1-Ingredient Upgrade for Better Oatmeal (It Costs Zero Dollars)


Oats are one of my pantry staples. Satisfying and super quick to make, it's a reliable breakfast, and sometimes lunch or dinner. I love a hearty bowl of oatmeal with stir-fried vegetables, a soft-boiled egg, and lots of hot sauce, but my favorite way to eat them hasn't changed since childhood: with a generous sprinkling of brown sugar. Milk splash. I'll eat that anytime, any day.

You might think that making oatmeal is not that easy, but there is one step I never skip that adds flavor without any extra ingredients: Toast the oats..

How to Toast Oats for Oatmeal

Like English muffins or Pop-Tarts, oats are best toasted, which gives them an incredibly rich, nutty flavor. This technique is not dissimilar to roasting rice for arroz con pollo, which brings out the grain's natural nutrients.

This recipe works best with steel cut or rolled oats. To toast your oats, put them in a pan over medium-high heat. Stir them frequently until they turn golden in places and smell nutty. You don't need to add anything else to the pan, like butter or oil.

Stay close to the stove to avoid burning them—half a cup of oats only takes five minutes. As soon as that savory aroma begins to rise from the pan, you can continue preparing the porridge as you normally would.

Compared to plain oatmeal, toasted oatmeal has more flavor and aroma, and its delicious earthiness contrasts beautifully with added sweeteners, such as brown sugar or maple syrup. Toasting also has a subtle flavor that makes it a prime candidate for flavored oatmeal.

This little step adds a whole new dimension to a simple bowl of oatmeal, and it's great for more than just oatmeal. You can use toasted rolled oats in smoothies, parfaits, and even baked goods like oatmeal raisin cookies.

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2 more tips to enhance the flavor of your oatmeal

Toasting your oats is an easy way to add more flavor to your oatmeal. Here are two more tricks I use:

  1. Add a pinch of salt. There's a good chance you're already cooking your oats with salt, but if not, I recommend it. Salt helps emphasize the flavor of this toasted grain, and can balance out any sweet mix-ins.
  2. Toast your oats with butter.. I learned this tip from my friend Lauren Miyashiro and it's a keeper. A dab of butter in your pan—about a tablespoon per cup of oats—makes an even richer, silky bowl of oatmeal with a creamy sweetness. Try it and you'll never go back.


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