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Is Oatmeal Vegan: How to Find out if Your Oatmeal is Plant-Based


Perhaps more than half of the world eats oatmeal for breakfast. There is no better way to start a day than with a steaming hot bowl of oats and some stewed apple pieces. Maybe add some maple syrup, and of course cinnamon. 

You can find oatmeal at any grocery store, and most restaurants will serve this popular dish as part of their breakfast menu, but do vegans eat oatmeal?

Obviously, oatmeal itself has one single ingredient, which happens to be plant-based. 

However, you may find that this excellent early morning menu item is not always a vegan option.

And if you’ve delved into the pros and cons of being a vegetarian or vegan, and decided to go that route, it’s important to know how to figure out whether your oatmeal is vegan, or not. 

Not all oatmeal is created equal (or vegan!)

We've all seen the image of a hot bowl of oatmeal served at breakfast. It is a very important part of the breakfast culture. However, is oatmeal vegan? Not always.

With just a glance at the packaging, you’ll soon notice some ingredients that are not considered vegan. This also applies to ordering oatmeal at a restaurant. Sometimes, non-vegan ingredients like butter, milk, and honey are added. 

But, before we figure out the answer to, “are oats vegan?”, let’s first take a closer look at what this food naturally contains. 

What is oatmeal exactly?

The definition of oatmeal is pretty self-explanatory - the meal of the oats.

It is made from the groats, which is the whole of the oat plant. Manufacturers remove the hull (or the oat's outer layer) and dry it.

Oats are one of the healthiest grains you could ever eat:

  • It is a whole grain and a rich source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
  • Eating oats could have many health benefits, from weight loss to lowering blood sugar.
  • It may even help with reducing heart disease.

Know your oatmeal

There are 4 different versions of that classic warm bowl of goodness, and various ways to prepare each one of them. This will affect the texture and flavor you end up with. 

1. Rolled oats (or old fashioned oats) 

This is the classic version of oatmeal. Who doesn't remember Granny serving you a generous bowl of rolled oats with a dash of cinnamon and maple syrup? 

  • This type of oat is made by removing the hull from the oat grain.
  • This is then steamed to soften before it is rolled flat.
  • The level of flatness is important here - too thin, and there is not enough texture.
  • The perfect thickness makes for that familiar chewy texture.

2. Quick oats 

This is simply another version of rolled oats.

The difference between rolled oats (old fashioned oats) and quick oats is how thick it is after the oat is rolled. Quick oats are much thinner than rolled oats. 

A thinner rolled oat means a shorter cooking time, hence the name "quick oats."

This is the perfect oatmeal for those who want all the flavor and texture, and want to have it quickly. 

3. Instant oats

Instant oats take quick oats to a whole new level of speed!

All you need to do to this is add hot water, stir, and eat it.

Of course, this is convenient and the flavor is similar.

However, studies have shown instant oats are not as healthy as quick or rolled oats because nutrients are lost during the manufacturing process.

Instant oats are made by cooking the oats rather than steaming them. The oat grain is then dried and rolled. Instant oatmeal is much thinner than quick oats. 

4. Steel-cut oats

The number 1 choice amongst the health food crowd, steel-cut oats are a more natural version of oatmeal.

It goes through minimal processing so it’s healthier and more nutrient-dense.

The grain is removed from the groat and then cut into small pieces.This makes steel-cut oats the closest version to natural oatmeal.

Steel-cut oats take a long time to cook (much longer than instant oatmeal). Even after it is cooked, the oat is denser and chewier than any of the other oatmeal varieties.

So if you are health conscious, steel-cut oats may be the right choice to add to your healthy diet.

Why oatmeal is not always vegan

Sure, oatmeal, on its own, is entirely vegan. However, sometimes other ingredients make it no longer vegan.

Is oatmeal vegan when you get it from grocery stores or restaurants? Check labels carefully when you're at a store, or ask your server how they prepare it. 

Watch out for these ingredients:

  • Butter and milk - These are two ingredients found in many plant-based foods to enhance the flavor by adding richness to it. It provides an added creaminess to the dish and can enhance the flavor. Always check the ingredients list on the label.
  • Sugar - One might think sugar is okay for a vegan diet, and it is! However, some types of sugar go through a process that uses the char of bones to bleach it. If you are unsure, contact the company, or look for unsweetened brands and add your sweetener to your plain cooked oatmeal.
  • Honey - Honey is one of the most popular flavors for instant oatmeal. Although some vegans bend the rules, honey is an animal product which means it is not vegan. So, skip the honey and go for sweeteners such as agave nectar or maple syrup.

