Hey, you KNOW you’re curious about this one! With this baked protein oatmeal, we’re going to “beef” up the nutrition of your boring morning oats. This might be the weirdest breakfast you’ve never eaten that is made with entirely common ingredients! It’s beefy, it’s cheesy, it’s strangely delicious! Why not shake up the status quo on what breakfast should be with this savory breakfast protein loaf?
In my proats recipe (AKA “protein oats”), I promised that I’d have a savory proats dish up for you soon. Well, that day has arrived. Let me tell ya, I’ve definitely engaged in some out-of-the-box thinking with this savory breakfast oat bake.
How did I get to this point?
A few weeks ago, a fellow dietitian shared a really interesting recipe for chocolate beefy brownies. In this recipe, all of the white flour had been replaced by cooked ground beef that had been ground in a food processor. She claimed that they turned out well, but good taste isn’t the only benefit.
Health-wise, replacing your white flour with beef bumps up the protein, vitamin B12, and highly bioavailable heme iron (the kind in animal-based foods). It seemed like a win all around to me!
And it got me thinking, what other classic dishes could benefit from the nutrition that beef provides? That is how my journey began in creating beef oatmeal (or oats de boeuf, because it sounds better).
Oatmeal is the perfect contender for the addition of beef because oats are not a rich source of protein. The beef helps to make this a one-pan meal that you don’t have to add protein-packed side dishes to.
Isn’t this protein baked oatmeal just a meatloaf in disguise?
The concept of beef oats loses some novelty when you think of another dish where these two foods are commonly paired: meatloaf. Indeed, my son remarked that this pretty much tastes like a meatloaf!
It isn’t really correct to think of it as a meatloaf, though. That's because you’re getting a far larger volume of oats than meat. It’s more of an oatloaf with meat, as opposed to a meatloaf with oats.
I was also kind of impressed with how much this tasted like a meatloaf. It was surprising that there are only two ounces of beef per serving. (Actually, two ounces of beef is the raw weight; you get even less once you cook it.)
I don’t typically want a big and meaty meal first thing in the morning. However, I do want to get a high-protein breakfast in. While a meatloaf may be what I want later in the day, this high-protein, no sugar oat bake fits well into my mornings.
By the way, the beef isn’t the only protein-packed food in this recipe. We’ve also incorporated some cheese and eggs. Meat, dairy, and eggs are all super options for adding whole food sources of high-quality protein to your savory oatmeal recipes.
Another benefit of making savory oat bakes (versus typical sweet oatmeal bakes) is that vegetables are a natural fit. In this baked protein oatmeal, I’m using zucchini, onions, and jalapeno. Here’s what you need to make this beef oat bake:
The ingredients shown above are what you need to make the basic baked oatmeal without toppings. I chose to add some barbecue sauce, garlic chives, and a bit of crumbly bacon to make the dish extra special. Check out my video below, where I cover how to make baked protein oats from start to finish!
So now the million-dollar question. Are these baked protein oats healthier than a meatloaf?
Dietitians get questions all of the time that go something like this…
- Which is healthier, cheddar cheese or pepper jack cheese?
- Oatmeal is “healthier” than meat, right? So, replacing my meat as much as possible with oats is healthy, right?
OK. So, for question A, instead of trying to rank foods that have remarkably similar nutritional profiles, enjoy a variety of cheeses. Or just go for the ones you enjoy the most if you don’t like certain types of cheese.
Question B is trying to compare whole foods from different food groups that aren’t suitable nutritional substitutions for each other. It’s like trying to compare apples and oranges (but even worse, since at least apples and oranges are in the same food group).
The truth is that oats aren’t always healthier than beef. Likewise, beef is not always healthier than oats. Context is always critical when we’re having a conversation about nutrition.
There are some circumstances where a loaf with more beef than oats may be the healthier option.
