Recipe: Five-Spice Sweet Oatmeal

(Image credit: Jerrelle Guy)

Without disrespecting cinnamon, I believe it gets the morning spotlight all too often. Go beyond the usual suspect and suddenly that bowl of oatmeal is the key to a spicier start to the day.

Let’s get sweet and spicy with Chinese five-spice powder, a unique blend that’s sweet and savory — and finds itself right at home when stirred into your oatmeal.

(Image credit: Jerrelle Guy)

A New Kind of Spiced Oatmeal

If you’re new to Chinese five-spice powder, this is an ideal introduction. The spice blend combines star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, fennel, cassia (a relative to cinnamon), and clove to result in a mix that’s an intriguing balance of sweet, savory, bitter, and tart.

We’re using it twice in this oatmeal: to flavor both the steel-cut oats and the jammy, honey-sweetened stewed plums that are spooned generously, warm, over each bowl. While traditionally used in savory meat dishes because of the star anise, cassia, and clove, it has a warm spice quality to it that also makes it suited to sweet uses. Consider it the new pumpkin pie spice. After enjoying it here, I encourage you to try it in muffins and even cookies.

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Five-Spice Sweet Oatmeal

Serves4 to 6


  • 2 1/4 cups

    water, divided

  • 2 cups

    almond milk (or your choice of dairy or non-dairy milk)

  • 1 cup

    steel-cut oats

  • 1 teaspoon

    Chinese five-spice powder, divided

  • Scant 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons


  • 4

    medium red plums, pitted and sliced


  1. Bring 2 cups of the water and almond milk to a boil over high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the oats, 1/2 teaspoon of five-spice powder, and salt; stir to combine; and return it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the oats are very tender and the oatmeal is as creamy as you like it, 20 to 30 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the remaining 1/4 cup of water, honey, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of five-spice powder to a simmer over medium heat. Add the plums and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is tender and the mixture is saucy, 8 to 10 minutes.

  3. When the oats are ready, serve immediately in bowls topped with a spoonful or two of the stewed plums and an extra splash of almond milk, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The cooked oats, without toppings, can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to a week. The oats will thicken in the fridge; stir a little water or almond milk into them when reheating to loosen and garnish just before serving.

Stewed plums: If you have leftover stewed plums, they'll keep well stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. They're also great on yogurt, pancakes, waffles, and ice cream.