Sexed Up Savory Oatmeal

Over breakfast with the editor and food stylist for a cookbook I was shooting in Baltimore, I discovered a new twist on my favorite breakfast.

Forget the sweet; this oatmeal is all about savory. Food stylist Susan Vajaranant raved about this oatmeal recipe that uses olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper. Inspired from a shoot on artisanal cheeses, Susan shaved some sharp cheddar on her already-savory oats, and bang…holy shizzle…heaven.

The day after Susan told us about this recipe, the publisher Anja Schmidt, Susan and myself went to Whole Foods for the ingredients. Then, because we were living out of a hotel, we went to Starbucks and got their oatmeal minus the sweet trimmings. We found a nice table outside in the shade, and had ourselves a bowl full of the sexiest oatmeal you will ever have. We did that every day for the remainder of the shoot.

This is the easiest thing on earth to make and I promise you that you’ll love it if you try it. I have since made it for every house guest, and they have all been amazed. The flavor is similar to decadent grits, but you can feel good about it because it’s all good stuff.  Easy on the cheese, OK?

In order for this to work, you MUST use good olive oil, flaky sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and a good aged sharp cheddar. If you use higher quality ingredients, you only need a little – and the flavor is just unforgettable. That’s the great thing about really good ingredients; a little goes a long way.

For added decadence and some protein, I add a sunny-side up egg. The yolk running into the oats makes it even more smooth and creamy. Is your mouth watering, yet?

Also, this could be a great side with roasted chicken. Let me know if you are a convert. I’ve since converted five friends…and counting.

steel cut oats or rolled oats
olive oil
flaky sea salt
cracked pepper
aged sharp cheddar (I used Jasper Hill Cabot clothbound aged cheddar,

you could even go with a Parmigiano Reggiano)
Additional toppings, poached or sunny-side up egg, sauteed veggies, or other savory ingredients to taste

Follow directions for making oats. I normally bring 2 cups of water to a raging boil, add 1 cup of steel cut oats and lower heat to low. Cook slowly for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Oats are done when they are soft unless you prefer them more al dente.

Dish the oatmeal into bowls. The remaining ingredients are to your liking.
I start with the olive oil, add a 1/2 a tablespoon, maybe a pinch of salt, a few twists of crack pepper, and a shaving of cheese. Mix it all together and taste. Maybe add a little more oil, a pinch more of salt, pepper and cheese…mix…taste…I find that I add as I go with this dish.


Filed under Recipes

90 Responses to Sexed Up Savory Oatmeal

  1. Wow, what an interesting twist to oatmeal! Today I made steel cut oats fresh for breakfast…. I usually just pour a little milk and cinnamon on top, then sprinkle with flax and blueberries… I like the idea of making a savory version. I’ll have to try that tomorrow!! Thank you!!

  2. Holy crap! I hate oatmeal, but I’m positive that I would love it made THIS way. Thanks for converting me to the savory side! :)

  3. javier

    I’m definitely a convert :)


    also. hope your good!

  4. Oh my… I don’t think I’ve ever seen oatmeal look that delicious. Thanks for the inspiration. I eat oatmeal every day and have never thought to add anything other than almonds and berries.


  5. It made me so very happy to read this post. And hungry! I grew up eating my oatmeal salty because that is how my dad eats it. Brown sugar, raisins or maple syrup just sound wrong to me. Oatmeal is salty in my world. I never thought of taking it up a BIG notch to make it something this glamorous and wonderful. Thank you for the great idea and I can’t wait to try it!

  6. Caroline

    Reminds me of an idea I read years ago (in a Mark Bittman article, I think) about making oatmeal with soy sauce and scallions. I still haven’t gotten around to trying it, but the concept of savory oatmeal does sound very appealing. Typically, I only crave sweetness in the late afternoon, so sugary oatmeal is not something I’m ever in the mood for first thing in the morning.