Vegan oatmeal brands to look for

The best way to enjoy vegan oatmeal is to use the rawest, freshest, and most natural version of oats you can, and cook and flavor them yourself. If you're in the mood for something more "instant", here are some ideas:

  • Dr. McDougall's Right Foods makes great instant oatmeal. Full of nutrients, this oatmeal brand comes in many different flavors such as hemp and peach, cranberry and almond, chia and berry, and gluten-free, organic apple flax, and organic maple flavor. Give them all a try!
  • Bob's Red Mill is known for providing great grain products from flours to seeds, beans, oats, and oatmeal. A hardy, natural, flavorful option, Bob's Red Mill delivers a vegan-friendly, plant-based option for oatmeal with delicious flavors like maple and cinnamon.
  • Love Grown - When it comes to instant oatmeal ingredients, this company wins! Love Grown oatmeal cups are not only vegan, they are also gluten-free, non-GMO, and organic. This delicious oatmeal brand is available in flavors like apple and cinnamon, strawberry and raspberry, and peach, vanilla and almond.
  • Dave's Naturals are the most instant brand available. Dave's Naturals comes in flavors such as cinnamon and raisin, blueberry and vanilla, and apple nut. What sets this brand apart is that it is made with real fruit pieces and nuts.

Can the larger oatmeal brands make vegans oatmeal happy?

As we've seen, there are vegan-conscious brands that market and cater to vegan diets. But, what about some of the bigger brands? Let's look at one of the leading oatmeal companies in the world: Quaker Oats

Is Quaker Oats oatmeal vegan? 

The cheeky-grinned Quaker man is iconic. He has been a source of comfort for years, letting families know the oatmeal they’re about to eat will also have them grinning from ear to ear with a full belly.

But is Quaker Oats vegan- friendly? 

Quaker Old Fashioned Oats could not be more vegan if it tried! Not to be confused with the instant oats versions, this oats brand is just regular rolled oats. However, you may be wondering - Is Quaker instant oatmeal vegan?

When it comes to bigger oatmeal brands such as Quaker oats, things can get confusing, but don't worry. With a little bit of research and paying attention to the labels, you'll be making sure you choose the vegan version of instant oats and instant oat products.

If you’re wondering, “Is Quaker maple and brown sugar oatmeal vegan?” a good place to figure it out is to check quaker oatmeal ingredients on the Quaker oats website. You’ll see there are several delicious varieties of instant oatmeal that are vegan, for example:

  • Cinnamon and Spice Instant Oatmeal 
  • Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal 
  • Apples and Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal 
  • Apples and Cranberry Instant Oatmeal 
  • Coconut and Caramel Instant Oatmeal 
  • Original Instant Oatmeal 

All of these pass the vegan-friendly test with flying colors! With these delicious Quaker vegan options, a vegan will be satisfied but should be careful with some of the other Quaker products: 

  • Quaker Strawberries and Cream Instant Oatmeal contain whey and sodium caseinate (milk products).
  • The same applies to the Peaches and Cream and the Blueberries and Cream versions.

Is McDonald's oatmeal vegan? 

Breakfast at Mcdonald's is a must for many with super-busy mornings. But what about vegans? Is Mcdonalds oatmeal vegan? 

McDonald's Fruit and Maple Oatmeal is vegan, unless you forget to tell them to take out the cream.

It may be surprising to some that McDonald’s is serving something as healthy as vegan oats. 

Why is oatmeal healthy?

Long a staple breakfast for the quintessential strong Scotsman, oatmeal provides nutritional benefits that far outweigh a croissant and a cup of tea.

  • It is loaded with healthy fats, protein, carbohydrates, and fiber and makes a perfectly healthy breakfast.
  • Oatmeal contains iron, B vitamins, zinc, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Although some instant ingredients are not the healthiest, many brands out there stick to the basics, so it is possible to have it the healthy way, even when you’re pinched for time.
  • You will not only feel full longer, but the slow release of energy will give you fuel for a long time throughout the day.
So pass on the eggs and sausage, and grab a hot bowl of porridge!

Is oatmeal vegan? Yes!

Unless you add other ingredients, all oatmeal brands are 100% vegan.

Is Quaker oatmeal vegan? Yes! It doesn’t matter which brand of oatmeal you buy, they’re all vegan as long as they don’t have any other ingredients that are not vegan. 

Even though vegans can’t enjoy some of the creamier versions of instant oatmeal, they can create their own version:

  • They can simply use regular instant oats and add fresh strawberries, blueberries, and peaches.
  • Instead of the moo version milk, vegans can use some plant-based milk or cream like almond or soy milk, or coconut cream.

So if you’re vegan and you want to enjoy the health benefits and excellent flavor of this hearty food - just keep it simple! 

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