Why Oat Milk is the Best Dairy Alternative (Plus: Which Brands to Buy)

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With the incredible variety in dairy-alternative milks, there’s frankly never been a better time to be lactose intolerant. While before your only choice was to skip dairy altogether or simply soldier on, tummyache be damned, you can now drink a latte worry-free and without any weird looks from the barista. And there’s not just one kind of non-dairy milk, either. You can choose between standards like soy and almond and some true oddities like hemp and pea milk. But the wunderkind of the alternative milk world is oat milk.

Oat milk has a few benefits that its competitors don’t. If you’re choosing to forgo dairy for environmental reasons, you won’t be surprised to know that oat milk uses a lot less water than cow’s milk. And while pretty much all non-dairy milks are going to be a lot lower in emissions and water-use than cow’s milk, production of oats uses even less water than its thirsty competitors, almonds and rice. And oats ever so slightly edge out soy in terms of lowered emissions.

In terms of health benefits, oat milk is a decent source of protein (though not as much as some other kinds of milk) and it’s low-fat. And since it’s one of a handful of non-dairy milk options that aren’t made from common allergens like nuts or soy, it can be a good option for anyone with those allergies (it’s also gluten-free, for what it’s worth).

Frankly, none of the good stuff about oat milk would matter if it didn’t taste good. It does. It’s slightly (but not overwhelmingly) sweet and has a richer, milkier consistency than other options. And while the yellow-brown color can be a little offputting, the flavor isn’t. Probably the best thing about oat milk is that it doesn’t taste too much like something else. Where almond milk is obviously almondy and coconut milk is coconut-y, the best oat milk tastes pretty close to milk, with a very mild oat aftertaste. That makes it great in coffee — it won’t have the sickly sweetness of artificial creamers that almond brings to mind, and it froths pretty well if you’re making a latte.

If you’re not convinced, try oat milk for yourself with one of the best options below.

1. Califia Farms – Oat Milk, Unsweetened Barista Blend

Califia Farms is probably best known for almond milk and cold brew coffee, and they’ve now branched out into the oat milk world. Their unsweetened oat milk has no added sugars (duh) and is Kosher, gluten-free and non-GMO Project Verified. It has a smooth consistency and is a versatile option for cereal, coffee and for baking and cooking.

Pros: Kosher and non-GMO verified. No added sugar. Calcium-rich.

Cons: 32 oz size may be too small for some.

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2. Minor Figures Unsweetened Barista Oat Milk

If you’re a coffee enthusiast, Minor Figures is a brand to keep your eye on. Their oat milk is designed specifically for use in espresso drinks like lattes and cappuccinos; it froths well and produces a quality micro-foam (the trendy packaging doesn’t hurt, either). This oat milk is also creamy and slightly sweet if you want to use it in cereal or in shakes. It’s available in a two-pack, and each container is 33.8 fl oz  (1 liter). It’s also shelf-stable, so it can be kept in the pantry before you open it.

Pros: Creamy option that froths well for lattes and cappuccinos. Trendy packaging design.

Cons: Expensive.

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3. Oatsome Organic Oat Drink, 6 Count (Barista)

Oat milk makers can’t resist an oat-themed pun, and Oatsome is clearly no different. We’ll forgive them for the wordplay, because their oat milk is made from whole grain oats that are non-GMO and USDA-certified Organic. And there are only four ingredients; oats, water, sunflower oil and sea salt. Plus, it’s a great value. Each order includes six one-liter cartons. And if you’re worried about not drinking it fast enough, an unopened carton will be shelf-stable for 14 months.

Pros: Affordable option. USDA Organic and non-GMO. Barista version froths well.

Cons: Only comes in multi-packs, so if you don’t like it you’ll end up with a large amount.

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