Quaker Instant Oatmeal is likely one of the most popular oatmeal products in the United States. When your average person thinks about oatmeal, they probably have a vision of that handsome gentleman that adorns Quaker oats products. You have likely at least tried one or two flavors yourself at some point in your life. I thought it would be fun to do some small reviews of each flavor currently available in the US.
Keep in mind, Quaker Instant Oatmeal, while often tasty, is not the best option for your health. They do tend to come equipped with higher than average levels of sugar and some added preservatives. In general, I tend to preference steel cut oats. With this said, for some, instant oatmeal is preferable just because of the convenience - and this is difficult to ignore.
For these tests, I have tried each of the instant oatmeal flavors both in "instant" fashion (just add warm water and stir) and with use of the microwave. They both produce different taste experiences, but ultimately are much shorter cooking times than preparing a 30 minute bowl of oats the old fashioned way.
For the vegan readers out there, keep in mind that not all flavor options are "vegan friendly." Some include dairy or other animal products - so it is important to be aware when these products sneak into our oatmeal cereal. There are also a few products that have a large ingredient list - much of which is derived from complex artificial substances that it is hard to recommend to anyone! The bulk of this dietary information comes from reviewing the boxes I purchased myself, checking Quaker Oat's website, and through additional information provided through other online sources and reviews (such as Amazon).
A quick note: I use affiliate links to Amazon throughout this article - if you click on them and choose to purchase something, I will make a small commission for your sale. These proceeds help to support the longevity of Plant-Smart Living and producing pieces of content for our website, recipe guide, and YouTube channel. Thanks for your support if you choose to do so!!
Quaker Instant Oatmeal - Put to a Taste Test
Vegan Instant Oatmeal Options:
Below are a list of vegan Quaker instant oatmeal options. They are classified as vegan because they do not have animal products included in their ingredient list. Keep in mind, just because they are "vegan" does not necessarily mean they are healthy, however from my review of the many, many instant oatmeal options available - these do tend to be the best for your diet.
Easily one of the most accessible instant oatmeal options is the regular, plain old oatmeal. No additional flavorings are included to spice things up. Naturally, Quaker oats tend to taste very good on their own - and this allows you to add your own toppings more easily. As you can imagine, there is a lower sugar level naturally as most of the other flavor options provided by Quaker Oatmeal tend to make their hot cereals more in tune with consumer demand for sugar in the morning.
5/5 - Buy on Amazon
Maple and Brown Sugar
The addition of maple and brown sugar to oatmeal is really a fundamental classic when it comes to flavoring oats. These are natural and organic sweeteners that provide some serious sweetness. Of course, with Quaker instant oatmeal you have no control over the quantity, and this is where someone who does not like too much sugar may have some problems. Still, as an occasional treat and for something even more convenient than adding brown sugar and maple syrup on my own, it's a great option!
4/5 - Buy on Amazon
Apples and Cinnamon
One of my favorite super quick breakfast options is Quaker's apples and cinnamon instant oatmeal. They really managed to hit all of the right notes here, and found a great balance between the light, sweet, fruity flavor of the apple bits paired with the all consuming cinnamon. As with others, the sugar level is high and is noticeable, though.
Fortunately, this option comes in a reduced sugar option - which I would highly recommend as the taste is very similar, though less sugar and calorie content.
5/5 - Buy on Amazon
Raisins and Spice
Raisins are a truly excellent oatmeal additive. They provide a natural sweetness, though often some companies add additional sugar to make them more enticing (as is likely the case here). I wish the ingredient list would include some of the specific "spices" used - instead it just lists "spice" as an ingredient, which isn't saying much. I assume Quaker is using a unique blend that helps set themselves apart from the competition.
One struggle many people are having is the availability of this flavor. Fortunately, all Quaker instant rolled oatmeals are available online, and can often be found at a more affordable cost this way - especially when you buy in bulk!
4/5 - Buy on Amazon
Cinnamon and Spice
The nice thing about the previous two instant oatmeal flavors were the added fruits - something many people seem to be lacking in their diets (especially if you are not yet "plant-based." While this flavoring is not bad - it is lacking some of the added texture and fruity elements. It is as if they decided to pull out the added spices and just create a new oatmeal option. If you have some aversion to fruit, this may work well for you, but it misses just a little bit in my eyes.
3.5/5 - Buy on Amazon
Quaker's cinnamon & pecan instant oatmeal is actually quite satisfying. However, the biggest problem is that it does not sit nicely within my low-fat vegan diet as I try to limit unnecessary fat consumption. Unfortunately, pecans (like most nuts) provide a high level of fat. Basic nutritional facts indicate 1 cup of pecans provide 684 calories and 71 grams of fat. This is really ridiculous by any standards.
