How to Make Oatmeal

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Here’s how to make the perfect bowl of oatmeal. I’m sharing the basic recipe and four tasty flavor variations that you’ll love!

Over the years I’ve shared so many healthy oatmeal recipes and even today it’s still one of my all-time favorite breakfasts! It’s so warm, comforting and healthy. As a volume eater I love the fact that with oatmeal I get to eat a huge, delicious bowl in one sitting.

In this post I’m going to break down everything you need to know about oatmeal and how to make the perfect bowl of oats, with lots of topping ideas!

Bowl of oatmeal topped with walnuts, banana slices and peanut butter.

Is Oatmeal Healthy?

Yes! Oatmeal is loaded with so many health benefits! For starters, oats are a whole grain, low in saturated fat, low in cholesterol, naturally gluten-free and a good source of fiber, thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese.

The soluble fiber in oatmeal can also help lower cholesterol levels and reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Plus, there’s something about oatmeal that warms the soul. 😉

Make Your Oatmeal More Filling

I’ll be the first to admit that plain oatmeal usually isn’t filling enough for a meal unless you pair it with a little protein and some healthy fats. For added protein, I like making one of my protein oatmeal recipes, savory oats (with an egg on top) or serving it with a couple hardboiled eggs on the side. For healthy fats, I like adding chopped nuts (like almonds, walnuts and cashews) and seeds (like chia, flax and sunflower seeds). Or adding a big spoonful of nut butter on top! With a little protein and fat added to the oatmeal you’ll feel full all morning long.

Three jars of different kinds of oats: steel cut oats, rolled oats and quick oats.

Different Types of Oats Explained

Steel cut oats: these are the least processed type of oats. The oat groat (the full oat “grain”) is simply cut into two or three parts to get steel cut oats. Because they are less processed, they absorb more liquid and take longer to cook. Here’s my go-to cooking method for steel cut oatmeal.

Old fashioned rolled oats: for this type of oat, the oat groats have been steamed and then rolled. This bit of processing speeds up the cook time for all of us at home. Rolled oats make for a super creamy bowl of oatmeal and are my personal favorite!

Quick or instant oats: these are the most processed of all the oat varieties. They are pre-cooked, dried, and rolled and pressed slightly thinner than rolled oats. They cook faster than steel cut or rolled oats, but they also lose a bit of texture in the cooking process so they tend to be mushy and less voluminous.

Three jars of different kinds of oats: steel cut oats, rolled oats and quick oats.

Nutritional Differences

While steel cut oats are less processed than regular rolled oats, there are only minor differences nutritionally. Steel cut, old fashioned/rolled, and quick oats all have approximately the same amount of fiber, protein, calories, and other nutrients. I personally don’t view one type of oatmeal better than the other. I tend to prefer steel cut oats and rolled oats for breakfast recipes, but I’ll occasionally use quick oats for baking. Quick oats work great for my healthy no bake cookies and these lactation cookies.

Skip the Instant Oatmeal Packages

I know it can be tempting to purchase the little packages of instant oatmeal out of convenience, but you should skip them. They often have a lot of sugar in them, they’re more expensive and they honestly don’t taste as good as rolled oats cooked on the stove. That said, it’s best just to make your own! And honestly, it’s so easy! I’m sharing four of my favorite flavor combinations below that are the perfect substitutes for the packets.

Bowl of oatmeal topped with berries, almonds and chocolate chips.

What You Need to Make the Perfect Bowl of Oatmeal

  • old fashioned rolled oats – rolled oats make for such a creamy bowl of oatmeal. I use Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free rolled oats.
  • water or milk – water works great, but you can use milk if desired. I usually do a 1:2 ratio of oats to liquid. Most times I do all water for the liquid, but sometimes I’d do half water and half almond milk. 
  • dash of salt – this helps bring out the flavors
  • pinch of ground cinnamon – optional, but I love adding it!
  • vanilla extract – another optional ingredient, but vanilla adds a lovely flavor to oatmeal
  • Toppings – This is where the magic happens! The key to making *good* oatmeal?! It’s the mix-ins and toppings! I love mixing in fruit, nut butter and a variety of textures to take my oatmeal to the next level. No more boring bowls of oats!

