How to Make Oatmeal



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Here’s how to make the perfect bowl of oatmeal on the stovetop, plus 4 simple flavor variations. It’s heart-healthy, easy to make and so delicious.

Over the years I’ve shared so many oatmeal recipes and even today it’s still one of my all-time favorite breakfasts! It’s healthy, warm, comforting and so easy to whip up. Plus, it can be customized with so many different 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 over here!

Today I’m sharing how to make oatmeal on the stovetop with four different flavor variations that are so delicious… maple brown sugar, apple cinnamon, banana nut and berry almond.

Four bowls of different oatmeal flavor variations: banana nut, apple cinnamon, maple brown sugar and berry almond.

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. So, that said, it’s best to just make your own!

// ★★★★★ REVIEW //

“Absolutely loved this recipe! My daughter wouldn’t eat the packet store bought oatmeal so I wanted to try something different. And she loved this! Very filling and so delicious!”Mandy

Ingredients measured out to make oatmeal: cinnamon, milk, oats, vanilla and sea salt.

Ingredients Needed

Rolled oats, milk or water and salt are really all you need to make oatmeal, but I love adding a little cinnamon and vanilla to my base recipe. The oats turn out absolutely delicious and have the perfect consistency.

  • old fashioned rolled oats – rolled oats make for such a creamy bowl of oats. Instant, quick-cooking and steel cut oats don’t work because they don’t absorb the liquid in the same way that rolled oats do.
  • water or milk – water works great, but you can use milk if desired. I usually do a 1:2 ratio of oats to liquid. I typically use water for the liquid, but sometimes I’ll do half water and half unsweetened almond milk for creamier oats. 
  • salt – just a pinch to help bring out the nutty flavors of the oats.
  • ground cinnamon – this is optional, but I love adding it for a warming spice.
  • vanilla extract – another optional ingredient, but vanilla adds a lovely flavor.
  • toppings – this is where the magic happens! The key to making really good oatmeal is the mix-ins and toppings. I share lots of ideas below.
Three jars of different kinds of oats: steel cut oats, rolled oats and quick oats.

Different Types of Oats Explained

There are a few different oat options at the store (steel cut, old fashioned/rolled and quick oats) and they all have approximately the same amount of fiber, protein, calories, and other nutrients, but there are some differences in processing and cooking.

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.

How To Make Stovetop Oatmeal

I love all types of oatmeal, but this basic stovetop oatmeal recipe might just be my favorite method of preparing oats. It’s easy to make and results in a warm, cozy bowl of oats that I can customize with different toppings. Here’s how to make it:

Step 1: Add rolled oats, water or milk and a dash of salt to a pot and heat over medium/high heat. 

Oats, salt and cinnamon in a pot. Photo of milk being poured into the pot with the oats.

Step 2: Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat and cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. It’s ready when the oats have soaked up most of the liquid and are nice and creamy. Transfer oats to a bowl and add your favorite toppings. 

Milk, oats and cinnamon in a pot. Photo next to it is the cooked oatmeal in a pot.

Tips for Making the Perfect Bowl of Oatmeal

  • Use rolled oats: Use old fashioned rolled oats for the best results! They made for a super creamy bowl of oatmeal. Steel cut oats take much longer to cook and require a different cooking method all together. Quick oats can be used, but I don’t love them because they tend to get super mushy.
  • Use gluten-free oats if needed: Oats are naturally gluten-free, but often cross-contaminated with gluten so if needed make sure to grab certified gluten-free rolled oats. I use Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free rolled oats.
  • Don’t forget the salt: Just a pinch of salt is necessary to help prevent a bland bowl of oatmeal. It also bring out the nuttiness of the oats.
  • Use the correct ratio: For this recipe I use a 1:2 ratio of oats to liquid and that seems to be the perfect ratio and one I recommend sticking to!
Milk being poured into a pot with rolled oats.

How to 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 different oatmeal flavor variations: banana nut, apple cinnamon, maple brown sugar and berry almond.