In the oatmeal, pecans are used sparingly so as to not bring up the caloric levels per serving, but for some this could lead to a slippery slope towards eating unhealthily - yes, even if it is vegan appropriate!
3/5 - Buy on Amazon
Raisins, Dates, and Walnuts
There are some serious pros and cons about this instant oatmeal option. Because of the diversity of the additives, it provides a different texture sensation (what foodies would call "mouth feel") than most other instant rolled oats. It is really a great blend of chunky, chewy, sweet, and crunchy. Despite the many additives, Quaker has managed to find a nice balance that is not excessively sweet as can be the case with many of their other offerings.
The downside to this if you are trying to limit fats and/or stay away from nuts is the inclusion of walnuts. Fortunately, they are used sparingly and they do not make too much of an impact on the overall breakfast package.
3.5/5 - Buy on Amazon
Apples and Cranberries
The balance of sweet and sour tones coming from these fruits makes for another potentially great oatmeal blend, however this falls short because of inconsistencies in the packaging department.
Many reviewers online have indicated problems with too few cranberries (or none at all) showing up in their packets, and others have complained about only apple core pieces being a part of their oatmeal. In my case, while taste testing this option, I did not encounter a comparable problem - but it appears to be a more widespread one than would just be the result of poor quality assurance standards.
In terms of my experience with this offering, the apples and cranberries did a nice job providing something different - but it doesn't really stand out as an instant oats option I would want to return too over and over again. Not bad, but not great either.
3.5/5 - Buy on Amazon
The availability of cinnamon roll instant oatmeal is pretty low these days from what I am reading online. I was not able to find it fresh at the grocery store, however recall trying it a while back and thought I could still add some quick thoughts in case you were able to find some yourself.
Pure and simple, this flavor of oatmeal tends to be unnecessary. It is one of the sweeter offerings, and while this might appease those really looking to replicate eating an actual cinnamon bun, I didn't really care for it. I think there are enough other options available with cinnamon as the basis that are far better in taste.
2.5/5 - Buy on Amazon
Banana bread is a unique option that is only available in the Quaker Bakery Favorites Variety Pack or in the Banana Bread Weight Control package. I'm not sure why it isn't for purchase on it's own - especially given how popular something with a simple fruit could become.
I suppose this is where the first problem comes into play - there are no actual banana pieces in this oatmeal (unlike the apple products). The banana component is a literal "flavoring" additive derived from banana flake powder. If you can get past this and some of the additional artificial elements, it actually does manage to taste pretty good. Again, if you are like me, you may find yourself comparing it to the "real thing" of home cooked oats and freshly chopped bananas, and you will likely be disappointed, but not a bad option if you need some banana oatmeal that can be prepared in 30 seconds!
3.5/5 - Buy on Amazon
I was actually surprised this pumpkin spice instant oatmeal was vegan compliant, given that I have learned that many pumpkin spice options provided in different foods and drinks tend to include many additives and some dairy as is the case with a certain beloved Starbucks drink. With this said, the taste is pretty good but is noticeably light on the pumpkin, and heavier on the spice. Some other reviewers online have pointed out it basically smells and tastes like cinnamon, and that is pretty accurate in my experience. Not a bad choice, especially if you catch it during it's limited run time during the fall season (or buy some online year round), but nothing mind blowing.
3.5/5 - Buy on Amazon
Vegetarian Instant Oatmeal Options:
Given that the plant-based diet spans a number of different dietary lifestyles - most simply "vegan" and "vegetarian" and a number of things in between - I thought I would include some additional instant oatmeal offerings from Quaker Oatmeal that would be acceptable for vegetarians - ie: those eating primarily plant-based but also open to consuming dairy.
Keep in mind, I do not advocate for eating dairy and have researched the negative effects it can have on the body, but everyone is able to make their own decision on this matter. I do come with my own biases against it, though, and will not be the best source for an objective perspective on these.
Still, if you value your health, you may be able to find something I say of use!
This one actually surprised me - I had expected based on the name that it would be something fattening and filled with excessive and unnecessary ingredients. Instead, honey bun instant oatmeal really just provides an opportunity to use honey as a natural sweetener, something I occasionally use in my homemade oats.
If you are open to consuming honey, this is actually a reasonable option! I still think I can make it better from scratch with boiled steel cut oats + locally sourced honey, but this can do in a pinch!
This is classified as vegetarian because honey is a byproduct of bees - some people consider it okay on a vegan diet regardless, but just thought I'd separate it so you can be sure you are making the appropriate decision for your health needs.
