I love porridge for its earthy flavor and creamy bite, but I also see it as a blank canvas in which to spin tales of delicious and diverse toppings. The opportunities for creativity and invention are endless — from sweet to savory, and everything in between. Once you start to move beyond traditional brown sugar and raisins, you'll find merriment in blobs, dashes, and slivers of anything and everything lingering in the larder.
Today, I present you with 10 current favorite ways to top a bowl of oatmeal. They're inspired by my travels, the season, and my mood — use these combos as a basic formula and add in your own favorite edible goodies. You could even do an oatmeal bar breakfast party where everyone gets to make their own bowl full of contrasting textures and flavors!
Coconut Milk + Pumpkin + Cinnamon
Cozying up with this fall combo is an instant soul soother. It's perfect if you are making pies and just have a little leftover pumpkin purée. Add a cup of tea on the side and you'll be transported to the tropical pumpkin patch of your dreams!
Seared Plums + Almond Butter + Flax
This is a downright sexy combo — warm your skillet over high heat and cook the plums in a little coconut oil, salt, and brown sugar until just caramelized. Layer these over your oatmeal, along with a blob of salted almond butter and a sprinkle of whole flax seeds for a little bitter, umami punch.
Cocoa + Pecans + Bananas
This temptress of a combo will lure even the most tired out of bed and to the breakfast table. Stir some bittersweet cocoa powder (I love a very high-quality, rich one, such as Valrhona or Guittard) into your oats as they cook — this makes a lovely bed for the crunchy pecans and soft slivered bananas.
Crème Fraîche + Pear + Maple Syrup
I first had this luxurious combination at a coffee shop in Portland, Oregon. I haven't looked back since! The subtle tart of the crème fraîche and smooth sweetness of the pear scream fall cozy comfort. A splash of maple syrup never hurt either.
Greek Yogurt + Dark Chocolate + Dates
When I wake up in the mood for dessert, I turn to this decadent bowl of oats. The chocolate must be bittersweet and finely grated, although a few chunky bits are good too — they melt into warm pools. Then add a hit of slivered dates and a dollop of good whole-milk Greek yogurt. Give everything a few minutes to melt together, and your decadent breakfast is ready.
Coconut Milk + Tangerines + Toasted Coconut
This jewel-like bowl of porridge is inspired by my trips to Southeast Asia, where coconut flakes reign and the tangerines are blisteringly sweet. The acid and creaminess do a dance one doesn't easily forget. Trust me and try it. Bonus points if you supreme the individual segments of tangerine (I'm too lazy for this).
Apricot Jam + Tahini + Pistachios
This particular bowl of oatmeal was inspired by the subtly floral and exotic flavors of Turkey one cold winter's day while living in Istanbul. Tahini paste is the magical richness that binds so many sweet and savory dishes in that part of the world. Add a spoonful of apricot preserves and a dusting of pistachios, and you'll be transported across oceans to a place where smoke and spices are heavy in the air. If you have been to Istanbul, you know what I'm talking about; if not, get going!
Fried Egg + Chives + Shallot
The simplicity of eggs and alliums is not lost on a bowl of porridge. With a sprinkling of salt and freshly cracked pepper, this savory twist on things will keep you going all morning long.
Labneh + Toasted Cashews + Smoked Paprika
Where was life before labneh? The fermented yogurt cheese from the Middle East is creamy, tangy, rich in probiotics, and highly useful in dishes both sweet and savory. A stir of it is always perfect — in soup, atop a fruit tart, alongside a grain salad, or in this case, as a bed for toasted cashews and smoky paprika.
Peas + Pecorino + Cracked Black Pepper
I've saved my favorite for last. This mix of textures and flavors, the bright pop of a pea and warming nuttiness of a good melting Pecorino, is utter heaven. It's a soul souther while still feeling nutritious, more closely related to a nice risotto than the usual bowl of oats.
How do you dress up your oatmeal? I'd love to hear! For more topping ideas, plus over 85 sweet and savory shareable recipes, check out my book, Food with Friends: The Art of Simple Gatherings — available now for preorder. This project also showcases ways to set your table on a budget, how to photograph the pretty food you've made, secret ingredients, and edible gifts. It's a guide that celebrates special and everyday occasions, both big and small.
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(Image credits: Leela Cyd)