Weekend Musings: Let’s Talk Milk.

Yes, I’m a strictly dairy-free herbivore. However, I chose to make my blog as welcoming to all diets and lifestyles as possible. Thus, this post includes information on cow’s milk as well as plant-based milks.

Let’s talk milk.

And I promise to be as objective as possible because I’m a loving and tolerant vegan.

You see, when I first started The Oatmeal Artist, I was a vegetarian. A lactose intolerant vegetarian, but a vegetarian nevertheless. I drank almond milk (occasionally soy) at home, but wasn’t against using cow’s milk when I cooked at my parents’ home.

As a college student, I found almond milk expensive. It “appeared” similar to the cost of cow’s milk, except it comes in a 1/2 gallon size, thus making it deceptively pricier. This was in 2011 and in rural South Dakota, when (and where) the demand for nondairy milk was still low. To save money, I never made oatmeal entirely with milk. My method was always 1/2 almond milk, 1/2 water. Because of this, I had the benefit of creamy almond milk, but my 1/2 gallon carton lasted twice as long. This is why every recipe details that I mixed milk and water.

Since those days, I have learned several important points about milk vs. water. *Note: when I say “milk,” I mean any type of milk: plant-based or not.*

  1. You don’t need to use milk at all! Boom! I bet you didn’t expect that one. For recipes including a creamy substance like mashed banana or sweet potato puree, cooking your oatmeal in water is entirely acceptable. I barely notice a difference—or at least my taste buds have adapted to it.
  2. Some recipes really do need milk. Whenever I make a recipe featuring citrus as the main ingredient, I always use milk. Without it, the texture of the oatmeal becomes…well…watery. Plus, the fantastic flavor of citrus is sadly muted when in oatmeal, and milk (whatever kind you use) prevents the final product from being unpleasantly watery and bland.
    Blood Orange and Toasted Coconut Oatmeal by The Oatmeal Artist
  3. Cow’s milk scorches easily. Stir often and cook at a lower temperature. Or switch to a different milk!  😉 Ahem.
  4. The type of plant-based milk you choose (as long as it is unflavored) will have little effect on the final product of your oatmeal. Soy, almond, rice, and cashew milk all have distinctly different flavors, but once you flavor your oatmeal with everything else (especially ingredients like cocoa powder or banana), you will barely notice the difference.
  5. The exception to #4 is coconut milk. You will definitely notice the flavor of coconut milk. That being said, coconut milk from a carton (especially unsweetened) has a much more mild flavor than coconut milk from the can.
  6. I always use “original” and/or “unsweetened” versions of any plant-based milk. I never buy vanilla-flavored milks as I would rather flavor it myself with vanilla extract. I find the flavor more pleasant (but to each his/her own, yes?). If you use vanilla-flavored milks, you can omit or reduce the amount of vanilla extract in the recipe.
  7. When making savory oats, always use unsweetened and unflavored varieties. Soy and rice milk work best, but unsweetened almond milk can get the job done (but I would recommend adding extra salt, onion, etc.).
    herbed pumpkin leek oatmeal 001
  8. When cooking with milk (no matter what kind), watch it carefully when you’re first waiting for it to come to a boil. If you miss it at a low boil and suddenly find it at a full boil, the chances of it erupting over the sides of your saucepan are highly likely. If you cook your oats in water, this is virtually impossible—at least from my experience.
  9. Another option is cooking your oats in water and adding a splash of milk on top before eating. I love to do this. Cheap meets delicious.
    Chocolate Chili Cherry Oatmeal #vegan #oatmealartist #chocolove
  10. Even for refrigerator oats, water is fine (especially if you are adding yogurt or a mashed/pureed fruit).
  11. Store-bought oat milk works fine for cooking oatmeal. Homemade oat milk does not. Avoid at all costs. 🙂 Unless you enjoy the texture of uber-gummy porridge.
  12. If you are currently using cow’s milk, want to switch to plant-based, but are finding the switch difficult, see this post regarding transitioning yourself off cow’s milk. 

Try switching up your routine: you might find a method that you prefer over your current one.

Even though I use water almost exclusively for my oatmeal now because I almost always add a creamy banana, I still include the “I used 1/2 cup almond milk and 1/2 cup water” in my directions to signal to the reader that there is flexibility here. It’s honestly up to you: all water, all milk, half and half, mostly water with a touch of milk, or vice versa.

Do you cook your oats in water, or do you use a milk? If the latter, what’s your milk of choice?

About Lauren Smith

Lauren is a herbivore, Slytherin, and connoisseur of oats. She is a former teacher who is currently studying to earn a master's degree in curriculum development. You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

17 Responses to Weekend Musings: Let’s Talk Milk.

  1. Wow, I had no idea you only used water these days. I remember you being very against that in the past, which I’m sure influenced me. Maybe I should try water too? I use all soy milk, or occasionally coconut. I would try the half-n-half thing, but then I’m sure the milk would go bad before I could finish the carton, since oatmeal is basically the only thing I use milk for.

    • Lauren Smith says:

      I know. I’m a constantly evolving individual. I think it does, indeed, taste better with some sort of milk, but I also run out sometimes and make it with water, and I realized it’s fine. Definitely better with milk, but fine.

      And indeed, finishing the carton on time is something I worry about, but in my three years of oatmeal-making, I’ve only had my soy or almond milk go bad once or twice.

  2. Jenni says:

    Ever tried zucchini milk? I made a batch last night and froze for breakfasts to come!

  3. Anne says:

    I use 1 part water and 2 parts milk, cows milk to be precise. Would love to switch to plant based but I simply can’t afford it.

    • Anne says:

      just want to add that I don’t live in America/UK/etc so I don’t have access to large stores like they have in countries like that. Unfortunately makes it even more expensive – my country is quite conservative and all things ‘abnormal’ (like plant based dairy) are very low in demand so very high in price.

  4. Dana says:

    I use Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk. I go between Original and Vanilla (they have the same ingredients in slightly different order). I also use Silk Soy Unsweetened, but only for frothing to top porridge with. (:

    Ever heard of banana milk? Apparently blending a banana with water (not sure the amount) can substitute for milk if you are in a pinch. I’ve never tried it myself.

    • Lauren Smith says:

      Wow, I have not heard of that. However, that’s basically what I do most days! I use all water and add mashed banana. All I’m skipping is the blending part. But the result, I’m predicting, is similar.

  5. Christine says:

    I use half-milk, half-water or all water, depending on what kind of oatmeal I’m making. One combination I learned to avoid is cow’s milk with peanut butter. It tasted incredibly foul. Almond milk tastes better, but I generally use all water when the oatmeal involves nut butter.

  6. Cassie says:

    Cashew milk is one of my favorite milks out there–so creamy and delicious!

  7. Lyndsey B says:

    I like to use original almond milk from Trader Joe’s. It is lightly sweetened, which is perfect for most oatmeal recipes. I don’t like coconut milk AT ALL, even though so many recipes call for it. I usually will just add 1/2 tsp coconut extract to any recipes that call for it.

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