This plant-based, savory steel cut oatmeal is the best! Filling, high in protein, and packed with nutrient dense greens and mushrooms.
I know that the phrase “life changing” is tossed around too much. And I try to be discerning about when I use it (oh hi, banana soft serve). But I have to admit that this savory steel cut oatmeal has been sort of life-changing for me this fall.
It all started when a longtime reader wrote to me saying that savory oats had become her favorite breakfast for busy school weeks (she’s a post-bacc studient!).
I was inspired. I started making my own versions with rolled oats and all sorts of flavorings/toppings. These ranged from miso to hummus, avocado slices to lentils. My turmeric chickpea oats are a particular favorite.
However, switching over to steel cut oatmeal has made me love savory oats even more. And this savory steel cut oatmeal is my favorite recipe so far.
It can be tricky to keep track of the differences between steel cut vs. rolled oats, which are the oats I use most often.
All types of oatmeal are made with oat groats—that is, oats in their unprocessed, whole grain form. The degree to which the oats are altered varies. That’s where the different oatmeal varieties and names come from.
Steel cut oats are made by chopping whole oat groats into pieces with a steel blade. Steel cut oats are toothsome and chewy; I love their distinctive texture.
Rolled oats, on the other hand, are steamed and pressed into soft, flat pieces. As a result, they cook more quickly than steel-cut oats, and they don’t retain as much of their shape when you simmer them.
Both steel-cut and rolled oats are whole grains. They both have the benefit of lots of soluble fiber (good for digestive regularity and associated with healthy plasma lipids). And they can both be used in lots of different sweet and savory recipes.
From a nutrition standpoint, steel cut and rolled oats usually have the same amount of protein per serving. Sometimes steel cut oats have an extra gram of fiber compared to rolled oats (depending on which brand you choose).
While steel-cut oats are technically more of a whole food, rolled oats are still very wholesome. And, as I always remind my nutrition clients, some food processing is OK; processing doesn’t necessarily make a food less healthy.
So the choice to use steel-cut vs. rolled oats is really a matter of preference. Steel cut oats have a lot to offer aside from their good nutrition. They create porridge that’s less mushy, more textured. This savory steel cut oatmeal has lots of texture: think of it as a toothsome, creamy risotto!
I also tend to find that steel cut oats have more of their own flavor than rolled or quick oats. They’re more nutty tasting.
The downside of choosing steel cut oatmeal is its long cooking time. Compared to rolled oats, which cook in about ten minutes, steel cut oatmeal takes about 30-40 minutes to simmer.
Great texture, longer wait time.
When I wrote Power Plates, I finally figured out how to make steel cut oatmeal more practical for me. I started flash cooking it the night before I planned to eat it. This allowed me to simmer it for only 10-15 minutes in the morning: the same amount of time as I’d need to cook rolled oats.
Flash cooking in this case just beans bringing the steel cut oatmeal to a boil in water, then removing it from heat. You cover the oatmeal and allow it to sit overnight. In the morning, you bring it to a simmer again and cook it to completion.
Of course you don’t have to flash cook. That’s just a nice option if you want to save yourself some cooking time in the morning! You have the option to cook this savory steel cut oatmeal from scratch or by using the flash cooking method.
Most definitely! Rolled oats work nicely in place of steel cut oats in this savory oatmeal recipe.
Using rolled oats makes this recipe all the quicker. Simply reduce the total cooking time to 10-15 minutes and eliminate any overnight soaking or flash cooking.
Of course, the finish texture of the savory oatmeal will be different: creamier, mushier. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing 🙂
They can be. Technically, oats are not a gluten-containing grain. The problem is that oats are often cultivated or processed in proximity to wheat. This means that some people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten-intolerance react to them.
When I was studying to become a dietitian, one of my professors was adamant about the importance of a protein-rich breakfast. She stressed research demonstrating that a bolus of protein in the morning helps with satiety, energy, and stable blood sugar.
Years later, I always remember her encouragement for us to push future clients in the direction of a high protein morning meal. And my own experience aligns with her recommendation. I always feel more energized when I get a good amount of plant-protein in the morning.
I’ve mentioned before that, for vegan eaters, it’s helpful to combine protein-rich ingredients within meals. People who eat animal protein are often able to use a single piece of meat or poultry to make a meal protein-rich. With plant-based eating, it’s often more synergistic.
This savory steel cut oatmeal combines a number of protein-rich vegan ingredients. They include the steel cut oats, nutritional yeast, mushrooms, and greens.
Complex carbs? Check (oatmeal). Healthful fat? Check (tahini). Protein? Check: a combination of plant-based ingredients that each has a moderate amount of protein. The finished dish has about 15 grams of protein per serving.
You could make this breakfast even higher in vegan protein by adding a scoop of beans, some chopped tofu, some tempeh cubes, or a vegan meat.
Umami, or the fifth taste, is generally known as “savoriness.” It’s associated with ingredients that are rich in glutamate, an amino acid. It’s possible that we crave glutamate because it’s present in breast milk and because it’s associated with protein-rich foods.
Therefore, umami may be a helpful food for vegans who are transitioning away from animal proteins and toward plant-protein.
Umami-rich vegan foods include tomatoes, sauerkraut, sea vegetables, balsamic vinegar, and olives. Mushrooms, miso, and nutritional yeast—star ingredients in the creamy mixture that goes into this savory steel cut oatmeal—are also great sources of umami.
Much as I love this savory steel cut oatmeal recipe, it’s really a starting point for experimentation.
To start, you could alter the recipe’s fundamental ingredients based on what you have at home. For example, if you don’t have kale, you can use another leafy green. Peas, green beans, and broccoli or cauliflower florets would be nice, too.
If you don’t have mushrooms, try sautéing some zucchini, chopped tomato, or carrots instead.
In addition, there are countless fun toppings that you could add to your oatmeal bowl. As I make this recipe again and again, I continue to find new options that I like. My favorite so far:
I’m sure there are countless other add-ins that would taste wonderful. Over time, you’ll find the ones you like best!
It’s easy to make this savory steel cut oatmeal ahead of time and enjoy it throughout the week. The oatmeal will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
And if you’re wondering whether the oatmeal can be frozen, some good news. Yes, it can be! I’ve frozen it in individual portions before, so that I can have a wholesome, nutrient-dense breakfast ready to defrost anytime.
It hope the recipe kinda sorta changes your life too. Especially during the busy weeks of fall. I can’t wait to hear how you make it your own!