The Best Savory Steel Cut Oatmeal

This plant-based, savory steel cut oatmeal is the best! Filling, high in protein, and packed with nutrient dense greens and mushrooms.

A small, round bowl contains a bowl of savory steel cut oatmeal.

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.

What’s the difference between steel cut oats and rolled oats?

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.

Are steel cut oats healthier than rolled oats?

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.

My favorite steel cut oatmeal cooking hack

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.

Can I use rolled oats?

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 🙂

Are steel cut oats gluten-free?

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.

Fortunately, there are some oatmeal brands that are certified gluten-free. My favorite maker of oats is One Degree Organic, and their steel cut oats are GF certified by BRCGS.

The protein power of savory steel cut oatmeal

The benefits of protein at breakfast

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.

In the end, the savory steel cut oatmeal is a total power plate, with a balance of the macronutrients we need to stay energized.

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.

Don’t forget umami

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.

A close up photograph of a savory, whole grain breakfast with mushrooms and greens.

Savory steel cut oatmeal variations

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!

Storing and meal prepping savory steel cut oatmeal

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.

A small, round bowl contains a bowl of savory steel cut oatmeal.
4.88 from 8 votes

Savory Steel Cut Oatmeal

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Soaking time 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 20 minutes
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup steel cut oats (substitute 2 cups rolled oats)
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil (substitute 2-3 tablespoons vegetable broth for an oil-free version)
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 small bunch curly or lacinato kale, stemmed, washed, dried, and chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons mellow white miso
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Instructions

  • To reduce cooking time, flash cook the steel cut oatmeal before you got to sleep. Mix the oats and 3 1/2 cups water in a medium sized pot. Bring them to a boil. Remove the pot from heat, cover, and let it sit overnight (no need to refrigerate).
  • In the morning, bring the oatmeal to a simmer once again. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the steel cut oats are tender but still chewy. If you don't wish to flash cook the oatmeal, simply bring the oats and water to a boil as directed above, then cook for 30-40 minutes for the desired texture.
  • While the oats cook, heat the oil or broth in a large skillet. Add the shallots and cook for a minute, or until they're fragrant. Add the mushrooms. Cover and cook for 8 minutes, or until the mushrooms have released all of their juices and shrunken down. Add the kale. Cover the skillet and allow the kale to steam cook for 2 minutes, or until wilted.
  • Whisk together 2 tablespoons of warm water, the miso, tahini, and tamari. Stir this mixture into the cooked steel cut oats, along with the nutritional yeast. Then, stir in the cooked vegetables. Mix everything well and divide it into serving bowls. Top as desired, and enjoy!
A small bowl of plant-based, savory oatmeal with mushrooms and greens, accompanied by a cloth napkin.

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!

xo

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    55 Comments
  1. Hiii this recipe looks amazing. Just wondering if you happen to know the total yield or the serving size for this recipe?

    • Hi! It makes 4 servings, so just divide the total into four portions. But I think it’s a heaping half cup of the cooked oats per person, and then divide the toppings.

  2. 4 stars
    I see this article just got updated, did it get updated with less appetizing photos? Was looking for my normal recipe and couldn’t find it. I love this recipe, I usually use a bit less kale and double the miso sauce but reserve half to put on top when I reheat it.

  3. Love steel cut oats usually eat them with berries and nuts. I was searching for a savory option and stumbled on this recipe. DELICIOUS! I did increase the amount of mushrooms (mixture of crimini and shiitake) and added two cloves of chopped garlic that I sautéed with the shallots. This recipe will be a staple! Thank you.

  4. I have mine with peanuts and Sri Racha chilli sauce. But I also add chia seeds to my oats.

  5. 5 stars
    Awesome recipe, this was exactly what I was looking for. You’re brilliant. Thanks.

  6. 5 stars
    I just recently started trying savory oats recipes. I bought the ingredients for this recipe last week but was too lazy to try it until this morning and Oh my goodness!!! The flavor is spectacular! I LOVED it so much!! I’m pretty sure I’ll be having this for breakfast for the rest of the week, maybe longer and I will definitely be cooking this for anyone that comes to my home until I’ve made it for everyone that I love. Thx for sharing!

  7. I thank you for this wonderful recipe. Cutting out eggs and cheese has limited the savory breakfast choices, so I am glad to have this new option, I made it this morning with broccoli instead of mushrooms and whatever miso I had in the fridge, and it was amazing. It is company worthy.

  8. 5 stars
    I can’t wait to try this at home. This looks really tasty. Thank you for the recipe.

    – gustavo woltmann

  9. I think we might be soul sisters. I’ve been making a very similar savory oats recipe For years now. I always add frozen peas and fresh spinach to the oats at the end and they cook perfectly. I never thought to mix in tahini, I gotta try that next!

