This is a follow-up to Lauren’s previous travel guide, 10 Tips for Eating Oatmeal When Traveling. Wendy, a regular reader on the blog, has some more ideas to share. You truly can have oatmeal whenever, wherever!
Hi fellow oatmeal lovers! I’m Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan, and I love to travel to new parts of the world I’ve never seen before. Contrary to what you might imagine, since I became vegan I’ve found that it’s generally quite easy to find healthy and tasty vegan food while travelling, even in countries where the traditional cuisine is not that vegan-friendly. Even so, I do like to be prepared to make a meal for myself here and there if I need to, and I’ve found that overnight oatmeal is the perfect meal to take on the road and can be made practically anywhere. Also, I just really love oats (don’t we all??), so I end up making this for breakfast most days, no matter where I’m travelling. It took a bit of experimentation to get it right, though; when I first tried overnight oats I didn’t really like them that much, at least not compared with stove-top. Through trial and error I finally got my overnight oats just about perfect, and I’d like share what I’ve learned with you so that all you oatmeal addicts can also have oats wherever you go.
First, let’s dispel a couple of myths about overnight oats.
Myth No. 1: Overnight oats must be soaked overnight.
That’s right. It turns out that “overnight oats” is a bit of a misnomer, because you don’t have to soak them overnight. You can, of course, but it’s not necessary. Three hours or so should be plenty for your oats to plump up.
Myth No. 2: Overnight oats must be soaked in a refrigerator.
While you might as well throw them in the minibar if your hotel room has one, you’re not going to get food poisoning and die if you don’t. They’ll be fine just hanging out on your bedside table, and in fact they’ll soak even more quickly at room temperature than if chilled. Note that I’m talking about vegan varieties of overnight oats here; I can’t say what might happen if you let cow’s milk sit out for too long.
OK, so this is looking promising so far as a portable, go-anywhere meal, since we don’t need a refrigerator or a cooking device of any kind. So what do we need? Basically, the necessary ingredients can be broken down into four general categories.
Ingredient No. 1: Oats!
This one’s pretty obvious. When making overnight oatmeal, my personal preference is for rolled oats rather than steel-cut. They are also more widely available, so depending on where you’re travelling they may be your only option.
Ingredient No. 2: Liquid
At home, I almost always make oats with soy milk, occasionally with coconut milk, but never with water. The idea of watery oats seemed really unappealing, but I knew that I would not always have access to plant-based milk when travelling. So what to do? The solution is powdered plant-based milk. Yep, it exists! While it’s often sold in health food stores, you can probably find soy and coconut varieties in an Asian market for much cheaper. I’ve even seen powdered coconut milk in the “ethnic food” section of my regular neighbourhood grocery store. But if you can’t get powdered milk, then, to borrow one of Lauren’s ideas, tea-steeped oats can also be really great, though I’d recommend a fruity tea or one with lots of spices. Fruit juice works too, though I try not to use it too often as it’s not a whole food. If none of those options are available to you, then yes, you can use just plain water, but in that case I highly recommend Ingredient No. 3 (if you’re using a liquid other than water, then this step is optional).
Ingredient No. 3: Flavour enhancer
No, I’m not talking about MSG or any other weird chemical that doesn’t belong in your food. I just mean something with flavour that will permeate the whole bowl of oats. One great option is PB2, which, as a side note, is a vegan traveller’s best friend. Now don’t get me wrong; I love real, whole, full-fat peanut butter, and when I’m at home that’s what I eat. Years before the invention of PB2, I even lugged around a jar of peanut butter on a 25-day trek through the Himalayas in Nepal, and I didn’t regret it for a second. Peanut butter and crackers was what got me out of bed at the crack of dawn every morning on that trip (along with the dawn itself, which was pretty incredible). But there are times when you don’t want to carry half your weight in peanut butter, and now you don’t have to. PB2 weighs next to nothing, and it can stay in your backpack for months without going bad. What do you do when you ask for a vegan meal in a restaurant all you get is a plate of tasteless, boiled vegetables? Bust out your PB2, add a little extra water to turn it into a sauce, and BOOM! Those boring vegetables just became a tasty gado-gado. No matter what unappetizing dish might appear in front of you, odds are that PB2 will give it the extra zing it needs.
But anyway, back to oatmeal. Add a tablespoon or two of PB2 to your oats, and you’ll have yummy peanut buttery goodness in every bite. Another option is applesauce, which is often sold in handy individual packets that are just small enough to make it through airport security. And of course, you could always just mash up a piece of soft fruit yourself; bananas and kiwis work well for this.
Ingredient No. 4 Bulk
When I first tried overnight oats, what put me off was that the portion looked so puny compared to a serving of stove-top oatmeal. This is understandable, since it’s generally recommended to use half the amount of liquid when soaking overnight as you would when cooking oats on the stove. Over time, though, I’ve discovered a couple of tricks that will allow you to add almost as much liquid as you would for stove-top, which really helps to bulk up your bowl of oats. The first trick is chia seeds. These little guys just love to soak up liquid and will expand to several times their original weight and size when immersed. It’s true that they’re more of a specialty product and thus might be hard to find when travelling, but this is one pantry staple that I’m happy to carry around with me. Since you’ll only be using a tablespoon or so at a time, they’ll last you a long while. And, unlike flax seeds, they don’t have to be ground up and therefore don’t go rancid easily. But if I haven’t sold you on chia seeds, you could try shredded coconut, or even coconut flour, for the same effect. Coconut in either of these forms will also soak up a lot of liquid.
And that’s it! You can now have a delicious, satisfying bowl of oats wherever you go in just a few easy steps. To see how this works in practice, let’s take Lauren’s recipe for Applesauce PB2 Overnight Oatmeal as an example. If you’re heading off on just a short trip, you can prepare your ingredients for each day’s oatmeal in advance.
In this case, I mixed the oats, PB2, chia seeds and a pinch of salt in a plastic baggy. After that, all I had left to pack was the sachet of powdered soy milk and the applesauce. You could probably even mix the powdered soy straight in with the other dry ingredients if you wanted to. Throw them all together with some water and, voilá! You’ve got oatmeal!
If you’re setting out on a longer trip, then obviously you’ll need to pick and choose which ingredients to bring with you. The great thing is, though, that oats are available just about everywhere, so you can replenish your stocks as you go. And, while you might not find all the other ingredients mentioned here, no matter where you are you should be able to find at least one from each category, which is all you need. And of course, in addition to the basics described here, you can add whatever local fresh fruit or other ingredients you come across.
So, whether you’re lounging on a beach in Costa Rica, climbing a volcano in Indonesia, or even suffering through an 81-hour bus ride across West Africa (in which case, dear Lord, do I feel your pain), you can take comfort in the knowledge that a creamy bowl of oats is right at your fingertips.
Have you ever made your own oats while travelling? What’s the most exotic locale where you’ve fuelled up on a bowl of oatmeal? I’d love to hear about your own experiences in the comments section below!
Wendy is a long-time traveller who loves to explore new places, languages and cultures. She shares her own travel stories along with tips for making vegan travel healthy, fun and easy at The Nomadic Vegan. You can also follower her on Facebook and Twitter.