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.*
- 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.
- 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.
- Cow’s milk scorches easily. Stir often and cook at a lower temperature. Or switch to a different milk! 😉 Ahem.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.).
- 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.
- 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.
- Even for refrigerator oats, water is fine (especially if you are adding yogurt or a mashed/pureed fruit).
- 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.
- 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.