Is Quaker Instant Oatmeal Vegan?

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Some flavors of Quaker instant oatmeal are vegan, and some are not.

Plain oatmeal is vegan of course, but some of the flavoring ingredients are not.

I looked up the ingredients list for each flavor, and we’ll go through which ones are and aren’t vegan.

There are a few ingredients that will come up that clearly aren’t vegan, and a few that are controversial:

  • Whey – A byproduct of milk after it has been curdled and strained. Clearly not vegan, but would be okay for vegetarians.
  • Palm oil – A controversial plant ingredient that many vegans don’t eat, but is technically vegan. Here’s why palm oil is controversial.
  • Sugar – Plain “sugar” in North America is often filtered through bone char (from the bones of cows usually). Strict vegans avoid it, while other vegans are okay with it. I contacted customer service (see email reply below) and they wouldn’t confirm if their suppliers used bone char, which means they probably do.

quaker sugar reply

  • Natural flavor – This term covers many ingredients. Natural flavor can be either vegan or not vegan. In this case, it’s probably vegan, but I can’t say for sure, and it’s proprietary so we can’t get a definitive answer.
  • Artificial colors (e.g. Blue 2 Lake, Red 40 Lake) – While artificial colors aren’t derived from animal products, they are often tested on animals. Many vegans avoid them, you’ll have to decide if you think artificial colors are vegan.

Other than the “original” instant oatmeal, all flavors have sugar in it, so if that’s a dealbreaker for you, you can stop reading here.

An important note about instant oatmeal cups: Certain flavors can be bought in cups or boxes (with packets). For example, apples & cranberries. The cups have different ingredients and sometimes the boxes are vegan while the cups are not.

apple cranberry instant oats box vs cup

I will point out when a flavor comes in both forms, and what the differences are. Just keep this in mind when buying them or taking oatmeal at work/school.

In general, stick to the boxes when possible.

Apple & Cranberries

  Box (Packets) Cup
Non-vegan ingredients None Whey protein isolate
Controversial ingredients Sugar, natural flavor Sugar, natural flavor
Verdict: Possibly Vegan Not Vegan

Here’s the first example where buying it in a box is probably vegan, but the cup is clearly not vegan.

In box form:

Here are the ingredients in the box/packet form of apple & cranberries:

  • Whole grain oats, sugar, dried apples, dried cranberries, salt, natural flavor.

If you’re okay with taking a bit of a risk on sugar and natural flavor, it’s reasonable to assume that this is vegan-friendly.

In cup form:

Here are the ingredients in a cup of apple & cranberries:

  • Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Dehydrated Apples, Whey Protein Isolate, Maltodextrin, Cranberries, Natural Flavor, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Malic Acid, Soy Lecithin, Niacinamide, Reduced Iron, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid.

There’s quite a few extra ingredients.

The whey alone is clearly not vegan and rules this one out.

Apples and Cinnamon

  Box (Packets) Cup
Non-vegan ingredients None None
Controversial ingredients Sugar, natural flavor Sugar, natural flavor
Verdict: Possibly Vegan Possibly Vegan

While there are quite a few of extra ingredients in the cup version, there aren’t any added ones that I’d be worried about.

In box form:

Here are the ingredients in a packet of apples and cinnamon:

  • Whole grain oats, sugar, dried apples, natural flavor, cinnamon, salt.

Like many others, the only real question marks are the sugar and natural flavor.

In cup form:

Here’s the full ingredient list for a cup of apples and cinnamon oatmeal:

  • Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Dehydrated Apples, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Salt, Cinnamon, Calcium Carbonate, Citric Acid, Guar Gum, Malic Acid, Niacinamide, Reduced Iron, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Caramel Color.

It’s mostly just vitamins being added.

You might be concerned about caramel color, since “caramel” is not always vegan. However, caramel color is almost always vegan.

Banana & Maple

Non-vegan ingredients None
Controversial ingredients Sugar, natural flavor
Verdict: Possibly Vegan

Here are the ingredients in a packet of Quaker banana & maple:

  • Whole grain oats, sugar, dried banana flakes, salt, natural flavor.

No clearly non-vegan ingredients, although there’s a chance the natural flavor could be.

