By Erik Marcus
If you’re looking for delicious and popular vegan breakfast foods, we’ve got tons of fantastic possibilities here. So, what do vegans eat for breakfast anyway? Let’s start with the easy stuff, and work our way up to more elaborate meals.
Breads, Bagels, & Muffins
Breads of various types are among the most commonly-served breakfast items. Many varieties are vegan. Plain old toast, or—if you want to get a little fancier—English Muffins, are excellent choices. As always, breads made primarily from whole grains are the healthier choice. Here are a few excellent spreads:
Bagels—usually halved, toasted, and smeared with cream cheese or butter—are incredibly popular in New England. It’s even widely believed that New York City’s water supply makes for a better bagel than you can get elsewhere. If you’ve got a slot toaster and some vegan cream cheese, vegan butter, or jam, you can buy bagels at your grocery in bags of six and there’s no cheaper breakfast to make at home.
Bagel shops are also beloved fixtures in college towns throughout the United States. Many bagel shops offer vegan cream cheese or butter. Nearly all bagels are vegan—just watch out for yellowish “egg bagels” or honey added to the whole wheat varieties.
You may also be able to find vegan muffins locally, although this is a less healthy option since they tend to contain lots of sugar. Croissants are another wonderful breakfast food, but they’re traditionally made with lots of butter. While you may have a tough time finding vegan croissants available for purchase, you can always bake your own. Here’s a recipe with lots of helpful photos, and you’ll find a number of other recipes if you do a search for vegan croissants.
Yogurt is a delicious and super-quick vegan breakfast option, and you’ll find no shortage of dairy-free yogurt brands at your local natural food store. Soy is the most popular base for commercially-produced vegan yogurt, but you can also find products made from almond milk and other nut milks. For the tastiest possible breakfast, consider buying plain unsweetened vegan yogurt and then stirring in chopped fresh fruit.
You can also make your own yogurt from scratch using your favorite vegan milk and some yogurt starter. Some Instant Pots have a yogurt setting, and you could also buy an inexpensive yogurt maker. In summer months, you can go old-school using nothing more than a mason jar and a warm window sill.
Many breakfast cereals are vegan, so just add a little soy milk or almond milk and you’re in business. If you use an unsweetened vegan milk, you’ll cut your meal’s sugar intake dramatically. In order to keep blood sugar levels steady, it’s especially important to avoid sugars early in the day. I’m a big fan of organic puffed brown rice, which is basically Rice Krispies without the junk. Along with soy milk I consider this the finest simple breakfast imaginable.
When it comes to cold cereal, Nature’s Path deserves a special shout-out. While some of their products contain honey, all their cereals are whole-grain and organic.
If you want a hot, simple, and filling vegan breakfast, oatmeal is a great choice. Steel cut oats take longer than rolled oats to cook, but many people consider the improved texture worth the added time. Kathy Hester has devoted an entire cookbook to vegan oatmeal recipes. And oatmeal is just the start of your hot cereal options. Also be sure to try:
- Cream of Wheat
- Bob’s Red Mill Cream of Buckwheat
Hot cereals offer a great opportunity to add in chopped walnuts or chia seeds, both of which contain plenty of omega 3s—an important type of fat that is abundant in very few vegan foods. Also try adding chopped dates, cinnamon, or maple syrup to your whole-grain hot cereal. And for a nice change of pace, also try muesli, which is delicious served hot or cold.
One of the easiest breakfasts is a smoothie made from frozen fruit and your favorite nut milk. You can make these in your blender in less than a minute and it’s a terrific way to start the day.
Practically everyone loves Mexican food, and breakfasts from this cuisine are uniquely satisfying.
You can make a tofu scramble with Mexican spices. Vegan enfrijoladas feature corn tortillas stuffed with mashed potatoes and veggies served in a refried bean sauce.
For my money, the very best vegan breakfast item is a Mexican dish called molletes. Made traditionally, this is bread slices topped with refried beans, meat, and cheese and then baked. But you can make a fantastic vegan version with refrieds, vegan cheese, chopped onions, and a spoonful or two of salsa. Avocado slices added after baking will further elevate this wonderful dish. I really don’t think there’s a more satisfying or delicious breakfast, and it’s so easy to make.
Since vegan molletes are rich in protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats, they’ll easily carry you through the morning and to lunch. They’re ideally made with bolillos, a single-serving baguette-style Mexican bread.
I’ve written an extensive guide to vegan Mexican food that features the breakfasts featured here.
Vegan Breakfast Meats
In Mexico moist and spicy type of sausage called “chorizo” is commonly added to eggs and other breakfast foods. Unlike most sausage, chorizo’s casing isn’t edible. Instead, you squeeze it from its (often plastic) casing prior to cooking. Check the refrigerated section of your natural food store to see if they carry vegan chorizo, which makes a sensational addition to tofu scramble.
Special Vegan Breakfasts
Want to get fancier? Our vegan brunch page offers all sorts of delicious possibilities that are a little too time-consuming (and gut-busting) for everyday cooking.
There are countless recipes for vegan pancakes, french toast, and waffles. For a nutritious alternative to conventional syrup, make a fruit syrup by blending peaches or berries with a little water. In winter months, you can get excellent results by using frozen fruit.
Orange juice, tea, or coffee, are popular breakfast beverages. Vegan milks, if made from soy or peas, will dramatically boost the protein in your meal. Keep in mind that many brands contain lots of sugar—which is especially unwise to consume first thing in the morning—so consider choosing an unsweetened variety.
If you prefer cream in your coffee, your local natural foods store doubtless carries outstanding vegan coffee creamers in its dairy case.
Most of the breakfast recommendations we’ve just reviewed keep sugar content to a minimum. You don’t have to be perfect, but a little attention can yield big benefits. Avoiding sweetened breakfast foods when possible, as well as abstaining from putting sugar in your coffee, makes great sense.
Many people are prone to high blood sugar when they wake up. So compounding the problem by eating sugary foods for breakfast can, over time, screw up your pancreas and lead to diabetes.
Unfortunately, some of the most popular breakfast foods contain loads of sugar: doughnuts, muffins, pancake syrup, jam, and even fruit smoothies. Orange juice is the quintessential breakfast beverage—and a glass of it contains as much sugar as a candy bar.
For better health, try to minimize sugary foods first thing in the morning. You’ll probably find your energy throughout the morning is more stable if you avoid sugar, plus you’ll appreciably reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
Vegan Breakfast Cookbooks
Several vegan cookbooks specialize in breakfast. If you want to pull out all the stops for a fancy breakfast or a weekend brunch, get ahold of:
- The Ultimate Vegan Breakfast Book, by Horn and Mayer
- Vegan Brunch, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
- The Global Vegan Waffle Cookbook, by Dave Wheitner
- Easy Vegan Breakfasts & Lunches, by Maya Sozer