How to make delicious, clean-eating-worthy, instant oatmeal in no time at all!

September 14 | Guest post by Camille Haviland
My DIY instant oatmeal
Just add hot water to these few ingredients and you can make homemade instant oatmeal without all the added sugar and chemicals. You will be blown away by how easy it is!

Oatmeal has a lot of soothing properties both for your skin and digestive system. It's packed with soluble fiber (the kind that keeps everything moving without the cramping), it is a good source of iron, it contains naturally occurring heart-healthy fats, and even has some protein! Although despite it's comforting texture and subtle flavor, it is notorious for being a little bland.

Most dishes require multiple steps in order to create layers of flavor, but not oatmeal, this breakfast is one dish that actually benefits from a one step process!

When you think about it, dry oats turn into oatmeal by absorbing whatever liquid is added to it, therefore adding the flavor during the cooking process means all of that flavor is going to end up inside of the grains instead of just laying on top. The problem with instant oatmeal is that almost a third of that little packet is sugar, and more than half of the ingredients listed are artificial flavors, chemicals, and preservatives. Not exactly clean eating for a food that is so naturally good for you!

The solution here is to make your own instant oatmeal!

I know what you're thinking, is it really "instant" if I have to make it myself? There may be a lot of info here, but trust me, once you get the hang of it the prep is so easy a three year old could do it! It will take you less time to make this oatmeal than it will take to read this article.

Of course you could take like ten minutes on the weekend to prepare a few of these ahead of time. Although when I was a commuter I was one of those people who woke up, no joke, 15 minutes before I had to leave the house and I would whip these up in less than a minute as I was running out the door. The most difficult part of the whole process was finding the correct lid to match my container (in retrospect ziplock bags probably would have helped).

What You Will Need:

  • Hot water source
  • Spoon
  • Container for dry ingredients (if traveling)
  • Heat-safe bowl or mug — This is what you will be cooking your oatmeal in. At work I always just used a coffee cup with a lid, any mug or bowl is fine as long as it can take the heat.

Ingredients:

DIYOatmealPrep

Quick cooking oats
Make sure that you buy quick cooking oats rather than old fashioned or steel cut oats. The "quick cooking" is the "instant" part of this trick! Also pro tip: a big container of oats costs way less in the long run than those individual instant packs.

Sweetener
I enjoy a teaspoon of raw sugar (you could also use brown sugar, maple sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, whatever you have on hand. Granulated white sugar will work in a pinch but it won't give you the best flavor). Or if you're not too strict about clean eating and low-cal or artificial sweeteners are your thing, that's fine too!

The spices
For a single serving you only need about a 1/4 or 1/8 of a teaspoon. These are things you probably already have in your pantry, any ground or powdered flavoring you would use for baking will work: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, allspice, clove, cayenne pepper, cocoa powder, espresso powder, etc.

Optional

  • A dash of salt is always included in more traditional oatmeal recipes.
  • Some people prefer milk to water, you could absolutely heat milk (or any kind of non-dairy milk) and substitute as the cooking liquid. Or if it's easier use a little less hot water and mix in a splash of milk after it's cooked.
  • Textural add-ins are also great! Fruit (dried, fresh or frozen), nuts, flax or chia seeds, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, etc.
  • You could add a scoop of protein powder, or for a cleaner protein try a spoonful of any organic nut butter (which also adds a beautiful richness).

Serving size:

One serving of plain quick cooking oats is 1/2 cup, whereas one package of instant oatmeal is about 1/4 cup (much smaller serving because the amount of sweetener they use adds SO many calories). Personally I'm somewhere in between, one packet is not enough but two is too much. 

Serving size is probably the most difficult part, however have no fear I did all the math for you!

1/4c oats (1 packet) = 1/2c water (4oz)
1/3c oats (1.5 packets) = 3/4c water (6oz)
1/2c oats (2 packets) = 1c water (8oz)
3/4c oats (3 packets) = 1-1/2c water (12oz)

Instructions

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1. Prep: Combine dry ingredients.
For travel: Take your oatmeal plus any dry sweeteners and additions place them in a travel container. Seal and shake to combine.
For home: Place your dry ingredients into your mug or bowl and stir to combine.

2. Measure: I love using the Keurig for this because the water comes out piping hot and perfectly measured! They are programed for standard tea cup, coffee mug, ad travel mug sizes so the small setting is 6 oz, medium is 8 oz, and large is 12 oz.

Cook: Put it all together. Either pour hot water over the dry ingredients and let it stand covered for a few minutes, or mix everything together and then microwave.

Add mix-ins: Liquid sweeteners and any other flavorings can go in now. Keep mix-ins that you want to stay crunchy out until after cooking!

