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Is Oatmeal Vegan? What One Vegan Dietitian Wants You to Know

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Short answer: yes! Plain oats are vegan.

But here’s the catch, some oatmeal products commonly sold contain animal derived ingredients. In other words… not vegan.

So how do can you tell if your oats are vegan friendly? Are they healthy? Is there such thing as vegan instant oatmeal?

Vegan Dietitian, Christine tells all (and more) so keep reading!

Are Oats Vegan?

Lets discover the answer by first defining “vegan” and than defining “oats.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary online defines “Vegan” this way:

“a strict vegetarian who consumes no food (such as meat, eggs, or dairy products) that comes from animals
also one who abstains from using animal products (such as leather)”

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vegan

Here’s the definition for “oat:”

“1 a : any of several grasses (genus Avena)
especially: a widely cultivated cereal gras (A. staiva)

b : a crop or plot of the oat
also: the seed of an oat – usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction.”

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oats

In conclusion, oats are entirely plant based and not derived from animals. So yes! Oats are vegan.

But let’s make the question a bit more tricky. Is all commercially available oatmeal vegan?

The answer is… no! Lets find out why next.

Can Vegans Eat Oatmeal?

Vegans can eat oatmeal that excludes animal products or animal byproducts.

Here is a list of commonly available types of oatmeal that vegans can eat.
FYI: the following will list only these words in the ingredients label.

  • Whole grain oats
  • Old fashioned oats
  • Rolled oats
  • Steel cut oats
  • Instant oats
  • Any other type of oats that do not contain animal products/byproducts.

As you can probably tell, vegans have lots of options when it comes to shopping for plain oatmeal!

The tricky part comes with instant oatmeal.

This popular breakfast item may or may not be vegan, because many contain animal derived ingredients.

Typically, oatmeal products labeled as “vegan” are almost always vegan. Still, the best way to determine if your instant oatmeal is vegan, is to make sure the following ingredients are not listed on the ingredients/nutrition facts label (FYI: Not a comprehensive list):

  • Milk or milk derivatives (could be listed as milk solids, cream, whey, lactose, etc)
  • Honey
  • Gelatin (most common in instant oatmeal with marshmallows)
  • Vitamin D3 (if sourced from sheep’s wool (specifically, lanolin))
  • Collagen
  • Eggs (typically listed as “egg whites”

Major allergens are required to be listed on the food label in the USA. However, milk, eggs, fish, and crustacean shellfish are the only non vegan major food allergens required to be listed.

So, you would still need to read the label for other non vegan ingredients.

Graphic showing ingredients that make oatmeal non vegan.

The Issue With Sugar

Who says sugar isn’t vegan? After all, sugar is a plant based ingredient right?

Right, but the answer to “is sugar vegan” is a bit complicated for some.

Here’s the scoop: most refined sugar on the market (ie: white sugar, brown sugar) is processed with bone char (animal bones) to make it appear whiter. When it comes to these types of sugar, you probably can’t tell from the label if the sugar was processed this way – unless you contact the company.

But the question remains: should vegans then avoid all sugar? Simply put, some self proclaimed vegans do and some do not.

Vegan.com adds some interesting insight: Many crops use animal derived fertilizer to help the soil, yet this topic does not appear to be as largely concerning amongst vegans, and vegans consume a fully plant based diet. Check Vegan.com to learn more about via their article here.

Refined sugar is in lots of products, some that we may or may not be aware of (ie: pasta sauce, bread, crackers, etc). Whether or not to avoid it for the bone char issue controversial for many vegans.

For those who do want to avoid bone char processing, look for sugars labeled as “organic” “demerara,” “muscovado,” “turbinado,” or “evaporated cane juice.” Reach out to the company if you have any questions.

Are Oats Good For You?

Oats are a very nutritious grain that contains many beneficial nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, zinc, and several B vitamins. It also contains a good dose of protein, carbohydrates and fiber.

But that’s not all! Did you know that oats could lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol?

Yep! Oats have a type of soluble (able to be dissolved) fiber called beta glucan that is likely responsible for the cholesterol lowering effects of oats.