Oatmeal Variations

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

Apple Cinnamon

Top your oatmeal 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

A bowl of apple cinnamon oatmeal.

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. 

A bowl of maple brown sugar oatmeal.

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.

A bowl of banana nut oatmeal.

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!

A bowl of berry almond oatmeal.

Oatmeal Toppings

I love the flavors I shared above, but the flavor options for oatmeal is practically endless. Here are some additional ideas you could try:

Oatmeal FAQ’s

Is it okay to eat oatmeal every day?

Yes, it’s totally fine to eat oatmeal every day. It’s not only nutritious and filling, but it’s easy to change up the flavor profile of your oats with different mix-ins and toppings so you won’t get bored having it on the daily.

Is oatmeal good for weight loss?

Oatmeal is known to be a healthy breakfast option because it contains soluble fiber, which can keep you feeling full and aid in weight loss. (source) Of course, you’ll want to be mindful of what you mix-ins and topping you use as these things can add a lot of extra calories, sugar and fat.

Does oatmeal make you poop?

Oatmeal is packed with soluble fiber, a type of fiber that absorbs water and helps to moisten and soften stools for easier passage. So yes, oats can help with constipation and make you poop more regularly.

Is oatmeal healthy?

Yes! Oatmeal is loaded with so many health benefits!

How can you make 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!

More Oatmeal Recipes

Check out all of the oatmeal recipes as well as the full collection of breakfast recipes on EBF!

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4.69 from 117 votes

How to Make Oatmeal

Here's how to make the perfect bowl of oatmeal on the stovetop, plus 4 simple flavor variations. It's heart-healthy, easy to make and so delicious.
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 1


Base Recipe

Apple Cinnamon

  • ½ cup chopped apple
  • sprinkle of cinnamon

Maple Brown Sugar

  • ½ Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1-2 Tablespoons brown sugar 

Banana Nut

  • banana slices
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted walnuts
  • ½ Tablespoon peanut butter
  • ¼  teaspoon chia seeds 

Berry Almond

  • ¼ cup fresh berries
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped roasted almonds
  • 1 Tablespoon chocolate chips 


  • Add oats, water or milk, salt, cinnamon and vanilla (if using) to a pot or saucepan over medium/high heat.
  • 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.
  • Transfer to a bowl and add toppings of choice. See flavor ideas above for maple brown sugar, apple cinnamon, banana nut and berry almond variations.



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.


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

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to make oatmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal recipe
Did you make this recipe?Mention @eatingbirdfood and tag #eatingbirdfood!

About Brittany

Hey there, I’m Brittany, the creator of Eating Bird Food, cookbook author, health coach and mama of two littles. Here you’ll find quick and easy recipes that make healthy fun and enjoyable for you and your family!

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Absolutely loved this recipe! My daughter wouldn’t eat the packet store bought oatmeal so I wanted to try something different. And she loved this! Very filling and so delicious!

    1. WOO! This is the great, Mandy. I am so glad this recipe was helpful and your daughter loved it. Thank you for your review & star rating, I really appreciate it!

  2. 5 stars
    This is the exact recipe I use, but I just stick it in the fridge and eat it after my exercising. After about 60-90 min the oats have soaked up the milk. I add frozen blueberries too!

  3. What’s a kcal? I read it’s not the same as calories and that would make oatmeal 15,300 calories, which I know can’t be right… just wondering how many plain calories per serving..

    1. Hi Christine – 1 kcal or kilocalorie is equivalent to 1 large Calorie. Since calories are too small a measurement to use when discussing nutrition and exercise, kcal measurements are used instead and the term is interchangeable with calories. Hope that helps.

  4. Brittany,
    I have a copy of your cookbook, “Mostly Veggies” and want to make the instant oatmeal packets on page 57. I may be missing it, but I can’t find the quantity of water needed for the “serve immediately” instructions. I would assume it is the same as in the microwave instructions, but want to be sure.
    Thank you!

    1. So glad you are enjoying this recipe, Aditi. Thanks for sharing your review + star rating, I really appreciate it!

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