Is Oat Milk Gluten-Free?

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Many people enjoy oat milk due to its lactose-free properties, its compatibility with vegan diets, and individual taste preferences.

However, can oat milk also fit into gluten-free diets? Or does it harbor traces of gluten?

Moreover, can individuals with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition triggered by gluten intake, consume oat milk?

This article aims to address these questions comprehensively.

A carton of oat milk next to a glass of oat milk.

Oats Don’t Naturally Contain Gluten, But They Usually Aren’t Gluten-Free

Firstly, oats contain a type of storage protein called avenins which share similar properties with gluten (1). However, avenins and gluten are not identical, and they don’t affect individuals with celiac disease in the same way.

Furthermore, clinical trials indicate that oat consumption doesn’t provoke the production of anti-gliadin antibodies in individuals with celiac disease, unlike gluten consumption (2).

Anti-gliadin antibodies are released by the immune system in response to gluten intake, and individuals with untreated celiac disease typically have elevated levels of them (3).

In summary, oats naturally don’t contain gluten.

However, there are other considerations regarding the gluten content of oat milk.

The Potential Contamination of Oats With Gluten-Containing Grains

Oats are often grown near crops that contain gluten and are processed in shared facilities which also process gluten grains.

Unfortunately, despite their natural gluten-free status, oats can become contaminated with gluten from neighboring crops such as barley, rye, and wheat (4, 5, 6).

Oat products, including oat milk, can be sold as ‘gluten-free’ in the United States and Europe if they contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten (5). According to the FDA, most individuals with celiac disease can tolerate a “small amount” of gluten, and the FDA asserts that the 20ppm level aligns with this (7).

However, a study examining gluten contamination in the commercial oats supply tested 133 oat samples. Among these, 88% contained more than 20 parts per million of gluten, and were therefore not considered “gluten-free” (6).

Thus, the majority of commercial oat samples likely contain gluten due to shared transportation and processing facilities.

Does Oat Milk Contain Gluten?

Whether oat milk contains gluten depends on the specific oats used to make it.

Given that many commercial oats are contaminated with gluten, oat milk made with these oats is also a source of gluten.

For this reason, individuals adhering to a gluten-free diet should opt for oat milk products labeled as gluten-free. Such products contain less than 20ppm of gluten, making them safe for those with celiac disease (8).

Key Point: Due to potential oat contamination with gluten, commercial oat milk may contain significant amounts of gluten. Unless oat milk products carry a “gluten-free” label statement, they likely contain gluten.

How Much Gluten Is In Oat Milk?

Determining the gluten content of oat milk can be challenging.

Based on the previously mentioned study that examined 133 oat samples, the gluten levels varied widely, ranging from 0 mg to 3784 mg per kilogram (6). The latter figure is equivalent to 3784ppm, far exceeding the FDA’s 20ppm threshold for the ‘gluten-free’ label.

Consequently, even if the oat-to-water ratio in commercial oat milk is as low as 1:10, it could still contain a substantial 378ppm of gluten.

Therefore, it remains crucial for individuals unable to tolerate gluten to opt for oat milk clearly labeled as ‘gluten-free’.

Key Point: The gluten content of commercial oat milk may vary significantly.

How Can You Ensure Oat Milk is Gluten-Free?

For those seeking gluten-free oat milk, thoroughly scrutinizing the label is paramount.

Oat milk products with less than 20ppm of gluten will bear a ‘gluten-free’ declaration on their packaging.

Since most oat milk products aren’t gluten-free, it’s prudent to presume gluten is present unless explicitly stated otherwise. Without the ‘gluten-free’ label, oat milk is unsuitable for individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Gluten-Free Oat Milk Varieties

For a convenient, at-a-glance reference, the following table outlines several gluten-free oat milk options currently available.

As of February 2024, each of these products declares its gluten-free status on the label.

These items can typically be found at various retailers, including grocery stores and major supermarkets. Most are also available from Amazon and other large online retailers.

BrandProduct NameAvailable from:
Califia FarmsBarista Blend Oat Milkhttps://amzn.to/49Gb90g
Califia Farms Original Protein Oat Milkhttps://amzn.to/3UKJKG0
ChobaniChobani Oat, Plain, Barista Editionhttps://amzn.to/42IXAee
MooalaOrganic Original Oat Milkhttps://amzn.to/49D6agB
OatlyThe Original Oatly Oat Milkhttps://amzn.to/3T2Rzpg
OatsomeOrganic Oat Milk, Barista Blendhttps://amzn.to/4bAtr4G
OatsomeOrganic Oat Milk, Regularhttps://amzn.to/3T4j0z5
Rise BrewingOrganic Oat Milkhttps://amzn.to/3IbFjwp
Pacific FoodsBarista Series, Oat Milkhttps://amzn.to/3wkty4i
Table 1: Commercial oat milk products with ‘gluten-free’ label statements, February 2024

It is important to recognize that while a specific oat milk product from one brand may be gluten-free, other varieties within their range may not share the same properties.

Key Point: Although many oat milk products contain gluten, there are numerous gluten-free options available on the market.

Alternative Options

There are also alternative options if oat milk labeled ‘gluten-free’ is unavailable.

Try a Different Variety of Milk

For those seeking alternatives to oat milk, the following plant-based options are all gluten-free:

It’s also worth noting that all dairy milk is naturally free of gluten.

For more information on different types of milk, refer to this comprehensive guide covering each variety:

24 Types of Milk and Their Nutritional Values

Make Some Gluten-Free Oat Milk At Home

It’s entirely possible to prepare gluten-free oat milk at home, requiring only two simple ingredients: oats and water.

You’ll need the following items:

  • 1 cup of gluten-free oats
  • 5 cups of water
  • A fine mesh strainer

Time needed: 10 minutes

Instructions for making gluten-free oat milk at home.

  1. Pre-soaking

    One hour before making the oat milk, place one cup of gluten-free oats in a large bowl and cover them with water. Let them soak for an hour to soften before blending.

  2. Draining

    After soaking, carefully drain the water from the bowl until only the oats are left.

  3. Blending

    Transfer the oats to a blender and add five cups of water. Blend until the mixture is smooth and consistent. At this point, additional ingredients may also be added depending upon personal preference. Some potential additions may include banana, strawberries, cocoa powder, sweetener, or vanilla.

  4. Strain the oat milk

    Por the blended mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a container. Seal and refrigerate; the milk should be consumed within 2-3 days.

Key Point: If having trouble finding a gluten-free oat milk product, consider exploring alternative milk options. Additionally, gluten-free oat milk at home can easily be made at home.

Final Thoughts

As discussed in this article, most commercial oat milk is unlikely to be gluten-free unless explicitly labeled as such.

For individuals with sensitivities to gluten, this makes it crucial to either select oat milk with a ‘gluten-free’ label or choose an alternate milk option.

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Michael Joseph, MSc

Michael works as a nutrition educator in a community setting and holds a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. He believes in providing reliable and objective nutritional information to allow informed decisions.