Traditional Irish Leek and Oatmeal Broth, or Brotchan Roi, is a humble soup, that has been sustaining good Irish folks for centuries. It is prepared with just 5 ingredients but is full or flavour, nutrition, and like many soups of old - prepared with plant-based ingredients. Milky oatmeal broth enriched with fresh leeks is especially good for anyone who is feeling under-the-weather and in need of a nourishing meal that is comforting, warming, and wholesome, and gentle on the stomach.
Having a St Patrick's Day [17th March] or Irish themed meal? Irish leek and oatmeal broth is a tasty traditional addition and has the added bonus of being a lovely green coloured soup!
Why should I prepare a pot of leek and oatmeal broth?
- Preparing this broth is like taking a food journey through Irish history. This traditional dish has nourished generations for centuries so you can have a taste of Irish history.
- With just 5 ingredients this broth showcases humble Irish flavours of leeks and oatmeal.
- Both leeks and oatmeal bring a wealth of nutrients to the soup pot. Leeks are a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, while oatmeal is rich in fiber, aiding in digestion and promoting heart health.
- This broth serves as a comforting meal when you're feeling under the weather, need a light appetizer or snack, or a satisfying main when paired with crusty bread or a hearty sandwich.
- In a world increasingly moving towards plant-based diets for health, environmental, and ethical reasons, this broth is the perfect introduction to vegan diets.
- While the traditional recipe is simple, you can easily add extra flavours. Whether you want to add herbs, adjust the consistency, or experiment with different plant-based milks, the broth is easily adapted.
- Especially on chilly days, there's nothing quite like the warmth and comfort that a pot of simmering wholesome broth brings. It's a hug in a bowl, offering solace and warmth.
Quick history of Irish leek & oatmeal broth
Irish Leek and Oatmeal Broth, often referred to as "Brotchan Roy" or "Brotchan Foltchep", has been a traditional Irish dish for centuries.
Brotchan is an Irish word and translates to broth while Roi means king or chief, so the Irish name for this broth is actually King or Chief Soup.
Oats have been a staple in the Irish diet for centuries as the cool, damp climate of Ireland is perfect for growing oats. Before the widespread cultivation of potatoes, oats, along with barley, were the primary grains grown. They were used to make various dishes, from porridge to bread, and of course, broths. Irish leek and oatmeal broth dates back to at least 6th century Ireland where the three most popular foods from that time was leeks, oats and milk.
Leeks have also been cultivated in Ireland for a long time, as they were favoured for their ability to thrive within the Irish climate, and with the added bonus that they could be easily stored during the colder months.
Leek and oatmeal broth would have provided the poorer folks with lots of nutrition and filled hungry bellies with the affordable trinity of leeks, oats and milk, so calling it king soup is very apt as it was likely a staple broth. The broth was also considered to have healing qualities so was a popular sick bed broth.
Leek and oatmeal broth has also been referred to as a druid soup as this dish was popular with the Irish druids that are part of Irelands Celtic culture. Druids were educated, religious men who were also known for their in-depth knowledge of the natural world and their connection with the spiritual almost magical realm. Druids were also considered to be judges, doctors, healers, prophets, keepers of history, and poets.
Our vegan adaptation
Two of my kids were born in Northern Ireland, and as a family we stayed over there for many years, so we do love Irish food and culture.
We were inspired to create a vegan recipe that stays true to the humble and homely nature of the traditional Irish broth. In our plant-based version, leeks and oatmeal remain at the forefront, enhanced with a touch of plant-based milk and vegetable stock.
The broth is simply seasoned with salt, pepper, bay leaf, and a sprinkle of chopped parsley for a garnish. While a swirl of plant-based cream is optional, it does add a nice creamy touch. We also like a wee grating of nutmeg but this is entirely personal preference.
As the traditional Irish oatmeal broth tends to use chicken stock, we opted for a vegan chicken-flavoured stock powder, but any vegetable stock you have on hand will also work.
