If you are a person with texture issues - meaning, you do not generally enjoy mushy foods - then getting through a bowl of oatmeal presents a challenge. Being generous with crunchy and chewy toppings helps; using steel-cut rather than rolled is another way to add bite. But if you’re also a person who generally skews savory over sweet, then the typical bowl of morning oatmeal, doused in maple syrup, just isn’t going to cut it.
Enter savory oats.
Savory oatmeal is the grain bowl’s creamy, comforting cousin, the perfect home for a fried egg or last night’s roasted vegetables. If you remain skeptical, it may help to think of oats as just another starchy base upon which to build layers of flavor and top with various proteins or sauces - much like pasta, rice, grits, toast and more.
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Oatmeal With Bacon, Cheese and Pickled Jalapeños
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1⁄3 cup dried rolled oats (do not use instant or quick-cooking oats)
2⁄3 cup water, or more as needed
1⁄4 teaspoon vegetable bouillon concentrate, such as Better Than Bouillon brand
2 tablespoons shredded cheese, such as sharp cheddar, colby jack or a blend
2 slices cooked, crisped bacon
A few pickled jalapeño slices
Cooked greens, such as spinach, kale or collards, for serving (optional)
Roasted cherry tomato halves, for serving (optional)
1 large egg, fried, poached or soft-cooked, for serving (optional)
Stir together the oats, water and bouillon concentrate in a large, microwave-safe bowl (at least 2-cup capacity). The bouillon won’t dissolve yet; this is okay. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH for 2 minutes, watching closely to make sure the mixture doesn’t boil over. Stop and restart the microwave as needed to prevent overflow.
Stir to distribute the bouillon; be careful, the bowl will be hot. Microwave on HIGH for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the oats are cooked to your desired degree of doneness: Less time will yield slightly chewy oats, while the full 2 minutes will yield more tender results. For a soupier consistency, stir in more water, a tablespoon or two at a time.
Top with the shredded cheese, bacon and pickled jalapeño slices, plus the sauteed greens, roasted tomato halves and egg, if using.
Calories: 260; Total Fat: 14 g; Saturated Fat: 6 g; Cholesterol: 35 mg; Sodium: 850 mg; Carbohydrates: 20 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 0 g; Protein: 14 g.
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Steel-cut Oats with Kimchi
Servings: 4 (makes 3 1/2 cups oats)
Steel-cut oats cook beautifully in an Instant Pot or other electric multicooker. We’ve made them savory by using broth and piling mushrooms, a fried egg and a healthy dose of kimchi on top.
Treat the oats like you would any saucy starch and use them as a base for whatever toppings you have on hand - pulled pork, sauteed greens or roasted vegetables, for example.
Make ahead: The base oats can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or for up to a week if using vegetable broth. You may need to add more broth when reheating. The cooked mushrooms will keep for a week in the refrigerator. Fry the eggs just before serving.
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 cup dried steel-cut oats
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth (may also use turkey or pork stock)
1 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced (6 cups)
1 tablespoon dry vermouth (may substitute white wine, Madeira or apple cider vinegar)
4 large eggs
Freshly ground pepper, as needed
Kimchi, for serving
Crispy fried onions or shallots, for serving
Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in the electric multicooker using the SAUTE function (set to normal, if your cooker has the option). Add the oats and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt; cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, to toast the oats.
Add the broth, then lock on the lid and set the valve to sealing. Set to high pressure and cook for 10 minutes. When finished, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then manually release the steam.
Meanwhile, cook the mushrooms: Melt 1 teaspoon of butter in a large (12-inch) nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are soft, browned and their moisture has released and mostly evaporated. Stir in the vermouth and cook for 1 minute, or until it evaporates. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate, then wipe the skillet clean. (You’ll use it to fry the eggs.)
Once you manually release the pressure for the oats, fry your eggs. (The oats are a little soupy immediately after you open the pot, but they’ll firm up as they sit - so if you want the oats soupier, fry your eggs earlier. If you want them firmer, fry later.) Melt the remaining 1 teaspoon of butter in the skillet over medium heat (do this in batches if necessary, but you can fit four eggs in a 12-inch skillet). Turn the eggs over to cook on the second side, if desired, and fry them as runny or firm as you like. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
To serve, divide the oats among individual bowls, then top each portion with the mushrooms, a big spoonful of kimchi, an egg and a sprinkle of crispy fried onions or shallots.
Oats recipe adapted from “Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker, Multicooker, and Instant Pot,” by Melissa Clark (Clarkson Potter, 2017); savory twist and toppings adapted from Washington-based Number 1 Sons and Portland, Maine, chef Jonathan Uribe.
The nutritional analysis is using no-salt-added chicken broth.
Calories: 320; Total Fat: 13 g; Saturated Fat: 6 g; Cholesterol: 200 mg; Sodium: 350 mg; Carbohydrates: 34 g; Dietary Fiber: 6 g; Sugars: 5 g; Protein: 17 g.
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Savory Indian-Style Oats (Oats Upma)
Servings: 2 to 3
This South Indian porridge is typically made with semolina (sooji) and eaten for breakfast and as a snack. The flavorful seasonings of black mustard seed, fresh curry leaves and ginger also take well to oats.
You can make this with dried steel-cut oats and 3 cups of water; they’ll take about 13 minutes to cook.
The original recipe called for 1 teaspoon of urad dal and 1/2 teaspoon of roasted chana dal (both available at Indian markets). If desired, add the urad dal after the mustard seed begins to sputter, then cook for a few minutes before proceeding with the recipe; add the roasted chana dal when you add the cashews and raisins.
Curry leaves are available at Indian markets, Mom’s Organic Markets and online. Black and brown mustard seeds are available from well-stocked grocery stores, spice stores, Indian markets and online.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄2 teaspoon black or brown mustard seed (see headnote)
3 fresh curry leaves (see headnote)
1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon peeled, minced fresh ginger root
1⁄2 cup chopped shallots (2 ounces; from about 2 lobes)
1⁄4 cup finely chopped carrots (1 1/4 ounces; from 1 small, scrubbed carrot)
1⁄4 cup finely chopped fresh green beans (1 1/4 ounces)
1 tablespoon roasted, chopped cashews (salted or unsalted)
1 tablespoon golden raisins (may substitute dried cranberries)
1 cup dried rolled oats (do not use instant; may also use steel-cut, see headnote)
2 cups water (see headnote)
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
Lemon wedge, for serving (optional)
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seed; as soon as it starts to pop and sputter, add the curry leaves and reduce the heat to low (the spices will continue to spit and pop). Add the turmeric and ginger; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, then add the shallots, carrots and green beans. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the shallots have softened.
Add the cashews, raisins and oats. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the oats are lightly toasted and the mix smells quite fragrant.
Add the water and salt. Cook, uncovered, for about 9 minutes, stirring often, until the water has mostly evaporated and the vegetables are tender. Squeeze with a little fresh lemon juice, if using. Taste and add more salt, as needed.Serve warm.
Based on a recipe from Washington chef-restaurateur K.N. Vinod.
The nutritional analysis is based on 3 servings.
Calories: 240; Total Fat: 13 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 200 mg; Carbohydrates: 28 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugars: 6 g; Protein: 5 g.