4/5 - Buy on Amazon
Strawberries and Cream
I am actually pretty disappointed that the first (and only) oatmeal offering that includes strawberries also includes dairy cream. I cannot in good conscious recommend this one given the inclusion of dairy - but in terms of pure taste it is quite good. I think it is a strange contradiction that on the Quaker website for just about every one of their products they leave a note: "Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods and low in cholesterol and saturated fat may help reduce the risk of heart disease."
I'd say just leave it plant-based, or replace the dairy milk with a plant-based milk substitute!
2/5 - Buy on Amazon
Not Safe for a Plant-Based Diet:
There are a few instant oatmeal options that are really just not healthy for you at all - regardless of your diet. This really boils down to having excessively long ingredient lists, unnecessary and often artificial additives, and even some plainly false advertising (like the faux blueberries discussed below). Sure, some of them might taste alright or be appealing to our kids, but given that there are so many higher quality instant oat options, I don't see why anyone would go down this road if they are trying to better their health.
These really are like the fast food of the instant oatmeal industry - not something that is said lightly given that even the best products take about 30 seconds to prepare with some water!
A quick note: While much of this article has included referral links for which I would make a commission, I am actively against promoting products that I cannot stand behind or support. In the case of these products, I do not think they add any value to your life, and cannot recommend them as even remotely healthy options. For this reason, I have not included such links.
Dinosaur Eggs Brown Sugar
At first glance, the Dinosaur Egg shapes and fun cartoon character on the packaging will be instantly attractive if you have children. Many of us know that children can be picky eaters, especially if their diets are not regulated well from a very young age.
Like many breakfast cereals, Quaker has produced a product that is high on the sugar to make it attractive to youngsters. Unfortunately, while most of the product is normal fair and relatively healthy (just simply rolled oats with brown sugar), the "dinosaur eggs" themselves are the main thing to worry about.
These pieces are artificially produced out of sugar and other mysterious additives. Just to name a few: magnesium stearate, red 40 lake, titanium dioxide, etc. Some of these components are just not "whole foods" sources by any stretch of the imagination - and some are purely synthetic (ie: created in a lab). They tend to function as preservatives or to make food more visually appealing, but as a result have some potent side effects on our health.
As a simple example, look at how red #40 lake dye can negatively impact your health. Skip this one!
Strawberry Adventure Animals
It seems that products specifically geared towards kids are the worst options on the list. On one hand, this doesn't come as much of a surprise given how much of the breakfast foods market is made up of processed sugary cereals with cartoon characters designed to get kids interested. The problem here is the same as with the Dinosaur Eggs - a lot of unneeded additives that are potentially very unhealthy.
Peaches and Cream
Going into this instant oatmeal option, I expected similar characteristics as the Strawberries & Cream oatmeal. That is: a small list of ingredients with just a few I don't care for. Instead, the ingredient list is pretty hefty on this package, and it even notes that a good chunk of artificial additives are included. For vegans, watch out for whey and other dairy products. Some of the additives - like unnecessary food coloring - take it into a territory that is really unhealthy. There are many preferable instant oatmeal options over this one.
Blueberries and Cream
One of the most disappointing options is the Blueberries & Cream. I am actually a big fan of adding berries to my oatmeal - it is just the natural result of having a great organic sweetening opportunity. There are multiple problems with this instant oatmeal product, though. First off, the inclusion of excessive additives and dairy products. The biggest problem, though, is there are no real blueberries in this! All that is included is blueberry flavoring - most of which is attached to figs. This may as well be called "blueberry flavored fig oatmeal."
Bananas and Cream
I'm not sure how much more value I can add as there is a noticeable trend here - basically all of the "... and Cream" products are not good options for vegans, and frankly, even for vegetarians given the unneeded additives. Like the blueberries and cream instant oatmeal - these packets are only available in the Fruit and Cream Variety Pack - something you should stay away from in exchange for other more health-conscious options.
Unlike the Apple Cinnamon option that I consider to be one of the best Quaker instant oatmeals, Apple Crisp really manages to provide you with an unnecessary alternative, and one that is loaded with unneeded sweeteners, artificial ingredients, and dairy milk. The taste is okay, but pales in comparison to the superior Apple Cinnamon.
Quaker Instant Oatmeal has some great, classic options. Unfortunately, it also has many mediocre options - and worse still, a few that are just plainly not good for your health. At the end of the day, there are just a few packets that I really enjoy and can come back to again and again like the Apple Cinnamon and Maple & Brown Sugar. Still, variety is the spice of life (sometimes literally in an oatmeal sense!), and it is valuable to know what you can expect before you buy.
So, what is your favorite instant oatmeal? Do you enjoy Quaker Oats or do you prefer another brand name?