Oatmeal isn’t known for being exciting. Hearty, filling, reliable, sure. But thrilling? Nope. Often it feels like there aren’t a lot of fresh oatmeal ideas out there. In fact, sometimes the morning fave is such a snooze, it’s more likely to put you back to sleep than it is to wake you up (oh yeah, ya burnt, oats!).
But oatmeal is also great for the same reason that it’s not. The fact that it’s so boring on its own means it’s the perfect blank canvas for experimenting with different flavors, textures, and cooking methods.
The next time you open that Quaker tin, consider straying from your usual combo of brown sugar and nuts, and try out some new oatmeal ideas instead. These eight surprising hacks are easy to incorporate into the routine you already have, and just a bit more exciting. (Yes, we are saying oatmeal can be exciting.)
1. Cook your oats in something other than milk or water.
“Rather than water, [cook your oats in] unsweetened jasmine green tea,” Jackie Newgent, R.D., culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook, tells SELF. “It’s a lovely liquid for oatmeal, and it’ll punch up your antioxidant intake.” Plus, cooking your oats in something like tea adds flavor without many extra calories.
But tea isn’t your only option. Sarah-Jane Bedwell, R.D., L.D.N., host of Cooking with Sarah-Jane, suggests using 100 percent fruit juice. It sweetens them just enough, plus adds nutrients and lots of flavor, Bedwell tells SELF. What she likes to do is pair grape juice-stewed oats with peanut butter for that perfect PB&J flavor. Or she’ll add cinnamon and pecans to apple juice-soaked oats for something akin to apple pie.
2. Instead of adding nuts, go for seeds.
Hemp seeds, chia seeds, and (if you feel like getting a little savory) sesame seeds are all great ways to add a bit of unpredictable crunch to your oats. Bonus: These ingredients are excellent sources of protein and fiber, while also slightly lower in calories than most nuts.
3. Stir in egg whites.
OK, I know this hack seems a little gross at first glance, but it’s actually delicious. Instead of becoming icky and scrambled, when you mix uncooked egg whites into hot oats, they take on a light, whipped texture that makes your oatmeal positively fluffy. Oh, they add a ton of extra protein to your bowl, too, which is why this one’s such a great post-workout meal.
4. Or cottage cheese (hey, don’t knock it till you try it!).
Though this may seem like a recipe for lumpy mush, the curdy texture of cottage cheese blends seamlessly with oats while also giving the whole thing a bit of creaminess. Depending on your feelings towards cottage cheese, you can use as much or as little as you like. Maybe that’s a tablespoon, maybe it’s a quarter cup. Again, this is a great way to sneak a little extra protein into breakfast time.
5. Throw a fried egg on top to make it savory.
If it’s your first time dabbling on the saltier side of oats, we recommend simply topping your bowl with a fried egg, a drizzle of olive oil, and maybe even a sprinkle of Parmesan. Once you’ve nailed this basic formula, there are a bunch of other great recipes out there to try.
6. Or add a shot of espresso and a splash of warm milk for an “oatmeal latte.”
Kill two birds with one stone and have your coffee and oatmeal at the same time. If straight espresso is a little too bitter for you and you’d prefer something a touch sweeter, consider adding a few dark chocolate chips. They’ll give the whole thing a mocha-esque flavor.
7. Bake your oats.
Baked oats land somewhere between a granola bar and French toast—they’re a little creamy and chewy, while still having that oat-y taste you love. Bonus: You can easily cut them up into squares and save them for later. Need a recipe to get you started? Bedwell swears by this fruity version.
8. Or overnight ’em.
Overnight oats are the ideal meal for anyone who absolutely cannot muster the strength to cook in the morning (I feel your pain). Making them is easy: Combine your oats with your wet ingredients before you hit the hay, seal them up, and stick them in the fridge. (For more detailed instructions, watch the video below.) In the morning, they’ll be ready to go. You can eat them cold as they are, or, if you prefer your oats warm, pop them in the microwave to heat them up before you dig in.
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