Go beyond breakfast with these recipes featuring whole-grain oats in snacks, desserts and even dinner.
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peanut butter energy balls

Oats are a pantry staple for many reasons: they're an affordable whole grain, they can be gluten-free, and they're an irresistible breakfast food. A warming bowl of oatmeal is a surefire way to get the day started right and gives you energy to power through your morning tasks.

But these high-fiber, protein-packed flakes may be enjoyed far beyond the breakfast hour. Oats are an adaptable addition to so many dishes, whether they are the spotlight ingredient or snuck into food for extra nutrition and fill-you-up goodness.

You can add them to baked goods, main courses, and even beverages. Rolled oats, also known as old-fashioned oats, can be pulsed in a food processor to turn them into a homemade equivalent of quick oats or even coarse oat flour, so they're the most versatile to have on hand.

Here are eight ways to add oats to every meal of the day.

1. Snack on power-packed energy balls

peanut butter energy balls

If you love peanut butter no-bake cookies, you'll go nuts for these protein-rich energy balls. Rolled oats form the base of these poppable snacks sweetened with coconut, honey, and chocolate chips. As a bonus, they freeze well for up to three months, so why not make a double batch?

2. Bake up better-for-you cookies

Bevs Chocolate Chip Cookies

A one-two punch of whole wheat flour and coarsely ground oats puts these chocolate chip cookies on the healthier side of the dessert spectrum while still keeping a classic flavor and a crispy-chewy texture. Some say they're even better than the back-of-the-bag version!

3. Blend them into a smoothie

Blueberry and Spinach Smoothie
Credit: Casey Barber

Oats are just one of the secret ingredients (like a heaping handful of spinach) in this sneaky-sweet smoothie. Along with antioxidant-rich blueberries and a touch of oat milk, they help add thickness and body, so you'll feel satisfied until lunchtime.

4. Boost your meatloaf

Boost your meatloaf with oats

Featured recipe: Old-Fashioned Meatloaf

Moist meatloaf that still slices like a dream? You can have it all with this hearty recipe that uses oats and mushrooms instead of the usual soaked white bread or breadcrumbs to fill out the loaf and stretch your food budget.

Grind oats and mushrooms in a food processor before adding to a savory beef and vegetable blend. No one will notice the addition, but you'll get an extra hit of umami flavor and lightened-up texture in each bite.

5. Treat yourself to a tart

Mini Lemon Curd Tarts
Credit: Jennifer Causey

Instead of the usual graham cracker crust, a gingersnap crust ups the ante with a little extra spice. And it's better for you than an all-cookie crust, thanks to a scoopful of ground oats in the tart dough. For additional whole-grain nutrition, replace the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour or oat flour.

6. Sprinkle on a streusel topping

Skillet Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Oats and almond meal bring crunch and protein to this sweet, crumbly streusel topping. Make this dessert in the spring with strawberries and rhubarb, in the summer with peaches and other stone fruit, or with autumn apples and pears. The oaty crumble topping pairs well no matter what's in season.

7. Bake homemade bread

Honey Oat Quick Bread

Featured recipe: Honey-Oat Quick Bread

Oat lovers, here's an easy bread recipe for you. With oats both in the dough and covering the golden-brown crust of this tender loaf, there's more than enough to go around in each slice. And thanks to the combination of yogurt interacting with baking powder and soda in the dough, this yeast-free quick bread rises high but stays soft.

8. Make oat milk

A coffee with oat milk and a jar of homemade oat milk
Credit: Casey Barber

Featured recipe: How to Make Oat Milk

Since we know you have lots of oats on hand, go the extra mile and blend up a batch of creamy homemade oat milk. Unlike nut milks, oats don't require hours of pre-soaking before blending. Simply blend oats and water together in a high-speed blender, then strain.