Make Deluxe Oatmeal: 10 Awesome Mix-Ins

People have strong feelings about oatmeal: you're either very pro or very anti-oatmeal. For oatmeal lovers, here are a few excellent mix-ins to fold into your morning cereal. (And maybe they'll help convert all you anti-oatmeal people, too!)

While I'm all for convenience and understand the time restraints of a busy schedule, I always marve that fast-food establishments like Burger King and Starbucks now sell oatmeal (and a lot of it) to folks looking for something easy in the mornings. Now you could certainly do much worse: it's certainly a much healthier option that a slice of pound cake or a hashbrown. But I always reserve oatmeal for making at home so I can relish the slow process. For this reason, I usually have it on the weekends, and gather a few things from the cupboards to mix into our bowls. Some of my favorites are listed below, as well as some big favorites from The Kitchn archives.

1. Chopped, Roasted Nuts: This one is a no-brainer. Roasted pecans? Yes, please. Dry-roasted hazelnuts? Of course. Pistachios, sliced almonds or even peanuts? Okay. Chopped nuts add an extra welcome crunch and layers of flavor that will help you break out of any oatmeal rut.

2. Cocao Nibs: Earlier this year, we talked about the wonders of adding the slightly earthy, nutty, and crunchy little nibs to your morning cereal. We haven't stopped yet!

3. Graham Crackers: Chopped up graham crackers soften in a bowl of oatmeal and lend a subtle honey flavor that I really love. Add them just before the oatmeal is fully cooked. You can try this with Zwieback crackers or even matza, too.

4. Chia or Flax Seeds: Both chia seeds and flax seeds are an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and they're easy to mix into smoothies, baked goods, or on top of your favorite morning cereals. I've been using chia seeds a lot lately because, unlike flax seeds, you don't have to grind them to gain all of the nutritional benefits.

5. Dried Fruits: Dried cranberries are a good year-round staple to add to oatmeal because they're so readily available and easy. But chopped dried apricots or mango are also excellent, as are dried cherries and blueberries.

6. Brûléed Bananas: There's just something about lightly-torched bananas with a slightly hard, sugary outside that beckons a bowl of oatmeal.

7. Bacon & Cheddar: I realize it's not for everyone, but it's actually quite good. If you're in the mood for something savory, add a few slices of bacon (cooked and crumbled) to your morning oatmeal along with some shredded cheddar and a sprinkle of thick-flake salt (like Maldon). Alternatively, use your favorite cheese.

8. Cinnamon Raisin Bread: I'm usually not a fan of adding carbs to more carbs, but chopping up a slice of cinnamon raisin bread and adding it just when the oatmeal starts to bubble allows the bread time to soften into the oatmeal in a most delightful way. For an extra treat, stir in one teaspoon of raisins.

9. Cocoa Powder: I'll be honest: I often look for an excuse to eat a little chocolate with breakfast, and adding a teaspoon of good, high-quality cocoa powder is just that excuse. Whereas the cocao nibs lend a nice, almost savory crunch, the cocoa powder will flavor your whole bowl.

10. Cottage Cheese or Yogurt: After your oatmeal is done cooking and you're portioning it out into serving bowls, I love mixing in a big dollop of either Greek yogurt and honey or a bit of cottage cheese. This will add a creamy complexity that works really nicely with the neutral oatmeal.

What do you like to mix into your oatmeal?

Related: Oatmeal in Jars: Make a Week of Breakfast in Just 5 Minutes

(Images: Faith Durand)