Fast, filling, inexpensive and nutritious, oatmeal has kept its status as a classic breakfast for generations without having to even try. But even with its ongoing popularity, this porridge-of-choice can certainly differ in quality and never needs to be boring. With all kinds of fun variations and healthful ways to spruce up your bowl, here are the oatmeal rules to live by, helping you make the most out of every batch.
Buy the real stuff. If you're still reaching for the ready-made “instant” oatmeal packets, it's time to take the Never-Again Packet Pledge. You want to be in full control of your flavor, texture and all the ingredients that go in (and not rely on a third-party company to make those decisions for you), so start with real, whole, rolled oats – steel cut takes a much longer time to cook and quick-cooking varieties end up too mushy. Stick with regular rolled oats and you'll be in the sweet spot…and save significant money in comparison to the ready-made mixes!
Simmer, don't stir. I hate to be the one to say it, but if you're like most people, you're probably making your oatmeal wrong. Luckily, honing in on your oatmeal technique will ensure you never have to endure a sticky, gluey, mushy bowl again. To create oatmeal with the perfect light texture, the trick is to boil water first with a pinch of salt, then add your oats with a quick stir. Next, cover and simmer on low for 5 minutes, without stirring. Your resulting oatmeal will be cooked beautifully: textural and almost springy to the touch. Use a 4:3 ratio of water to rolled oats for this method.
Use spices. Sugar isn't the only thing that should go into oatmeal! Warming spices like cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg can greatly enhance the flavor, and allow you to use less sugar overall. Many people also enjoy savory oatmeal, too, where spices like turmeric and chili can be used with great success to create a dish with a whole different vibe.
Superfoods are a shoe-in. Sure, oatmeal on its own may be high in fiber and heart healthy, but it's also the perfect ground for superfoods of all varieties to deeply enhance its nutritious qualities! Many superfoods are excellent for using as a textural topping – Goji Berries, Mulberries, Goldenberries, Cacao Nibs and any kind of nut or seed are all fair game. What's more, you can also stir in powdered superfoods to create all kinds of flavors – my favorite is earthy Maca, but you can also use fruity powders like Pomegranate Powder for an antioxidant-rich touch.
Top with the season. A great bowl of oatmeal is as much about its toppings as anything else, so don't stop with some raisins or boring banana slices. Almost all fruit goes with oats, so chop up a bit of whatever's in season to make your bowl more exciting and filled with the fresh vitamins your body craves.
Add a bit of good fat. One of my favorite simple ways to enjoy oats is with a little coconut oil, sea salt and Hemp Seeds. But, even if you're not a savory-inclined purist, adding a touch of fat to your bowl will help balance out the flavors and make your breakfast even more sustainable in terms of the energy it provides. Melted coconut oil works well, as do nut butters drizzled on top. And, especially if you're using fruit, adding some chopped nuts as garnish not only adds excellent texture, but only serves to improve your flavor even further. Play around and enjoy one of the world's most perfect breakfasts!
How do you prepare your oatmeal? Tell us in comments!