April 13, 2022
What is Oat Milk Chocolate?
What is oat milk?
Oat milk is an increasingly popular alternative to cow’s milk (or a nut-free alternative to almond/coconut/cashew milks) made from oats and water (plus a few other ingredients such as enzymes, salt, and vitamins). Oat milk is made by soaking steel cut oats or whole groats in water, blending the grain and water together to make a slurry, and then straining the slurry to remove the pulp. After the oat pulp has been removed, the remaining liquid is oat milk. Oats soak up water more readily than nuts, allowing some of the oat solids to get through the straining process. These solids give oat milk a naturally creamy texture without additional ingredients, resulting in a smooth, rich mouthfeel. The neutral flavor of oat milk makes it ideal for use in foods or beverages such as soups, smoothies, or coffee to add creaminess without an additional flavor.
What is oat milk chocolate?
As the plant-based food trend continues to become more mainstream, new segments of the market are getting on board. Chocolate companies are joining countless other food and beverage companies in the race to offer plant-based options. To satisfy the desire for a sweet, creamy alternative to milk chocolate, chocolate companies are using milk alternatives such as rice, almond, oat, cashew, and coconut.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), milk chocolate has to contain at least 10% chocolate liquor (a fancy name for the cocoa mass consisting of cocoa solids and cocoa butter) and 12% milk, meaning dairy milk. Because “milk chocolate” is specifically defined by the FDA, dairy alternatives cannot use that phrase. To convey the idea that chocolate made with plant-based milk is creamy like milk chocolate, companies will alter the spelling of “milk” in the product name. For example, “milk” might be spelled with a “y” or “!” instead of the “i.”
Oat milk chocolate should be stored in the same manner as other types of chocolate —ideally in a dry, cool location with a humidity level less than 55% and between 65 and 68°F.
What does chocolate made with oat milk taste like?
Chocolate made with oat milk has a rich, creamy texture much like milk chocolate. Since oats typically have a milder flavor than nuts, oat milk imparts very little additional flavor to the chocolate, allowing the cocoa bean flavor to shine. The oats do give a slight malty, cereal flavor to the chocolate. For comparison, chocolate made with rice milk tends to have a particularly sweet aftertaste or throat burn sensation. Chocolate made with cashew milk features a mild nutty flavor and chocolate made with coconut delivers a coconut flavor.
Why choose oat milk chocolate?
Oats are naturally free from dairy, lactose, soy, and nuts. As a dairy alternative to milk chocolate, it is suitable for those with dairy allergies, lactose intolerance, and anyone wishing to avoid dairy products for ethical and environmental reasons. Oat milk-like chocolate can also be a good option if you also want to avoid nuts. Some milk-like chocolate varieties use cashew, almond, or hazelnut milk. The use of oat milk removes those nut allergen concerns. (Be aware that oat milk is sometimes blended with a nut milk in chocolate. It is always a good idea to read the ingredient labels carefully if needing to avoid certain allergens.) Oats are also naturally gluten-free, but often processed on the same equipment as gluten-containing products. We, like many other food manufacturers, do use the same equipment to process chocolate with and without allergens such as nuts, milk, and wheat. Just make sure to read the label.
While the process for using non-dairy milks in chocolate is different from the process for making a non-dairy milk beverage, some of the environmental benefits of vegan substitutes still apply. Simply looking at the amount of water used to produce different milks, one glass (200 ml) of dairy milk uses 125.6 L of water to produce, a glass of almond milk uses 74.3 L of water, a glass of rice milk uses 54 L of water, and a glass of oat milk uses 9.6 L of water.
Choosing a purveyor
Lake Champlain Chocolates sources chocolate made with oat milk from Luker Chocolate. They use high-quality cocoa beans directly from farmers and farmer associations. Their mission is to improve farmer income, strengthen the social fabric of local communities, and maintain environmental balance in cocoa growing communities. Currently, Lake Champlain Chocolates offers a Classic Oat Milk Bunny as a vegan-friendly alternative to a classic Easter treat. Look for more new plant-based introductions in 2023.