Although we tend to blend the broth to achieve a lovely light emerald green colour, it's entirely up to you. If you prefer a more textured broth, feel free to enjoy it unblended.
Love vegan oatmeal soups?
Do check out our other soup prepared with oatmeal -Orcadian Oatmeal Soup which is a traditional soup from the Orkney Islands, Scotland, and is prepared with carrot, swede, & leeks.
Vegan oatmeal soups are so nourishing, sustaining, comforting, while providing a good amount of plant-based nutrition. They are the perfect vegan comfort food for those days when your feeling under-the-weather or just need a green veggie soup pick-me-up!
How to prepare leek and oatmeal broth
First gather and prepare the 5 ingredients required for the broth - leeks, oatmeal, milk, bay leaf, and vegetable stock - we used a plant-based & vegan 'chicken' flavour stock powder and oat milk.
Slice the leeks as thin as you can get them, but this is a nice rustic broth that can be blended so don't stress too much!
Add the vegetable stock, bay leaf, and salt and black pepper to a soup pot and bring to the boil.
Pour in the oatmeal, stir well, and boil for 10 minutes.
Next pour in the milk and add the leeks. Over a low heat bring to a gentle boil and simmer for another 10 minutes. Don't fast or rapid boil.
Next, remove the bay leaf, and blend the soup until nice and smooth. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Serve up with fresh chopped parsley and a swirl of plant-based cream - although these additions are optional. We also like a wee grating of nutmeg. A wedge of home-made wholemeal Irish Soda Bread is the ideal accompaniment.
Recipe Notes And FAQS
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days. Or freeze for 2-3 months. Thaw out completely before reheating.
Reheat in a saucepan by bringing to a gentle boil over a low heat, stir frequently, and heat for a minute or so just until piping hot. Or reheat within a microwave.
Yes, with a few changes this broth can be prepared as gluten-free. While oats are naturally gluten-free, they are often processed in facilities that handle gluten-containing grains, which can lead to cross-contamination.
So you may need to purchase certified gluten-free oats to ensure they haven't come into contact with gluten.
For this recipe, look for certified gluten-free pinhead oatmeal or steel-cut oats, or replace with gluten-free certified rolled or porridge oats.
You will also need to use stock cubes, bouillon cubes, stock powder, etc., or ready-made broth that is certified as gluten-free. And, although most plant-based milks are naturally gluten-free, you should always check labels to ensure there are no added ingredients or thickeners that contain gluten.
Yes, traditionally there was no oil added to this broth so there is no need to add any to this recipe. However, if your on a no-oil diet you may have to use an oil-free plant-based milk or omit the milk.
For this broth, it's best to opt for plant-based milks known for their stability in hot drinks or cooking, such as those that don't curdle in hot tea or coffee. Brands like Oatley Barista varieties, and Alpo's soya milk are a few that we have tested with good results.
However, there are many other less expensive varieties available and Lidl [UK] have Vemondo organic oat barista milk that we have used in cooking as well.
That being said, when cooking with milk, it's important to maintain a gentle simmer or boil and to avoid letting the broth reach a rolling, rapid boil, as this can affect the consistency of the finished soup.
Yes! While it might be a revelation for many, plant-based milks, especially almond milk, are in fact a traditional ingredient! Tracing back to the 12th century in medieval Britain and Europe, almond milk emerged as an essential substitute.
Due to Christian dietary restrictions, dairy milk was forbidden on certain holy days, leading to the use of almond milk as a replacement. Historical records even hint at recipes such as almond butter and imitation eggs crafted from almond milk and saffron.
Moreover, in an era without refrigeration, dairy milk's perishability made almond milk a more reliable and safer choice. However, as almonds were an expensive ingredient they may not have been widely available to all members of society.
Also, we can't be sure if Irish leek and oatmeal broth was ever prepared with almond milk, but its a possibility!
