How to Make Oatmeal Taste Good (14 Easy Ideas)

If you’re asking how to make oatmeal taste good, you’re probably one of those people that dreads a mushy, beige bowl of oats. But you eat it because it’s good for you, right?

I used to feel the same way about oatmeal, until I started cooking it on the stovetop and throwing in all kinds of ingredients. Here’s how you can step up your breakfast game so when morning comes, you’re excited to try a new oatmeal creation.

two oatmeal bowls with fruit and yogurt

Choosing Your Ingredients

1. Know Your Oats

rolled, steel cut, and cracked oats
left to right: rolled, steel cut, and cracked oats

There are so many kinds of oats! Each has a slightly different texture and nutrition profile. All are whole grains and rich in fiber, so you can’t really go wrong with any one that you choose. Here’s some of the most common — they’re arranged from slowest cooking to fastest cooking:

  • Steel-cut oats: Also known as Irish oats, steel-cut oats are less processed than the following types. Like their name says, the whole groat is cut up into pieces vs. rolled. Steel-cut oats take longer to cook and have a chewy texture.
  • Rolled oats: Rolled or old fashioned oats are processed when the groat is steamed and then rolled. They typically take between 5-10 minutes to cook.
  • Quick cook oats: These are processed similarly to rolled oats, but rolled even thinner, hence the faster cooking time. They’re ready in under 5 minutes.
  • Instant oats: If you buy individual packets of oatmeal, they usually contain instant oats. Instant oats are pre-cooked before being dried, cut, and rolled. Because of this, they tend to have a mushier texture.

2. Use the Right Liquid to Oat Ratio

milk to oats ratio

Too much liquid and oats are soupy and too little and they’re dry. If you’re cooking rolled or quick cook oats, use a 2:1 ratio of liquid to oats. When making steel cut oats, use a 4:1 ratio.

If you’re using the correct ratio and your oats feel too liquidy, it’s likely because your oatmeal is undercooked and you haven’t given the oats a chance to absorb all the liquid. Remember, this is all up to personal preference, so don’t be afraid to break these rules once you have a baseline understanding of what an average bowl of oatmeal should cook like. Sometimes I’ll use a 1.5:1 ratio and undercook my oats for a drier, heartier texture. It’s all up to you.

3. Just Add…Not Water

milk, almond milk and oat milk bottles

You can use water, but it contributes to a bland bowl of oatmeal (unless you’re making savory oats, see below). Use a milk or milk alternative for creamier oatmeal — my favorite is unsweetened vanilla almond milk!

If you want to get more creative, try flavorful liquids like tea. I’ve found that chai is a good base. You can top with some greek yogurt and a dash of cinnamon for a bowl that feels dessert-like. To make your oatmeal with tea, bring liquid to a boil in a pot. Steep your tea bag for a few minutes, and then remove the tea bag and add your oats.

Cooking Your Oatmeal

4. Add a Pinch of Salt

adding pinch of salt to oatmeal

Salt brings out the nutty, slightly sweet flavor of oats. Adding just a pinch will make a huge difference.

5. Up the Protein

bowl of yogurt and cottage cheese

Not only have oats been shown to reduce cholesterol, they’re also a great source of whole grains. However, a single serving of rolled oats only contains about 5 grams of protein. Protein will help you feel full longer, so a protein-packed breakfast is a must.

If you want to add protein to your oats, try adding egg whites. You could also top your oats with a scoop of greek yogurt or cottage cheese, which are both high in protein.

6. Try Toasting Them

raw vs toasted oats
left: untoasted oats, right: toasted oats

Toast oats? Yep, you heard right! Heat up a pan with a little bit of oil or butter, then throw in your oats and mix around for a few minutes. Once you’re done toasting them, add them to a pot of boiling milk and cook as normal. This will create a bowl of oats with a chewier flavor and nuttier texture.

7. Cook to Perfection

cooked oatmeal texture

A mushy, soupy texture is why most people hate oats — but it doesn’t have to be that way! If possible, avoid pre-packaged oats (which are usually loaded with sugar anyways) and cook on the stovetop.

When cooking on the stovetop, test different amounts of liquid and experiment with the order you put your oats in the pot:

  • Adding oats to boiling liquid creates oatmeal that has more texture.
  • Adding oats and liquid at the same time creates a more smooth, creamy bowl of oatmeal.

8. Soak Overnight

jars of overnight oats

Overnight oats (like carrot cake overnight oats) are the perfect grab-and-go breakfast. And they’re great for hot summer mornings when you don’t want to turn on the stove. Mix together ½ cup rolled oats and ¾ cup liquid (and anything else you desire) and then leave in the fridge overnight to wake up to a breakfast that’s ready.

9. Experiment with Texture

nuts and seeds in bowls

Add some crunch to your bowl by topping it with whole nuts or mixing in ground nuts. Throw in other grains like chia seeds or quinoa. Grate zucchini and mix it into your oatmeal if you’re a volume eater. The possibilities are endless!

Spicing it Up

10. Master Your Oatmeal Toppings

oatmeal topping ideas

Search #oatmeal on Instagram, and you’ll be inspired by endless beautiful breakfast bowls. Here are some of my favorite toppings:

  • Fruit: apples, strawberries, kiwis, blueberries, mangos, cherries, pineapple
  • Nuts and nut butter: walnuts, peanut butter, almonds, almond butter
  • Other: cocoa powder, shredded coconut, chia seeds, flax seed

We’ve made a longer list of the best oatmeal toppings here, too.

11. Sweeten the Deal

maple syrup, honey, chocolate

While I typically don’t add refined sugar to my oatmeal, there are plenty of natural ways to sweeten your bowl. My favorite way is to mash half a banana and cook it with my oatmeal. This can also be done with berries or other fruit! If you prefer sweeter oatmeal, try adding a little honey or maple syrup.

12. Go Savory

Savory oatmeal is great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I suggest using water or broth for the liquid instead of milk, which creates a more neutral base for your toppings. Steel oats are preferable. Cook the oats as normal, then top with eggs, vegetables, and whatever else your heart desires. A few topping ideas are mushrooms, spinach, egg, sausage, arugula, and tomato.

If you don’t know where to start choose a savory theme (like Mexican) for the bowl. A Mexican-inspired oatmeal bowl could be topped with an over easy egg, black beans, tomatoes, salsa, and avocado.

13. Get Inspired by Your Favorite Dessert

Carrot cake? Almond joy? Pina Colada? Mocha? Yes, please! With the right ingredients oats can feel like a dessert and be healthy. My post on overnight protein oats has more dessert-like recipe ideas.

14. Plate it Pretty

sprinkling oatmeal with chia seeds

This may seem silly, but if it looks good it usually tastes good too. A bowl of oatmeal topped with vibrant sliced fruit and sprinkled with chia seeds looks much more appetizing than a beige pile of mush. Take a few extra minutes to build a bowl that you’re excited to look at and eat.

two bowls of oatmeal

Favorite ways to use oats

Oats are clearly a power breakfast, but if you get bored of eating oatmeal everyday here are other delicious oat-filled breakfast recipes you can try:

What are your favorite ways to make your oatmeal taste good? Let us know in the comments!