at my local Target, both the ‘regular’ kind of unsweetened milk and the Barista version. The Barista version has a couple extra grams of fat but is otherwise identical to regular Oatly. At first, I could only found a quart of the Barista version and tried that at home, and found it had a nice neutral flavor and color. It didn’t taste as nutty or oaty as Califia Farms and isn’t as gray in color. Note: the barista version of any of these oat milks foams similarly to regular milk, which is why it’s been so popular with coffee shops.

At home, I quickly went through the quart of the Barista version and when I returned to Target, I found the half gallons of the regular unsweetened milk, which has 5g of fat per serving. All of the oat milks I tried have similar grams of carbs and sugars. I believe it averages out to 16-17g of carbs per glass of oat milk, which is a bit high (compared to 11g of whole milk), so I try to reserve consumption to coffee, smoothies, etc, with the occasional exception for drinking.

The winner overall in my book is Oatly! original unsweetened milk. It mimics cow’s milk so well that I ventured to try a small glass of it to drink when we had chili a couple of weeks ago, and it tasted exactly like having an ice cold glass of cow’s milk while having something rich to eat. It was seriously delicious! The bonus was not having any G.I. distress afterwards. Oatly also claims to be the OG oat milk from the 1990s. Maybe they’ve just perfected it and that’s why it’s so dang good. There was even a shortage in 2018, which caused some brief panic, but they seem to be back on track now.

Since getting onto this bandwagon, at least two of the local coffee shops in my area have begun offering oat milk for lattes. I have had two oat milk lattes since (made with Pacific Foods oat milk, so I’ve officially tried it) and they were both excellent. What I noticed was that because oat milk is generally thinner, even when having a similar fat content, the espresso flavor from the latte punches through a bit more. That’s only a bad thing if you really can’t stand the bitterness or flavor of good coffee. I liked knowing I wasn’t filling up on bloating milk with my breakfast, nor watering down the flavor of my latte. I plan to keep trying oat milk lattes where and when I can find them. I recommend you see if your shop/s have them, as well! It’s a great place to start if you’ve been thinking of trying an alternative to cow’s milk but can’t stand soy or almond milk, which was the case for me.

Are you an oat milk convert as I am? Let me know in the comments!

*Miniature soap box moment: it should be mentioned that consuming a lot of dairy and meat not only has effects on one’s health but the meat and dairy industries contribute to the current climate crisis.  If all of us meat/dairy consumers reduced our intake, even a little, it could save areas of the planet suffering from deforestation to make room for farm animals (especially cattle). While I have not gone full vegetarian by any means, I am taking more responsibility for being mindful about my meat and dairy consumption. It does make a difference, both in health effects and our ecosystem. I know this could be considered a controversial take but…it is my blog, so that’s my full opinion on the matter.