Yes, if you are not vegan or plant-based then you can use whatever milk you would normally use for cooking.
Pinhead oatmeal is often referred to by other names, such as steel-cut oats, Irish oatmeal, or in Scotland, medium oatmeal. In contrast, rolled oats are typically the quick-cook type, and are also known as porridge oats. Although both come from the same grain, they undergo different processing methods.
Pinhead oatmeal experiences minimal processing, with the whole oat groats simply sliced into small pieces. This means that bits of the groat kernel remain intact, resulting in oats that have a longer cooking time, a richer texture, and a distinctively nutty flavour. Rolled oats, on the other hand, are first sliced and then flattened into thin flakes, which speeds up their cooking time.
For those keen on recreating the authentic experience of a sixth-century Irish broth, pinhead oatmeal would be the traditional choice - owing to the hand-processed nature of the oats in that era. However, if you find rolled oats more accessible or affordable, feel free to use them. The broth will still be delicious.
While the terms, soup and broth, are often used interchangeably, there are a few differences:
Broth: A broth mainly consists of a liquid that's been flavoured by simmering with ingredients like vegetables, proteins (meat or its alternatives), and grains. For example, our oatmeal and leek broth begins with an oatmeal-milk-stock base.
Even without adding additional vegetables, this broth has enough depth to be enjoyed on its own, and in times gone by it most likely would have been!
In Scotland in particular there are many recipes for milky oatmeal drinks and broths.
Soup: Soup tends to be chunkier and more substantial as it's enriched with a variety of ingredients and typically gets its base flavour from a stock or a broth. However, soups can sometimes have milk added, further confusing the lines between the two!
In essence, while there are some differences, both are often prepared in the same way with similar ingredients so often the terms soup and broth can simply mean the same thing. Regardless of the term, both promise warmth, comfort, and home-cooked love in every bowl!
For a soothing standalone meal, especially when feeling under the weather, this broth provides comfort and nourishment on its own. To complement its flavours, consider pairing it up with a wedge of traditional 100% wholewheat Irish soda bread, quick three-ingredient dinner rolls, or a wedge of this Australian Damper Bread, which is similar to a plain soda bread.
For a heartier addition, a vegan cheese toastie or a tasty tofu 'egg' sandwich with cress and mayo or a Ploughman's Lunch are both delicious choices. To keep things light and fresh, a side salad laden with green veggies and juicy tomatoes would be perfect or our family favourite Italian bread salad.
Five Top Tips!
- Thoroughly clean the leeks! Leeks often have sand and dirt trapped between their layers, so t's essential to slice them lengthwise, fan them out, and rinse thoroughly under running water to ensure they are completely clean. Dirt or grit in your soup can ruin the texture and taste.
- Gentle Simmering! It's essential to simmer the broth gently, especially after adding the milk. A slow and low heat prevents the milk from splitting and ensures that the flavours meld together beautifully.
- Seasoning! While the broth has humble origins and a simple ingredient list, seasoning with the right amount of salt and pepper does make all the difference. Taste your broth throughout cooking and add salt and pepper as you think necessary. Remember, you can always add more, but you can't take it out.
- Thickness of the broth! The thickness of the broth can be adjusted according to personal preference so if you like a thicker consistency, you can either increase the amount of oatmeal or reduce the broth. On the other hand, if you prefer a thinner consistency, you can add a bit more vegetable stock or milk.
- Herbal touch! Don't hesitate to experiment with herbs if you like. Bay leaves are classic, but thyme or a hint of rosemary or even sage are also delicious.
This dairy-free soup which is not just a quick vegan recipe but also a nod to traditional Irish home cooking. For those looking for authentic Irish soups, this vegan-friendly oatmeal and leek combination is sure to become a favorite.
More vegan Irish recipes
Our vegan Irish recipes are crafted for everyone to enjoy, even omnivores and carnivores! After all, plant-based ingredients, which simply means ingredients derived from plants, are universally relatable and delicious.