  10. Hi Gena!
    I just saw this post — can’t believe I missed it! I was that miso-oat addicted post-bac who wrote you. Thanks so much for the shoutout and so glad you’re on the savory oat train. I can’t wait to try adding nutritional yeast and tahini to my next batch!

  11. This sounds super tasty and I’ve got a ton of extra mushrooms from a clearance sale. I just wonder if the oats I have are steel cut…. How can you tell? I buy them in bulk from Sprouts, and when I make them for breakfast in the microwave, they still have a great mouth feel, and aren’t fully cooked after 3 minutes. I love that they are still a little chewy. I’ve never thought to do savory oats before.

    • Hey Lynne,

      Those sound like steel cut, though you can just google a photo to check! It’s an awesome recipe — hope you enjoy it.

      G

  12. This is a fabulous dish Gena, thank you! If one did include the optional thyme, where in the recipe should it be added?

  13. 5 stars
    I just made this and it is AMAZING! I am eating this for dinner and having more for breakfast. I had to use onion inseam of shallot and also light sweet miso instead because I was unable to find Mello white.

  14. For some reason the recipe isn’t showing up…just the file name. Would love to have this recipe because it sounds delicious!

  15. I land to try this–looks and sounds delicious. I cook my steel cut oats in a slow cooker over. night and they are always creamy. I plan on adding the rest of the ingredients in the morning. Don’t see any reason why this won’t work. Looking forward to it! Thanks for the recipe.

  16. Hi Gena! Just made a triple batch of this for breakfasts all week for my husband and I. Love the miso-tahini-tamari combo!

    Just wanted to let you know I don’t think the recipe says where to add the optional pepper and thyme. I nearly forgot and added them at the very end!

  17. Just had this for breakfast on a drizzly, overcast Wednesday morning, and it totally hit the spot! I usually do more fruit-oriented breakfasts, but I loved the savory, warm goodness of this.

  18. I made these today and I have to say they’re becoming a regular breakfast! they’re like the answer to breakfast when you want an everything bagel but don’t want the refined flour and to feel hungry in an hour. These are everything basically 🙂

  19. Gena, this is one glorious bowl of oats! I eat oats in some for every single day, and thus always have it on hand, so I’m definitely looking forward to shaking up the routine with your savory approach.

  20. These are DELISH, I am blown away. So grateful you shared this recipe. Thank you. <3

  21. Made this tonight and it was completely amazing. My boyfriend couldn’t believe it was vegan and ate the entire recipe! Planning a double batch in the near future. Thanks for this wonderful recipe, it has already become a favorite.

  22. Definitely going to buy steel cut oats and mushrooms tonight so I can make this in the morning! LOOKS DELISH! Have you used qunioa flakes with a recipe like this (savory breakfast) yet?? Seems like it would work well here!

  23. Hi Gena, I am wondering if there is a type of nutritional yeast that you might recommend. This recipe sounds so comforting and yummy. I look forward to trying it.

      • Thank you.
        I also just got your cookbook. There are so many wonderful recipes I don’t know where to start. Probably though – it will be a soup.

  24. Gena, the steel cut oats will cook faster and better if you bring them to a boil the night before, boil for a minute then let sit overnight. Just add a splash of water in the morning, and they’re done in a few minutes!

  25. Going to be honest here: savory oats have always turned me off. However, using steel cut oats just might make me change my mind. This looks and sounds so delicious. It reminds me of a risotto I’ve made before, and I’m so curious to try it now!

  26. These photos are stunning Gena, wow! I’ve only recently come to dig into the savoury oats idea and although I love it, I’ve had a hard time convincing the man & mini man to get on board too. It’s a work in progress 😉

    By the way, I’m late in doing so but I love the rebrand of The Full Helping – Congratulations! It’s a perfect reflection of everything you bring to the table here. XO

  27. In the morning I eat steel cut oats with strawberries, black berries (or blue berries), ground flax seed, and unsweetened soymilk. I do not cook the oats because I don’t like mushy cereal. Are there nutritional benefits to eating the oats raw vs. cooked?

    • Hi Scott,

      I find the steel cut oats much too hard if I don’t cook them, but I don’t think the nutrition changes!

      G

      • Hi Gena–These look FABulous!! Still have some gluten oat groats, which I might try this with. Oh, the flavor-nutrition palette!! I see why you say this very well may be life-changing–and I agree the photos are beautiful too. xo

      • I’ve been able to eat them raw if I soak them overnight and then process with a little nut milk and a date a bit in the food processor. Sort of a “middle” ground for the texture, Gena and Scott. 🙂

        • I’ve tried that method as well, Maria! I love the creaminess and the fact that it’s so like a traditional “porridge,” even if the cooked steel cut oats are my preference.