A perfect bowl of vegan oatmeal is a breakfast that will make you leap out of bed in the morning and energise the start of your day. This step-by-step guide will teach you how to make your own fully customisable bowl for a meal that’s impossible to get bored of. Featuring a recipe for vanilla protein oatmeal with caramelised fruit.
When scrolling through Instagram, do you ever come across those ridiculously photogenic oatmeal bowls topped with all the exotic fruit you can think of and sigh with jealousy? Same goes for smoothie bowls and banana icecream/’nicecream’. After all, most of the population doesn’t have time to make a Louvre-worthy masterpiece before getting into their morning routine.
But then we have the old ‘Instagram vs real life dilemma’. For many people, myself included, food styling and photography are creative outlets – kinda like art, music, etc. Photographs of food tailored towards blogs and Instagram feeds are often not representative of what their creators eat 90% of the time, which is rather average looking food. Trust me – you wouldn’t want to see the leftover pasta I’m eating as I update this blog post. Sometimes, I’ll make a bowl of oatmeal whenever my schedule allows (mostly in the late afternoon), photograph it for Instagram and store it in the fridge to eat the next day. If I actually make my oats in the morning, even if I follow the same recipe, my camera lens is unlikely to befriend them.
Truth is, ‘fancy’ oatmeal (i.e., not just oats and water stirred together on the stove) is easy. Not only that, but also delicious, cosy and energising – a breakfast that will keep you full for hours. If you have a few spare moments, make your toppings as pretty as you’d like. If you want to keep it quick and practical, throw them on and move ahead with your day.
I created this guide to crafting the perfect bowl of vegan oatmeal for anyone who wants a breakfast that’s neither boring, nor complicated. Feel free to skip any of the steps I outline below and/or add anything else – after all, it’s your life, your oatmeal, and no one can tell you what to do!
What oats should I use?
This is a good question, because there are three main varieties – steel-cut, rolled and instant – and you can read more about them here. But put shortly, steel-cut oats get processed the least and take the longest time to cook on the stove (around 25-30 minutes), instant the most processed but are ready as the name suggests: almost instantly.
In general, I go for the gluten-free rolled oat variety. They take just around five minutes to cook and unlike instant oats, retain much of their texture and shape.
Base vegan oatmeal ingredients
Choose a plant milk
Oatmeal cooked with milk, as opposed to just water, tastes so much better: I usually use a mix of the two. Plus, the type of plant milk you choose makes a big difference to the outcome. Good news is that plant milks come in such a wide variety and allow you to switch up your oatmeal without changing much else. For example, cashew milk (my personal favourite) has a very neutral, creamy taste. Almond milk is sweeter, while oat milk has an earthy, pleasant aftertaste.
How much liquid you use depends on your desired consistency. This may be controversial, but I like my oatmeal to be on the runnier side, opting for anything up to a 3:1 ratio on most days. That is, 3 cups liquid to 1 cup oats, with 1-1.5 cups of the liquid coming from milk and 1.5-2 coming from water. If you’re unsure, start with equal parts oatmeal and milk, and add more water as you cook until you get the texture you prefer.
Sweetener and spices for your oatmeal
Once again: what, and how much you use depends on personal preference. You can emit sweetener entirely and rely on toppings to add flavour, but some things to try include.
- Golden syrup. Foolproof and makes your oats taste like dessert.
- Agave nectar. Slightly less sweet than golden syrup.
- Sugar of choice. Give brown sugar cinnamon oatmeal a try, and you won’t regret it!
- Chopped dates. Brilliant for some extra texture.
- Mashed banana.
- Fresh or frozen berries, lightly crushed. I opt for fresh in the summer, frozen in the winter.
I love the last three because they sneak in a cheeky portion of fruit, and add a sweetness that’s not too overpowering.
What about spices?
- Cinnamon: it’s pretty hard to dislike cinnamon oatmeal.
- Nutmeg: another all-time favourite.
- Turmeric: turmeric has some brilliant anti-inflammatory properties, and makes the porridge a beautiful golden colour!
Extra tip for creamy oatmeal
Add some apple sauce, or a few tbsps of a plantbased yoghurt of your choice, such as soy or coconut yoghurt.
Add superfoods and/or protein powder
You can skip this step if you want to stick with the basics, but it’s my personal favourite because this is where an oatmeal bowl can get its unique flavour. Some options to try include (linked are some products I’ve tried myself):
- Spirulina: a personal favourite of mine. Don’t be intimidated by the taste/smell of the powder by itself because the other ingredients mask it without much difficulty.
- Cacao powder – to make vegan chocolate oatmeal!
- Maca powder – has a vanilla-like flavour.
- Wheatgrass powder
- Barleygrass power
- Baobab powder
- Chia seeds – perfect if you’re making overnight oats
Taking protein supplements on a vegan diet is far from necessary to meet your daily requirements. In fact, I get most of mine from wholefoods, such as beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. But 1/2-1 scoop of protein powder can be good for either flavour, or an extra boost if you’re active and/or trying to build muscle. The protein powder I use at the moment and love is the
Revolution Foods Vegan Protein in Toffee Fudge.
Optional but highly recommended: add a spoonful of nut butter and/or vanilla extract
This will make your oats more filling and add a nutty hint to the flavour. Try runny almond butter, and you’ll never be able to go back. Likewise, a little amount of vanilla extract goes a long way.
How to cook the oatmeal:
For this, you have three options:
Stir together your ingredients in a microwavable bowl and leave on 80% power for 2-3 minutes. Reserve this method for when you’re in a rush, but still want an energising, healthy breakfast.
