I know that the phrase “life changing” is tossed around way too much in food writing, and I know it sometimes rings hollow. The only recipe I’ve ever shared that probably deserved those words in full was banana soft serve. Much as it’s tempting to deem every awesome new recipe a life changer, I’m wary about wielding the claim.
But I must admit that savory oats have been sort of life changing for me this fall. It’s not my first time trying them; I’ve made them in the past, and enjoyed them. But it’s the first time I found a formula that is, if not life-changing, an instant–and, I suspect, a lifelong–favorite.
It all started when a longtime reader (and post-bacc student!) wrote to me saying that savory oats had become her favorite easy staple for busy school weeks. I was inspired, and I started making my own versions with rolled oats and all sorts of flavorings/toppings, from miso to hummus to avocado slices to leftover legumes. Switching over to savory steel cut oats, though–which I did a few weeks ago–has made me love savory oats even more.
I used to think of steel cut oats as being desirable from a texture perspective (so naturally creamy and chewy), but not very efficient. While they don’t lend themselves to spontaneous cooking, I’ve come to see them as a reliable food for batch cooking, which actually saves me a lot of time when all is said and done. I simply soak the oats overnight and bring them to a boil first thing in the morning. Within 12-15 minutes–more but not too much more time than rolled oats–they’re perfectly cooked, and then I have a big batch that I can reheat as the week progresses.
You could obviously prepare savory oats a thousand different ways, by stirring in different ingredients and flavorings. This combination is one of a great many options. I love that it’s packed with umami and protein, thanks to the marriage of nutritional yeast, miso, and mushrooms. I love that it’s an easy vehicle for leafy greens. I love that it’s a one-pot deal. I’m sure the formula will change and give way to a new favorite over time, but right now, I can’t imagine ever getting tired of it.
My Favorite Savory Steel Cut Oats (gluten free)
- 1 cup steel cut oats be sure to purchase GF certified oats if you are allergic to gluten
- 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 chopped shallot
- 8 ounces sliced button mushrooms
- 1 head dinosaur kale stems removed, leaves chopped into ribbons (about 4 ounces after preparation)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme optional
- 2 teaspoons mellow white miso
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- Optional toppings: sliced avocado extra nutritional yeast, cashew cheese, hummus, roasted chickpeas (or fresh chickpeas), cooked lentils, chopped green onion, hot sauce, lemon, balsamic vinegar, etc.
- Shortcut cooking method: Before you got to sleep, mix the steel cut oats and 3 1/2 cups water in a medium sized pot. Put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, remove the oats from the fridge and pot them on the stovetop over medium high heat. Bring them to a boil and reduce them to a simmer. Simmer for 12-15 minutes, stirring frequently, or until they're tender, and the mixture is thick, yet easy to stir.
- Longer cooking method: If you don't pre-soak the oats, simply bring them to a boil as directed above, but cook for up to 30-40 minutes for the desired texture.
- While the oats cook, heat the oil in a medium-large frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for a minute, or until they're fragrant. Add the mushrooms and salt them generously--and add the thyme, if desired. Cover and cook for 8 minutes, or until they've released all of their juices and reduced significantly. Add the kale. Cover the skillet and allow it to steam cook for 2 minutes, or until the kale is wilted. Turn off the heat.
- Whisk together 2 tablespoons of hot water, along with the miso, tahini, and tamari. Stir this mixture into the cooked steel cut oats, along with the nutritional yeast. Then, stir in the vegetables. Mix everything well and divide it into serving bowls. Top with your toppings of choice, and savor! Leftover oats will keep for up to three days in an airtight container in the fridge.
As you can see from the images, the dish is amazingly creamy, thanks simply to the oats and a little tahini. And the combination of miso, tahini, and nooch is really an unbeatable vegan flavor trifecta.
The nice thing about this dish, of course, is that you can eat it at anytime of day, and it’s a complete, nutritionally dense meal. It boasts nearly 14 grams of protein, all sourced from easy, protein-rich plant food combinations. So, whether you’re enjoying this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it’s a reliable means of getting quick nourishment. The leftovers keep nicely, which makes it a great batch cooking staple.
Naturally, you can mix up the veggies based on what’s in season. And feel free to use frozen spinach or kale to make it even more of a pantry meal. I love the shallot here, but you can skip it if you don’t have it, or use garlic in its place. I’ve experimented with topping this bowl with avocado slices and chickpeas, and both were great.
But honestly? It’s pretty perfect and complete the way it is.
It hope the recipe–or at least the idea–kinda sorta changes your life too, especially during those busy weeks when you need something reliable, fast, and sustaining.
As you can see, this post is standing in for the usual Menu Plan Monday post. Because I’m traveling through tomorrow and cooking with a client on Friday night, my guess is that I’ll simply be living off of the freezer for the next couple evenings. I look forward to sharing another weekly menu plan next Monday. In the meantime, have a great start to the week!