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The humble oat is an amazing grain of incredible utility in the kitchen, too often overlooked as more fashionable grains—hello, quinoa and millet—become the next big thing. But oats have special flexibility as the base for alternative milks. This is in part because of the generally neutral taste that oats impart, and how well that mild taste plays with so many other flavors, both sweet and savory.

Granted, people choose oat milks for lots of reasons, perhaps because they are avoiding traditional dairy products, or maybe just to add a diversity of tastes and nutritional options to their diets. For most of us, our palates have been trained by the taste of dairy milk. This is especially so if you’re drinking the milk straight, as a beverage. And most alternative milks—the best oat milks included—work to emulate those tastes and textures we remember. 

For use in the kitchen, cooks want to be able to rely on an oat milk that will behave like dairy milk in most recipes, without adding odd flavors or unpleasant textures. A best oat milk for the kitchen, then, needs to work in lots of dishes, such as in the classiest oatmeal ever, and in something as delicately complex as Mexican Tortilla Ball Soup. We tested the best oat milks with all of this in mind.

It’s important to note that not all oat milks are organic. In fact, only a few are, which is rather a surprise considering how many other organic oat products are on the market. That said, the cultivation of oats is comparatively low impact in terms of pesticide use, and even conventionally-grown oats are fairly clean of the worst environmental offenders. Overall, it can be assumed that a reputable food-production company is being careful in its selection of source grains, and the brands we tested all come from highly reputable manufacturers. Off-branded oat milks from less reliable sources might not be so.

In general, and as with most packaged foods, we read labels and watched for sugars, added thickeners (gums, etc.), vitamin content, sodium levels, etc. You should, too.

Our Top Picks 

Best Overall: Chobani Plain Extra Creamy Oatmilk

Pros


  • Perfectly milky taste
  • Versatile
  • Stays well emulsified

Cons


  • Gellan gum added
  • Not organic
  • Requires refrigeration

Why we chose it: This is an alternative milk that comes remarkably close to dairy milk in taste, as well as in recipe utility.

Chobani makes several styles of oat milk, but this simple style checks all the right boxes for both Yes and No. It has no gluten, no GMO (genetically modified organisms) ingredients, no dairy (so no lactose), and no nut products. It touts itself as “vegan-friendly” and—hard to believe—it looks and tastes and behaves just like dairy milk, even in mashed potatoes. Though you could never expect any alternative milk to deliver the unique richness of full-fat dairy cream, Chobani works remarkably well in cooking.

Best of all, it tastes good and feels familiar to drinkers of dairy milk. It looks cleanly white, like dairy milk, and even has a similar viscosity in the glass. And its taste is neutral, just, well, milky. Though it’s not organic, the added ingredients are of little concern, including rapeseed (canola) oil, and a few additives to help boost the calcium. It has a nominal amount of gellan gum, a commercial thickening agent, but one of the few such additives that doesn’t raise health or digestive flags. Chobani is also one of the least expensive oat milks we tested.

Best Value: Oatly Oat Drink

Pros


  • No added gums or thickeners
  • Pleasantly mild, oat-y taste
  • Gluten free

Cons


  • On the watery side
  • Not organic
  • Requires refrigeration

Why we chose it: A slightly better price makes Oatly a great choice for an all-purpose oat milk.

Oatly comes a close second to our top pick, in part because it has an oat-y taste and is a light caramel color, both of which can be off-putting. But it’s still quite good, and the refrigerated version is a hair less expensive per ounce. It also seems to have greater availability nationwide. In kitchen use, the oat taste disappears entirely. For those who worry about additives, it’s also non-GMO, gluten-free, and has no added thickeners or gums at all. It is, however, a bit watery and less milk-like as a result compared with our top pick, but it’s still a good go-to for oat milk.

Best for Nutty Sweetness: 365 Whole Foods Original Oatmilk

Pros


  • Added vitamins
  • Pleasantly mild, oat-y taste
  • Shelf-stable until opened

Cons


  • Gellan gum added
  • Not organic
  • Requires refrigeration

Why we chose it: This fully shelf-stable oat milk has added vitamins and a mild, nutty taste.

Oat Milk from Whole Foods, their 365 brand, offers everything you would expect from an oat milk, along with a noticeable, mildly sweet (but not sweetened) flavor. It’s a guess, but this flavor difference is probably because the added fat here is sunflower oil, which is itself a bit sweet and nutty. The 365 oat milk also adds specific vitamins and minerals, which other oat milks do not, so if you’re replacing dairy milk in a child’s diet, this might be a perk. It’s not organic, has the highest sodium content of all the oat milks we tested, and is oddly more expensive per ounce than you would expect from a house brand, but for a shelf-stable pantry keeper, it’s worth it.

