Tips & Techniques

How to Substitute Oat Milk in Sweet & Savory Recipes

Be it muffins or mousses, braises or baked pastas.

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Sponsored
July 31, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food & Prop Styling By Alexis Anthony.

We've teamed up with Planet Oat to share the many delicious ways you can enjoy their Oatmilk at home—from swapping it for dairy milk in fluffy cake batters to whisking it into a roux for creamy, cheesy pastas.


Because of my partner Trevor’s allergy to milk, and my attachment to what dairy brings to the table (puffed cakes, tender breads, silky sauces), we kind of ask a lot of our non-dairy substitutes. They must be creamy, full-bodied, reluctant to break, and relatively neutral-tasting so they can be splashed into anything—a sauce here, a braise there.

Our go-to: oat milk.

Like other non-dairy milks, oat milk is made from blending the product (that is, rolled oats) with water, then straining out the oat solids to get a milk-like beverage. Its overall texture and creaminess can be manipulated with the amount of water, and sometimes, the addition of vegetable-based oils (like sunflower or rapeseed), as well as sugar and flavoring (like vanilla or chocolate).

But unlike other non-dairy milks (rice and almond, especially), oat milk stands up to the heat of the kitchen and chill of the freezer well. And while some non-dairy milks (I'm looking at you, almond) will curdle merely at the sight of a hot cup of coffee, or turn unpleasantly icy in an ice cream base, oat milk has impressed me with its ability to roll with the punches.

I’ve steamed it to yield fluffy micro-foam in lattes, simmered it in a long-cooked Bolognese, used it to thin a chocolate ganache, and beaten it into a milk(less) bread dough—all to great success. (Also a huge plus: oats' low water and carbon footprint means oat milk is inordinately kind on the environment.)

All this to say, oat milk is magical, but there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when swapping it for dairy milk in recipes.

The main thing to consider is fat content and function: Is the liquid the oat milk is replacing higher in fat? If the answer is yes, reach for an extra-creamy variety of oat milk, or supplement the fat content with an added tablespoon of oil or butter. If you’re subbing oat milk in for something lower in fat (like, for water in a breakfast smoothie or blended soup), expect a creamier, fuller-bodied result.


How to use Oat Milk in Sweet Recipes

When substituting oat milk in sweet recipes, your best bet is to start with a higher-in-fat-content, unflavored oat milk. These will typically be labeled “extra-creamy" on the carton (psst: Planet Oat makes one), but to be sure, check the nutrition label.

Oat milk can be swapped using a 1:1 ratio for traditional milk in custards, mousses, buttercreams, and ganache (yes, really). The end result, as you might expect, will be lighter than if you had used whole milk, but the structure will be sound.

The challenge comes with baked items: Non-dairy baked goods can sometimes lack that elusive golden-brown finish—something that happens only when there’s a specific amount of fat and sugar present. To help the browning along, scan the recipe you're making for opportunities to increase fat (add a tablespoon of oil or butter per cup of oat milk for a fat content that’s similar to whole milk) or simply finish the pastry with a brush of oat milk and sprinkle of turbinado sugar (which will make for a sparkly effect).


How to Use Oat Milk in Savory Recipes

As for savory recipes, fat content matters slightly less so—unless, of course, the desired effect is maximal creaminess. But still, be sure to call in an unsweetened, unflavored oat milk.

Swapped in 1:1 for whole milk or water, oat milk will do just fine whisked into a roux for baked pastas, stews, and sauces. I regularly splash it into bubbling braises, reach for it when a curry’s reached fiery levels, and use it to unite a chunky vegetable soup in the blender. And while I haven’t had oat milk curdle on me, I’ve also never attempted to quickly, fiercely boil it for an extended period of time (something traditional milk would hesitate to do, anyways)—so if you try this, let me know how it goes.


These Recipes Are Ready for an Oat Milk Swap

What's your favorite way to cook with oat milk? Tell us in the comments below!

In partnership with Planet Oat—makers of creamy, dreamy Oatmilk and other oat-y products (like non-dairy frozen desserts)—we're showing off the versatility of oatmilk with tons of tasty cooking tips and ideas. Here, we're showing you how to substitute it for regular dairy milk in all sorts of dishes, from breakfast-y smoothies to zesty macaroni and cheese.

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Coral Lee is an Associate Editor at Food52. Before this, she cooked food solely for photos. Before that, she cooked food solely for customers. And before that, she shot lasers at frescoes in Herculaneum and taught yoga. When she's not writing about or making food, she's thinking about it. Her Heritage Radio Network show, "Meant to be Eaten," explores cross-cultural exchange as afforded by food. You can follow her on Instagram @meanttobeeaten.

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