Cooking on the stove:
If you want the creamiest, cosiest oats, this is the way to go. Stir together all of your ingredients and bring to a gentle simmer. Stick to a low-medium heat, because bringing it up too much may result in the oats sticking to the bottom of the saucepan or drying out: the ‘slow and steady wins the race’ principle definitely applies here. I like to start with around 1/2 of the liquid I intend to use, and gradually add more throughout the cooking process. Continue simmering and stirring frequently until the liquid has absorbed. In general, if you use rolled oats, this takes 5-7 minutes.
Make overnight oats:
Okay, these technically don’t have to be ‘overnight’. Leaving them in the fridge for anywhere above one hour works. Overnight oats could save you if you’re someone who rushes around in the morning, doesn’t know what to eat and skips breakfast. You’ll wake up with a tasty and nutritious breakfast waiting for you. To eat on the go, just throw them into a jar. No need to choose between stress and mid-morning hunger!
What toppings should you use for vegan oatmeal?
Toppings are how you make porridge interesting. Now that you’re prepared your delicious base and transferred it to a favourite bowl, it’s time to go all-out with the toppings (or a minimalist vibe – sometimes I skip toppings all together because you know, life’s about enjoying the simple things). Of course, you can look through your fridge/cupboards and grab whatever aligns with your mood. But if you want a structured approach, follow this guideline as loosely or thoroughly as you’d like:
Add more sweetener/milk
If you make overnight oats and they come out a bit dry the next morning, add an extra splash of plant milk. I always drizzle soy yoghurt on my stove-cooked porridge because I’m obsessed how the hint of ‘coolness’ contrasts with the overall warmth of the dish!
Fruits and berries
Aka, hands down the best toppings. No oatmeal is complete without some natural deliciousness sprinkled on top. Think anything from apple for extra crunch, or a handful of raspberries and mango for a more tropical feel.
Of course, try to eat seasonal produce whenever possible. During autumn/winter, most of us don’t want to take out a loan just to buy a handful of blueberries. When certain things go out of season or you live in a colder climate, opt for frozen. Likewise, dry fruit such as prunes, apricots and dates make ideal winter substitutes (except for raisins because #ew).
EXTRA TIP: one of my favourite fruity toppings for oatmeal is compote, which you can make fuss-free. Simply add either fresh or frozen berries of your choice to a saucepan on a medium heat, and simmer with a few tbsps of water and a sweetener of your choice for 3-5 minutes.
EXTRA TIP 2: try out caramelised banana/oranges and thank me later. Chop up some ripe banana and/or peel a fresh orange, adding them to a frying pan with around a tbsp or so of liquid sweetener, and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. The result is 110% perfect to eat by itself!
Add some nuts and seeds
You know, for a delicious way to eat your healthy fats and bring some crunch to your breakfast. Anything of the nut variety that you find lurking in your cupboard could be a potential ‘yay’, so chuck it on. A by no means exhaustive list of ideas to try include:
- Pecans: a personal favourite of mine.
- Brazil nuts.
- Coconut: fun fact, it took me 18 years to figure out that a coconut is in fact a nut, despite the very obvious last syllable.
- Pumpkin seeds.
- Sunflower seeds.
- Peanut butter.
- Pine nuts.
Finish with some nut/seed butter.
This is the icing on top of the not very metaphorical cake, because if you’ve done this correctly, your resulting porridge should taste like cake in a bowl. New types of nut butter appears on the market every day, and the best way to incorporate all of them into our diets is by chucking several spoonfuls into our oats.
You can’t go wrong with peanut butter oatmeal, for sure. But to switch things up, alternate between other varieties: cashew, almond, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed (something I can’t get enough of at the moment)… And in case you haven’t tried tahini on your oats before, you now have an extra item on your to-do list for tomorrow’s breakfast!
Oh, and what about that saying – ‘less is more’? Totally doesn’t apply here.
EXTRA TIP: with a powdered peanut butter such as PB fit, you can water it down to a much runnier consistency than normal nut butters, and use it as a ‘sauce’.
Okay, I’m not sure how I just wrote nearly 2000 words about vegan oatmeal, but I hope it’s the inspiration you need to create your own gorgeous bowls. Remember: start with a solid foundation, and customise it how you like from then onwards.
Below, I included a recipe for vegan vanilla oats with caramelised fruit – a healthy, protein-packed breakfast – to kick off your journey towards mastering porridge! And incase you want to enjoy this meal with a twist, why not check out my savoury oatmeal with zucchini and black beans?
Let me know in the comments: are you an oatmeal lover? What are your favourite toppings? And ff you follow this guide, be sure to tag me on Instagram (@earthofmariaa) so I can see your creations.
Vegan Vanilla Oatmeal With Caramelised Fruit
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 tbsp maca powder
- 1/2 scoop vegan protein powder optional
- 1/4 cup soy or coconut yoghurt
- pinch of Himalayan salt
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tbsp agave nectar
- 1 cup plant milk of choice
- 1 cup water (plus more if needed)
- 1 small banana, chopped into circles
- 1 small orange, peeled
- 1 tbsp agave nectar
- soy yoghurt
- berries of choice
- 1 tbsp nut butter of choice
- 2 large brazil nuts, chopped
- dark chocolate
- goji berries
- Add the oats, maca powder, protein powder, soy/coconut yoghurt, Himalayan salt, lemon juice, agave nectar and plant milk into a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer on a low-medium heat.
- Stir for 5-7 minutes, gradually adding at least 1 cup of water throughout the cooking process.
- To make the caramelised fruit, place the banana coins and oranges on a non-stick frying pan and drizzle evenly with the agave nectar. Cook for around 2 minutes on each side on a high heat, until the banana coins are golden brown.
- Serve immediately with the rest of the toppings, or leave in the fridge overnight.