Blueberries & Cream

Non-vegan ingredients Whey, sodium caseinate
Controversial ingredients Sugar, palm oil, glycerin, artificial colors
Verdict: Not Vegan

For the sake of completeness I’ll include the full ingredient list in blueberries & cream:

  • Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Blueberry Flavored And Colored Fruit Pieces (Dried Figs, Corn Syrup Solids, Modified Food Starch, Sugar, Dextrose, Glycerin, Blueberry Juice Concentrate, Canola Oil, Artificial Blueberry Flavor, Citric Acid, Blue 2 Lake, Red 40 Lake), Creaming Agent (Maltodextrin, Sunflower And Palm Oils, Whey, Sodium Caseinate), Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Guar Gum, Artificial Flavor, Niacinamide, Vitamin A Palmitate, Reduced Iron, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Soy Lecithin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid

Not only does it have extra ingredients that may or may not be vegan, but both whey and sodium caseinate are milk products that are clearly not vegan.

Any “cream” oatmeal is typically not vegan-friendly.

Cinnamon and Spice

Non-vegan ingredients None
Controversial ingredients Natural flavor
Verdict: Possibly Vegan

The ingredient list of cinnamon and spice oatmeal is quite short:

  • Whole grain oats, sugar, salt, cinnamon and other spices, natural flavor.

Other than the natural flavor, which is probably vegan, I don’t see any other concerns.

Coconut & Caramel

Non-vegan ingredients None
Controversial ingredients Natural flavor
Verdict: Possibly Vegan

Here are the ingredients you’ll find in a packet of coconut & caramel:

  • Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Salt, Natural Flavor (Contains Coconut).

This is the first flavor where there’s some explicit information on what’s in “natural flavor.”

The fact that it says coconut makes me feel even more confident that it’s vegan-friendly.

Honey & Almonds

  Box (Packets) Cup
Non-vegan ingredients Whey protein isolate, honey Whey protein isolate, honey
Controversial ingredients Sugar, natural flavor Sugar, natural flavor
Verdict: Not Vegan Not Vegan

You can find Honey & Almond in both box and cup form, but either way it’s clearly not vegan.

In box form:

Note the honey and whey protein isolate in the ingredients of a packet of honey & almonds:

  • Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Roasted Almonds, Whey Protein Isolate, Maltodextrin, Salt, Natural Flavor, Honey, Soy Lecithin

In cup form:

There are a few extra ingredients in a cup of honey & almonds, but the same non-vegan ingredients:

  • Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Almonds, Whey Protein Isolate, Maltodextrin, Molasses, Salt, Natural Flavor, Calcium Carbonate, Honey, Soy Lecithin, Niacinamide, Reduced Iron, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid.

Maple and Brown Sugar

  Box (Packets) Cup
Non-vegan ingredients None None
Controversial ingredients Sugar, natural flavor Sugar, natural flavor
Verdict: Possibly Vegan Possibly Vegan

You can find this flavor in both box (packet) and cup form. Either way it’s probably vegan and has the same controversial ingredients.

In box form:

Here are the ingredients in a packet of maple and brown sugar instant oatmeal:

  • Whole grain oats, sugar, salt, natural flavor.

In cup form:

Here are the ingredients in a cup of maple and brown sugar instant oatmeal:

  • Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Guar Gum, Caramel Color, Niacinamide, Reduced Iron, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid.

Original

Non-vegan ingredients None
Controversial ingredients None
Verdict: Vegan

There’s actually more than just oats in the original instant oats, but not much more:

  • Whole grain oats, calcium carbonate, salt, reduced iron.

The only thing you might be worried about is the iron, since that could come from an animal (although I don’t think it’s very common to add that iron to foods).

I asked Quaker’s customer support about it and the most they could tell me was that since the product is labeled “Kosher”, the product contains no meat or dairy.

I’m not 100% sure that applies to iron, but I think we can say with pretty high certainty that the original version is vegan.

Peaches and Cream

Non-vegan ingredients Whey
Controversial ingredients Sugar, palm oil
Verdict: Not Vegan

This is one of the few flavors with no natural flavor in it. Unfortunately, it has whey and is clearly not vegan.