Ever feel satisfied after a hearty bowl of oatmeal? Beta glucan may have done it again! One review suggests his type of fiber could be associated with satiety.

So in conclusion, yes – oats are a healthy choice for most people.

Vegan Recipes that Include Oats

Now that you know oats are a nutritious plant based food, how can you incorporate them in your diet?

Of course we know that oats make a popular base for a hearty breakfast bowl, and yes, we have included those because… a vegan oatmeal recipe is such a staple. As a vegan RDN, I love a good helping of oats in the morning!

But what are other ways oats can be used? Lets take a look at some awesome recipes by fellow Registered Dietitians!

For Breakfast

  1. Apple Cinnamon Granola from Laura Yautz, RDN, LDN, owner of Being Nutritious
  2. Raspberry Almond Granola from Elise Harlow, MS, RDN owner of The Flourished Table
  3. Nut Free Granola Recipe (Deliciously Crunchy!) from KeyVion Miller Dietitian and Recipe Developer
  4. Turmeric & Black Pepper Granola from Leanne Ray, RD – Healthyish Appetite
  5. Vegan Banana Oat Pancakes (Dairy and Gluten Free) from Nicole Stevens, MScFN, RD – Lettuce Veg Out
  6. Pecan Pie Overnight Oats (Cold or Warm!) from KeyVion Miller Dietitian and Recipe Developer
  7. Instant Pot Pumpkin Oatmeal by Jessie Shafer, RDN – The Real Food Dietitians
  8. High Calorie Overnight Oats [Banana Cream] from Katie Dodd, MS, RDN, CSG, LD, FAND – Blogger, High Calorie Recipes
  9. Simple Oatmeal Protein Cookies from Megan Byrd, RD –The Oregon Dietitian
  10. Healthy Baked Oatmeal Cups Base Recipe from Lexi Endicott, RD, LD, CCMS – To Taste

For Lunch Or Dinner

  1. Vegan Black Bean Burgers w/Sweet Potato from Megan Byrd, RD – The Oregon Dietitian
  2. Hawaiian Meatballs (made with Chickpeas!) from Laura Yautz, RDN, LDN, owner of Being Nutritious
  3. Vegan Lentil Meatloaf Muffins By Abbey Sharp, RD – Abbey’s Kitchen

Snacks

  1. Vegan Hemp Protein Bars From Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RD – Bucket List Tummy
  2. Peanut Butter Oatmeal Energy Bites from Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Owner, Sound Bites Nutrition, Cincinnati, OH
  3. Pumpkin Cookie Dough Bites from Chef Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD, FAND – The Healthy Epicurean
  4. Healthy Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Muffins from Melissa Altman-Traub MS, RDN, LDN

Vegan Oatmeal Brands

The following is a list of companies available in the US that sell oats/oatmeal and are (in our best estimate definition) vegan friendly.
Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive list. We can not ensure complete accuracy as ingredients list may change, so check before you purchase!

  • Natures Path Organic
  • Purely Elizabeth (all except Blueberry Walnut Collagen Protein Oats and Vanilla Pecan Collagen Protein Oats)
  • Flahavan’s
  • Quaker Oats (with many exceptions-see Vegan Oatmeal FAQ section)
  • Bob’s Red Mill (one ingredient oatmeal only- see Vegan Oatmeal FAQ section)
  • One Degree Organic Foods
  • Oats Overnight (only those labeled “dairy free)
  • McCann’s
  • Food To Live
  • Think! (Protein + Fiber Oatmeal Banana Bread Bowl only)

Vegan Oatmeal FAQ

Is Quaker Oatmeal Vegan?

To the best of our knowledge, all of the plain oatmeal/oatmeal mixtures are vegan. This was based on a review of the ingredients label.

  • Old Fashioned
  • Steel Cut Oats Traditional
  • Steel Cut Oats Quick 3-Minute
  • Quick 1-Minute Oats
  • Gluten Free Old Fashioned Oats
  • Gluten Free Quick 1-Minute Oats
  • Simple &Wholesome Organic Multigrain Hot Cereal With Buckwheat & Flax
  • Simple & Wholesome Organic Multigrain Hot Cereal With Red Quinoa
  • Simple & Wholesome Instant Organic Multigrain Hot Cereal with Date & Almond
  • Instant Oatmeal Original
  • Organic Instant Oatmeal Maple and Brown Sugar
  • Organic Instant Oatmeal

Ok, so you may be asking, what about the plethora of instant oat packets Quaker offers?