Historically, poorer British folks have relied heavily on plant-based foods as meat was a luxury and not an everyday staple.
Moreover, during medieval times, there were periods like Lent and specific days of the week, such as Wednesdays and Fridays, when the consumption of meat and dairy was restricted.
As a result, alternatives like almond milk, prepared with ground almonds, and a variety of vegetable ingredients were the mainstay. So, in many ways, plant-based eating is deeply rooted in our culture and history!
On that note we hope you enjoy our other favourite vegan Irish recipes - a staple for many Irish homes for centuries - Old-Fashioned Irish Potato Soup, and the classic Vegan Irish Stew, and this fun Vegan Irish 'corned beef' and Cabbage Stew, and for dunking in all that Irish goodness a wedge of our Irish Soda Bread is a must!
Looking for an Irish sweet treat for an after dinner nibble?
For a vegan version of a traditional Irish dessert do have a look at our classic Fifteens which is a tasty refrigerator bake prepared with digestive biscuits, marshmallows, glace cherries, desiccated coconut, and vegan condensed milk.
And one for the kids are these super cute Top Hat Treats which are ridiculously easy as its just a case of dipping marshmallows into melted chocolate and then topping with a wee sweetie or candy. These little traditional treats were very much enjoyed by my two older daughters when they were at primary school in Northern Ireland.
***please note: for US measurements click the 'US customary button' within the recipe and the measurements will switch to tablespoons, cups, and ounces.***
Irish Leek and Oatmeal Broth
- Soup pot
- Immersion stick blender or food processer optional,
- 450 grams leeks [3 medium, washed well, trimmed and sliced thin, weight is after preparing]
- 50 grams pinhead oatmeal [steel-cut oats, Irish oatmeal, medium oatmeal, if you like a thicker broth you can add a little extra oatmeal]
- 500 millilitres plant-based milk [or your usual milk]
- 2 litres vegetable stock
- 1 bay leaf
- fresh parsley [or your choice of fresh herbs]
- plant-based cream [to drizzle over each bowl of broth]
- Add the vegetable stock, bay leaf, along with a few pinches of salt and black pepper to the soup pot.Bring to a boil and sprinkle in the oatmeal, stirring well.2 litres vegetable stock, 1 bay leaf, 50 grams pinhead oatmeal
- Boil over a medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Next add the leeks and milk, and gently boil, over a low heat, for 10 minutes, but be careful not to fast boil.450 grams leeks, 500 millilitres plant-based milk
- Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste, and remove the bay leaf.
- Once the soup is ready it can be blended using a stick immersion blender, or once the soup has cooled blend in a food processor or stand blender. Alternatively, omit the blending.
- Sprinkle some parsley over each serving and add a little drizzle of plant-based cream to each bowl if liked.fresh parsley, plant-based cream
- Nutritional information is provided for guidance only and is not a strict calculation as ingredients vary.
- Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.
- Or frozen for 2-3 months.
- Reheat leftover broth by gently bringing to the boil over a low heat, stirring frequently, and just heat until piping hot.
- This broth is best if it is not allowed to fast boil as the milk may split, instead just gently boil or simmer over a low heat.
- It's best to use a milk that copes well with being heated such as barista style plant-based milks or those intended for hot drinks.
- If the milk does split it can be fixed by blending the soup. The flavour is not affected.
- If preferred omit the milk and just use vegetable broth.
- If you prefer a thicker broth add extra oatmeal.
- A vegan 'chicken' flavoured stock works very well with this broth. We like OXO meat free chicken flavour stock cubes.
- Feeling under-the-weather? A cup of leek and oatmeal broth is nourishing, comforting, warming and gentle on the stomach.
Prepared our Irish Leek and Oatmeal Broth? We would love to know how you got on with the recipe so do drop us a comment below and click the star ratings. Its very much appreciated. Thanks so much, Love Jacq x