How To Make a Perfect Oatmeal Bowl

How To Make a Perfect Oatmeal Bowl

Do you ever come across those ridiculously photogenic oatmeal bowls topped with exotic fruit sourced from the soils of Narnia on Instagram and sigh with jealousy? After all, given the popularity of oatmeal/porridge as a breakfast option, what percentage of the general population actually has the time to create a Louvre-worthy masterpiece before jumping into their daily routine?

How to make oatmeal

Well, first of all, let us quickly address the question of Instagram vs. reality (something that will doubtlessly necessitate a blog post of its own in the future). For many people, myself included, food styling is a creative outlet, and those pretty bowls are tailored entirely towards their respective Instagram feed as opposed to being a realistic representation of what their creators eat 90% of the time. Sometimes, I will make a bowl of oatmeal whenever my schedule allows (mostly in the late afternoon), photograph it for Instagram and store it in the fridge to be eaten the next morning. In other words, if I have to make porridge right before my six a.m. shift, only a very large sum of money could induce me to post the un-photogenic but nonetheless delicious outcome on social media.

Moreover, spicing up your oatmeal does not have to require enormous amounts of effort and culinary/artistic talent. You can make it as pretty or as ugly as you like, and adjust it in accordance with your individual preferences (this may be something that oatmeal and bullet journals have in common?!). After receiving positive feedback on my step-by-step Buddha bowl guide, I decided to build a guide to oatmeal on the same principle for anyone who wants to go beyond microwave oats in terms of both taste and nutritional value. As always, feel free to skip any of the steps I outline below and/or add anything else – after all, it is your life, your oatmeal, and no one can tell you what to do!

Vegan oatmeal recipe

1. Pick a milk 

Vegan porridge recipe

Now, the type of milk that you use makes a big difference to the final outcome. And that’s why (alongside the health and ethical reasons) I’d recommend using plantbased milks – they come in such a wide variety and allow you to switch up your oatmeal without changing much else. For example, cashew milk has a very neutral, creamy taste while almond milk is sweeter and oat milk is earthy, with a pleasant aftertaste.

In terms of proportion of milk to oats, what you go for depends on the consistency you would like to achieve with your end product. This may be slightly controversial, but I like my porridge to be on the runnier side, opting for a 2:1 proportion or above (for example, 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of oats). If you are unsure, I would recommend eyeballing as opposed to measuring your ingredients, experimenting and arriving at your perfect consistency through trial and error.

2. Choose your sweetener and spices

Once again, what, and how much you use depends on your personal preferences. Some people choose to omit sweetener entirely (which is understandable because oatmeal can taste good when plain), yet some things you may wish to try include:

  • Agave nectar
  • Golden syrup
  • Sugar of choice – my favourite is either brown or coconut sugar
  • Stevia
  • Chopped dates
  • Mashed banana
  • Fresh berries, lightly crushed.

How to make oatmeal

The last three are my personal favourites because they not only allow you to sneak in a cheeky portion of fruit, but also deliver a sweetness that is not too overpowering. In regards to spices, cinnamon and nutmeg are the obvious ones. Despite my best efforts to switch it up, cinnamon inevitably finds its way into my oatmeal as the resulting smell of my kitchen is too good to resist.

TIP: try adding a few spoonfuls of either yoghurt or apple sauce for extra creamy-ness.

3. Add superfoods and/or protein (OPTIONAL)

Feel free to skip this step, but adding some form of superfood to your oatmeal can not only improve its nutritional profile, but also the taste. Plus, this is often the secret to achieving colourful, Insta-worthy bowls. Some options you may wish to try include:

  • Spirulina: this is one of my personal favourites. Do not be intimidated by the taste/smell of the powder by itself because it is easy masked by the other ingredients.
  • Cacao powder (to make chocolate porridge)
  • Maca powder
  • Wheatgrass powder
  • Barleygrass power
  • Matcha powder
  • Acai
  • Baobab powder
  • Chia seeds (I usually add these if I am making overnight oats because the resulting texture if heavenly).

I understand protein powder is slightly controversial as many people prefer to obtain their protein from ‘real’, wholefood sources, but adding around half a scoop to your oatmeal can be a good way to boost its flavour, and increase your daily protein intake if you are like me and are trying to build muscle. For anyone interested, this is the powder I’ve been using for the last couple of months.

4. Add a dash of vanilla extract

Unlike the above, this step is not optional. Just joking (I swear I am not as dictatorial as I may seem!), but vanilla extract is highly recommended. Just a few drops can make your oatmeal smell amazing and add a hint of flavour that will compliment all your other ingredients.