How Do You Make Oatmeal?

There are SO many ways to cook oats. For real! You can bake them, cook them on the stove top, make them in the slow cooker, make overnight oats or even make oatmeal in the microwave

For this post, we’re going to focus on my go-to method for making oatmeal, rolled oats on the stovetop.

Pot with oats and water.

Combine ingredients – Add ½ cup rolled oats, 1 cup water or milk and a dash of salt to a pot and heat over medium/high heat.

Simmer – Bring the mixture to a boil, reduct heat and cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Pot with oatmeal and a spoon.

Serve – The oatmeal is ready when the oats have soaked up most of the liquid and are creamy. See photo above!

Add toppings and enjoy – Transfer oats to a bowl and add your favorite toppings. 

Short on time? You can Also Cook Oatmeal in the Microwave! 

I prefer to cook my oatmeal on the stovetop, but you can also microwave it!

Just add ½ cup rolled oats with 1 cup water or milk and a dash of salt into a microwave safe bowl with plenty of room for the oats to bubble up. Microwave for 1 minute, stir and then microwave at 30 seconds increments, stirring between each one.

Cook until the oatmeal is the consistency you like – I typically cook mine for about 3 minutes but you’ll know it’s ready when most of the liquid is absorbed and the oats are hot.

Four bowls of oatmeal with toppings like bananas, nuts, apples, berries, chocolate chips and brown sugar.

Flavor Variations and Topping Ideas

Once you’ve mastered the base recipe, it’s time to get creative with variations! Here are four delicious ideas to get you started:

Bowl of oatmeal topped with apples and cinnamon.

Apple Cinnamon – Top oats with 1/2 cup of chopped apples and a sprinkle of extra cinnamon. You can also add some chopped apples to the oats while they’re cooking for even more apple flavor or make cooked cinnamon apples like I do for my apple overnight oats

Bowl of oatmeal topped with brown sugar, maple syrup and milk.

Maple Brown Sugar – Top oats with 1/2 tablespoon of maple syrup and 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Stir into the oats and add splash of milk if you’d like. 

Bowl of oatmeal topped with walnuts, banana slices and peanut butter.

Banana Nut – Top oats with banana slices, 2 tablespoons of toasted walnuts, 1/2 tablespoon of peanut butter and 1/4 teaspoon chia seeds. You can also add the banana slices during the cooking process. The banana will add a ton of flavor to the oatmeal and a bit of sweetness. I use this method for my banana chia oatmeal and my baby oatmeal recipe.

Bowl of oatmeal topped with blueberries, chocolate chips, almonds and raspberries with a gold spoon.

Berry Almond – Top cooked oatmeal with 1/4 cup fresh berries, 2 tablespoons of chopped roasted almonds and 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips. You can also add berries to the oats while they’re cooking if you’d like!

More Oatmeal Recipes:

If you try this basic oatmeal recipe or any of the flavor variations be sure to leave a comment and star rating below letting us know how it turned out for you. Your feedback is so helpful for the EBF team and our readers!

