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