  7. Penny, you may consider me a convert in principle, and in deed as soon as I get access to my kitchen/olive oil/salt/and an egg.

  8. Normally I eat oatmeal with a tablespoon or two of crunchy peanut butter, which I adore, but this sounds like another excellent alternative for breakfast.

  9. Pingback: Sexed Up Savory Oatmeal « Appetite | ClubEvoo

  10. It’s a perfect meal! I’ve been working for more than ten years and never listened about a recipe like this.

    The food combination sounds great and it really matches with a huge variety of dishes, thanks for sharing!

  11. mia

    beautiful! inventive! never thought about oats in this way…thanks, i must try this asap

  12. I have a terrible aversion to cooked oatmeal-in-a-bowl after a traumatic childhood experience. But I really want to like it. Do you think this could be a turning point?

  13. Penny… That is freakin’ amazing! Trying it this weekend. Oh that egg is perfection.

  14. Sounds like breakfast perfection to me!

  15. Thanks Penny for the recipe. It was good. Shared it with a friend and reposted my making of it on FB. Link of photo here:

    There is also a NOTE with the photo that copies your recipe. I gave link back to this page and credit to you.


  16. tastyeatsathome

    I could totally go for this. Tomorrow, perhaps?

  17. I always add plain yogurt to my oatmeal –I wish I could find the steal-cut here– AND pepper (never sugar). NOW you taught me this FANTASTIC new dish, which I will definitely try tomorrow, with some of our leftover spicy island cheeses that you shot, remember?

  18. It’s freaking fantastic. I tried it with Parmesan (and a poached egg) and can’t wait to try with cheddar.

  19. The Big E

    I have been a big advocate of savory oats. this recipe is particularly nice, I’ve gone so far as drizzled Truffle Oil, sprinkled crumbled bacon, and cooked it with sage sausage, all with awesome results.

  20. Christopher

    I’m also a great fan of savory oatmeal. I like to throw in some dried, minced garlic, and top with olive oil, or seasame oil, along with a touch of salt, and different herbs (depends on how I feel in the morning). I also usually mix in quinoa and/or buckwheat groats (have to get the timing down). Oatmeal is so much more versatile than I originally believed. I’m so happy to find others with interesting savory ideas!

  21. kitchenbeard

    Thanks for this. For years people have been looking at me like I have two heads when I tell them I don’t like sweet oatmeal. Some quick fried garlic and shallots with the olive oil, some paprika and some shaved parm and I’m quite happy.

  22. Tara Roberts

    I have not made this yet, but I have always preferred savory over sweet in my hot breakfast. I would much rather have butter or goat cheese in my oatmeal than sugar. My husband and his family think I am weird about this, but I did not grow up with it sweetened and it just tastes bad to me if it is.

  23. You’re kidding me. I’m totally trying this.

  24. Hetta Malone

    Your website was forwarded to me by Morrie Angell who has an equally delectable website loaded with beautiful recipes, photos and folksy, yet sophisticated notes.

  25. Damn, woman. I was drawn to this post because of the title (of course) but I think you’ll have yourself a convert this afternoon because as soon as I leave work, I’m gonna be making this!

    Good to see you today!


  26. NG

    This was AMAZING. I’m not a big fan of oatmeal because I feel I need to load it with sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, or mashed banana) to make it palatable, but this was just so delicious. I had it with parmesan, olive oil, s&p, will try with a runny egg on top next time!

  27. Andrew

    Traditional scottish porridge is savoury… Oats, water, salt, then served with a bowl of cream to dip the loaded spoon into, although more recently served with a splash of milk instead. As a young scot I remember the surprise of moving to England and finding people adding sugar, or Golden Syrup. Scots are well know for having a sweet tooth, but sweet porridge just doesn’t make sense to us….

  28. Thanks Penny!! I just made this savory oatmeal this morning. I’m thinking of making it again…because I inhaled the first bowl. :)

  29. Oats and eggs and cheese?! Oh my!

  30. This is gorgeous! I love not eating a sweet breakfast in the morning, and the egg on top just finishes the whole thing – yum!!