Best for Truly Neutral Flavor: Planet Oat Extra Creamy Original Oatmilk

Pros


  • Added vitamins
  • Neutral taste
  • Low sugar

Cons


  • Guar gum added
  • Somewhat watery
  • Requires refrigeration

Why we chose it: Planet Oat strikes a nice balance of neutral flavor and nutrition.

This is another oat milk with vitamins added, and combined with what it doesn’t have—no nuts, gluten, soy, or artificial ingredients—it makes a good choice, even though it has a less milk-like character. It is, in fact, a bit watery, and that’s the kind of thing that makes a difference in cooking when using a milk alternative as an ingredient in soups, or mashed potatoes as we made in our tests. Still, for all other uses—such as in cereal and smoothies, and for drinking—Planet Oat works nicely.

Best Organic: Pacific Foods Plant-Based Beverage Organic Oat Original

Pros


  • Organic
  • Mild, nutty taste
  • Shelf-stable

Cons


  • Gellan gum added
  • Visibly gritty texture
  • High in oat sugars

Why we chose it: Pacific Foods oat milk is one of the few that is fully organic, and the best-tasting oat milk we found in that subcategory.

Oregon-based Pacific Foods offers a whole menu of alternative milk products, not just those using an oat base. Their Original Oat Milk has a mild taste with slightly nutty overtones. Unlike most oat milks, this one contains oat bran, which might be why its natural sugars are the highest of the milks we tested. That 17 grams per serving of sugar isn’t due to added sweeteners, but rather the naturally occurring sugars in the oat products themselves. It has a few added vitamins and no added fats, but does use gellan gum as a thickener. That combination is probably why it’s less “creamy” than some of the other milks, so not the best choice in cooking where you want a “cream” effect.

Not Recommended:

Califa Farms Extra Creamy Oat Milk

Pros


  • No added gums
  • Gluten free

Cons


  • Odd taste
  • Not organic
  • Higher in salt

Why we chose it:  It’s reliably available in most natural foods stores, but falls short in taste testing.

Though Califa tries to hit the mark with added calcium and skips the gums, their oat milk just isn’t as pleasant as it should be somehow. In fact, it has a sort of odd, not-oaty taste that can only come from ingredients and the balance between them. It’s watery, too, and higher in salt than other brands. It’s also in plastic packaging, which might concern some environmentally sensitive shoppers. It just fails a little bit in too many ways for us to recommend it.

What We Don’t Recommend

Oatsome Organic Oat Drink

Pros


  • No added gums
  • Very low sodium
  • Organic

Cons


  • Odd aftertaste
  • Pricey

Despite ingredients that are similar to most other brands, Oatsome just falls flat. They seem to have done everything right: The oats are organic, they’re using a neutral sunflower oil for some added body, and skipping any gums or thickeners, plus they’ve added vitamins. But Oatsome just comes out too watery and has an odd, slightly bitter aftertaste. It’s also the priciest of the milks we tested at 15 cents per ounce, more than twice the price of our top pick.

How We Chose These Products 

There are many oat milks on the market in dozens of different configurations, some with flavorings, sweeteners, and with and without various additives, as well as newer blends of oat milk specially crafted for use as creamers for coffee or tea. Go to the alternative milks aisle at any grocery store and proceed to get dizzy with options. 

We wanted to make the choice simpler for you, to compare “apples to apples”—or in this case, of course, oat milk to oat milk—so we chose to test the plainest version of each brand’s offerings. No sweeteners or flavorings added. Because, let’s face it, while we know that adding a little of Brooklyn-born U-Bet chocolate syrup improves almost anything, comparing a flavored oat milk to a plain version wouldn’t be fair. If a company is getting the basics of oat milk right, it will be revealed in the taste.

Our tests were conducted with oat milks that were fridge-cold, and we took care to shake the packages well before pouring. The tests included a straight-up tasting, and in cooking, with a deliberately altered version of Crème Fraîche Mashed Potatoes, which we made by simply substituting oat milk for the crème fraîche. Just for good measure, we also tested each oat milk in a dairy-free white Russian cocktail. (Hey, even taste-testers need to kick back.) To no one’s surprise, an oat milk white Russian was darn good, no matter which brand we used.

