What the Hell Is Oat Milk?
It’s cheap, easy, and you don't have to pretend to like it
I was walking down the street yesterday when I spotted a cafe's sandwich board proudly declaring that they make everything with oat milk. My first thought was, what the hell is oat milk? I, like our senior culture editor Margaret Eby, really hate almond milk. I will never understand why people who aren’t vegan or lactose intolerant drink it. In fact, I have trouble wrapping my head around nut and plant milks in general. As our senior food and drinks editor Kat Kinsman says, “It should just be called nut water.” Nut water, soy water, oat water—it still doesn’t sound like anything I want to drink. Milk is milk is milk, and there are no substitutes.
But regardless of what we call it—oat milk, oat water, mylk—the question remains: what is oat milk? The trend started somewhere in the Nordic countries, where porridge is popular. Stockholm cafes developed entire menus that used oat milk and invented these fun monikers for oat milk drinks: capoatchino, coatado, and macchioato. So I guess that trendy little cafe I walked by wasn’t so weird after all. If anything, it's a little behind the times as far as trends go.
Unlike making soy milk, almond milk, and hemp milk, oat milk does not have to be soaked for hours before it's blended. The other perk is that oats are way cheaper than Costco-sized packages of whole almonds or soybeans. If you're lazy like me, you can buy rolled oats and rinse them in water before blending them with water, vanilla, and your sweetener of choice (per this oat milk recipe). The other method uses steel-cut oats, but this other oat milk recipe will take a bit longer because steel-cut requires at least 20 minutes of soaking to soften the barely processed oat groats (yes, that’s a word) that are otherwise harder than a nut. Both recipes require a food processor and a sieve to catch all of that gooey oat pulp. But the flavor depends on your taste and your pantry. The second recipe requires sea salt, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and maple syrup, all of which I totally stand behind, especially the salt—you can ask Ina Garten about that.
Fortunately, oat milk doesn’t really taste like oats, just like almond milk really doesn’t taste like almonds. It tastes like you made porridge or Cream of Wheat made with heavy cream, brown sugar, and vanilla, and then drained the liquid off and drank it a la cereal milk. As it turns out, oat milk is kind of delicious.