I teach a breakfast cooking class once a year and in this past one, savory steel cut oats were on the menu. That’s right, savory oats, as opposed to the standard oatmeal with sweet toppings like bananas and brown sugar or raisins and peanut butter. There were quite a few raised eyebrows and comments like “I’m not so sure about this” or “I trust you, but this doesn’t sound good.” Needless to say, the risky recipe that month was also the surprise hit. No one could believe how much they enjoyed a savory version of oatmeal.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a sweet tooth which needs no more encouragement than it already gets. Starting my day on a savory note often helps to keep sweet cravings at bay, at least until late afternoon. If an egg and veggie scramble or avocado and tomato toast is acceptable for breakfast, why not oatmeal with vegetables? Oats are so bland, the perfect backdrop for almost anything. In fact, I like to think of oats like pasta or risotto or polenta — infinitely versatile. One of my students thought she could easily serve her family these savory oats for Sunday dinner. Why not?
This post is more about encouraging skeptics to try this, than providing a specific recipe. Because once you are open-minded about eating oatmeal with veggies, you’ll see that you don’t really need a recipe. But, I would like to point out that I always try to incorporate high quality fat and protein in my breakfasts so I will have staying power until lunchtime. Protein can be anything from an egg to nuts and seeds to dairy, like cheese, yogurt or milk. Good fats are in eggs, nut and seeds, avocado, olive oil, ghee or organic butter. I’m a texture gal, and since oatmeal is creamy, I do like to add something with crunch, like nuts. But that’s my personal choice. I do think oats can accommodate bold flavors in the flavor department, so don’t be shy with garlic, crushed red pepper or ginger, for example.
Let me come clean. Even though I am crazy about savory oats, my kids prefer sweet. But the beauty of making a pot of oatmeal, whether it’s rolled oats or steel cut, is that you don’t have to commit to sweet or savory. I leave the pot on the stove and everyone does his or her own thing. I will do a quick sauté of veggies for myself and anyone else who wants them. If I have no takers, they know where to find the bananas and pecans.
I took images of my favorite combo, which is sautéed kale and mushrooms plus gomasio and chopped walnuts. But I have done many iterations of veggies on oatmeal and I’ve listed a few at the bottom of the recipe. If it looks like I won’t be eating lunch until late and I won’t have time to take a snack break in the morning, I will add a drizzle of olive oil. In my June class, I sautéed lots of garlic, crushed red pepper, cherry tomatoes, shredded zucchini and basil in olive oil and served it over the oats with grated Pecorino on the side. It was absolutely delicious.
What do you have in the fridge from last night? Roasted cauliflower? Reheat it and put it over oats with sautéed garlic and shallots, toasted pine nuts and raisins. In fact, you don’t have to use oats! You can use your favorite warm porridge, like this gluten-free blend I sometimes make. You know I probably shouldn’t play this game, because I’ll be here all day coming up with great possibilities for oats. I would love to hear from you though. Are savory oats a thing for you yet? Any combinations you’d like to share?
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 4 cups water (use 3 ¾ cups if oats were soaked overnight and drained)
- pinch of sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 big bunch kale, stripped and chopped coarsely
- ½ pound shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp paper towel and sliced
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ⅓ cup chopped walnuts (or another nut or seed, toasted or raw)
- gomasio for sprinkling on top
- Place the oats, water and sea salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat and simmer oats uncovered until oats are tender, about 40 minutes. (Soaked oats only take 30 minutes.)
- In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add vegetables, a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper, and sauté until tender, about 6-8 minutes.
- Portion the oats into 4 bowls and top with the vegetable mixture. Add an extra drizzle of olive oil or a different oil like flax, hemp or avocado. Top with walnuts and sprinkle with gomasio.
Sauteed cabbage and scallions, sesame oil, shoyu, gomasio or sesame seeds and a poached egg
Shredded zucchini or sautéed asparagus, goat cheese and toasted, salted pistachios
Burst cherry tomatoes, garlic, crushed red pepper, basil and grated Pecorino or Parmesan
Dried chilies, coconut milk, dried unsweetened coconut, toasted cashews, scallions and shoyu