DIYOatmealStore

Flavor combos

As far as flavors go, you can create your own combinations or try to emulate some of your favorite packet flavors. It might take a few runs to adjust the flavors to your taste, but he possibilities are endless! If you're not sure where to start here are some of my suggestions:

  • Lightly Spiced: Raw sugar, cinnamon, ginger.
  • Apple-Cinnamon: Raw sugar, cinnamon, dried apples.
  • Maple-Brown Sugar: This one is pretty self-explanatory.
  • Banana-Nut: Honey, chopped walnuts, sliced banana.
  • Cherry-Almond: Raw sugar, almond extract, dried cherries, slivered almonds.
  • Cranberry-Pecan: Brown sugar, dried cranberries, chopped pecans.
  • Blue Razzberry: Honey, frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries.
  • Oatmeal Cookie: Honey, cinnamon, raisins.
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie: Light brown sugar, vanilla extract, chocolate chips.
  • Speculoos Cookie: Spoonful of cookie butter.
  • Nutty Brownie: Honey, cocoa powder, chopped walnuts.
  • Mexican Hot Chocolate: Raw sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, splash of milk.
  • Chocolate Hazelnut: Chopped hazelnuts, spoonful of Nutella.
  • Chocolate PB: Cocoa powder, spoonful of peanut butter.
  • Almond Protein: Honey, spoonful of almond butter.
  • Fluffernutter: Spoonfull of marshmallow fluff, spoonful of any nut butter.
  • Pumpkin Spice: Maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice.
  • Apple Pie: Honey, cinnamon, fresh diced apples.
  • Strawberries and Cream: Honey, fresh diced strawberries, splash of milk.
  • Peaches and Cream: Raw sugar, cinnamon, fresh diced peaches, splash of milk.

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Et voila! Super simple, super healthy, super delicious instant oatmeal in a matter of minutes!

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  1. Growing up, added sweeteners were anathema in our porridge. You got fruit and spices, and that was it! Honey was the kind of luxury you only got at grandparents' houses (and sugar was right out across the board). You'd be amazed how far a handful of currants or a mushed banana will go in sweetening up porridge.

    4 agree
  2. I cook regular rolled oats in the microwave for about 2 minutes and it works just fine. Also if you want an even healthier option you can cook up a big batch of steel cut oats (which take forever to cook) when you have time, freeze them in individual portions and then microwave them for a minute or two when you're ready.

    7 agree
  3. The recipe looks lovely, but I find the language of "clean" eating to be problematic. Is a package of Quaker instant oatmeal "dirty"? I dislike this kind of labeling because it follows the same line of ascribing a moral value to food, akin to labeling food as bad or sinful, or that the individual is "being bad" by eating a piece of cheesecake (or maple and brown sugar oatmeal).

    11 agree
    • Agree! The "clean eating" label (anywhere) makes me grind my teeth a little. I don't think the sugars in my oatmeal are my big nutritional undoing.

      5 agree
    • The "clean eating" phrase is a pet peeve of mine too. I love making food from scratch – it can be cheaper and tastier than premade food, and food prep can be really fun! If you need or want to keep certain ingredients out of what you eat, making food from scratch is a surefire way to know whether or not those ingredients are in what you're eating. The implication of cleanliness, purity, and moral superiority in the way we talk about food is really weird and shames people who make different food choices. We all have different bodies and different lifestyles and therefore we have different food needs.
      The term clean is used ambiguously too – are we trying to avoid sugar? The recipe calls for sugar, just in different types and amounts than the original. Are we trying to avoid "chemicals"? We're not going to avoid having "chemicals" in our food because everything is made of chemicals. Are we trying to avoid preservatives? Rather than vaguely stigmatize preservatives, use this as a teaching platform and let your readers feel like they can make their own informed decisions: "Although preservatives prevent many kinds of food borne illness, they have also been found in studies to be carcinogenic. If you eat oatmeal everyday like I do, you'll consume a batch of oatmeal before the food would naturally rot so there's no need for preservatives. Therefore, making your own oatmeal can decrease your likelihood to develop cancer." The specificity avoids the implication that people who eat preservatives are uninformed and filthy. Maybe they're just stocking up on premade oatmeal packets for the apocalypse and spoilage is a bigger concern than cancer?

      That said, I've never thought of premixing my oatmeal ingredients and this is an awesome tip.

      2 agree
      • I think that's a bit to much to ask to someone who's just giving you a recipe… I get you might not like the phrase but if you're comfortable with your food choices it shouldn't bother you too much…
        For example i cringe when people take for granted that vegan also means healthy.
        But i leave it to them and just focus on the actual recipe, if i like it, or skip it if i don't.
        If you make uninformed choices, you're by definition ignorant. There's no judgement in that. In this case you're responsible for your own education, or lack thereof.

        6 agree
    • Oh heyyyy, I never thought of it like that. So, is there another phrase one can use instead of "clean eating" that means the same thing? (For purposes of searching on The Googles.)

