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Learn how to make oatmeal so it actually tastes good! This basic oatmeal recipe uses only 4 ingredients, turns out great every time, and can be topped with all sorts of yummy toppings to make the best oatmeal ever!

And if oatmeal for breakfast isn’t your thing, maybe you would like these Homemade Blueberry Muffins with Crumb ToppingFluffy Toasted Coconut Pancakes, or Cinnamon French Toast instead!

An image of bowls of oatmeal topped with fresh fruit. 

In this post, I’m sharing my favorite basic oatmeal recipe so you can know how to make oatmeal so it actually tastes good. Ditch the packets of instant oatmeal with their fake flavors and enjoy oatmeal made the old-fashioned way!

How to Make Oatmeal Taste Good

I’ll admit that I hated oatmeal as a kid. The only thing that rivaled my dislike of oatmeal was carrots.

Honestly, even as a grown-up oatmeal hasn’t been my favorite thing. Oatmeal has always been reserved for cookies, granola, and granola bars, and that’s about it for me.

Except I decided a while back that I was going to try it again as an adult and see if I could figure out a way for how to make oatmeal and enjoy it. 

An image of a bowl of oatmeal topped with strawberries and cookie butter.

Turns out it’s the microwavable packets of oatmeal that come in flavors like peaches & cream that I really don’t like. Regular, old-fashioned oatmeal that you cook in a pot on the stove and then top with real actual fruit and other yummy toppings is a whole different ballgame for me.

Dare I say I even like it? Not that I’m going to eat it every day, but man, add some fruit and maybe drizzle some cookie butter on top and I’m game!

Turns out oatmeal isn’t the worst! Who knew?!

This is a staple recipe for oatmeal using old-fashioned oats or rolled oats and it is the perfect backdrop for dressing up your breakfast with all your favorite fruits, nuts, and other, more indulgent toppings like brown sugar and cookie butter (yes, cookie butter). 

An image of a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit and nuts. An image of a bowl of homemade maple brown sugar oatmeal.

How to Make Oatmeal on the Stove

My personal favorite approach for how to cook oatmeal is to do it in a pot on the stovetop, the old-fashioned way. It takes all of about 5 minutes and I feel like I have the most control over getting my oatmeal to just the right consistency for my personal tastes (not too thick, thank you very much). 

An image of a pot of oatmeal made with old-fashioned oats.

Start by combining old-fashioned or rolled oats, not instant, quick, or steelcut oats, (more on those in a bit), in a medium pot with milk and water. It’s a 1:2 ratio where you use 1 cup of oats to 2 cups of liquid.

An image of oats, milk, water, and cinnamon in a pot.

You can use all water, if you want, but the milk makes it creamier and more delicious. I also always add ground cinnamon and a little bit of salt since a common problem with oatmeal is that it is so, so bland. 

Give everything a stir and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then drop the heat to low and simmer for just 3-5 minutes until the oatmeal is the thickness you like. Remember that as the oatmeal cools, it will continue to absorb the liquid and thicken even more. 

An image of a bowl of oatmeal topped with brown sugar, maple syrup, and pecans. 

How to Make Oatmeal in the Microwave

Making oatmeal in the microwave is pretty much just the same as on the stovetop. Use a large microwave safe bowl and stir the liquid, oats, cinnamon, and salt together. 

Then microwave on HIGH power for 2 minutes without a cover. 

Types of Oatmeal

If you aren’t big on eating oatmeal (like me for the longest time), you might find it confusing looking at the different types of oatmeal available at the store. There are 3 main types to be aware of, but all start off as “oat groats”.

  1. Steel-cut Oats: Steel-cut oats haven’t been rolled or processed like old-fashioned oats. Instead, the whole oat groat is chopped so it kind of resembles rice. They have a nuttier flavor, chewier texture, and take longer to cook (around 20 minutes). I actually quite like steel cut oats, but because they take longer, they aren’t as practical for us for every day. 
  2. Old-Fashioned or Rolled Oats: This type of oatmeal has the outer bran layer of the oat groat removed and has been pressed (or rolled) flat so that it cooks faster than steel cut oats. It still has texture when cooked and is what I typically use when baking.
  3. Quick (or Instant) Oats: These are really just old-fashioned oats that have been rolled even flatter and often chopped up a bit so that they cook even faster. You could technically use these and cook the oatmeal recipe below for a minute or two less. But I prefer the texture of the larger old-fashioned rolled oats since quick oats often turn out more mushy.

An image of old-fashioned rolled oats in a measuring cup. 

My Big List of Our Favorite Oatmeal Toppings

By combining 2 or 3 of the choices below, you can have a different oatmeal flavor every day! I almost always use some kind of sweetener like maple syrup, brown sugar, or honey, along with nuts (for crunch), and some kind of fruit.

For some toppings like peanut butter and cookie butter, you can try stirring it into the bowl of oatmeal, or you might want to microwave it and drizzle it over the top.

  • Sweeteners: Maple syrup, brown sugar, and honey are the most popular choices.
  • Nuts & seeds: Candied walnuts, chopped pecans, sliced almonds, ground flax seeds, coconut chips, or pepitas all give great addition crunch, protein, and healthy fats to your oatmeal.
  • Fresh or dried fruit: Sliced strawberries or peaches are my favorite, but we also like chunks of apple, pineapple, freshly blueberries or blackberries, and sliced bananas in oatmeal. Dried blueberries, cranberries, and raisins are also good choices.
  • Something indulgent: Okay, I’ll admit that cookie butter is my favorite oatmeal topping. You can either melt a tablespoon or two of it in the microwave first and drizzle it over the top, or add a scoop to the hot oatmeal and stir it in. Same with peanut butter or nutella. Mini chocolate chips are fun, and my dad always puts sprinkles on oatmeal when he makes it for his 8 granddaughters (which kinda grosses me out, but they love it!).
  • Spices: I always add cinnamon to my oatmeal as it cooks, but it isn’t a strong cinnamon flavor. You can sprinkle on more cinnamon, or add other warm spices like cardamom, ginger, or nutmeg.

An image of a bowl of homemade oatmeal with fruit. An image of a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit and nuts. An image of three bowls of oatmeal with different toppings.    

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How to Cook Oatmeal
Yield: Serves 2-3

How to Cook Oatmeal

Learn how to make oatmeal so it actually tastes good! This basic oatmeal recipe uses only 4 ingredients, turns out great every time, and can be topped with all sorts of yummy toppings to make the best oatmeal ever!

Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 7 minutes

Ingredients

Oatmeal

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Toppings

  • Brown sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Your favorite nuts (sliced almonds or chopped pecans are our favorites)
  • Bananas
  • Sliced apples
  • Berries
  • Peanut butter
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Cookie butter

Instructions

  1. Combine the oats, milk, water, cinnamon, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
  3. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes until thickened to your desired consistency.
  4. Remove from the heat and cool for a few minutes before pouring into bowls and serving with your favorite toppings.

Notes

  • Gluten-free oatmeal: Not all oatmeal is gluten-free. Be sure to be gluten-free oats if you have food allergies that you are concerned about.
  • Dairy-free oatmeal: You can substitute almond milk or coconut milk in this recipe.


Basic oatmeal recipe from Cooking Light.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

2

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 218Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 198mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 4gSugar: 0gProtein: 10g