The Most Crowd-Pleasing Breakfast Is Also the Most Unexpected

February 18, 2016

Brunch begets a crowd, so we partnered with The Quaker Oats Company to share our strategy on making a big batch of oatmeal—and what to have on hand to make it a party.

No one wants to fry 40 sunny-side up eggs for 20 people at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning. The short order cook at your local diner probably doesn't want to be doing that, and you don't want to be doing that—and you shouldn't have to. So let's just forget the idea, okay? Because while eggs are great, making oatmeal for a crowd is just as good—and much, much easier.

Can you say, "easy breakfast?" Photo by James Ransom

Neither bland nor boring, oatmeal is an unexpected-yet-crowd-pleasing breakfast. Here's what you need to do: cook a big batch of oatmeal, set out a plethora of add-ins (you can label them, if you're feeling motivated), and be done. Your friends are great. Their requests for "just 5 hazelnuts and a 3/4 teaspoon of brown sugar?" Not so much.

Let everyone get to building their bowls and help yourself to your most low-stress brunch yet:

Photo by James Ransom

Using the 2:1 liquid-to-oatmeal ratio, decide on the amount of people you're serving and scale your needs accordingly. Here's a trick: The amount of water needed equals the number of people. So, for 8 people, you'd use 8 cups of liquid and 4 cups of oats, for 11 it'd be 11 cups of liquid and 5 1/2 cups of oats, and so on. As far as liquid goes, I prefer half milk and half water, and make sure to add salt, too, about 1/2 teaspoon per cup of oats. And if your get-together is going to be a while, haul out the crockpot—you won't have to tend to your oats and it'll keep things toasty.

While plain oatmeal is, of course, worthy all on its own, here are some flavoring suggestions:

  • Toast the oats prior to adding water.
  • Stir in a tablespoon or two of brown butter (or just butter).
  • Add a cinnamon stick, freshly grated nutmeg, cloves, or cardamom.
  • Substitute some apple juice for the water or milk for added sweetness.
  • Stir in some grated citrus zest, like lemon or orange.

And then set out the toppings.


Fresh fruit Pomegranate seeds Jam or compote Caramelized apples Brown sugar Honey Apple butter Maple syrup Dried fruit Chocolate chips Mini marshmallows Crushed cookies (Cookies for breakfast? Yes, see cookie cereal.)


Nut butters (Peanut! Almond! Cashew!) Tahini Crushed pretzels Flaky salt Cooked and crumbled bacon


Granola Toasted and chopped nuts Chia seeds Sunflower seeds Pepitas


Milk Cream Buttermilk Mascarpone Crème fraîche Yogurt Grated cheese

Miscellaneous (but awesome) stuff

Freshly ground black pepper Pomegranate molasses Kimchi Sesame oil Roasted butternut squash or sweet potatoes

We get it, oatmeal is personal—so tell us in the comments below what's in your favorite bowl.

We partnered with The Quaker Oats Company to help them uncover a new oatmeal flavor—submit your favorite to their contest here for a chance to win $250,000. Ends 3/12/16.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Reed Keyes
    Reed Keyes
  • ktr
  • Chef Lisa
    Chef Lisa
  • amysarah
  • Annada Rathi
    Annada Rathi
I fall in love with every sandwich I ever meet.


Reed K. February 25, 2016
the BEST oatmeal ever - steel cut oats with fresh vanilla bean (split, scraped, and added to the oats during cooking), vanilla extract, and finished with butter and a generous splash of half and half or heavy cream. Toppings to taste (I like toasted pecans and dried cranberries). I could eat it every day.
ktr February 19, 2016
My 4 year old has eaten oatmeal for breakfast almost every day since he started eating solid foods. He insists on instant oats with date pieces and plain yogurt.
Chef L. February 18, 2016
I love savory oatmeal. Salt, freshly cracked pepper, toasted nuts (any kind), sometimes a poached egg or avocado. And, always some butter.
amysarah February 18, 2016
Need not be a crowd - when my kids were little, I'd give them bowls of oatmeal and set out whatever was around. The obvious - jars of honey/jam, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon sugar, raisins, nuts, cut up fresh fruit or berries...and not so obvious - leftover chutney, cranberry sauce, etc. Making their own "sundaes" made eating a bowl of oatmeal much more enticing. My grown daughter now eats oatmeal with olive oil, red pepper flakes and flaky salt for dinner.
Annada R. February 18, 2016
1/3rd part coconut milk, 1/3rd part regular milk, 1/3rd part water, unsweetened coconut flakes, any kind of nuts, raisins, peanut butter, honey and ghee, yes, you heard it right, ghee make my oatmeal sinful.

I have also seen oatmeal being made with plain yogurt, water and spicy cilantro chutney.
Author Comment
Riddley G. February 18, 2016
I love the idea of using ghee and cilantro chutney! Will definitely be trying!