  31. I would have never used “sexed up” and “oatmeal” in the same sentence, but this looks like something I’ll have to try.

  32. On my way to the store for some of these ingredients! What an array of combinations, can’t way to try it!

  33. I’ve never thought of making oatmeal savory! Gorgeous photos, will definitely give this a try.

  34. Fascinating take on oatmeal Penny, I’m definitely going to make this. Thanks for sharing!

  35. Debbie

    I have enjoyed this for breakfast almost every day since I found this on your website. I can’t tell you how much I love it! I have used all kinds of cheese – quality does go a long way – like Havarti, goat, parmesean and of course aged cheddar. I also use a little coconut oil with a small hit of olive. The sea salt and cracked pepper round it off. Yummo!!

  36. Ian

    Fantastic recipe! Thank you. Made it this morning and my partner and I both loved it. And you’re right, a little of each of the flavors goes a long way. A small amount (1Tb per serving) of high quality robust olive oil played off the nuttiness of the oats very nicely. (To make the steel-cut oats more digestible, I soak them overnight in warm water and kefir. 1C oats/1C warm water/2Tb plain kefir. This method also cuts cooking time down to about 10-15 minutes and results in al dente groats that are creamy, similar to a risotto)

    I spent time in Korea years ago and was struck by how wonderful savory breakfasts are. As an American, I grew up on “sweet” breakfasts. There’s something very comforting and nourishing about breakfast without sugar/sweet qualities. Plus, it’s more healthful! :)

  37. Annie

    Like Andrew said, porridge (known to us at oatmeal) was originally served savory- and not just in Scotland. Even before Medieval times, when bread was too difficult and time-consuming to make, people made use of their harvested grains by slow cooking them with vegetables, herbs, and meat scraps. It’s only recently become a sweet breakfast dish.

  38. Anna

    I just made this–with cheddar and an egg on top–and I’m sure it was the first of many, many times. I bet truffle oil would make it an absolute delicacy.

  39. Pingback: Another Challenge!?! Day 06 – Your day «

  40. Really pretty blog you have there! Love the pictures and
    cant wait to try the recipe!

  41. Mahina

    I have passed this along to a dozen friends and all are
    now, like me, converts! It’s so good. I have also made it with
    sauteed spinach and mushroom to go in between the oatmeal and egg.
    Another time, I threw in some flash fried grape tomatoes too. We
    also like a dash of hot sauce on it sometimes. Will try truffle oil
    next, as one comment above suggests. THANK YOU.

  42. I’m stoked. I’ve been cooking an egg into my oatmeal for years and people treat me like a freak.

    Seriously, I hide the fact that I eat eggs with oatmeals, skip over the topic… when I tell people they should eat oatmeal and they inevitably ask, “What about protein.” I stammer and hedge.

    Maybe I can come out of the egg-in-oatmeal closet now…

  43. Had been thinking this was genius, but didn’t get to try it until this morning.

    Um, WOW. SO good. This is definitely going in the repertoire. I like it so much more than my standard brown-sugar-and-raisins option.

  44. zaphia

    I’ve been eating this every day since I read about it!
    I top it with sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil – also amazing.
    Have you seen this

  45. I posted about savory oatmeal on my blog, thinking I was the only one in the world, and then someone put together a roundup of different savory oatmeal recipes around the web, linking both to my recipe and this one, which led me this this! Now I know I’m not alone! Can’t wait to try some of the other savory oatmeal recipes I’ve discovered today!

  46. My husband and I are converts! I’ve always liked oatmeal but really don’t like sweet things for breakfast. This is a great option. I tried blue cheese and bacon in mine this morning. The sun-dried tomatoes in the previous post sound wonderful. I’ll have to try that. Oh, the possibilities!

