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.

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!

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

How to Make Oatmeal


  • Author: Brittany Mullins
  • Prep Time: 3 minutes
  • Cook Time: 7 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

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.


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
  • 12 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

  1.  Top oats with maple syrup and brown sugar. Stir into the oats and add a splash of milk (if using).

Apple Cinnamon

  1. 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

  1. 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

  1. 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.

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.
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 bowl made with water (no toppings)
  • Calories: 153
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Sodium: 157mg
  • Fat: 3g
  • Saturated Fat: 1g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 27g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 5g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

Keywords: oatmeal

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Recipe rating

    42 comments
    1. Lenny
      May 1, 2021 AT 10:22 am

      Great recipe with the apples and cinnamon, just tried it out now

    2. Lenny
      May 1, 2021 AT 10:22 am

      Great recipe, just tried it out now!

    3. Diane
      February 24, 2021 AT 12:14 pm

      Hi Brittany, if you are a high quantity eater, you are going to love this. It’s Hungry Girl’s “Growing Oatmeal”. Still use 1/2 cup rolled oats, but increase the liquid to 2 cups (I use half water and half unsweetened Almond Milk) and double the cooking time to 10 minutes. Huge bowl that will stick with you a long time,

    4. Suruchi Jain
      February 1, 2021 AT 12:15 am

      Hi! Thanks for creating such amazing blog recipes for Oatmeals. Oatmeals are definitely one of the easiest and quickest recipes to prepare as well as consume.
      Rolled oats

    5. Gina
      January 22, 2021 AT 10:32 pm

      Oh goodness, I have a much easier way. Let’s call it the working woman’s oatmeal…1/2 c. whole oats dressed up as you like them with spices, jam, nuts, chopped fruit (get creative) and just enough water to cover the oats by about a quarter inch. Nuke for three minutes thirty seconds. Stir and let cool. Top with a little milk and EAT. I’ve been doing this for months – nutricious and delicious!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        January 23, 2021 AT 9:00 am

        Hi Gina! Thanks so much for sharing. I don’t usually microwave my oats but I can totally see how quick and easy your method is so thank you for sharing. And I love the name you gave it!

    6. Olivia Green
      September 9, 2020 AT 10:29 pm

      Thank you for these amazing Oatmeal recipes, Brittany!
      I’ve been trying to put on weight since forever, but always fail due to the boring weight gain meals I’ve always relied upon. Is any of your oatmeal recipe great for gaining weight, or any one that is loaded in calories?

    7. Ashwini
      July 3, 2020 AT 10:38 am

      Great! Super Quick recipe!
      OatMeal

    8. Sandra
      June 19, 2020 AT 11:07 am

      I love this!! Oatmeal for breakfast is my favorite thing, but I definitely like to customize my own rather than buy already sweetened packets from the grocery store. My favorites are from https://shop.kodiakcakes.com/collections/kodiak-cups/products/plain-oatmeal-cup because they’re quick an microwavable so I can take it with me in the car on the way to work (I know, I should probably just get up earlier). BUT, there’s so many options to top them with like you’ve mentioned. My go-to, in-a-hurry oatmeal concoction is just salt, pepper, and pistachios. Super savory, but I love it.

    9. Gargi Roy
      May 8, 2020 AT 6:06 am

      Really informative blog. After reading this blog, I have tried many brands oats. Each of them tastes different. After trying all these, one of my fried suggested that try “True Elements Oats”. They are rich in protein, fibre and also helps to boost enery and immunity. From that time now I am a regular user of these oats. They have all the varieties of Oats – Rolled oats, Steel Cut Oats, Instant Oats, Rolled Oats with Honey

    10. Chloe
      May 6, 2020 AT 12:19 am

      I’ve made three of these variations, and they’re all so good, everyone who’s tried them wants the recipe! My food-fickle boyfriend has gone through a batch a week of the chocolate peanut butter variety for over two months now and shows no sign of losing interest. I use Trader Joe’s unsweetened vanilla protein powder, which isn’t the yummiest (love you, TJs!), but there’s plenty of flavor to mask the chalky essence of dehydrated peas.

      If I’m feeling super lazy, I have been known to use an ice cream scoop instead of rolling them properly. Which is embarrassing to admit because this is the rare recipe that actually comes together in the time it says it will. Ten minutes, one bowl. Yay.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        May 6, 2020 AT 11:20 pm

        Ahh that makes me so happy to hear, Chloe! I’m so glad you guys are enjoying some of these oatmeal recipes. 🙂

    11. anonymous
      May 4, 2020 AT 10:36 am

      I just made plain oatmeal but this still tasted amazing!!

    12. bruh
      March 24, 2020 AT 12:23 pm

      Do you add the salt before or after microwaving if you use a microwave to make standard oatmeal?

      1. Brittany Mullins
        March 25, 2020 AT 12:16 am

        I would add it before!

    13. Lisa Crown
      March 12, 2020 AT 5:03 am

      Wow, I never thought you can do so many things with oats. Breakfast for the new few days is gonna be awesome thanks.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        March 12, 2020 AT 5:44 pm

        You’re so welcome, Lisa! Definitely come back and let me know if you try any of these recipes and what you think. 🙂

    14. Nikhil
      December 20, 2019 AT 2:52 am

      I like the way of explanation and easy ways to make oats for a healthy breakfast

      1. Brittany Mullins
        December 23, 2019 AT 12:42 pm

        So glad you found this post useful, Nikhil! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment + star rating. I so appreciate it!

    15. Jon
      November 13, 2019 AT 10:25 pm

      hi

    16. Joe
      November 13, 2019 AT 10:22 pm

      nice website

    17. kath
      November 4, 2014 AT 4:14 pm

      Obviously I love this!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        November 5, 2014 AT 9:37 pm

        Of course! I can’t believe I forgot to include one of your creations! I still remember that morning that we all came over to your house for oatmeal to celebrate your b-day. 🙂

    18. Aine @ awkwardirishgirlblogs
      November 1, 2014 AT 12:19 pm

      Thank you for this! Has to be the most versatile breakfast around 🙂
      (Also, just as I was being productive, I now have twenty odd new blogs to read, oh dear…)

    19. Arman @ thebigmansworld
      October 31, 2014 AT 4:00 am

      Nailed it. So many options!

    20. Hannah Siegmund @ThisVeganWhimsy
      October 30, 2014 AT 8:14 pm

      WOW! That’s a ton of new blogs for me to check out, and I love oatmeal.

    21. Joana from My Gut Feeling
      October 30, 2014 AT 7:12 pm

      Fantastic round-up!! All my favorite bloggers are here (!) and this gives us the chance to know some more. Thank you so much 🙂

    22. Nikki
      October 29, 2014 AT 9:25 pm

      Your brown sugar apple brown oatmeal link does not work. Can you fix it so I can check it out?

    23. thesoulfulspoon
      October 29, 2014 AT 5:17 pm

      Thanks for this awesome post! INCREDIBLE! And, I just discovered some new ways to try oatmeal. Truly, I loved this round-up! Perfect timing<3

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

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