We Compared Trader Joe’s New Oat Milk to Oatly and Califia Farms — Guess Which One We Liked Best

updated Oct 18, 2019
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Trader Joe’s is usually so on top of the trends, so we were rather surprised to realize that the grocer didn’t have its own oat milk. Until now. Stores nationwide are just now rolling out Trader Joe’s brand oat milk. Apparently there’s a refrigerated version and a shelf-stable one, but we could only find the shelf-stable option during our three (!!!) trips to various Trader Joe’s. (We’re nothing if not dedicated!) We paid our $2.29 for 1 quart and went on our merry way to see how it’d compare to two of the biggest names in the oat milk biz: Califia Farms and Oatly.

First, a note: Oatly also sells a refrigerated version and a shelf-stable version (in grocery stores or online, respectively) and the recipe is exactly the same. The only thing that’s different is the packaging. As for Califia Farms, their oat milk needs to be refrigerated at all times.

Now, onto the taste test. We compared Trader Joe’s to these two brands, separately, and here’s what we thought.

Compared to a cup of Califia Farms’ oat milk, the Trader Joe’s stuff was visibly more watery. Surprisingly, though, it was sweeter. This is especially surprising considering the ingredients panel only lists two things: water and hydrolyzed oats. (The fact that it has just two ingredients is kind of awesome!) “Instead of adding cane sugar as an ingredient, we unearth the balanced sweetness by breaking down the starches present in the oats to create sugar,” the packing explains. (Califia’s unsweetened oat milk has a few extra ingredients, but still no cane sugar, gums, or stabilizers.)

Trader Joe's ingredients list.
Califia Farms' ingredients list.

Next we got out the Oatly, which has such a cult-like following, the brand couldn’t keep up with demand when it first launched in the States. Once again, the Trader Joe’s version was thinner and more watery in comparison. TJ’s was still sweeter, and Oatly had a creamier consistency and felt more like a regular, dairy milk. (Oatly has more ingredients than the TJ’s oat milk, but still no added sugar.)

Considering Oatly is beloved by baristas around the country, we figured the true test would be to put the stuff in coffee.

The cup with the Trader Joe’s oat milk is on the left, and the Oatly cup is on the right. We measured out the exact same amount, but you can see that the one on the right lightened up in color just a bit more. The Oatly coffee definitely tasted creamier and a bit more indulgent than the Trader Joe’s coffee.

Oatly's ingredients list.

Separately, all three oat milks were great. And the Trader Joe’s carton gets points for being the cheapest (prices vary by store and location, but we normally expect to pay at least $5 for 64 ounces). If we had to pick a winner, we’d vote for either Oatly or Califia Farms — they both had a better consistency and we’re not sure we need the sweetness of the Trader Joe’s version. We’d say the refrigerated option might be different, although the package says its mildly sweet (and we’ve heard that it has added vitamins and sugars).

Have you tried either of these options at Trader Joe’s? What’d you think?