That Time I Made Savory Oatmeal and It Was Kind of Weird But I Ate It Anyway

March 14, 2014 | By | COMMENTS

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When I first heard about savory oatmeal, I felt confused. Onions in oatmeal? Is that even possible? What planet are we on?

I grew up eating oatmeal out of little packets, the kind you tear open, pour some water on and stick in the microwave. My preferred flavor was maple brown sugar, but occasionally I’d opt in for the apple cinnamon kind. Thankfully, no packets said “garlic and onions” or the younger me would’ve run screaming into the hills. The current me is slightly more open-minded.

What changed my mind was a fancy meal at a fancy restaurant somewhere–I forget where–during which I had some kind of protein served on a mushroom oatmeal (or was it mushroom porridge? is there a difference?) that was quite compelling. I made a mental note. I also made a mental note when Mark Bittman wrote about savory oatmeal in one of his columns.

But this wasn’t the sort of thing I could cook if Craig were here. He wouldn’t go for it. This is extreme, radical foodstuff, not like putting walnuts in your chocolate chip cookies…we’re talking a major leap here. I knew I had to do it alone so, while he was at Sundance, I did.

I started by cooking onions in butter:

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When they started to brown, I added chopped garlic:

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Then I added the rolled oats, to toast them in the fat and to let them take on some of those savory flavors:

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Water, next (though chicken stock would’ve been nice):

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As it cooked down, I added soy sauce, because why not?

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Also: some chile paste and chopped parsley.

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I have to say, it tasted pretty interesting. Like eating a really savory muffin or pancake or waffle… not that it tastes bad, it’s just not the reason you normally eat those things.

Here’s where I got weird: I decided to crack an egg directly into the oatmeal to poach it.

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I’m not sure why this seemed like a good idea… Maybe because there would be one less dish to clean? And the egg would take on the oatmeal’s flavors?

Well, it all worked out in the end, I suppose:

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I sprinkled something red on top (paprika? cayenne? sorry, this was two months ago) and ate it all. Would I eat it again? Maybe if a chef made it, but for my money, oatmeal is best when it’s served the way God intended: with butter and brown sugar, onions completely out of sight and out of mind.

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Categories: Food Bits

  • Marie

    Steel-cut oats and their short-grain-rice-adjacent texture might have mafe all the difference in this experiment.

  • Teeny

    I am a fan of keeping it simple with savory oatmeal. Cook some old fashioned oats in the normal manner on the container and then top with soy sauce, sesame oil and either green onions or pork fu, it’s delicious!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve tried Mark Bittman’s savory oatmeal and found it kind of weird, too, but I highly recommend substituting other whole grains like wheat berries or farro and giving them the soy-sauce-sesame-oil-rice-vinegar-and-scallions treatment, with roasted peanuts and sriracha on top.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve tried Mark Bittman’s savory oatmeal and found it kind of weird, too, but I highly recommend substituting other whole grains like wheat berries or farro and giving them the soy-sauce-sesame-oil-rice-vinegar-and-scallions treatment, with roasted peanuts and sriracha on top.

  • Annabella

    peanut butter and jelly oatmeal!

  • Deanna

    I was going to say the same thing. I love savory oatmeal, but it’s always made with steal cut oats. They remind me more of a risotto/farro hybrid.

  • Anonymous

    Savory oatmeal – I guess you never had Haggis (probably not the best introduction to savory oatmeal….). You should probably use pin oats for this type of dish for texture reasons. To me, savory v. sweet oatmeal doesn’t seem odd at all. I grew up on grits, which most of the time we ate as a savory item but would occasionally put milk and sugar on. The reverse of oatmeal.

  • Stephanie Lewis Henson

    It sounds to me like you made a take on a skirl in the pan.

  • Janice

    Before you quit savory oatmeal entirely, try the following combo: steel cut oats, Kerrygold butter, salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, and Aleppo pepper. Comforting, savory explosion.

  • john

    Just cook it simply with water and a pinch of salt. When you take it off the heat, give it a good grinding of excellent black pepper with a drizzle of olive oil. You’ll really taste the pepper….a good thing!!

  • TAS

    Steel cut oats. Some grated sharp cheddar, bit of olive oil, good heavy sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and some nice flaky sea salt. You won’t regret it.

  • tunie

    My mom pours her savory miso/onion/mushroom version into a loaf pan, chills it, then slices and fries it the next day. A poached egg on top sometimes. Can see how soft would be interesting too..

  • http://www.becauseilikechocolate.com/ Mallory @ Because I Like Choco

    Call me crazy but I actually don’t really like sweet oatmeal so I think I could actually go for this!

  • http://www.becauseilikechocolate.com/ Mallory @ Because I Like Choco

    Call me crazy but I actually don’t really like sweet oatmeal so I think I could actually go for this!

  • Nu’on L. Kiddo

    Do it the Chinese or Asian way, we make savory porridge from rice, in this case- why not oatmeal?

  • Nu’on L. Kiddo

    Do it the Chinese or Asian way, we make savory porridge from rice, in this case- why not oatmeal?

  • jane bauer

    I eat savory oatmeal several times a week for breakfast and have been doing it for years. It is very versatile. I tend to put pieces of left over cheese into it, all different types of cheese. Green chiles are good as is green chili stew. Anything goes.

  • Ttrockwood

    That “farroto” ruth reichl just blogged about from Eataly looks a whole lot like savory oatmeal to me…. I agree with other comments you need steel cut oats, likely less liquid, and make them very simple and add savory flavor with the toppings. A plain oatmeal topped with sesame oil, scallions, and soy is wonderful.

  • MaSaBeMama

    off topic, but I just looked at your restaurant reviews and you have not been to Chicago. all I can say is make reservations! It is a GREAT food city!

  • Nuts about food

    Not that I don’t trust your judgement, but now you piqued my interest and I will have to try this myself…

  • Allie

    My boyfriend absolutely loves savory oatmeal and every time he makes it, I try a little, weirdly enjoy it, and weirdly hate it.

  • Allie

    My boyfriend absolutely loves savory oatmeal and every time he makes it, I try a little, weirdly enjoy it, and weirdly hate it.

  • Allie

    My boyfriend absolutely loves savory oatmeal and every time he makes it, I try a little, weirdly enjoy it, and weirdly hate it.

  • Allie

    My boyfriend absolutely loves savory oatmeal and every time he makes it, I try a little, weirdly enjoy it, and weirdly hate it.

  • chezsasha.com

    Eek. I’m also sort of opposed to savory oatmeal. Though I took the opposite route once and made sweet grits instead of cheesy ones and those were awesome!

  • Clara

    Well, I’ve made brown rice with cinnemon and sugar and that was pretty good, but I think oatmeal needs things like honey or brown sugar or dried fruit and nuts and to be cooked with milk.

  • Erin

    I recently made some savory oatmeal and enjoyed it with some olive oil, salt and pepper, grated parm, and a fried egg on top. Super hearty and filling. That said, it’s hard to say no to maple syrup and salted butter…

  • Mn

    I make oatmeal in the microwave with chicken broth. Top with crush roasted peanuts and finely chopped scallions. Akin to a Chinese breakfast porridge.