Vanilla oatmeal is creamy, hearty and a great way to start the day! This is my favorite base oatmeal recipe that boasts bold vanilla flavor with hints of cinnamon and maple. It is versatile and will work with just about any topping your heart desires!

bowl of oatmeal made with chia seeds, topped with banana slices, a spoonful of peanut butter, hemp hearts and maple syrup

Erica’s ramblings:

Does anyone else think ½ cup oats is just like… not that much oatmeal? Okay same same.

Whenever I make it per the package instructions I’m left wondering, that’s all I get!?

So I’ve been making this extra voluminous high-fiber oatmeal for years now. The trick is to use about 1 ½- 2 times the amount of liquid as the traditional cooking method states. For most grains, the liquid-to-grain ratio is 2:1 but these oats like to make it 3:1. So, ½ cup oats (the serving size) plus 1 ½-2 cups liquid.

The extra liquid helps the oatmeal grow but we also don’t like liquid-y oatmeal right? So that’s where the chia seeds come in. Chia seeds absorb liquid due to their hydrophilic nature, which helps to thicken and add texture to these oats. And bonus that chia seeds are a powerful superfood with a whopping ten grams of fiber in one serving!

a spoonful of oatmeal in a bowl of oatmeal

Oatmeal is pretty bland on its own so I love to flavor things up with cinnamon, maple syrup, a pinch of salt and a spoonful of vanilla bean paste (the key vanilla flavor here!) If you don’t have vanilla bean paste you can use pure vanilla extract- but if you can swing it, go for the paste as it does have more bold vanilla flavor. If you have access to Trader Joe’s- snag the organic vanilla bean paste there, it’s the best price!

This has been my go-to oatmeal recipe for years and the versatility is endless because you can add any or all of your favorite toppings. It is a whole grain hearty breakfast perfect for busy mornings and a great way to get nearly one third of your daily value for dietary fiber.

The simple ingredients you’ll need to make vanilla oatmeal:

picture of the ingredients needed to make the recipe

Butter: just a little butter to toast the oats adds a lovely depth of flavor.

Oats: I recommend using old-fashioned oats (rolled oats) but you can also use quick oats or minute oats.

Milk: choose whichever milk best suits your taste preferences and dietary needs. I recommend a higher fat milk for the creamiest best results like whole milk, oat milk, soy milk, coconut milk or cashew milk.

Chia seeds: chia seeds play multiple roles in this recipe! They act to thicken the oats as well as providing a boost of fiber and healthy fats (omega-3 fatty acid). I love these organic chia seeds.

Salt: most people don’t think to salt their oatmeal but this will really enhance the overall flavor.

Vanilla bean paste: vanilla bean paste is a concentrated vanilla extract that includes vanilla bean seeds, it has an exceptional vanilla flavor and the visual appeal of little vanilla specks throughout. You can find it at many grocery store in the baking aisle, I get mine at Trader Joe’s!

Cinnamon: ya can’t have oats without cinnamon! Ground cinnamon provides a lovely warming flavor.

Maple syrup: oatmeal is bland on its own but a splash of maple syrup, honey or brown sugar can help balance and lift all of the other flavors.

Toppings: this one I’ll leave up to you! There are SO many fun options for topping that provide more texture, flavor and satisfaction.

How to make:

In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the oats, tossing to coat in the butter and toast for 2-3 minutes until they have a lightly golden brown color and fragrant smell.

process photos of a small saucepan with toasted oats, liquid added and chia seeds added

Add the water, milk and chia seeds and stir well. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and stir in vanilla bean paste, cinnamon, salt and maple syrup.

process photos of a sauce pan with oatmeal within- adding the cinnamon, vanilla bean paste and maple syrup

Spoon oatmeal into a serving bowl and top to your heart’s content! I love peanut butter and banana, almond butter and dark chocolate or a variety of fresh berries and dollop of plain Greek yogurt!

small bottle of vanilla bean paste, spoonful of peanut butter and sliced banana

Expert tips and variations:

  • Don’t forget to stir the oats occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of your pan.
  • Make pumpkin oatmeal by adding ¼ cup pumpkin purée, banana oatmeal by adding ¼ cup mashed banana or apple oatmeal by adding ½ chopped apple while the oatmeal is simmering.
  • Topping choices are endless! Here are some fun topping ideas: nut butter of choice, sun butter, almonds, walnuts, pecans, toasted coconut, chocolate chips, organic flax seeds, hemp hearts, fresh fruit, berries, ripe bananas, granola, raisins or dried cranberries, sprinkle of cinnamon
mug of coffee and a bowl of vanilla oatmeal


What type of milk do you use?