Here’s the full ingredient list for reference:

  • Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Creaming Agent (Maltodextrin, Sunflower And Palm Oils, Whey, Sodium Caseinate), Flavored And Colored Fruit Pieces (Dehydrated Apples, Artificial Peach Flavor, Citric Acid, Annatto), Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Guar Gum, Artificial Flavor, Niacinamide, Vitamin A Palmitate, Reduced Iron, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid

Peanut Butter & Honey

Non-vegan ingredients Honey
Controversial ingredients Sugar, natural flavor
Verdict: Not Vegan

Peanut butter & honey instant oats are clearly not vegan due to the honey in the ingredients list:

  • Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Partially Defatted Peanut Flour, Salt, Honey, Natural Flavor

Peanut Butter & Banana

Non-vegan ingredients None
Controversial ingredients Sugar, natural flavor
Verdict: Possibly Vegan

Let’s take a quick look at the ingredients in the peanut butter & banana instant oats:

  • Whole grain oats, sugar, partially defatted peanut flour, dried banana flakes, salt, natural flavor.

Like a few other flavors, the only real concern is the natural flavor, which is probably vegan friendly.

Pumpkin Spice

Non-vegan ingredients Nonfat Dry Milk
Controversial ingredients Sugar, natural flavor
Verdict: Not Vegan

A quick look at the ingredients of pumpkin spice instant oatmeal reveals that it’s clearly not vegan due to the nonfat dry milk:

  • Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Nonfat Dry Milk, Salt, Spices, Natural Flavor.

Raisins and Spice

Non-vegan ingredients None
Controversial ingredients Sugar, natural flavor
Verdict: Possibly Vegan

Let’s look at the ingredients like for raisins & spice instant oatmeal:

  • Whole Grain Oats, Raisins, Sugar, Salt, Spices, Natural Flavor

There’s no clearly non-vegan ingredients, but like most other versions, the “natural flavor” is a bit of a question mark.

Raisin, Date and Walnut

Non-vegan ingredients None
Controversial ingredients Sugar
Verdict: Vegan

This is the ingredient list for Quaker’s raisin, date and walnut instant oatmeal:

  • Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Raisins, Dates, Walnuts Coated With Rosemary Extract, Salt, Cinnamon

There’s no “natural flavor” in these, which makes them probably the clearest case of being vegan-friendly.

Strawberries and Cream

Non-vegan ingredients Whey, sodium caseinate
Controversial ingredients Sugar, palm oil, artificial color (red 40)
Verdict: Not Vegan

Like all the other “cream” flavors, strawberries and cream contains whey, which alone makes it not vegan.

There are a few other concerns as well in its list of ingredients:

  • Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Creaming Agent (Maltodextrin, Sunflower And Palm Oils, Whey, Sodium Caseinate), Flavored And Colored Fruit Pieces (Dehydrated Apples, Artificial Strawberry Flavor, Citric Acid, Red 40), Salt, Guar Gum, Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid, Niacinamide, Vitamin A Palmitate, Reduced Iron, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid

Summary: Which Quaker Instant Oatmeal Flavors Are Vegan?

This certainly wasn’t the most straightforward topic, so it’s understandable if you’re confused. If you have any questions just leave them in a comment below.

For now, let me try to sum things up.

If you don’t consider “sugar” to be vegan, then only the original flavor is vegan.

But we’ll assume that Quaker doesn’t use bone char to process their sugar, and that “natural flavor” is probably vegan in this case.

Based on all that, here’s what we’d probably settle on:

Flavor Verdict
Apple & Cranberries Packets are possibly vegan, but cup version is not.
Apples and Cinnamon Both packets and cups are possibly vegan.
Banana & Maple Possibly vegan
Blueberries & Cream Not vegan
Cinnamon and Spice Possibly vegan
Coconut & Caramel Possibly vegan
Honey & Almonds Not vegan
Maple and Brown Sugar Both packets and cups are possibly vegan.
Original Vegan
Peaches and Cream Not vegan
Peanut Butter & Honey Not vegan
Peanut Butter & Banana Possibly vegan
Pumpkin Spice Not vegan
Raisins and Spice Possibly vegan
Raisin, Date and Walnut Vegan
Strawberries and Cream Not vegan

I wish I could be more certain, but only Quaker knows the answers to some of these questions, and they haven’t clearly answered most of the questions that I contacted customer support with.

So for now, this is the best I can answer the original question.

About the author

Dale C.

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance writer. Trying to do my small part in making the world better by writing about the wonderful world of veganism.

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