Note that I’m generally talking about shifting to more beef and less oats, not wholly replacing one or the other. Here are a few examples (none of these constitute personal medical advice):
- You are using a low-carb approach to help manage your type 2 diabetes (leaving the oats out of a meatloaf might actually be best in this case)
- You struggle with iron deficiency (beef contains a more highly bioavailable type of iron than oats)
- A health goal of yours is to have meals that are higher in protein (beef is a rich source of high-quality protein; oats are not a member of the protein group)
- Your diet tends to be low in vitamin B12 (this nutrient is not naturally present in plant-based foods, such as oats)
For others, a loaf with more oats than beef may be the better choice.
As I mentioned above, I don’t tend to want a big meaty meal right when I wake up. My taste preferences have dictated that this savory oat loaf might be the best choice for me (at least sometimes).
There are lots of other reasons that someone may opt for a no added sugar oat loaf that contains less meat. (A reverse meatloaf? lol) Here are a few of reasons:
- You are trying to lower your LDL cholesterol levels
- A health goal of yours is to increase the fiber in your diet and lower the saturated fat
- Oats are less expensive than beef; including more oats and less beef may be kinder to your grocery budget
Either can be “healthier,” depending on the circumstances. However, beef and oats cannot serve as a complete replacement for the other nutritionally. I would consider both to be healthy foods, and I enjoy both oats and beef fairly regularly in my diet.
Trying to rank healthy whole food options can be detrimental in some circumstances. The item deemed “healthier” may not be what is healthier for you. Also, always choosing whatever you believe is the “healthier” option can lead to unnecessary food restrictions (and potential nutrient deficiencies).
Alright, enough with the talk. Let’s learn to make this baked protein oatmeal! The recipe video should make things easier for the visual learners out there (plus the music is kind of fun lol).
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to this post. Let's get cooking!
Baked Protein Oatmeal (with a Secret Ingredient!)
- ½ lb. lean ground beef
- 2 cups rolled oats, dry
- 1 cup hot vegetable broth
- ½ medium zucchini, shredded (I used 6.7 ounces of zucchini in this recipe)
- ½ medium red onion, grated
- 1 jalapeno, seeded, finely chopped
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 3 tablespoons dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese
- cooking oil spray of choice
- 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce (choose one that has no added sugar)
- 2 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled (choose one that has no added sugar)
- 1 tablespoon garlic chives or scallions
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mist an 8"x8" glass baking dish with cooking oil spray.
- Pour the hot vegetable broth on the rolled oats and let them soak.
- Cook the ground beef over medium heat in your skillet, breaking it up with a spatula as it browns. When it has finished cooking, grind the beef finer in a food processor.
- Add the beef, soaked oats, zucchini, onion, jalapeno, eggs, soy sauce, mustard, parsley, garlic powder, and black pepper to a large bowl. Mix well. (Watch the video below!)
- Transfer the oatmeal mixture to your prepared baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
- Top the baked protein oatmeal with the pepper jack cheese. Bake an additional 5 minutes.
- After baking, you can add the optional toppings, if desired. Enjoy your oatmeal bake while it is still warm!
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). Without the toppings, this dish offers 436 calories and around 30g of satiating protein per serving. The toppings only add about 35 calories per serving (depending on the barbecue sauce you use). I would consider this one an excellent way to start the day if you have a fat loss goal. It’s a well-balanced meal that should keep you going strong until lunchtime. Per Cronometer, each serving of this recipe contains under 100 calories of lean beef that provides 11.8g of protein. Lean ground beef is a healthy and convenient way to pack more complete protein into your meals. There’s no need to fear it! Nutrition information is for one serving of the recipe.
Today, I’ve taken two classics, beef and oats, and melded them together to make an utterly delicious beefy oat baby. I think I’ve grown as a cook as a result of this recipe. Please don’t laugh until you try it!
If you’re looking to expand your options for (relatively) high-protein oatmeal, this might be a good one for you! My preference is to get my protein from whole foods rather than protein powders and other supplements. Beef is an excellent “real food” way to get some additional protein into meals.
So now a couple of questions for you…
- What’s the strangest thing you’ve had for breakfast lately?
- What are your thoughts on beef oatmeal? Have I finally gone too far? Haha
Drop me a comment below, and don’t forget to let me know if you try this baked protein oatmeal. I would love to hear whether you and your family enjoyed it!
Long live the #BeefOats! (LMAO)