Oat milk is quickly becoming one of the more popular plant-based kinds of milk for everything from breakfast cereal to baking.
Plant milk from nuts, seeds, coconut, rice, and soy is largely gluten-free, so you might expect the same from oat milk. However, oat milk may not be the best choice if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
This article explains whether oat milk is gluten-free.
Many oat milk brands are contaminated with gluten
Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley.
While it’s safe for most people to eat, it inflames and damages the lining of the small intestine in people with celiac disease and possibly those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Thus, anyone with these conditions must strictly avoid gluten.
Oats are naturally gluten-free. However, because they’re often grown near wheat and processed in facilities that also handle wheat products, they’re frequently cross-contaminated with gluten.
Thus, oat milk is likewise susceptible to contamination.
A Canadian study of 133 oat samples discovered that 88% were contaminated with more than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten — the general cutoff for a food to be considered gluten-free.
One of the varieties was certified gluten-free and tested negative for gluten.
When researchers in the United States assessed 78 foods labeled gluten-free, 20.5% had gluten levels over 20 ppm.
Remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t analyze foods for gluten content. Instead, it’s up to manufacturers to test the products themselves.
Some manufacturers use third-party testing labs to ensure that their products are under the threshold for gluten. These have a certification — usually shown as a small stamp on the packaging — that ensures the product is indeed gluten-free.
If you can’t consume gluten, you should only buy oat milk that’s certified gluten-free.
Summary: Although naturally gluten-free, oats are frequently cross-contaminated with gluten. Therefore, there’s a good chance that your oat milk isn’t gluten-free unless certified.
Gluten-free oat milk options
If you don’t have a health reason that requires you to avoid gluten, any kind of oat milk is safe to drink.
However, if you follow a gluten-free diet, you should read labels carefully to find certified gluten-free products.
Oatly is one oat milk brand whose U.S. products are certified gluten-free. Planet Oat, Califia Farms, and Elmhurst all state that their oat milk is gluten-free but don’t have third-party certification.
Gluten-free oat milk is also easy to make, using only two ingredients — certified gluten-free oats and water. Here’s a basic recipe:
- Soak 1 cup (80 grams) of certified gluten-free oats in water — enough to cover them — for about 15 minutes.
- Drain the oats and blend with up to 4 cups (945 mL) of water for about 30 seconds. Use less water if you prefer a thicker beverage.
- Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer.
- Chill before serving.
Summary: Several brands offer gluten-free oat milk. Nonetheless, if you can’t find certified products, you can make your own oat milk with certified gluten-free oats and water.
How is oat milk made?
Oat milk is made by soaking whole oats in water, milling the softened mixture, and straining the liquid from the solids. The manufacturer may add other ingredients like sweeteners or vitamins before the drink is homogenized to make it creamy and milk-like.
Oats are a particularly good source of beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that gives oat milk its thick consistency and may boost heart health by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. Notably, studies suggest that oat beverages have this same effect.
Suggested read: Are oats and oatmeal gluten-free?
A 1-cup (240-mL) serving of oat milk provides:
- Calories: 120
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Carbs: 16 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
Summary: Oat milk is made by soaking and milling oats, then separating the liquid. Oat milk’s creamy texture is owed to its beta-glucan, a healthy type of soluble fiber.
While oats are gluten-free, many are cross-contaminated with gluten — meaning that not all oat milk is gluten-free.
If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you should only buy oat milk certified gluten-free by a third-party organization.
Otherwise, you can make this thick, creamy plant-based milk at home using certified gluten-free oats and water.