Growing up in Scotland, skirlie was a regular fixture at the Christmas dinner table.
It may sound a bit like a high-octane dance where you whirl each other around and get bruises on the inside of your elbows, but really it's just a tasty oatmeal stuffing – albeit much greater than the sum of its simple-sounding parts.
If you've never tried it before, you're in for a treat. Heap it onto your plate alongside those other Christmas trimmings, or stir it into your next batch of mashed potatoes for added texture and flavour.
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What is skirlie?
Skirlie is a Scottish oatmeal dish whereby oats are fried in fat along with onion and seasonings. It supposedly takes its name from the frying noise made by the ingredients in the pan, known as the 'skirl'.
Although the fat used is traditionally animal-derived (beef dripping, dairy butter, etc.), it's very easy to swap that out for plant-based butter or oil.
Which oats should I use?
You'll want to use pinhead oats a.k.a. steel-cut oats for this recipe. These are fairly coarse and give the skirlie its unique texture and bite.
What you'll need
To make your own vegan skirlie, you'll need:
- Plant-based butter (or oil) for frying
- Onion for its sweet flavour when softened
- Pinhead oats to get the right final texture
- Seasoning in the form of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and dried sage (optional)
How to make skirlie
Heat the butter in a pan on low/medium heat. Add the chopped onion and soften for 7-8 minutes until golden, stirring now and then.
Season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Add the pinhead oats and dried sage (if using) and stir to mix well with the onion. Reduce the heat to low and cook for around 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
You should hear a gentle frying sound throughout – known as the 'skirl'.
After 15 minutes, the oats should have a toasted flavour and a little bit of bite. If you want them softer, continue to cook for up to 10 minutes more (you may want to do this if your oatmeal is very coarse – just keep an eye on the pan).
Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
For me, skirlie is right at home on the vegan Christmas dinner plate. It takes its place in a small (but majestic) heap next to the crispy roast potatoes, vegan cauliflower cheese, braised red cabbage, and roasted sprouts with tofu bacon.
Oats are naturally gluten-free, however they are often processed in environments with other gluten-containing ingredients. If you need to ensure that this recipe is 100% gluten-free, use oats that are certified or labelled as such.
Once cool, store the skirlie in the fridge for up to four days.
This should freeze well for up to six months (although in our house there's never enough left to get anywhere near the freezer).
Variations and tips
- Fat: I've gone with plant-based butter, but you could just use the same amount of oil instead (or a combination of the two).
- Seasoning: I've kept it simple with dried sage (which is optional anyway), but feel free to include any additional herbs or spices.
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More vegan recipe ideas
If you liked this recipe, you may also enjoy:
- 2-Ingredient Banana Oat Cookies
- Vegan Haggis Toastie
- Vegan Stovies (Scottish Potato Stew)
- Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes
- Mediterranean Couscous Salad
- Vegan Whisky Cream Sauce
- Ultimate Vegan Fish Pie
Vegan Skirlie (Scottish Oatmeal Stuffing)
- 3-4 tablespoons (50 g) plant-based butter
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup (150 g) pinhead oats (see notes)
- 1 teaspoon dried sage (optional)
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Heat the butter in a pan on low/medium heat. Add the chopped onion and soften for 7-8 minutes until golden, stirring now and then. Season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Add the pinhead oats and dried sage (if using) and stir to mix well with the onion. Reduce the heat to low and cook for around 15 minutes, stirring regularly. You should hear a gentle frying sound throughout – known as the 'skirl'.
- After 15 minutes, the oats should have a toasted flavour and a little bit of bite. If you want them softer, continue to cook for up to 10 minutes more (you may want to do this if your oatmeal is very coarse – just keep an eye on the pan).
- Ultimate Vegan Haggis
- Vegan White Pudding
- Sprouts with Tofu Bacon Bits
- Vegan Cranachan (Scottish Dessert)
- Crispy Roast Potatoes
- Leftover Haggis Fritters
- Vegan Scotch Broth
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