Recipe Review

I Tried Food52’s Cocoa Almond Oatmeal and It Changed My Breakfast Routine for the Better

published Feb 8, 2023
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Almond butter on top of cocoa almond oatmeal.
Credit: Justine Lee

Up until recently, my default method for preparing a cozy bowl of oatmeal on a busy weekday morning was to nuke it in the microwave. It never yielded the ultra-creamy oats I truly desired, but it was convenient. And most importantly, because I cooked the oats straight inside a serving bowl, the process never left me with a sticky pot to scrub away for minutes on end. If you’re a fan of oatmeal, you understand this struggle. 

Just when I was about to settle for a lifetime of bleak Monday morning oats, I learned about Samantha Seneviratne’s recipe for cocoa almond oatmeal prepared in a seemingly unlikely piece of equipment: a nonstick skillet! When I read on Food52 that the recipe only demands five minutes of cooking time, I knew I had to give it a try. 

How to Make Cocoa Almond Oatmeal 

The recipe is composed of three very simple steps: Simmer the oats, top the oats, and eat the oats. In a medium nonstick skillet, dump in your rolled oats, almond milk (or your choice of milk), salt, and cocoa powder. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, making sure to stir and scrape down the sides and bottom of the pan as the oats cook. Turn the heat down if it looks like the oats are boiling at a rapid pace. Due to the large surface area of the nonstick skillet, the oats are exposed to more heat and, in turn, cook down much faster than in a traditional pot. You’ll know it’s time to turn off the heat when the oatmeal looks a little looser than you prefer, but resist the temptation to go further because it will thicken more as it cools. Add almond butter and as much maple syrup as you want. Eat warm.

Credit: Justine Lee

My Honest Review of Cocoa Almond Oatmeal  

Thanks to this recipe, I’ve finally found what I’ve been looking for: The quickest way to make creamy stovetop oatmeal without the burden of a sticky pot. It was my own fault to think my trusty nonstick skillet was only an appropriate vessel for breakfast fare like fried eggs, toast, and pancakes. 

It’s the texture and rich taste of the oatmeal itself that really brought me back for more morning after morning, and made it feel like dessert for breakfast can actually be a virtuous affair. The lavish 4 teaspoons of cocoa powder pair with the creamy almond butter and soft oats to give the dish a roasty-toasty, bittersweet confidence not found in any bag of the store-bought instant stuff. I don’t think I can make oatmeal any other way ever again. 

If You’re Making Cocoa Almond Oatmeal, a Few Tips 

  • Always keep a close eye on the bubbles. They’re the best visual indicator for tracking what stage your oatmeal is at in the cooking process. The bubbles will cover the entire skillet when the skillet comes to a boil, and gradually they will reduce to smaller, tighter bubbles that only scatter across a mound of creamy, hot chocolate-smelling oats. 
  • Scale up the recipe. The beauty of a single-serve recipe made in a nonstick skillet is how easily it welcomes double or triple batches. With each increase you make, tack on a few extra minutes of cook time. 
  • Swirl in your favorite nut butter. Take the fact chocolate pairs exceptionally well with just about any nut as your cue to explore a variety of flavor combinations. Peanut butter is a no-brainer. Try it with pistachio paste, hazelnut spread, or, if you’re nut-free, sunflower butter. 
  • Add frozen or dried fruit. I had delicious results when I mixed in a handful of dried cranberries or frozen dark cherries (hello, black forest cake vibes!). The tart sweetness of these fruits works in great contrast against the bitterness of the cocoa and creamy almond butter. If you want to take the frozen route, add them into the skillet right as you see the oatmeal coming together, when it still has a minute or two before it’s ready. This ensures that the fruit gets a chance to cook and become jammy. 

Get the recipe: Cocoa Almond Oatmeal