Since 2017, we have been seeing more and more chocolate brands featuring oat milk as the quintessential dairy-free milk alternative for vegan milk chocolate. The cereal ingredient is praised for the flavor and creaminess conferred to the chocolate as by conventional dairy milk.
As the oat milk trend won’t come to a halt in 2020, I did my first taste test, relying on an excellent chocolate maker that never adds ingredients to the chocolate at random.
This exclusive version of vegan milk chocolate with Oat Milk by Pump Street Chocolate is technically a 60% dark chocolate bar with the inclusion of Scottish oats, expertly ground and dispersed in a buttery three-ingredient chocolate bulk, made from Heirloom Cacao by Hacienda Limón, Ecuador.
On the nose, the chocolate has delicate hints of fudge and cinnamon. But the most surprising aspect is delayed, on the palate: a mellow flavor of porridge unfolds at the center stage of the tasting.
Although luring the interest of full-fledged vegans, I am not entirely convinced of the oat milk ability to replace the flavor, creaminess, and persistence conferred by whole milk powder as in real milk chocolate. If nutritional values and food science are not an opinion, a few considerations will support my impressions on oat milk chocolate.
A first significant difference between whole milk powder and dry milled oats is the perfectly equal ratio of fats and proteins in the former, halved in the latter. The fiber content in the vegan ingredient further hampers its creamy mouthfeel to stack up against the dairy counterpart.
Nutritionally speaking, an advantage of oat milk over dairy milk consists in the near absence of sugar. Nonetheless, the sweetening percentage in lactose in dairy milk powder has the power to promote Maillard reactions.
Translated: higher development of secondary flavors occur in real milk chocolate, a characteristic that oat milk chocolate—or any other vegan version of milk chocolate—could not rival, regardless of perceptions and “I believe that…” statements.
Contextually to a tasting paired with other foods or drinks, I would envision oat milk chocolate doing reasonably well. Sommeliers and guided tasting experts matching this type of vegan milk chocolate with specific suggestions are invited to weigh in on the discussion.