  47. Pingback: Breakfast #36: Savory Oatmeal | Garden Grocer Blog

  48. Pingback: Affordable Online Colleges » A Baker’s Dozen: 13 Ways to Enjoy Your Oatmeal

  49. sandi diggins

    I grew up eating polenta with egg on top…fried/poached… as breakfast/dinner. When I need comfort food…it’s usually polenta or oatmeal in this savoury fashion. Where others reach for sugar, I reach for butter&salt. I think this is perfectly normal.
    If you haven’t tried it…why is the first instinct to turn up your nose???
    To eat like a King at breakfast is the key to long life…..savoury sexed up oatmeal….pass the bowl please&thank-you!!!!!!

  50. Pingback: Savory Oatmeal / rice and wheat

  51. this looks incredible. not a huge fan of oatmeal, but this savory dish might just do the trick. and a poached egg is a must!

  52. Pingback: Savory Oats | Liv(e) Love Laugh

  53. Erik

    omg–that looks incredible. i think sweet foods are overrated. enough with the f***ing brown sugar and cinnamon…it’s time to move on.

  54. Pingback: Oatmeal ‘n Egg « FoundOnWeb

  55. Pingback: Hey Good Lookin’ – #RunRevRun

  56. Pingback: The Adventures of Kendall the Cavalier

  57. Stacy Chambers

    Just tried this and it’s excellent. I don’t have high quality ingredients, either, and it’s still really good. Totally solves my problem, since I crave savory tastes in the morning rather than sweet.

  58. Ii’ve been on a search for savory oatmeal recipes for awhile now and i’m so delighted to find you and this recipe! This recipe is to die for–i’ve tried mark bittman’s soy sauce and scallion version and liked it, but i ADORE this recipe! I made it with the egg on top and added some lightly sauteed spinach… duh-licious. Who’d a thought something so simple would be just what oatmeal needed to become so much more than ‘just’ breakfast? THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for sharing!


  59. Pingback: Arm Yourself For The Day With Savory Oatmeal | FaveDietsBlog

  60. Jeana

    I thouht my husband was crazy when he asked me to make oatmal with ground meat and veges, however, the “meat porage” was delicious!! I am going to try your versions, I think it will be wonderful!!

  61. Pingback: Runner's Plate: Oatmeal Benefits and Warming Fall Recipes

  62. I know I’m late to the party here, but just wanted to say I tried this and I’m never going back to sweet oatmeal. It was amazing! I used a fruity olive oil and shaved parm (no cheddar) and the flavors were complex and wonderfully savory. Thank you for this.

  63. Someone I know shared this on Facebook, and I’m sooo glad they did. I got steel cut oats a long time ago, but I haven’t used much of the package yet because I just don’t like sweet oatmeal. I have been looking for savory steel cut oats recipes forever, and I’ve finally found one I can try. Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m gonna try it out tomorrow.

  64. Linda Everett

    This morning I made a dish of oatmeal but went light on the sweetening because I am watching calories. It tasted so bland and I suddenly thought – savory would be a nice twist. So I googled “savory oatmeal” and found this post – oh yes! For me, a tad less olive oil and a tad more black pepper, perhaps some paprika… I cannot wait to try it – maybe lunch?

  65. Pingback: Week Eight – Navy Beans and Steel Cut Oats | Good Beans and Grains

  66. Cassandra

    I am a huge fan of savory oatmeal. As a matter of fact I just finished a bowl. I was looking around to see if I was the only one out there, and apparently there is a following. Thanks for this recipe. I will try the cheese next time.

  67. Erin

    Tried it. Love it.

  68. steph lake

    I’ve been having a hard time with the “sweet oatmeal” world, I crave savory for breakfast not dessert (don’t even get me started on cereal!). I loved grits as a kid and kept wanting to try something similar with oats to make it appetizing and “meal-like” to me. You had me at EGG! This was delicious this morning and although I need to work on perfecting poached eggs in the microwave, my husband loved it too. Thanks for sharing!