I personally like to use whole milk or oat milk because they are creamier and higher in fat. Any milk will work- cashew milk, organic soy milk, coconut milk, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, etc. but keep in mind that the fat content of the milk will determine the creaminess of the oatmeal.

What if I don’t have vanilla bean paste?

If you don’t have vanilla bean paste, use one teaspoon vanilla extract.

Can I use steel-cut oats instead of rolled oats?

Yes. You may want to add another ½ cup liquid and cooking time will be closer to 15-20 minutes.

Is this gluten-free?

To make this gluten-free, make sure to use organic certified gluten-free oats. You could also try organic quinoa flakes instead of oats!

Is there a way to make this sugar-free?

To make no sugar added oatmeal simply omit the maple syrup. Other options for nutritive sweeteners include brown sugar, organic coconut sugar, honey or agave nectar. Non-nutritive sweetener options include monkfruit, stevia extract or sugar alcohols like sorbitol or xylitol.

close up view of the texture of oatmeal made with chia seeds, water and milk

Want to make this tasty vanilla oatmeal higher in protein? I have thoughts:

  1. Add protein powder: add one scoop of vanilla protein powder to the oatmeal when you add the vanilla, cinnamon and maple syrup (near the end of cooking time)
  2. Whisk in a few egg whites: at the very end of cook time after your oats have simmered and thickened, whisk in two eggs whites (about ¼ cup) and stir constantly over low heat for 1-2 minutes until the oats are thick and fluffy.
  3. Stir in some Greek yogurt: stir in 1/3 cup or so of plain Greek yogurt after you remove the oats from the heat. This makes the oats even creamier and higher in protein!
spoonful of peanut butter in a bowl of oatmeal

If you love this vanilla oatmeal bowl you’ll love these other filling breakfast ideas!

Watch how to make creamy vanilla oatmeal:

If you try and like this recipe please don’t forget to leave a comment and star rating down below! If you love more lifestyle, behind the scenes and ‘eating in real life’ type of content come find me over on Instagram, @itsaflavorfullife, I love connecting with you all there!

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bowl of oatmeal with a spoonful of peanut butter and banana slices

Creamy Vanilla Oatmeal (the best healthy oatmeal base!)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 8 reviews
  • Author: Erica
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8-10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10-12 minutes
  • Yield: 1 serving 1x
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan


This creamy vanilla oatmeal is bound to become your new favorite oatmeal base! It’s filling, delicious and the perfect canvas for your favorite toppings.


Units Scale
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (old fashioned oats)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup milk of choice (dairy, coconut, cashew, oat, soy, etc)
  • 2 teaspoon chia seeds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • Toppings of choice: banana slices, fresh berries, chopped apple, peanut butter, almond butter, chopped nuts, sunflower seeds, hemp hearts, granola, toasted coconut, chocolate chips, etc.


In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the oats, tossing to coat in the butter and toast for 2-3 minutes until they have a lightly golden brown color and fragrant smell. Add the water, milk and chia seeds and stir well. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and stir in vanilla bean paste, cinnamon, salt and maple syrup.

Spoon oatmeal into a serving bowl and top to your heart’s content! I love a classic combination of banana and peanut butter, I think it pairs perfectly with the creamy vanilla oatmeal base.


See above blog post for expert tips, variation ideas, ingredient substitution recommendations and answers to frequently asked questions.


  • Serving Size: 1 bowl of oatmeal
  • Calories: 312
  • Sugar: 15.7 g
  • Sodium: 145.3 mg
  • Fat: 8.9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 50.8 g
  • Fiber: 8.6 g
  • Protein: 8.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

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