How to cook the oatmeal: 

Once you’ve combined your ‘base’ ingredients, you can prepare the oatmeal by either a) stirring them on the hob, b) microwaving them or c) leaving them in the fridge for a couple of hours.

The first option is my personal favourite, and I will certainly go for it if I have sufficient time on my hands. Stirring your oatmeal over a low-medium heat for anywhere between 3-10 minutes (the packaging should have instructions on the back to give you rough guidance) allows you to control the resulting consistency to the greatest extent. However, be careful not to turn up the heat too much because this will lead to the oatmeal drying out or worse, burning.

QUICK TIP: add your milk incrementally as this creates a super fluffy and smooth texture.

Vegan overnight oats

Leaving your oatmeal in the fridge for anywhere between 1 hour and overnight (aka making overnight oats) is obviously an ideal option if you know you will be in a rush in the morning. If desired, throw it in a lunchbox and eat it on the go. Moreover, if you add 1-2 tbsp of chia seeds, these will expand overnight and keep you full for longer while delivering their incredible nutritional benefits.

Now that you’re prepared your delicious porridge and transferred it to your favourite bowl, it’s time to go crazy with the toppings (or as minimalist as you’d like – sometimes I skip these all together as the oats taste great by themselves). My usual oatmeal topping routine involves taking out whatever I have in the fridge and throwing it together, but if you would like a more constructive approach and don’t know where to start I have compiled a rough guideline for you:

1. Add more sweetener/milk 

Vegan oatmeal recipe

This is optional, but oftentimes I will add more milk in particular if my porridge comes out too dry/thick for my liking.

2. Add fruit and berries

These are hands down some of my favourite toppings and in my opinion, no oatmeal bowl is complete without some natural deliciousness sprinkled on top. Of course, these do not have to be fresh, especially if you live in a colder climate where particular varieties are not often in season and you do not feel like taking out a mortgage to purchase a handful of blueberries. Dry fruit, such as prunes, apricots and dates, make ideal winter substitutes (except for raisins because #ew).

QUICK TIP: one of my favourite fruity toppings for oatmeal is compote, which can be made from both fresh and frozen fruit/berries. I explain in detail how to make it in this post, but essentially all you must do is heat up your fruits/berries of choice with some agave nectar over a medium heat for 3-5 minutes.

Caramelised orange

Caramelised orange

QUICK TIP 2: try out caramelised banana/oranges and thank me later. This recent discovery of mine is super easy to make. Simply chop up some banana/peel the orange and similarly to the above, heat it with some agave nectar or golden syrup, ideally in a frying pan, for around 5 minutes and trust me, you will for sure love it as much as I do.

3. Chuck in some nuts and seeds

Because healthy fats are super important, and I am yet to find a single person who doesn’t like a bit of added crunch in their meals. Throughout my experimentation, I found that pecans, walnuts and shredded coconut in particular nicely complement the taste of oatmeal, especially if the latter is on the sweeter side. My inner Russian sometimes likes to go overboard with sunflower seeds (to anyone who is new here, this is not a grotesque case of cultural appropriation  – I am Russian, but I am also very good at keeping my sunflower seed munching, kvas (bread juice) drinking instincts under control). Essentially, anything of the nut variety that you find in your cupboard could be a potential ‘yay’, so chuck it on.

 

4. Finish with some nut/seed (or ordinary) butter

Blueberry chocolate oatmeal

This is the icing on top of the only in part metaphorical cake, because if you’ve done this correctly, your resulting porridge should taste like dessert. It seems as if a new type of nut butter appears on the market every day, and the best way to incorporate all of them into our diets is by chucking several spoonfuls worth of them onto our oats. Peanut and almond butters are obvious classics, but since I tried the cashew variety a few months ago I am yet to break free from my obsession. Have as much or as little as you like, but in my humble opinion, when it comes to nut butters more really does equate to merrier.

TIP: melting either some Lotus biscuit spread (I think the US alternative is called cookie butter? Correct me if I’m wrong) or chocolate into porridge is seriously life changing.

How to cook porridge

Okay, I don’t quite know how I just wrote 1900 words about oatmeal, but I hope it’ll give you inspiration to start creating your own gorgeous bowls. If you follow this guide, be sure to tag me on Instagram – @earthofmariaa-  so I can see the outcome. Remember that the basic principle of perfect porridge is creating solid foundations and then decorating them to your heart’s content. (As a side note, savoury oatmeal is an entirely different beast to tackle, which I will do in an upcoming post, so stay tuned for that). I’ve included a sample recipe below to kick off your journey towards becoming a porridge master.