There are more brands of oat milk available than we tested here, quite a few. In fact, there are a few smaller artisanal companies making oat milks and oat-milk blends, but these have only limited or regionally availability. If you have a local favorite, go for it. But here, we wanted to recommend products that will be available no matter where you live and shop, so we looked at brands that have availability in markets nationwide and/or online. Another factor in testing for the best oat milk is the fact that, like so many beverages, oat milks come in both refrigerated and shelf-stable aseptic packaging. We specifically tested one brand that offers oat milk in both types of packaging, Oatly. The two versions of the oat milk were, as expected, identical. It’s just a matter of packaging, and it makes sense for you to pick what works best in your fridge or pantry.

Features to Keep in Mind When Shopping for an Oat Milk 

Emulsifiers

Additives such as oils and gums (guar and gellan, in most cases) work together to thicken and keep a product mixed, i.e., emulsified. Some such additives are nutritionally problematic, but the oat milks we tested make the better choices. Most use one or the other, and sometimes both, to achieve the desired taste and mouthfeel.

Organic, GMO, & Non-GMO

Organic certification is complicated, and non-GMO (made from ingredients that are not genetically modified) is a factor unto itself. In oat milks, non-GMO is more common than organic.

Added Vitamins Calcium & Vitamin D

Dairy milk, and cow’s milk in particular, has a natural vitamin and mineral profile that is generally accepted as helpful in children’s and certain other diets. Many of the oat milks approximate that profile by adding vitamins and minerals, most often with calcium and calcium companions.

Flavors

Oat milk is itself a neutral base and can work with an almost endless variety of flavor additives, starting with everyone’s favorite: chocolate. Vanilla is also common, and there are special “barista” blends as well. However, most of these have not only added flavor, but added sweeteners, so read the labels, especially if you’re watching sugars or planning to use the oat milk in a savory recipe.

Ask the Experts

Q: Why is oat milk good?

Oat milks offer a “milk” experience without animal fats, often (but not always) without gluten, and save those who are lactose intolerant from digestive upset. If you find an oat milk that is visually appealing (for those picky eaters at your table), and has at least a neutral taste, then yes, most people would think that’s a good thing. Our top pick, the Chobani Plain Extra Creamy Oatmilk is nearly perfect in this regard: It’s just good. 

Q: Is oat milk healthy?

Plain, unsweetened oat milk can be a healthful addition to the diet, especially if you’re watching fats and it’s replacing full-fat dairy milk. It also adds fiber where dairy milk has none. But watch out when you enjoy sweetened or flavored oat milks, because these can be packed with sugars, and some even have added fats. When you consider what’s most healthy for the planet, too, there’s a strong argument for all alternative milks, oat milks included. 

Q: How much oat milk should I drink per day? 

If your preference is for oat milk, you could pretty much drink as much as you’d like, within reason. Unsweetened, unflavored oat milk comes in at around 120 calories per cup and provides a nice little protein punch of 2 grams or more (depending on brand and blend), with usually very little sodium or fat, and only complex (“good”) carbs. Drinking sweetened or flavored oat milks is another matter entirely. Read the labels, because with additives, the sugar and sodium numbers can soar.

Q: Do all oat milks contain sugar?

No—and yes. It’s a more complicated question than it might seem. 

All oat milks contain natural carbohydrates, which are counted as “sugar” in their labeling, but this isn’t sugar as a sweetener—unless the oat milk has been flavored in some way. Here we tested plain, unsweetened oat milks specifically to take the sugar factor out of the equation, to get a sense of each product’s unadulterated taste. And most of the plain oat milks we tested have, in fact, less sugar than cow’s milk, but more carbs overall, a result of the additional fiber that occurs naturally in oats.

Flavored and other specialty oat milks are another matter, and most of these have sweeteners added along with whatever flavoring—chocolate, vanilla, even strawberry. Here, as with so many packaged foods, is where you need to pay attention to labeling, not only because accidentally using a sweetened oat milk in mashed potatoes would be downright unappetizing, but because sugars can sneak into flavored products of all kinds.

Our Take

Oat milks are a great choice for anyone wishing to avoid dairy milks or expand their nutritional options. Even if you’ve been a milk drinker all your life, enjoying milk on its own and not as an ingredient, there are oat milks that come very close to the taste of dairy milk. Our top pick, the Chobani Plain Extra Creamy Oatmilk is almost indistinguishable from cow’s milk.

One last thought: With supply-chain issues persisting across the economy, you might find your favorite version of oat milk (or any product, for that matter) is just completely AWOL from store shelves, sometimes for weeks or months on end. That means it’s helpful to know what you like and know that you also have a best oat milk runner-up—just in case.

 

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