Savory Steel Cut Oatmeal

Savory oats! Have you tried them? I’ll confess, I was a little nervous. I’m accustomed to oatmeal that tends toward the sweeter side. After sharing my “perfect” steel-cut oats recipe, a couple of you recommended trying savory oats. Oats are nutritious grains, after all, so why wouldn’t they be wonderful with savory toppings? Polenta and risotto are creamy like oats, and they’re fantastic with savory toppings.

I heated some up and mixed in more salt, loads of freshly ground black pepper and cheese (Parmesan) (Parmesan). Then I topped one bowl with a fried egg and both with freshly dressed, lemony arugula. I was hesitant for the first few bites, but now I can vouch for the idea.

I can’t say that my choice of toppings was the be-all, end-all of savory oats, but I’m presenting it as a starting off point. Think of savory oats as an alternative to a stir fry—they’re both affordable, veggie-packed, spontaneous dinners, excellent for hectic weeknights. I keep my cupboard filled with Bob’s Red Mill’s steel cut oats, so savory oats are always an option.

My next savory oats might add sautéed mushrooms (like this) or sun-dried tomatoes for that extra-savory umami taste. Sturdy greens (like kale or collards) sautéed with garlic sound fantastic. What sounds good to you?


  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup neutral-flavored milk of choice (such cow’s milk or plain, unsweetened almond milk) or an additional cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats (select certified gluten-free oats if necessary) (choose certified gluten-free oats if necessary)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Mix-in ideas: grated cheese or nutritional yeast, dab of more olive oil or pat of butter, sautéed veggies or greens, sun-dried tomatoes, red pepper flakes and/or ground spices
  • Topping ideas: toasted chopped nuts or seeds, fried/poached/scrambled eggs and/or lightly dressed fresh greens


  1. In a large saucepan, combine the water and milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. In the meantime, melt the butter or heating the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is sizzling or the oil is shimmering, add the oats and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, roughly 2 minutes. This toasting procedure substantially increases the flavor of the oats.
  2. Stir the oats into the simmering water/milk mixture. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer slowly for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring regularly, until the liquid is extremely thick.
  3. Stir in the salt. Continue to simmer the mixture, stirring regularly and reducing heat as required to prevent burning on the bottom, until almost all of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. (If you have doubled the recipe, your oats might need an extra 5 minutes cooking time here.) The oats will be quite creamy when it’s done.
  4. Remove from fire and let the oatmeal rest for 5 minutes before serving so it has more time to thicken up and cool to a pleasant temperature. Season to taste with extra salt (I added another ¼ teaspoon), pepper and optional spices. Stir in any mix-ins that you’d like now.
  5. Portion oats into bowls and add any toppings you’d like. Let any additional oats cool completely before covering and refrigerating.

Also read: Creamy Chia Pudding


Recipe adapted from my perfect steel-cut oats recipe.
MAKE IT DAIRY FREE/VEGAN: Use olive oil instead of butter, non-dairy milk (or water) and don’t add cheese. Sun-dried tomatoes or sautéed mushrooms would add some umami, and nutritional yeast could add some cheesy flavor. Don’t add eggs if you’re vegan.
MAKE IT GLUTEN FREE: Use certified gluten-free steel cut oats (Bob’s Red Mill makes some) and make sure your toppings are gluten free (all of the ideas listed above are gluten free).
MAKE IT EGG/NUT/SOY FREE: Don’t add anything with eggs, nuts or soy. 🙂