Lets discus that next…

Is Quaker Instant Oatmeal Vegan?

There are some more “obviously” non vegan instant oatmeal packets form Quaker-namely because they include dairy, honey, or gelatin. They include:

  • Fruit and Cream Variety Pack
  • Fiber &Protein Instant Oatmeal Maple and Brown Sugar
  • Protein Instant oatmeal Banana Nut
  • Protein Cranberry Almond (Instant Oatmeal and Oatmeal Cups)
  • Supergrains Instant Hot Cereal Honey Almond
  • Protein Instant Oatmeal Apples & Cinnamon
  • Protein Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal and Oatmeal Cups
  • Lower Sugar Instant Oatmeal Fruit and Cream Variety Pack (Strawberries & Cream, Peaches & Cream)
  • Strawberries and Cream (Instant Oatmeal and Oatmeal Cups)
  • Instant Oatmeal Cups Apples &Cranberries
  • Instant Oatmeal Cups Honey & Almonds
  • Fiber & Protein Instant Oatmeal Variety Pack
  • Peaches and Cream
  • Blueberries & Cream
  • S’mores
  • Real Medleys Oatmeal + Summer Berry
  • Real Medleys Oatmeal + Blueberry Hazelnut

To our knowledge, Quaker oatmeal products may or may not be vegan if they weren’t listed directly above or in the previous section “Is Quaker Oatmeal Vegan?” This is because of ingredients that may or may not be vegan like vitamin D3 in certain products. Contact the company to know for sure.

Is Bob’s Red Mill Oatmeal Vegan?

Lucky for you! Bobs Red mill offers a filter feature on their site so you can tell which oat products are vegan or not. Check it out here.

In short, all of the one ingredient oat products appear to be vegan.

Why aren’t the flavored oatmeal’s given vegan status? Possibly because the sugar/bone char issue mentioned in the topic above “The Issue with Sugar.” Don’t skip that section! In short, refined sugar is an ingredient that some self proclaimed vegans avoid, while others don’t.

Is McDonald’s Oatmeal Vegan?

Mcdonald’s Fruit and Maple oatmeal includes light cream, a dairy based animal product – therefore, not vegan.

So if you take it off, it must be vegan right? Perhaps. A couple ingredients some vegans may be skeptical of include the “natural flavor” and “sugar.” so if those ingredients are a concern for you, contact McDonalds if you want to try their oatmeal.

Is Panera Bread Oatmeal Vegan?

Here’s Panera Breads ingredient list for their Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries & Pecans:

Cooked Steel Cut Oats (Water, Cooked Steel Cut Oat Groats [May Contain Traces Of Wheat, Soy And Mustard], Salt), Fresh Strawberries, Oil Roasted Pecans (Pecans, Cottonseed Oil), Cinnamon Sugar Topping (Sugar, Cinnamon, Modified Corn Starch, Soybean Oil)

The only ingredient we can see here that may or may not be a problem for some vegans is the sugar (if its processed with bone char). So in short, your call (for yourself or to contact Panera Bread).

Is Oatmeal Vegan? (Conclusion)

Oats by themselves are vegan. Buying unflavored oatmeal is almost a guarantee that it is fully plant based. However, instant oatmeal packets often require vegans to scrutinize the ingredients list.

Eating oats is a healthy choice for most people, and there are tons of wonderful ways to include oats that go beyond breakfast.

Now the next time someone asks you “is oatmeal vegan?” send them this!

Did you learn anything new about vegan oatmeal?
Discovered any new vegan brands?
Have you been inspired by ways to cook rolled oats with more than just water and maple syrup?
Let us know your thoughts or questions in the comments below!
Be sure to check out some of our most popular posts, such as Vegan for Beginners, and Can Humans Survive Without Meat?
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