Oatmeal is meant to be sweet, right? That’s how most of us see it, anyway. We have it as our morning breakfast with some brown sugar, milk, and berries. We put it in our cookies alongside chunks of chocolate, warm vanilla, and raisins. And we eat it in our cinnamon-and-honey granola bars. Because most of us associate oatmeal with sweetness, we tend to typecast it as such, and we end up getting bored with it for this reason. But we do not give oatmeal the credit it deserves.
Oatmeal is actually quite versatile. I mean, just think about it. Oats are a starchy grain with little flavor on their own. They are a base to which we can add flavor and texture to our choosing. Much like pasta and rice, oatmeal is a pantry staple because it provides a completely blank slate for all sorts of recipes. So, if we’re getting bored with oatmeal, we can only blame ourselves for making it boring.
I, too, was guilty of underestimating the adaptability of oatmeal. I enjoyed it as a breakfast food from time to time, but I got tired of the same old thing. Sure, I switched it up. Maybe instead of brown sugar and raisins, I’d mix in some agave and fresh berries or bananas. Or perhaps I’d toss in some honey, cinnamon, toasted almonds, and apples. Sometimes, I would get a little creative with spices like cardamom, vanilla, almond extract, and even ginger. But no matter how I’d modify it, I stuck to the same sweet design–oats, some form of sugar, and some sweet mix-ins like fruit and nuts–so my oatmeal was always essentially the same.
It was not until I lived in Thailand that I realized the full potential of oatmeal–and all grains in the breakfast cereal category. One of the most common breakfast dishes in Thailand is savory rice porridge, or jook. They cook the rice down with stock until it’s soft and slightly soupy, and they add herbs, spices, eggs, and meats for a hearty, savory meal. While jook is not technically oatmeal, the savory porridge made me rethink the sweet hot cereal paradigm to which I was so accustomed.
Here are some delectable oatmeal recipes that won’t fit into the traditional box:
Oatmeal can only be as flavorful and unique as you make it, so be resourceful and use your imagination to create something different and delicious!
Originally published at newscult.com on April 17, 2015.