This 2-minute trick will totally change your oatmeal's flavor, no milk or sugar required.

Maddy Sweitzer-Lammé
February 05, 2021
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For most of the year, I'm a savory breakfast gal. I like a couple of eggs in the morning, maybe with a little black pepper and cheese. But every year, when the mornings start to get really frigid, I crave a bowl of oatmeal—really, really good oatmeal. There's one simple trick that I use to take my oats to the next level: toasting.

That's right. I don't use fancy oats that have to be cooked for hours, and I don't drench them in butter and cream (although, yum). I simply toast the oats lightly in the bottom of a saucepan before adding my cooking liquid.

It's a simple technique, and the whole cooking process is done in about ten minutes, so yes, it takes longer than throwing them in the microwave, but trust me, it's worth it. If you're looking for ways to get excited about eating oatmeal in the morning (or trying to inspire your family to do so) creating a little more flavor is a good way to go about it.

I simply set a heavy-bottom saucepan (like this one from Williams Sonoma) over medium-low heat. When it feels hot, add your oats to the dry pan and cook them, stirring often for about 2 minutes until you see them start to darken in color. They'll give off a toasty smell and turn golden in spots—that's where you want them. After that, simply add your cooking liquid (I'm partial to a mixture of water and milk to add a little body and richness) and cook normally according the stovetop directions on the package.

For a more special-occasion breakfast (like a Saturday morning or even a holiday), try toasting the oats in a little bit of butter, which browns and creates even more delicious flavor. The extra fat also helps keep you full longer, and adds a nice body to the finished oats.

I think we can all agree that often oatmeal is just a carrier for other flavors, usually sugary ones like maple syrup, honey or brown sugar. Toasting the oats before cooking creates a more pronounced flavor that you'll actually enjoy, so you won't need nearly as many toppings. I'm partial to chopped apples, toasted pecans and, yes, a drizzle of maple syrup.