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Why You Should Be Eating Savory Oatmeal for Lunch

October 28, 2014

As a defiant response to Sad Desk Lunches, the Food52 team works to keep our midday meals both interesting and pretty. Each week, we'll be sharing our happiest desk lunches -- and we want to see yours, too.

Today: Experiment with your oatmeal routine for a filling, cool-weather desk lunch.

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Weekends provide me the much-needed space to cook big batches for the coming week’s lunches. Lately, I’ve been super excited about the idea of savory oatmeal for lunch, and with the arrival of crisp fall weather I welcome another excuse to eat heaping spoonfuls of warm porridge.

April Bloomfield's English Porridge is my favorite recipe to draw inspiration from, but to make savory oatmeal, I like to sauté the steel cut oats in butter and shallots first before adding in the liquid. You can even cook the oats in vegetable or chicken stock instead of the more traditional water or milk to go full-on savory.

More: Here's one of our favorite bowls -- for breakfast and lunch alike.

As far as toppings go, I like to add a drizzle of olive oil, some flaked sea salt, a little bit of spice, and perhaps a bit (or perhaps a lot) of pecorino cheese. And if I’m really going all out, I’ll add in some fried herbs (like sage), a sprinkle of bacon, a bit of hot sauce, or a poached egg. Because I store the portioned oatmeal in a small container the night before and put the toppings in little baggies, I barely have to do anything to prepare my lunch in the morning.

The best part about savory oatmeal? Experimenting is encouraged. Go crazy with whatever flavors and mix-ins you want.

Photo by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • David Wright
    David Wright
  • Cecilia Height
    Cecilia Height
  • Tre Buck
    Tre Buck
  • Kate
  • Arglebargle
foodie, writer, performer


David W. June 13, 2019
I'm looking for advice on cooking savory oatmeal in a rice cooker. Basically, it cooks until the liquid is all absorbed. This is fine with me, but distressing to my wife, who is used to soupy oatmeal. Do I just unplug it before it clicks off? Or will it be undercooked?
Cecilia H. November 23, 2014
I have been eating savory oatmeal for years. One of my favorite ways to prepare it is to add a good amount of butter, fresh ground pepper and lots of fresh snipped dill weed. Lovely! However, I am VERY intrigued about making them into patties! I would like to explore this recipe!
Tre B. November 19, 2014
Many years ago Mum babysat for a friend and gave the children porridge with sugar on top. They wolfed it down and asked for more. Turns out their Mum served it with salt, she wasn't happy they had sugar for breakfast
Kate November 3, 2014
My entire childhood I was consistently revolted by sweet oatmeal, although my mother foisted it on me on a daily basis during the cold months. Since then, I have shunned oatmeal wholeheartedly, since it has always been served with the ubiquitous butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. This savory version might actually convince me to try oatmeal again. It sounds interesting and promising, for sure.
X November 15, 2014
Give it a try! As someone who has always HATED sweet oatmeal, I have found that I can actually tolerate, and in many cases, really like it as a savory dish. There are lots of Scottish and Irish recipes online for oatmeal soups, that are really quite good (Quaker Oats has a pretty good one on their site). Sometimes I mix some raw oats with a couple of beaten eggs, a splash of milk, chopped onion, garlic, and a few red pepper flakes, fry it in patties, and top with a slice of cheese for breakfast on the go.
Arglebargle October 29, 2014
We eat "congee flavor" oatmeal almost every day. Steel cut oats with grated ginger, cilantro, salt, pepper, a little soy sauce, some hot sesame oil, and sriracha! Also fish sauce! And scallions! It's hearty and very satisfying.
Laura B. November 8, 2014
Colette, I absolutely love this. I'm definitely trying that recipe soon. You should post it to the site!
Francesca M. October 29, 2014
My parents were disgusted for years when I decided I preferred a salted Oatmeal for breakfast. When I found out that I wasn't crazy and there was actually an eastern European tradition for it, I felt so vindicated.
Laura B. November 8, 2014
Hi Francesca! I learned about it from Giada on The Food Network Channel. :) She grew up eating oatmeal this way in Italy.
walkie74 October 29, 2014
Wow. I'm gonna have to try to wrap my head around this particular concept (savory oatmeal? who knew?) but it definitely seems worth trying, at least once.
Chef L. October 28, 2014
I'm with Jonathan and eat it every day & always savory. Love seeds and nuts, salt, pepper & butter. Sometimes a poached egg and avocado.
Laura B. November 8, 2014
Mmm butter. Definitely, butter.
AntoniaJames October 28, 2014
Savory porridge is also wonderful in the mornings! I find that adding a touch of brown sugar -- just a touch -- compliments the savory ingredients. Here are some recipes I posted here on Food52 nearly four years ago:

Almond and cardamom with bay leaf and cinnamon, using both steel cut oats and brown rice:

Or, with oat groats and sweet brown rice, using almond milk, toasted cashews, bay leaf and vanilla:

A quick version, with cashews and cumin and almond butter, using already cooked oat groats or steel cut oats, plus cooked sweet brown or brown jasmine rice:

Another version of that, cooking everything at once:

Enjoy! ;o)
Laura B. November 8, 2014
Fantastic suggestions. I like the idea of using almond and cardamom with bay leaf and cinnamon. Perfect for this season.
Andrea October 28, 2014
I also love this one! Looking forward to trying the suggestions from other commenters. Some of my favorite combinations are pulled pork & red onion, bacon & egg, garlic & greens, blue cheese & caramelized onion.
foofaraw October 28, 2014
Ooohh.. my favorite desk lunch (and dinner!) is savory oatmeal too!. Mine is based of tamago kake gohan, with old fashioned oatmeal with raw egg, sesame oil, and soysauce.
Put 1/2 cup of oatmeal with 3/4 cup of water in tall bowl, microwave for 2.5-3 minutes until all surface goes up and bubbly (it is longer than usual, but trust me. The oatmeal needs to retain enough heat to be able to cook the egg too later). Take out from the microwave, crack an egg, and stir it in until you can see tiny streaks of egg white - means it is all cooked. Stir in 1 tsp each of sesame oil and soysauce. If you feeling like it, garnish with sesame seeds before eating.
This way, I can put all ingredients in my drawer and I don't need to prepare/cook anything beforehand. Pretty cheap, healthy, and filling.
Laura B. November 8, 2014
Lovely! Thanks for the tip. You should definitely post a recipe on the site for that -- super unique!
lastnightsdinner October 28, 2014
Love it. One of my favorite savory versions is with tamari, sunny egg, and scallions or chives. I could eat that almost every day.
Jonathan October 28, 2014
I eat old fashioned oatmeal with a poached egg every day for breakfast. Started putting pepper and salt on it as well. Might consider a drizzle of some olive oil too.
Laura B. November 8, 2014