8 Easy Ways to Add Spark to Your Oatmeal

Go beyond the boring packet and make your go-to morning oats extra special with fruit, nuts and other sweet and savory stir-ins.

Six bowls of oatmeal each with different stir-insPhoto: Taste of Home
Photo: Taste of Home

Delicious, healthy and oh so good, oatmeal takes the cake when it comes to a hot, satisfying breakfast. Not only is oatmeal one of the easiest dishes you can make, the variations on these cozy bowls of comfort are only limited by your pantry and imagination. See how simple it is to take the modest little oat from bland to amazing when you add fruit, nuts, spices and other tasty mix-ins. Whether you’re whipping up a custom bowl for yourself or treating overnight guests to a homemade breakfast, try one of these fresh takes on the old-fashioned favorite.

Add Color With Fruit

“Stir in Nutella and top with raspberries.”
—Lora Tucker Schmelz, New Salisbury, Indiana

“I heat up a baked apple (bake a dishful and refrigerate beforehand) with a little of the juice, then pour the oatmeal all around it when cooked.”
—Susan Franco, Allentown, Pennsylvania

Looking for an easy way to get an extra serving of fruit into your day? Add essential vitamins and nutrients by topping your oats with apple, bananas, pineapple, peaches, cherries, kiwi, berries of all kinds, and even shredded carrot or canned pumpkin. And don’t forget dried fruits like raisins, cranberries, figs, dates, currants and apricots. With these ideas, or tasty recipes like this brown sugar and banana oatmeal, amping up your fruit game has never been easier.

Savory Selections

“Make it savory with chicken broth, mushrooms and Parmesan cheese.”
—Jane Stewart, Sanford, North Carolina

“I stir in butter, brown sugar and crumbled pork sausage. I love the flavor combo of sweet and slightly salty.”
—Melanie Lindsey, Springtown, Texas

“Try it with poached eggs, roasted red peppers, avocado, spinach and herbed cheese, then top with hot sauce, salt and pepper.”
—Rachel Long, Firestone, Colorado

Take oatmeal to the next level by giving it a savory twist. The best part? Oatmeal is no longer exclusively for breakfast; now you can enjoy it for lunch or dinner, too. The flavor level goes up a notch when you toss in meats (bacon, ham or sausage), all varieties of cheese, pico de gallo, even a poached or sunny-side-up egg. And if you want to get really crazy, follow Rachel Long’s suggestion of adding some hot sauce to turn up the heat.

Load on the Crunch

“My favorite is dried cranberries, cinnamon, a drizzle of honey, walnuts and a squeeze of orange.”
—Tammy Bazinski, Rochester Hills, Michigan

If you like a little crunch when you munch, try topping your oats with chocolate chips, pecans, almonds, peanuts, toasted coconut, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds or pumpkin seeds. Nut lovers will enjoy this slow-baked sensation.

Sweeten It Up!

“I like mine with plain ol’ sugar and butter. However, my boys love it with banana slices, mini chocolate chips and a spoonful of peanut butter.”
— Angela Lively, Conroe, Texas

“Add pumpkin puree and sprinkle on some brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon. It’s like eating a bowl of warm pumpkin pie.”
Julie Circello, Iowa City, Iowa

If you have a sweet tooth, skip the sugar-laden instant packet and instead add one of these delightful mix-ins: honey, maple syrup, peanut butter, Nutella, cinnamon, brown sugar, agave nectar and flavor extracts such as vanilla, almond or cherry. Or make your bowl extra creamy and indulgent by stirring in cow’s milk, almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, Greek yogurt, kefir or chocolate milk.

Watching your sugar intake? Check out these easy tricks for reducing sugar in recipes.

Even More Reasons to Love Oatmeal

If these fresh and fun flavor variations still haven’t convinced you, ponder these reasons to get your morning oatmeal fix.

  • It helps manage weight. Oatmeal helps curb your cravings because it takes a long time to digest, making you feel fuller longer. Goodbye, midmorning snack attack!
  • It keeps your heart healthy. A nurses’ health study found those who ate oatmeal five or more times a week reduced their risk of heart disease by 29 percent.
  • It can ward off diabetes. The high fiber and complex carbohydrates in oatmeal have been shown to reduce both blood sugar and insulin levels, an important asset in controlling diabetes.
  • It keeps cholesterol in check. Studies have shown that oatmeal lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), and may also boost levels of HDL cholesterol (the good, protective kind).

So there you have it. Oatmeal can be a tasty, healthy part of any meal. And in additional to being a meal on its own, you can mix it into meatloaf, burgers and fish cakes, use it to thicken soups or sauces, or turn it into a topping for fruit crisps. Here are even more recipes that use oatmeal as an ingredient.

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Amy Glander
Amy is a book editor at Taste of Home where she gets to pour her passions for food and storytelling into trade and series cookbooks. When she’s not writing or editing, you’ll find her antiquing, cooking and baking from her favorite vintage cookbooks and exploring Milwaukee’s urban beauty with her digital SLR in hand.