Chocolate oatmeal with caramelised fruit

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Full of flavours and textures, this dish is perfect for a cosy, healthy breakfast.

vegan oatmeal recipe

Credit: allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup plant milk of choice (plus more to serve)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp agave nectar (plus more to serve)
  • 1 tbsp soy yoghurt
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tangerine, peeled
  • 1/2 banana, chopped
  • blueberries, to serve
  • 1 tbsp cashew butter
  • shredded coconut, to serve
  • cashews, to serve

Directions

  1. Add the oats, the water, 1 tbsp agave nectar, the cacao powder, the soy yoghurt and the cinnamon to a saucepan and begin simmering over a medium heat. Stir and incrementally add the remaining milk until a desired consistency is reached. Take off the heat and leave to stand for around 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, add the fruit to a pan over a medium heat with the remaining agave nectar, stirring until thoroughly coated. Heat for around 2.5 minutes on each side, or until caramelised.
  3. Serve the oatmeal with the caramelised fruit, blueberries, cashew butter, the remaining agave nectar, shredded coconut, cashew nuts and a few tbsp of milk.

Let me know in the comments – are you an oatmeal lover? What are your favourite toppings?

A step by step guide to perfect oatmeal

Lots of love, Maria ♡

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(Note: this post contains affiliate links, which doesn’t impact the price of the product at all, but just allows me to earn a small commission!)

73 Comments

  1. don't give a jam January 8, 2018 / 7:58 pm

    YUM this looks delicious! I love oatmeal & I’m definitely always jealous of the perfect, straight outta narnia breakfasts 😂 so helpful to see it laid out step by step like this & I love all the options you included 🙌🏻

    • whatismaria January 8, 2018 / 9:01 pm

      Ahh thank you! I think all we can do is try to recreate them to our best ability :’) So happy to hear you found it helpful! Xx

    • whatismaria January 8, 2018 / 9:00 pm

      Ahh this means so much to me! Thank you lovely:)

  2. Shape Shifters Fitness Trainer January 8, 2018 / 8:15 pm

    Great advice!

    I’ve been eating a “power oats” mixture of; steel cut or rolled oats, half a dozen almonds, chia, flaxseed or hemp hearts thrown in, along with a handful of organic berries or a diced organic apple, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice, (along with 2-3 organic eggs) every single day for the past 6-7 years now, and they lend great energy, and it’s impossible to put on weight. Quit the white stuff about 7 years ago too (dairy milk) and drink unsweetened vanilla almond milk now instead, but haven’t added it to the power oats yet, after reading this, I’ll definitely give it a shot!

    Going to have to try some of these suggested switch ups too, always on the lookout for a new oat recipe, as the combinations are seemingly unlimited, but it’s nice to have a specific suggestion that looks tasty like on here.

    • whatismaria January 8, 2018 / 8:59 pm

      The combinations really are endless when it comes to oats – it’s one of the most versatile meals! Hope you like my ideas if you try them out. Thank you very much for stopping by and for your comment 🙂

  3. hopelesswonderer January 8, 2018 / 8:30 pm

    Never thought of caramelised orange or banana before, thats such a good idea and doesn’t take long at all!xx

    • whatismaria January 8, 2018 / 8:53 pm

      Yesss it really is life changing! Definitely a great way to add in some extra sweetness 🙂

  4. comfykittea January 8, 2018 / 8:49 pm

    Wow this looks delicious! I eat oatmeal every day, but I usually only add chocolate powder and a little bit of cinnamon 🙂

    • whatismaria January 8, 2018 / 8:52 pm

      Thank you! And that is a perfect combo- sometimes simple is the best way to do oats 🙂

  5. Demilade January 8, 2018 / 9:13 pm

    You’re so creative with food Maria, I love it! We’re going to have to fight though, I cannot believe you don’t like raisins *gasps*
    Funny enough, I’m not a huge fan of fruit in my oatmeal, I prefer having it with no toppings. Maybe I just haven’t found the perfect one yet. My go to oatmeal mixture consists of oats, almond milk (I agree, it’s sweeter than other plant based milks), peanut butter (can’t live without it haha), some cinnamon and vanilla and finally a sprinkle of chia seeds. I don’t put any sweetener most times but once in a while I add some sugar. If I’m feeling very indulgent then I use really creamy cow’s milk instead.