      1 agrees
      • I like saying I cook "whole foods" meaning that I do my best to make food from ingredients that live on the earth whether that means grown in the ground, walk/crawl on the ground, or swim in the water. Although it calls to mind the grocery store by same name so I don't know how helpful that is for a search term.

        2 agree
        • I always think of "whole foods" as implying "vegan," but maybe that's just the context I've usually seen it in. And just to play devil's advocate, one could argue that the same logic applies: are foods not made from the examples you listed "broken"? (To follow the clean/dirty critique above)

          I usually try to use the phrase "nutritious" because it removes the moralizing. It's then just, "Does this food provide the nutrients my body needs?" I'd also never thought about the phrase "clean eating" in that way, but it makes sense.

    • Personally what "clean eating" means to me is that our bodies were designed to digest food in it's natural state, therefore food that has been altered or has a ton of additives isn't going to be as beneficial for your body as whole foods in their natural state. It's impossible to talk about healthy food without claiming that some foods are "good" for you. That doesn't necessarily means that foods that are "bad" for you are sinful, but you also can't say that there are no foods that are "bad" for you. That's simply not true. There's no arguing that fresh/whole/unrefined options are better for your body than processed junk food. Also "clean eating" for a lot of people is more of a mentality than a diet, so it doesn't mean never eating sugar or cheesecake, it just means choosing the fresh/whole/unrefined options when they are available. — As far as the word usage goes, I have always felt like it stems more from the physical state or quality of the product than anything else. For example an organic apple is literally "cleaner" than an apple that has been sprayed with pesticides. Would I consider an apple that was sprayed with pesticides "dirty"? Yes I would, and I would wash it before eating it. In terms of this recipe, I would consider plain oats to be "cleaner" than oats mixed with preservatives. Although you can't wash the preservatives out of oatmeal, so when I have the option I prefer to buy the ones without. The word "clean" has more than one definition. In this context I feel it refers to the physical state of being free from unwanted matter, not the implication of moral purity or superiority. Of course you are completely free to interpret the phrase however it feels to you, but IMO the choice to only to accept that definition of the word, means choosing to project a problematic idea of morality onto food, not the other way around.

      2 agree
  4. If you were fine with having the same flavour every day, or maybe 2-3 to choose from, could you mix up a big batch and take a scoop from it each morning?

    As long as they were all dry ingredients, I feel like that might work, although spices and granulated sweetener might all end up at the bottom of the container. Have you tried this?

    3 agree
  5. I always keep dry or powdered milk on hand (just as much calcium, and easy to add in to other meals and get that extra bit, without having to worry about the milk spoiling), and I think adding a tablespoon or two of dry milk would help it have that creamy oatmeal flavour while still being easy to transport and cook at work.

    5 agree
  6. Porridge is not a traditional food in my country and it's still weird to me, but I've been making overnight oats and i love them! I'll keep your flavour suggestions handy. I don't know the different kinds of oats you mention, i can only find one kind. I usually pour in a jar in layers: oats, almond or cow milk, chia and flax seeds, almonds or other nuts, plain yoghurt and fruit, and a splash of maple syrup. Sometimes i add spices, dried fruit or coconut. It's very good, filling and quick to put together in the evening and grab in the morning.

    2 agree
  7. I can't have refined sugar, so those packets are out of the question for me. I can, however have the fiber-rich, more complex carbs of oatmeal, so that's my preferred breakfast! I mix mine with plenty of chia seed and nuts (cashews, sunflower seeds, pecans, or peanuts, rotated every couple weeks so I won't get allergy problems–I learned this the hard way from overdoing almonds and walnuts) and I confess to adding butter to mine, as well.

    As for the liquid added, I've discovered that tasty herbal teas, especially spicy ones, make this reeeeeeallly good!

    4 agree
  8. My favourite combination to put in oatmeal is apple sauce and peanut butter! So good! Plus if you're into it, apple sauce is so easy to make!

    • Can you suggest a recipe? I can't find apple sauce where i live, and i bet it would be the yummiest comfort food for winter breakfasts…

        • Oh i see! Yeah, i actually do that all the time. I thought applesauce was some kind of smooth preserve, i think i had it somewhere travelling…

          2 agree
          • It was more like jam, but not very dark… I'll check apple butter too anyway, thanks for the suggestion 🙂

        • That's more or less what I do, except I don't peel the apples (you'll have little bits of peel in the sauce but it's not as weird as it sounds, plus supposedly that's where the nutrients are!). I use cinnamon and/or nutmeg, ginger, cloves… And I feel strongly that sugar in unnecessary! Apples are already so sweet.

          Oh, and I always get the really old gross apples from the discount section at the grocery store and cut out the really mushy bits, but leave in the slightly mushy bits.

          1 agrees
  9. Excellent oatmeal recipe! 😀

    I love the Chocolate Hazelnut flavour but I use much more than spoonful of Nutella :3

    Also, I love to drink apple juice with it or apple and carrot mixed juice 😀

    2 agree

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