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in: Food & Drink, Living

• Last updated: December 8, 2023

Beyond Cinnamon and Brown Sugar: Discover Oatmeal’s Savory Side

With cold weather here, I’ve been looking for meals that warm my belly and stick to my ribs. 

A hot bowl of oatmeal has long been a go-to dish during the cold, dark days of winter. 

But if you’re like me, you’ve likely pigeon-holed oatmeal as a strictly sweet food you eat exclusively for breakfast. 

For most of my life, I’ve only eaten oatmeal in the morning, garnished with things like brown sugar, maple syrup, chocolate chips, and fruit. Every now and then, I’d throw in some nuts like pecans and walnuts. But mostly oatmeal was an excuse to have dessert for breakfast. I could always tell myself, “Hey! It’s oatmeal! It’s good for you! Lumps of added sugar aside, it could help with my die-ah-bee-tus!”

As I was eating a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries for breakfast a few weeks ago, I got to thinking: “Maybe it’s time I bust oatmeal out of the food prison I’ve put it in. Oatmeal is a grain just like rice and wheat, and I eat other grains in both the a.m. (raisin bran) and the p.m. (pasta) and in both sweet (rice pudding) and savory (fried rice) forms. Why should oatmeal be subject to different constraints?

Why should it indeed?

Even though many cultures (though not all!) have been conditioned to think of oatmeal as a sweet breakfast food, doesn’t mean you can’t eat it as a savory dish for any meal of the day. 

I recently started experimenting with making savory oatmeal and eating it both for breakfast and for lunch and dinner. Reader, let me tell you, savory oatmeal is bomb. I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner. 

Not only does oatmeal taste great as a part of a savory dish, but it’s incredibly cheap, and its fiber content will help you feel fuller for longer. Oatmeal is a great way to stretch your budget and nourish your body. 

Below, I share some guidelines you can use to create your own savory oatmeal dishes, along with three simple recipes that my family and I have enjoyed. 

Your Savory Oatmeal Crib Sheet

Oatmeal is pretty bland on its own, so it will take on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. Think of oatmeal as rice or pasta; it makes a great canvas for flavors. Utilizing some or all of the following elements will add delicious, savory umami to your oatmeal:

Broth. Instead of using plain water, cook your oats in broth — vegetable broth, chicken/beef broth, or even bone broth. The broth will infuse the oats with savory goodness.

Aromatics. A little bit of garlic, ginger, or onion can go a long way in adding depth and complexity to your savory oatmeal. Sauté these aromatics in a bit of oil or butter before adding your oats to release their flavors.

Protein. Amp up the belly-filling protein content of your savory oatmeal by adding cooked bacon bits, egg, chicken, or beef. These protein-packed toppings will keep you feeling satisfied and energized throughout the day.

Vegetables. Add a pop of color and nutrition to your savory oatmeal with fresh vegetables like chopped peppers, sliced avocado, or sautéed mushrooms. Take advantage of canned vegetables for an easy and cheap way to up your oatmeal’s fiber and micronutrient content.

Cheese and crunchy toppings. Sprinkle some grated Parmesan, crumbled feta, or even French-fried onions on top of your savory oatmeal for a burst of flavor and texture. These toppings will add a nice crunch and richness to your dish.

Seasonings. Have fun with seasonings. Black pepper and salt taste great on oatmeal. But I’ve also made some dishes with oregano, thyme, and Old Bay. Man, I love Old Bay. The addition I want to try next is putting everything bagel seasoning on a savory breakfast bowl (oatmeal, eggs, bacon, cheese). The possibilities are endless, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

Condiments. To take your savory oatmeal to the next level, consider adding a dollop of your favorite sauce. Could be BBQ sauce or even salsa. I love putting Frank’s hot sauce on my savory oatmeal dishes. Kicks it up a notch. Bam!

My Go-to Savory Oatmeal Recipes

If you’re looking for some savory oatmeal recipes to get started, below are three that I’ve enjoyed. 

Now listen, the pics of the oatmeal don’t look great. But I’m not a food photographer to begin with, and oatmeal doesn’t photograph well in general, so don’t let looks deceive you! These savory oatmeal dishes are tasty.

Oatmeal and Egg Scramble

Oatmeal for breakfast is great, but you don’t have to limit yourself to the cinnamon-and-spice instant packets from the Quaker Oatmeal Man.

Instead of eating your oatmeal and scrambled eggs separately, just combine them in a single bowl for a savory oatmeal and egg scramble. Here’s how to make a single serving for a quick, easy, power-packed breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of rolled or instant oats
  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 2 strips of ready-to-serve bacon
  • 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese

1. Follow the instructions for cooking your oatmeal in the microwave. Use water.

2. While your oatmeal is microwaving, cook two scrambled eggs in a pan. Or, if you don’t want to dirty a pan, you can microwave them.

3. Once the oatmeal is done, warm up your ready-to-serve bacon in the microwave. 

4. Combine everything in a single bowl, crumbling the bacon into little pieces on top of the oatmeal. Top with cheddar cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. I like putting Frank’s Hot Sauce on my oatmeal and egg scramble.

Beef and Mushroom Oatmeal Porridge

This is a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs dinner that’s great for a cold night. Here’s how I made it for my family. It serves six. I had some leftovers for lunch the next day. 

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups of steel-cut oats
  • 5 cups beef bone broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 lb 85/15 ground beef
  • 1 medium onion
  • 8 oz of sliced mushrooms
  • Shredded parmesan cheese
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper
  • Salt

1. Prep the veg: Dice white onion. Clean dirt from sliced mushrooms as needed. Set aside. 

2. Pour beef broth and water into a pot and bring to a boil. Stir in steel-cut oats and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed and oats are tender. 

3. While your oats are simmering, brown your ground beef in a pan. Season with garlic powder, black pepper, and salt. After your beef is cooked, drain fat, remove from the pan, and set aside.

4. Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan. Toss in your diced white onion and sliced mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until everything is nice and soft. 

5. When the oatmeal has finished cooking, dump your cooked ground beef, onion, and mushrooms into the pot and stir everything together. 

6. Serve in a bowl. Top with shredded parmesan cheese.

Chicken “Noodle” Oatmeal

This is my chicken noodle soup-inspired savory oatmeal. It’s really good and really filling. It’s also really easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups pulled rotisserie chicken
  • 1 can of peas and carrots
  • Thyme
  • Salt and pepper

1. Bring chicken broth and water mixture to boil. Stir in oats and reduce heat to medium. Add a dash of thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook uncovered for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. When oatmeal is cooked, lower heat to a simmer. Dump in pulled rotisserie chicken and the can of peas and carrots. Add a bit more salt and pepper. Stir in ingredients and let everything warm up for three minutes. 

3. Serve. Top with cheddar cheese, if desired. 

There you go. Free oatmeal from the sweet breakfast box and try it savory style morning, noon, and night!

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