    I would love to try out other plant based milks, toppings and power foods in my oatmeal but I’m just so used to it being this way haha. Glad I found someone who has a strong passion for oatmeal as well lol. Great post Maria! xx

    Coco Bella Blog

    • whatismaria January 8, 2018 / 9:48 pm

      Hahah I think that raisins can be quite controversial for sure! And all of that sounds absolutely delicious, and I can definitely relate to that I often skip adding sweetener, as oatmeal has a delicious flavour just by itself. And I can definitely relate to being a creature of habit when it comes to oats – if I find a recipe I really like, I will have it an endless amount of times! So glad you liked this post and thank you for your lovely comment xox

  6. hell0chloe January 8, 2018 / 9:15 pm

    This looks soooo good oh my goodness (and Instagram worthy), definitely going to bookmark these to try! xxx

  7. Lifted Dish January 8, 2018 / 9:34 pm

    Stunning photos and great suggestions! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Alys January 8, 2018 / 10:24 pm

    Looks so so yummy and beautiful!

    • whatismaria January 9, 2018 / 5:24 am

      Omg that’s so kind of you! Thanks 🙂

  9. jyo January 9, 2018 / 8:59 am

    Goodness loaded 👍

  10. Lana January 9, 2018 / 3:12 pm

    Nice! I recently got back into sexed up porridge in place of bread 🙂

    • whatismaria January 9, 2018 / 4:00 pm

      Haha while bread is amazing, porridge is what I live for in the mornings!

  11. chloeburford January 9, 2018 / 4:53 pm

    This is the most instagram/pinterest worthy breakfast ideas of them all! I am not much of a breakfast person but these look delicious! xx

    • whatismaria January 9, 2018 / 8:50 pm

      Ahh thank you so much! And well, even if you are not a breakfast person, oatmeal for dinner is always a great idea 😉

  12. Siyana January 9, 2018 / 7:53 pm

    I never knew there was actually a word compote.. I thought it was just a Slav thing 😀
    About the oat meal.. sometimes I feel like having one, sometimes I don’t. The main thing that puts me off is the slippery material that oats produce, but oh well, at least your bowls are super pretty to look at ^^

    • whatismaria January 9, 2018 / 8:48 pm

      Yeah I didn’t know it existed outside of Eastern Europe until I saw someone else post a recipe for it! And I guess oatmeal isn’t for everyone – I don’t like certain things because of the texture, but sometimes the aesthetics of food are great just by themselves:)

  13. allthethingsliz January 9, 2018 / 8:03 pm

    First of all, YUM… this post made me so hungry!😊 I have been wanting to try carmelizes bananas…but oranges too!? I have to try this! Thanks for the share!

    • whatismaria January 9, 2018 / 8:47 pm

      I think making people hungry is always my intention lol so I am glad to hear that! You should definitely try them both, you will not regret it for sure:)

  14. SimpleSerenity January 9, 2018 / 9:05 pm

    I wish you would make me one of these every morning haha. They all look and sound delicious, I’ll make some of these next week, I have to get ingredients first. xx

    • whatismaria January 11, 2018 / 7:32 am

      Haha I would love to make you oats for sure if I could! And I hope you like them if you manage to try them out 🙂 thank you for your lovely comment as always ❤️

  15. Jen Clay January 9, 2018 / 11:16 pm

    I never would have thought to try some of these toppings! While my oatmeal set up is much less professional, I like to go with bananas+blueberries or apple+cinnamon (and raisins, sorry). I’m a simple gal haha.

    • whatismaria January 11, 2018 / 7:31 am

      Sometimes simple oatmeal really is the tastiest!! Bananas and blueberries are one of my favourite combos for sure 🙂 thank you so much for reading and for your comment xox

  16. kirstyjadeblog January 9, 2018 / 11:30 pm

    This definitely gave me major breakfast envy! I always have oatmeal for breakfast but I never get creative with it, so I am definitely going to raid the cupboards to see what we have to make it more exciting! Great post! x

    • whatismaria January 11, 2018 / 7:29 am

      Thank you so much! And yesss I think that’s the best way to get creative with oats – raiding the cupboards and trying out anything you can find :’) xox

  17. Beyoutiful January 10, 2018 / 12:59 am

    I’m not a big fan of oatmeal but these look so good and very healthy! Your pics are always amazing 🙂

    • whatismaria January 11, 2018 / 7:28 am

      Haha I guess it really isn’t for everyone, but thank you very much regardless!! 🙂 xox

