Growing up in the early 90s I used to enjoy playing kickball or riding my BMX bike through the trails behind our house after school before the sun would set for the day, riding until my lungs burned and the sweat beads would sting my 6 year old eyes. At that time of my youth there was not much I enjoyed more than going home, tossing my bike off in the driveway anywhere (it may have gotten hit as a result of this on more than one occasion!), running into the house a sweaty mess and pouring a tall glass of milk, and then another tall glass of milk – it felt so refreshing and cold as it tumbled all the way down to my belly.
Later I would find out from friends that this was just weird, my friends did not drink milk the way I did – they would drink their Pepsi (yes..at that age..yuck!) or their Hawaiian Punch and be left with matching red lips. I just didn’t like sticky, sweet beverages like this, water was a strong runner-up in my glass during the summer months. I suppose I got into this habit because I would see my father with his tall glass of milk nightly at the dinner table, I didn’t care to be like him at the time, I just knew it was cold and I could drink a lot of it!
Fast forward a decade or so and I was still quenching my thirst with water primarily, but my milk consumption plummeted, choosing it only for my bowl of granola in the morning. I just grew tired of milk over time, it may be that my parents decided to switch fat percentages in the milk, opting for the paper-thin 1% milk that one could just about see through. It was just gross to me, I remember it not tasting good anymore, it was not the refreshing beverage I grew up with during the warm months of summer vacation from school. I had to pour it on some type of cereal just so it would absorb the sweetness and other flavors to be able to drink it down.
It was around the time that I finally moved out, had a refrigerator of my own and could finally buy whatever I wanted that I picked up some of that “fake” milk stuff – it was almond milk at the time, and it was soooooo good!!! It was everything that I remembered from my youth: full-bodied without being ‘heavy’, super tasty without the bitter/sour milk taste (if you don’t notice how sour cows milk is, try nut milk and then go back to dairy milk… just give it a try!). Recently these nut and other varieties of ‘alternative’ milk have taken on the lingo of “mylk” because the industry does not want the consumer to be confused and think these other choices are actually dairy, well I’ve always called it ‘nut milk’, so that’s what I’ll be sticking with for the remainder of this fun write-up!
So, are nut milks the only type of non-dairy, dreamy, delicious alternative?
Heck no! While cashews by far make up my favorite kind of nut milk, folks have also been milking their almonds, walnuts, pistachios (which I haven’t tried yet, but it’s high atop my list of to-do!), pecan, macadamia, hazelnut – even peanut milk exists out there, which is not actually a nut at all (but I’d bet it’s still deee-lish!).
So.. now with all that, are nuts the only things that can be used to make this amazing dairy alternative??
Once again, heck no! A strong runner-up in my favorites has always been coconut milk, but of course there are so many options! Folks have dabbled with soy beans, rice, quinoa, oats, even a vast majority of seeds can be made into milk (pumpkin, hemp, sesame, flax seed, etc), and pea protein – which makes me want to point out the one word there that may catch your eye here: protein. Yes, while all of these varieties vary in how much protein they contain, they all have protein (some nearly double the amount of plant-based protein when compared with regular dairy – and a fraction of the sugar as dairy! Wahoo!)
While I want to have fun here making oat milk – I would also first like to raise a bit of attention to a long believed myth about milk: that it is needed for strong bones. Just one article that has been published discusses studies where patients who drink more dairy milk are actually linked to premature death and did not actually help protect the bones from fracturing, and in several studies actually increased the aging process while the higher milk sugar content promoted inflammation in the body. I first read of these studies years ago, and have been fascinated by the stories of athletes cutting dairy from their diets to successfully reduce swelling and inflammation in the joints post-exercise; I have since turned myself into my own study and have nothing but positivity to report since cutting all dairy from my consumption back in 2016. 😉
Come on Erik.. You want me to drink my oats?
I knew that I loved cashew milk and coconut milk (still do.. can’t lie about that!), I would see the oat milk there in the refrigerator section and think “some day, oat milk.. some day..” but today never seemed to be oat milk’s day. Well today is the day for oat milk to shine brightly in my tall glass! Like any other dairy-free milk, it is super creamy and is best suited for cereal and granola bowls, straight up drinking, or for those fancy latte’s that so many people post on their Instagram pages displaying the decorative fern leaf of froth adorned atop!