  69. Jane

    OMG! This was divine, the egg definitely sent it over the top. It was my first time trying savory oatmeal. I had no idea that these items would complement each other. I had parm cheese on hand, can’t wait to try it with cheddar. Although, I still love eating oatmeal with fresh berries and cinnamon, I will be eating this more often on those days I don’t want something sweet. The great thing about this recipe is that you can eat it any time of the day. Had a bowl for dinner and I want more!

  70. Pingback: Oatmeal Crazy: From Blah to Bomb | Bite Size Wellness

  71. Pingback: Get Creative with Oatmeal | Healthy Way To Cook

  72. Kirby

    I absolutely hate oatmeal. But this is amazing. I’m for sure converted. I added a few spices to mine as well hoping it would change the taste of the oatmeal and it definitely worked. Thank you so much for this. The perfect breakfast for me :)

  73. I love it! Yummy!
    I love savory foods and tried this for the first time this morning. I can’t wait to make more.
    Thanks for sharing.

  74. Ooh. Looks amazing! Could never have imagined oats to look so glamourous! Now to try it out…

  75. Pingback: 40 Unexpected Ways to Add Veggies to a Meal | Online Latest News

  76. Samantha

    I love oatmeal! so I had to try this. this is the best thing i have tasted in a long time!

  77. Pingback: 40 Unexpected Ways to Add Veggies to a Meal |

  78. Anne Lida

    So excited to learn of other savory oatmeal lovers. Will definitely try this. i usually do mine w/minced raw garlic, nutritional yeast (I like LOTS but often make it for others w/less), & just the right amount of Louisiana hot sauce. Throw in some grated parmesan if I’m feelin fancy. Probably not sexy!–but starts the morning off w/a bang.
    This is such a beautiful blog.

  79. Kriss

    I plan on a little splash of balsamic vinegar and a few roasted grape tomatoes

  80. Lori

    Yummm! I have never been an oatmeal fan, but thought the savory might be better than sweet. I had it last night for dinner for the first time and again for lunch today. Trying to lose some weight, so it’s a guilt-free meal.

  81. stacey

    this has become my FAVORITE go-to breakfast!! thank you for sharing.

  82. Virginia

    I have always eaten my oatmeal savory – usually I crumble some bacon into or or some cut up sausage. Never tried cheese or an egg but I will be doing so. Another site suggested that you add some soy sauce and green onions, now that sounds wonderful, too!

  83. Kathleen

    I have to agree – this was WONDERFUL! I’ve always loved the saltiness combined with the sweet – the way my grandmother made oatmeal when I was a kid. And I more recently love oatmeal’s big bang for so few calories. Got me thinking though — if savory, saucy rice is called risotto, and savory cornmeal is polenta, I think oatmeal needs a saucy name too…

  84. Pingback: Savory Oats ~ Alivia Duran Photography

  85. pathgeek

    So: try this.
    (1), add flax seeds/ground flax, millet, barley, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or any kind of nuts (haven’t tried peanuts…), or &/or bran. If additions … must remember to change the liquid to reflect; this generally remains at 3:1 (h20:grain) as w/ oats. Before adding liquid to the s.c. oats, brown them (with oil / palm oil / butter or without)–most important is to laugh when the seeds pop and snap !

  86. Pingback: Hello to fellow and future oatmeal fanatics! | Nuts Over Oats

  87. Anne Lida

    I have been a savory oatmeal lover for a long time. Never have tried the olive oil but it sounds great. But an egg usually adds enough creaminess for me. I also like to add greens. Spinach is good but arugula is my favorite. Leftover roasted veggies are great in it & so are leftover cubed potatoes, I’ve found. And i often top it with some toasted slivered almonds. Oh, and garlic gets thrown in too, of course! Sometimes hot sauce. I found this blog a few years ago & come back every once in a while to find out what other savory oatmeal lovers have up their sleeves. Thanks, Penny.