  18. Gluecksgeist January 10, 2018 / 9:13 am

    This sounds and looks so good!! Hungry now xx

    • whatismaria January 11, 2018 / 7:27 am

      Thank you so much!! I’m glad you like it 🙂 xx

  19. jennyinneverland January 10, 2018 / 12:08 pm

    These look so yummy – I wish I had the patience to prepare breakfasts like this haha! And you’re right about the insta vs reality thing too! I personally use cow’s milk whenever I have porridge myself, which is rare but I need to try and have it more. But I have used soy milk in the past and in all honesty, couldn’t tell much difference! So I’d definitely like to try different types of milk – with all those fruits and different flavours in the bowl as well I’m not sure cow’s milk would be a necessity anyway xxx

    • whatismaria January 11, 2018 / 7:26 am

      Thank you so much! To be honest 90% of the time I’m too lazy to add toppings to my oats in the morning 😂 and it’s great to hear that – soy milk really is a great alternative because it has quite a neutral taste in the same way as cow’s milk! Oatmeal is so versatile so I think it’s all about trying out different options and finding our personal favourite base 🙂 xxx

    • whatismaria January 11, 2018 / 7:21 am

      Thank you!! I would love to make you one for sure 🙂

      • Dippy-Dotty Girl January 11, 2018 / 11:11 am

        Aww you sweet girl! I would do it full justice. Nom nom nom xx

  20. Veronica M. January 10, 2018 / 8:44 pm

    Oh my goodness thank you for this!! I’m always extremely confused when it comes to making oatmeal bowls, but now it should be a lot easier 😊

    • whatismaria January 11, 2018 / 7:21 am

      Ahh I’m so glad I could help! It can be quite intimidating at first lol, but once you familiarise yourself with the process it is relatively easy 🙂

  21. Laura @ Feast Wisely January 10, 2018 / 11:07 pm

    Such a great guide Maria – I love overnight oats and my husband makes them for me every weekend. My other tip would be adding psyllium husk – it expands like chia seeds and adds a massive dose of fibre!

    • whatismaria January 11, 2018 / 7:20 am

      Overnight oats are amazing, especially as a convenient breakfast option! And that’s a great idea – I’ve never tried psyllium husk before, but will give it a go for sure 🙂

  22. girlingamba January 11, 2018 / 1:58 am

    I’ve never tried carmelized fruit but I think I’ll try it now! I feel like it will be a good snack with or without oatmeal! I have to admit that I’ve been off the oatmeal train for a while now because I found it to be a bit boring after a while. I’m definitely inspired to get back to it after this post!

    GG | http://www.girlingamba.com

    • whatismaria January 11, 2018 / 7:18 am

      I always have it by itself and can confirm that it makes a delicious, healthy treat! I feel like when you get bored of oatmeal switching it up really helps, and I am so glad this post could inspire you 🙂 xox

  23. N January 11, 2018 / 8:10 am

    definitely trying this!

    • Chia January 11, 2018 / 2:27 pm

      couldn’t agree more with you!

  24. Chia January 11, 2018 / 2:26 pm

    these all look tasty! i need to try this at home

    • whatismaria January 12, 2018 / 7:12 am

      Thank you! You should give it a go for sure:)

  25. psitsperi January 11, 2018 / 10:32 pm

    This looks fantastic! All the food on your blog looks so gooooodd

    • whatismaria January 12, 2018 / 7:12 am

      Omg thank you! I’m very happy you like it 🙂

  26. ughmango January 18, 2018 / 11:06 am

    Girl this looks SO delicious, why I can’t make my oatmeals look that good? I just don’t have the skills haha! xx

    • whatismaria January 18, 2018 / 4:05 pm

      Ahh thank you girl! And it is surprisingly much easier than it seems :’) Xox

  27. Maddi Richardson January 23, 2018 / 12:30 am

    Love this!! Beautiful food styling and I’m a huge fan of caramelized bananas so I can’t wait to give the oranges a try!

    • whatismaria January 23, 2018 / 7:38 pm

      Thank you very much! And you should give them a go for sure – they are so delicious 🙂

  28. J | thenellybean January 31, 2018 / 4:39 pm

    I’ve recently started enjoying oatmeal for breakfast and this post is full of ideas, can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before! Your photos are so Instagram worthy my dear xx

    • whatismaria January 31, 2018 / 11:13 pm

      Ah I’m so happy you’ve discovered the joys of oatmeal! So glad this post could be helpful, and I am very happy you think so 🙂 xx

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