Traditionally ‘oat milk’ is made with regular rolled oats, but can also be made with barley, groats or whatever else you can find in your local bulk department! For my oat milk, I opted for good ol’ fashioned conventional rolled oats which were $0.79 per pound at my local co-op. I can hear you cringe right now as you read this thinking “conventional oats..what about organic everything??” I have immersed myself into the pro’s and con’s regarding this subject and the studies that I have come across have shown higher ‘toxic residues’ in organic oats, but the conventional oats which had tested positive for toxicity measured higher concentrations. So I am neither for nor against organic in this instance, for me conventional rolled oats are about $1 less per pound so that is what I decide to use.
Now, how in fact do I “milk my oats”..?
A quick search on the internet will give you dozens of recipes for oat milk, but for this I’ll be using our Optimum 600 juicer, primarily because I don’t have the patience for filtering with cheese cloth or t-shirt scraps that I have read nightmares about. This technique really is not much different overall from the traditional filter method, we’ll still be soaking our oats – the only real difference is that we press the ‘milk’ out of the oat slurry instead of letting gravity work its magic over time using a filter (less waste this way too!).
So let’s get milking! What do I actually need?
With a quick search on the internet you can find varying recipes and ratios of water/oat depending on the viscosity of milk that you crave! But here is what I have come up with and is my go to for our oat milk:
- 1 cup – Conventional Rolled Oats
- 3 cup – Filtered Water
- 3-6 – Medjool Dates
*Optional if you want to spice up your oat milk!*
- Carob Powder (chocolate oat milk!! Yes!)
- Cinnamon/Nutmeg (pumpkin spice?)
- Maca Powder (a great superfood that gives the oat milk a graham cracker sweetness!)
While I am using our Optimum 600 juicer for this recipe, I have my doubts as to how well dates will work with cheese cloth, unless they are blended real well, otherwise I may recommend using something more like the carob powder for a cloth filter and saving the sticky, sweet dates for date balls or snacking on the side, with the oat milk!
We soaked our rolled oats in the filtered water for about 4 hours while we ran morning errands and went for a nice long run, then came back and rinsed the oats – which was more or less pouring the liquid off the top, I was surprised how much of the cloudy particles had settled, and then let the oats bathe in 3 cups of fresh water for another 4 hours or so; but you may find it easiest to be a bit less ‘hands-on’ with your oat milk – just soak them overnight, rinse once and toss them in your juicer in the morning – like fresh juice for breakfast .. oat juice!
Of course with any juicer, there is a somewhat dry combination of oats and date pulp that gets spit out (not bone dry by any means though!), what to do with this? Well, well, well.. I have some ideas for you! My initial thought was to add it to make banana pancakes after a run, or rejuvenate it for some date balls to create a nice energy packed on-the-go snack for your hiking or running adventures! If all else fails, and you make your own dog food/treats – go ahead and toss it into their puppy mix! (I recommend in moderation however, as dates do aid in digestion.. we don’t want an unnecessary mess on our hands while we are trying to enjoy our fresh oat milk!!). I’m sure the uses for the spent oat/date combo is just about endless, so if you would care to share what you enjoy adding your oats to – let me know! I’d love to hear your fresh, new ideas!
So that is how I make my oat milk, and like I mentioned earlier – I plan on adding in some carob powder and making chocolate milk real soon! I used to love, love, love chocolate milk growing up – but it was always so full of unneeded sugars, but by adding carob powder there will be no milk fats or unwanted sugars! I’ll follow up and let you know how it turns out.. but if it is anything like adding carob powder into dairy-free nicecream (frozen bananas + other frozen fruit as desired), it will be just downright dee-lightfully scrumptious!!
Follow along as I take you to other milk alternatives in the near future, what’s it going to be – the hemp heart superfood milk? The richest nut milk you have ever tasted? Milk straight from the rice fields to your frappa-latte-mocha-chino?
Dairy-free alternatives have never tasted so delicious!!
Enjoy and feel free to leave a comment or shoot me a message with tips, ideas or requests!
Thanks for reading and have some incredible Veggies, Vistas and Vert out there! 😉