How to Make Oatmeal

4 from 26 votes
A basic healthy oatmeal recipe, with instructions for how to cook old fashioned oatmeal on the stovetop or in the microwave and four different topping variations.
Four bowls of oatmeal with toppings like bananas, nuts, apples, berries, chocolate chips and brown sugar.
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Servings 1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup water or milk
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional

Maple Brown Sugar

  • 1/2 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1-2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • splash of milk, optional

Apple Cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup chopped apples, cooked or raw
  • sprinkled of cinnamon

Banana Nut

  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 Tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon chia seeds

Berry Almond

  • 1/4 cup fresh berries
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped almonds
  • 1/2 Tablespoons chocolate chips, optional

Instructions
 

  • Add ingredients to a pot: Add oats, water or milk, salt, cinnamon and vanilla (if using) to a pot or saucepan over medium/high heat.
  • Cook: Bring mixture to a low boil, reduce heat to a low simmer and continue to cook for about 5-7 minutes; stirring occasionally. Oatmeal is ready when the oats have soaked up most of the liquid and are creamy.
  • Serve with toppings: Transfer to a bowl and add toppings of choice. See flavor ideas below for maple brown sugar, apple cinnamon, banana nut and berry almond.
  • Maple Brown Sugar
  •  Top oats with maple syrup and brown sugar. Stir into the oats and add a splash of milk (if using).
  • Apple Cinnamon
  • Top oats with chopped apples and a sprinkle of cinnamon. You can also add some chopped apples to the oats while they're cooking for even more apple flavor or make cooked cinnamon apples like I do for my apple overnight oats
  • Banana Nut
  • Top oats with banana slices, toasted walnuts, peanut butter and chia seeds. You can also add the banana slices during the cooking process. The banana will add a ton of flavor and a bit of sweetness to the oatmeal.
  • Berry Almond
  • Top cooked oatmeal with fresh berries, chopped roasted almonds and chocolate chips, if using. You can also add berries to the oats while they're cooking if you'd like.

Video

Notes

Microwave Method:
  1. Add to a bowl and microwave: Add 1/2 cup oats and 1 cup water or milk into a large microwave-safe bowl and stir to combine. Microwave for 1 minute, then stir and continue to microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each, until the oatmeal is the consistency you like. I usually cook them for a total of 3 minutes, but you’ll know it’s done when most the liquid is absorbed and oats are hot.
  2. Serve with toppings: Carefully remove from microwave (bowl will be hot) and top with your favorite oatmeal toppings. See topping ideas above for maple brown sugar, apple cinnamon, banana nut and berry almond.

Nutrition

Serving: 1bowl made with water (no toppings) Calories: 153kcal Carbohydrates: 27g Protein: 5g Fat: 3g Saturated Fat: 1g Sodium: 157mg Fiber: 4g Sugar: 1g
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Keyword: oatmeal

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Recipe Rating




    52 comments
    1. Aishwarya Sen
      October 27, 2021 AT 6:41 am

      5 stars
      Very interesting blog. I would definitely recommend this to my family and friends. I have been using Gluten Free Whole Oat Groats from True Elements – a clean label food brand Gluten Free Whole Oat Groats after my gym workout for breakfast and I find it very tasty and healthy. Thank you.

    2. Riya
      October 11, 2021 AT 2:02 pm

      5 stars
      Nice blog. Very well articulated. Thanks for sharing. I have been using Rolled oats from True Elements – a clean label food brand Rolled Oats. Now I know the difference between different oats.

    3. Maggie S.L
      October 3, 2021 AT 12:19 pm

      What’s the best way to toast nuts?

      1. Brittany Mullins
        October 4, 2021 AT 1:06 pm

        Hey Maggie – I usually just place how ever many nuts I want to roast on a baking sheet in the oven (set at 350F) for about 5-10 minutes to toast. Chopped or halved nuts will take less time than whole nuts to roast.

    4. Martha
      September 7, 2021 AT 5:21 pm

      Always love my oatmeal, I put in tsp. coconut oil after it’s cooked & lots of blueberries on top.

    5. Liman Mia
      August 31, 2021 AT 9:35 am

      5 stars
      Thanks a lot for sharing this amazing blog with us. Such an amazing information keep sharing.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        August 31, 2021 AT 10:33 am

        So glad this was helpful, Liman!

4 bowls of oatmeal topped with a variety of fruit, nuts, nut butter, chocolate chips and toppings.

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