I work as a kitchen aide in an assisted living community. I assist the cooks in some aspects of kitchen prep (mostly non-cooking), but occasionally I help in the actual cooking of food. For breakfast, oatmeal is served every morning. The residents enjoy the creaminess of the oatmeal when milk is added, but for those who are lactose intolerant I cannot take that risk. So what alternatives to milk can I use to create a creamier oatmeal?

  • How many are lactose intollerant? Is it worth making a separate batch just for them? (although, you might need some differently colored bowls, or something so they'd have an indication that they've been served wrong) – Joe Feb 4 '13 at 15:28
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    what about lactose free milk? it's designed for this very purpose. – Brendan Feb 4 '13 at 18:12
  • It seems to me that "assisted living community" is quite broad. Should answers assume that the lactose-intolerant residents are capable of taking responsibility for avoiding lactose, or is it something which must be handled in the kitchen with designated bowls given specifically to those residents? – Peter Taylor Feb 4 '13 at 18:22
  • What country are you in? – TFD Feb 5 '13 at 20:13

Almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk (but not the kind from the can, something like So Delicious or Silk brand sells), hemp milk, oat milk, or many other nut or grain based milks will work.

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  • Many, if not all, of these are sold at health food stores and increasingly everyday grocery stores in the US. – lemontwist Feb 4 '13 at 15:35

Ironically, one of the many milk alternatives for lactose intolerant people is "oat milk", which is made by soaking oats in water, and retaining the resulting liquor.

Many traditional porridge / oatmeal recipes are made with just oats and water. Oats themselves have a somewhat "creamy" flavour, and remember your lactose-intolerant residents will not have a taste for dairy cream.

I have also seen suggestions for cooking oatmeal in fruit juice or soya milk.

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    As an easier preparation, it might be possible to use oat flour to approximate the oat milk (similar to the recipes for risotto that call for adding in some rice flour for creaminess). – Joe Feb 4 '13 at 15:26

You can try some hydrocolloid thickeners like xanthan gum or guar gum. These generally are used in small amounts and dispersed in a cold liquid. These will help the oatmeal seem "creamier". (FWIW, Quaker Oatmeal's non-dairy flavored oatmeals include guar gum for this very reason.)

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  • I would not use these. Their mouthfeel is very different from milk mouthfeel, especially for xanthan. Lecithine might be worth a try in very small quantities, but there is a risk of making the oatmeal feel slimy. – rumtscho Feb 6 '13 at 18:12

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