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How to Make Really Good Oatmeal

How to Make a Really Good (Not Boring) Bowl of Oatmeal

For nearly a decade, I've started more mornings than not with a bowl of oatmeal, so to say that I've experimented with techniques and toppings is a gross understatement. For the past couple years, this has been my go-to technique, and I'm pretty certain I'll be sticking to it for some time to come, as the oatmeal is creamy and has a texture similar to steel cut but can be made in as little as 20 minutes (most of which is unattended).

The secret to its success: going half and half on both types of oats (rolled and steel cut) and liquids (whole milk and water). The steel-cut oats add nubbly toothsome texture, eliminating any comparisons to wallpaper paste, while the rolled oats cook up quickly and add silky texture, which compensates for slightly undercooking the steel-cut oats (to properly cook a bowl of 100 percent steel-cut oatmeal, you need at least 40 minutes). The half-and-half ratio of milk to water adds just enough richness.

As for toppings, I've tried many combinations; below are a few suggestions. If you'd like to experiment yourself, a good place to start is with 1/4-1/2 cup fruit (frozen works great; just add it to the oatmeal in its last few minutes of cooking to thaw the fruit); 1-2 tablespoons nuts, seeds, or nut butter; and a sweetener to taste (maple syrup, brown sugar, honey, etc.).

Some combinations to try:

  • A heaping 1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries (add them to the oatmeal in its last few minutes of cooking), 1 tablespoon almond butter, and maple syrup, to taste.
  • 1 sliced or mashed banana (add the sliced as a topping; stir mashed in), 1 heaping tablespoon toasted walnuts, and maple syrup, to taste (optional).
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, a heaping 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (stir in both the pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice), 1 heaping tablespoon toasted pecans, and maple syrup, to taste.
  • About 1/4 cup raspberry ginger lime chia jam and 1-2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds.
  • A big pat of salted butter and 1/4-1/2 cup granola.
  • A big pat of salted butter and maple syrup (optional), to taste.
  • A generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt.

Choose-Your-Own Adventure Oatmeal

Choose-Your-Own Adventure Oatmeal


The basic ratio to know here is 1 part steel-cut oats : 1 part rolled oats : 3 parts whole milk : 3 parts water.

To measure 1/6 cup, fill a 1/3 cup measure halfway (it doesn't have to be a superprecise measurement).

If you don't have 20 minutes to spare, reduce the liquid slightly (the oats need to be completely covered with liquid), increase the heat to medium-low, and keep a watchful eye on the pot, stirring more frequently. The texture won't be quite as creamy, but it'll be almost as good, while shaving 5-10 minutes off of the cook time.

A nonstick saucepan isn't imperative, but it makes for much easier cleanup as oatmeal will cling to stainless steel.

How to Make Really Good Oatmeal


  1. 1/6 cup rolled oats
  2. 1/6 cup steel-cut oats
  3. 1/2 cup whole milk
  4. 1/2 cup water
  5. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  6. Toppings of your choosing


  1. Add both types of oats, the milk, and water to a small nonstick saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally once the liquid begins to simmer, until the liquid is absorbed, and the oatmeal is creamy, about 20 minutes. Add the salt and toppings.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Nicole Perry
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