Illustrations: Jessy Scarpone

Oatmeal is one of the healthiest ways to start a day. But day after day, it can get boring. Try these nutritious sweet and savory topping combos to revitalize your breakfast routine.

Elizabeth Laseter
November 13, 2018
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It’s no secret that oatmeal is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. For relatively few calories, oatmeal packs an impressive amount of fiber, plant-based protein, energizing carbs, plus a full serving of whole grains.

On its own, however, oatmeal can taste—let's be honest—bland. And if you’re making the same plain bowl every single day, with just a bit of maple syrup or honey, it’s pretty easy to feel like you're in a rut. Luckily, there’s an endless array of healthy oatmeal toppings that can easily liven up your routine, like fresh fruit, nut butter, seeds, honey, and more. In fact, oatmeal's blandness can be an advantage: Like cauliflower or pasta, it’s a blank canvas to showcase a multitude of flavors (and they don't have to all be sweet).

To spark your oat-spiration, we’ve concocted 14 fun ways to help you make your oatmeal more exciting, and even healthier. Use this Basic Steel Oats Recipe as the base (omit the cinnamon and honey), then pile on your toppings. For the sweet oatmeal bowls, cook the oats in a mixture of half water, half milk. For the savory bowls, cook the oats in just water. Under each illustration, we've included additional instructions on how to make several of the bowls.

  • Blueberry-Ginger Oatmeal: Make the sauce by simmering blueberries with a little water in a small saucepan
  • Banana Pudding Oatmeal: Mix the vanilla extract with the oatmeal when cooking, then add the remaining toppings.

Here, you’ll find oatmeal bowls with sweet toppings, like our PB&J Oatmeal (pictured above) with peanut butter, sliced bananas, fresh raspberries, chia seeds, and drizzled honey. Or our Mango Smoothie Oatmeal (below), which features frozen mango chunks, Greek yogurt, and fresh lime zest. By the way, using frozen fruit in oatmeal is a brilliant hack. It’s less prep work for you, plus the fruit keeps its crisp texture as it melts into your warm oatmeal.

  • Apple Pie Oatmeal: Use a box grater to grate the apple.
  • Mango Smoothie Oatmeal: Slice frozen mango chunks into smaller pieces before adding to the oatmeal.

Don't be afraid of using savory ingredients in oatmeal bowls—it's a total game-changer. For instance our Bagel & Lox Oatmeal (pictured below) with smoked salmon, capers, Greek yogurt, and Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend is a great way to rethink a classic New York breakfast. Or if you're feeling adventurous, Cacio e Pepe Oatmeal (below), is a spin on the comforting pasta dish made with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese and generous amounts of black pepper.

If that sounds, well, a bit weird to you, hear us out. Oats are no different from any other healthy whole grain like farro, buckwheat, or quinoa. You can top a bowl of quinoa with avocado and egg, and you can do the same thing with oatmeal.

  • Avocado Toast Oatmeal: Mix the mashed avocado with a small amount of lemon juice.
  • Bagel & Lox Oatmeal: You won't need more than a teaspoon of capers. Because they're higher in sodium, a small amount goes a long way. 

And trust us—the result is pretty satisfying and delicious. See for yourself in our Avocado Toast Oatmeal (pictured above), which riffs on the viral millennial trend with mashed avocado, red pepper flakes, drizzled extra-virgin olive oil, and a few flakes of Maldon sea salt. We also love the combination of flavors in the Japanese Breakfast Rice-Style Oatmeal (above), a play on traditional tamago gohan.

  • Sushi Roll Oatmeal: Order SeaSnax Roasted Seaweed from Amazon or find it at Whole Foods.
  • Japanese Breakfast Rice-Style Oatmeal: Togarashi is a fiery Japanese spice made from dried chili peppers. Order it on Amazon or find it at your local Asian market.

We hope that these sweet and savory topping ideas will inspire you to rev up your oatmeal game. Make one of our sweet bowls for breakfast or try making a savory bowl for dinner. Don’t be afraid to get wild with your own ideas, too—the more creative you can get, the better. Regardless of how you enjoy it, oatmeal is a healthy, nutrient-dense whole grain that’s part of any balanced diet.