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Savory Oatmeal

We often had oatmeal for breakfast when I was a kid, and my mother would call up the stairs “sweet or savory?”, which meant we were supposed to choose which we wanted that day. We weren’t allowed both. Sweet meant milk, or cream (or both), with maple syrup, and sometimes fruit, raisins, cinnamon, etc. Pretty standard stuff. Savory, on the other hand, meant olive oil, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, and an egg. So, sweet or savory? A difficult call on any day, and I still go back-and-forth.

This is not weird

If wheat can work equally well in sweet or savory foods, why not other grains? In fact, most of them can. Oats are almost always eaten with brown sugar or maple syrup, maybe with some fruit and diary, or in sweet goods, (think cookies, crumbles). But I’m here to testify that, like wheat, oats are great savory too.

A word about nutritional yeast… Nutritional yeast is sort of a magic seasoning that makes everything taste more savory and rich, no matter how horrifyingly healthy hippies make it sound. Because it is so good for you, hippies totally misuse the stuff, putting in things like smoothies (gag), contributing to it’s bad reputation.  Suffice it to say, despite it’s ill repute, and name, the reason I put it on food is to make it taste better.

Rolled oats take only 2 minutes more than "instant", aka, "sucky" oats.

Oats are the grain of the grass Avena sativa and became widespread in northern Europe by the 1600s. The English mocked the Scots for eating it, since in England, it was only used to feed horses. Even today, 95% of all oats are fed to livestock. I think horses prefer sweet. Today, you can generally buy oats in the store as instant (never buy instant oats), rolled (sometimes called “quick”), steel cut, and “Irish”, which are just a more finely chopped version of steel cut. I like rolled and steel cut equally, though people who really love oats think anyone who likes rolled is some sort of heathen, who might as well just trot down to McDonald’s for a sausage biscuit, a side of lard,  and maybe a cigarette. Real aficionados prefer steel cut. Whatevs. However, I do rain scorn upon people who eat instant oats. So what are rolled oats? Steamed whole oat grains, rolled between steel rollers. Just that simple. “Instant” are the same, but rolled very thin. Steel cut are steamed then chopped, rather than rolled.

Be gentle

A word about eggs…. Please cook your eggs slower, and at lower temperatures. Thank you.

Savory Oatmeal with an Egg

A childhood recipe

  • 1 cup oats
  • One egg. Don’t be cheap, get good eggs
  • butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • tamari (or any good soy sauce)
  • nutritional yeast

I’m not going to tell you how to boil oats. Sheesh. For the egg, melt a little butter in a pan, over lowish heat. You want a bare sizzle, then add the egg, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook it slow, and rescue it while the yolk is still runny. The slower and lower you cook it, the more delicate it will be. I like to put a tablespoon of water in the pan, and cover it, for a fried/poached hybrid. Plate the oatmeal, spreading it into a flat disk, plop the egg on there, then drizzle good olive oil, soy sauce, and a sprinkle of nutruitional yeast on top of the whole thing. Be generous with all three toppings, oats are pretty bland, and you need more oil, soy sauce and yeast than you think.

Bonus ideas for toppings: dollops of sriracha, torn strips of nori, leftover cold salmon, kimchee.

19 Comments

  1. Ali wrote:

    I was skeptical when Cedar introduced me to this, but I’m a huge fan now! My variation is to poach the egg. To poach: boil water (at least an inch) with a little white vinegar and salt. Once boiling, take pan off the heat and lower the egg (using a measuring cup into which you’ve put the egg) in carefully. Cover pan and leave for 3 min (soft) or 4 min (harder). The pan is not over heat anymore. Remove egg with slotted spoon, put on your delicious oats, and, if you’re me apply a lot of sriracha.

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Permalink
  2. Hanna wrote:

    I remember your mom doing that, and everyone picking savory more often than not. I thought you were all mad at the time, but as an adult I found out I was wrong.

    Unrelated to that: Thanks for the message about egg temperature. I tell this to Dane all the time, but he never listens. Maybe he just likes me doing all the egg cooking.

    Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 6:49 am | Permalink
  3. cedar wrote:

    Yes, savory came with an egg, which is pretty compelling!

    Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink
  4. Sparrow wrote:

    Ok I love how you had to mention that we were not allowed to have both. Are you referring to your desire for both or Shrees disastrous insedent with both? Also your writing style is amazing! I laugh all the way through. Please do more!!! Love you.

    Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink
  5. Shree wrote:

    No fair- I miss eggs.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink
  6. Diana wrote:

    Hi! Love your blog, love your writing style…love this idea of savory oatmeal!
    I was looking for a way to sign up for email updates, facebook fan page, something? Anything?
    Thanks and keep up the great work!
    D

    Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink
  7. cedar wrote:

    Hi Diana! I think you are probably the first person other than friends or family who has ever even seen this blog! I don’t have a facebook fan page, and not sure that I want to, so the best I can do for you is point you toward my rss feed:
    http://letsmakesomethingawesome.com/feed/

    I checked out your website, and you are doing a great job too. Clearly, if I’m ever in Bogotá, your blog will be my first reference.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  8. cedar wrote:

    Shree, no eggs? Ohhhhhhhhh. I just remembered. Well, that won’t be forever!

    Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  9. Just clicked over from BlogHer. What a revelation! I cannot WAIT to try this.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Permalink
  10. Bunny wrote:

    I thought I was the one who invented an egg (or two) over oatmeal, sometime around 1985! I love it with salsa and sliced avocado on top. Bob’s Red Mill makes an oatmeal that’s guaranteed to be gluten free (no worries about cross contamination from wheat and wheat products) I’m very happy to have found you Cedar.

    Sunday, June 26, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink
  11. Linda Wunder wrote:

    I love this recipe! My kids all love their oatmeal sweet, but I am trying to win them over to the savory side. My personal preference is definitely savory. One of my favorite meals as a kid was oatmeal soup. It is absolutely delicious and can be totally vegetarian, if that’s your preference. On the sweet side, it hard to beat an oatmeal raisin cookie! I think I am going to have some oatmeal/eggs for breakfast!

    Friday, August 5, 2011 at 5:31 am | Permalink
  12. Mimi wrote:

    Thank you so much for this. I grew up eating the instant oatmeal in the tiny bags. I was never a big fan, and I always disliked how sweet everything is. I’m not the kind of girl who wants to eat a whole bunch of sugar and sweet things right off the bat in the morning. I can’t wait to try it!

    On another note, I think it may be interesting if you added a bit of chopped green onion as well.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink
  13. Naomi wrote:

    Sweet oatmeal has always baffled me (blech), but I don’t know why I never thought to top with shoyu and nori. This is how I’m eating it from now on.

    THANKS!

    Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink
  14. Grace Woo wrote:

    I just became introduced to nutritional yeast. Googled this after trying the oatmeal combination. So delicious and really cool to see this!

    Sunday, January 8, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Permalink
  15. Linzi wrote:

    Sounds like a great meal…I personally like my oats savory and my favorite breakfast(and sometimes dinner)is steel cut oats cooked with a little salt and cold buttermilk poured over.

    Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink
  16. Hannah wrote:

    this sounds very much like a dish i eat for breakfast at home! we put soy sauce, sesame oil, and an egg over rice and mix it well. i’m excited to try this now. :] thank you for this!

    Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink
  17. Anonymous wrote:

    This has me in laughter, just revisited that dilemma when i was home talking with ma and sparrow, ahahah. decisions decisions

    Friday, September 6, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink
  18. Paul Rolland wrote:

    I am such a fan of savory oatmeal. I recently discovered nutritional yeast (why did it take so long?) and this morning I found your recipe for this recipe and I will be having it for ‘brunch’ after I push ‘Send’. I agree with your writing style. Being a translator and dealing with the WORD on a daily basis, yours is refreshing and smiling.

    Thank you from Canuckland (Canada)

    Paul J.

    Sunday, August 2, 2015 at 11:02 am | Permalink
  19. Judy wrote:

    I made oats, poured olive oil and tamari into a bowl, added some course pepper and a little fresh basil, ate it, then googled oats with olive oil and tamari to see if anyone else liked/ate this and was pleased to find they did 🙂

    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 6:04 am | Permalink

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