Make Ahead

Toasted Brown Butter Steel-Cut Oats

March 25, 2014
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 3 to 4
Author Notes

Think of this as a quick, sweet, and slightly spiced breakfast pilaf, made with pan-toasted steel-cut oats and brown butter. Putting your tea kettle on to boil at the outset will get this on the table sooner. ;o) —AntoniaJames

Test Kitchen Notes

Toasting the oats here adds layers of nutty, semi-sweet flavors to this traditional Irish breakfast. Still, this dish is best for folks who like their breakfast to err on the side of less sweet -- packets of maple-brown sugar instant oatmeal need not apply. A bit of heavy cream added at the end gave this oatmeal a rich sidecar that complemented the dry toastiness of the oats. —Erin

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats (regular or quick-cooking)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, plus more for serving, if desired
  • Tiny pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice (optional, or use freshly grated nutmeg, or the tiniest pinch of cloves -- whatever you like)
  • A small piece of best-quality cinnamon stick (you’ll need a fine microplane-style grater for this)
  • Add-ins: Dried fruit (raisins, dried sour cherries, and dried cranberries are my go-to add-ins), spiced applesauce, toasted chopped nuts, or whatever strikes your fancy
  • Sweeteners to taste: Maple syrup, sorghum, or honey
  • Almond milk (ideally homemade) or cream, to taste
  1. For regular steel-cut oats, boil 4 cups of filtered water. If using quick-cooking oats, boil whatever other amount is recommended on your package.
  2. Put a heavy 2- or 3-quart saucepan on the stove over a medium flame while you measure the oats. When the pan is good and hot, add the oats and shake the pan a bit. Let them toast, shaking every 30 seconds or so (Be patient! They need time to darken a bit.) for about 3 minutes.
  3. Turn the heat off and remove the oats from the pan. (I put them in one of the bowls in which I’ll be serving the porridge.)
  4. Add the butter to the hot pan, stirring briskly. It will melt immediately and start to evaporate. Turn the heat back on to medium. Keep stirring!
  5. When the foaming subsides and the solids have started to darken, add the one tablespoon of brown sugar. Stir it for about a minute to get a mild toffee flavor.
  6. Add the oats and a tiny pinch of salt and stir thoroughly, letting the ingredients brown, stirring all the while, for one minute. Turn the heat off and continue to stir for another minute.
  7. Very carefully and slowly, pour the hot water into the pan. It will send off a lot of steam, so be careful. Stir the oatmeal thoroughly and let it come to a full boil. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over.
  8. At this point, I usually add about half of the dried fruit we plan to use.
  9. Once the oats start to boil briskly, turn them down to a slower boil. If you let them cook too fast, the water will evaporate before enough of it has been absorbed.
  10. Cook for about 15 minutes, or as long as necessary to absorb the water to your desired consistency. (Quick-cooking oats should require only about 6 to 8 minutes) Sprinkle the ground spices on and stir them in.
  11. Top with whatever add-ins you like. Use a microplane-style grater to grate a touch of cinnamon over each bowl.
  12. Serve with whatever sweeteners you like, and almond milk or cream, as desired.
  13. Enjoy! ;o)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Robert
  • AntoniaJames
  • Fen

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

See problem, solve problem. Ask questions; question answers. Disrupt, with kindness, courtesy and respect. ;o)

3 Reviews

Fen December 26, 2022
Came out very bland and tasteless for the butter and sugar used. Not a fan.
Robert April 10, 2014
Would it be possible to cook up to #10, but use the overnight-soak-in-milk method?
AntoniaJames April 10, 2014
You bet! I almost always make our steel cut oats that way. Thanks for suggesting it. ;o)