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Outrageous oats: 13 sweet and savory ways to upgrade oatmeal

Mushroom oatmeal recipe and photo by Lauren Salkeld
Lauren Salkeld

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By Lauren Salkeld

When it comes to eating a hot breakfast, oatmeal is hard to beat. A steaming bowl warms you up on cold mornings, satisfies your hunger and keeps you full for hours. Plus, thanks to the speediness of quick-cooking oats, you can enjoy a filling and comforting breakfast on even the busiest of weekdays. 

While some folks are satisfied with plain old oats, there are almost endless options when it comes to dressing up this versatile grain. And that doesn't just mean the flavored instant oatmeal packets from the supermarket. With some simple ingredients from your pantry and fridge, and a minute or two of extra prep, you can transform this everyday hot cereal into a whole new breakfast experience. 

The obvious choice is to add something sweet, but it’s also fun to think outside the breakfast box and give oatmeal a savory spin. These 13 ideas include several unexpected sweet toppings, plus a handful of savory additions. Each one is designed for a single serving of quick-cooking oats, which can be made on the stove or in the microwave. Feel free to scale up the recipes to feed a crowd, or to use these toppings with rolled or steel cut oats. 

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1. Apricot and granola: Sprinkle a bowl of cooked oatmeal with 2 tablespoons each of chopped dried apricots and your favorite granola.

2. Peanut butter and chocolate: Stir 2 tablespoons of peanut butter into a bowl of cooked oatmeal; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of mini chocolate chips. 

3. Blueberries and almonds: Sprinkle a bowl of cooked oatmeal with 2 tablespoons each of dried blueberries and chopped, toasted almonds. 

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4. Mushroom and herb: Saute 4-5 thinly sliced cremini mushrooms in garlic and butter. Season a bowl of cooked oatmeal with salt and pepper, then top with mushrooms and garnish with chopped fresh parsley or thyme.

5. Coconut, cherry and cashew: Sprinkle a bowl of cooked oatmeal with 1 tablespoon each of toasted shredded coconut, dried cherries and chopped, toasted cashews. 

6. Apple and cinnamon: Cut 1/2 an apple into small cubes and toss with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. Stir into a bowl of cooked oatmeal. 

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7. Pomegranate, pistachios and honey: Sprinkle a bowl of cooked oatmeal with 2 tablespoons each of pomegranate seeds and chopped, toasted pistachios; drizzle with honey.

8. Flax and honey: Sprinkle a bowl of cooked oatmeal with 1 1/2 tablespoons of freshly ground flax seeds; drizzle with honey. 

9Bacon and maple syrup: Cook 2 strips of bacon until crispy; cool and crumble into small pieces. Season a bowl of cooked oatmeal with salt and pepper, then top with bacon and drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of maple syrup. 

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10. Peas and cheddar: Blanch 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen peas. Season a bowl of cooked oatmeal with salt and pepper. Top with the peas and 1/4 cup of shredded sharp cheddar. 

11. Lemon zest and sunflower seeds: Sprinkle a bowl of cooked oatmeal with the zest of 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons of toasted sunflower seeds. 

12. Brown sugar and pecan: Stir 1 teaspoon of brown sugar into a bowl of cooked oatmeal; sprinkle with chopped, toasted pecans.

13. Nutella and strawberry: Stir 1 tablespoon of Nutella into a bowl of cooked oatmeal; top with thinly sliced strawberries.

Hungry for more easy breakfast ideas? Here's how to upgrade your yogurt