recipe: instant oatmeal mix

instant oatmeal mix in Kerr jar with vintage aluminum funnel

The year after my divorce I ate homemade oatmeal for breakfast every morning. I worked from home then, teaching online, so making "slow food" was easy. I had time. To save on dish cleanup, I'd zap it in the microwave in a lidded glass bowl, which technically isn't slow food but slower than instant oatmeal. I would add raisins, cinnamon, and chopped nuts, or I'd sprinkle in coconut and flaxseed along with a chopped pear, or grate up a small apple with nuts and a dash of spice. It was inexpensive and healthy comfort food during a difficult year.

Since I stopped working from home (at an isolating job I hated), my workdays grew a lot longer and busier. I currently leave the house at 6 AM and don't get home before 5 PM or even hours later, if I have an appointment, which, post-cancer treatment, I often do. Such a schedule makes breakfast (and lunch and dinner) harder.

One of my coworkers often boils water in an electric kettle and makes herself a packet of oatmeal for a scarfed-down breakfast before our students start showing up. Store-bought instant oatmeal packets aren't the healthiest breakfast option but far better than eating donuts, crayon-colored cereal puffs, or frozen fake soy meats with a million ingredients. So after seeing a box of instant oatmeal at Grocery Outlet earlier this month for a dollar, I gave the meal a try and found it an easy way to eat a little more in the morning besides a cup of coffee and a few gulps of protein shake while downing my vitamins—and at a more reasonable time (8 AM at work) than 5 o'clock in the morning when I get up. But when my box of oatmeal ran out, I figured I would DIY my own mix.

instant oatmeal stored in Kerr canning jars

Many instant oatmeal mix options are floating around on the Web. This post is really more of a guidepost than a new recipe. I consulted Martha Stewart's recipe and one on a site called MOMables. Martha Stewart toasted her oats before dumping them in the food processor. MOMables didn't do any fussy toasting but added powdered milk when Martha didn't. I wanted an all-in-one mix that didn't require toting milk to work, so I toasted my oats and added the last of some powdered milk I wanted to use up. For this first batch, I stirred in dried sweetened cranberries, ground flaxseed, and a little cinnamon but not enough to overpower.

instant oatmeal mix, cooked

The resulting oatmeal is creamy enough, not too sweet, and with a more hearty taste and texture than that in processed packets. Without the powdered milk, it's basically my granola recipe, minus the oil. I consider it a successful experiment.

Instant Oatmeal Mix

4-6 cups rolled (old-fashioned) oats
1-2 cups powdered milk (*optional)
1/2-2/3 cup brown sugar (or maple sugar, turbinado, coconut sugar, etc.)
1 cup dried fruits (e.g., raisins, cranberries, blueberries, cherries)
1 cup seeds or chopped nuts (e.g, ground flax, chia seed, sliced almonds)
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)
1/2-1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2-1 tsp. spice to taste (e.g., cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla powder)

Toast the oats on a sheet pan for 15-20 minutes till light golden brown, stirring once or twice for even toasting. Let cool. Then pulse the toasted oats in a large food processor until as fine as desired (a mix of fine and coarse textures is good). In a large bowl, stir together the processed oats, dry milk, sugar, salt, and other add-ins. Store in sealed glass canning jars. (Makes about 10 cups of mix.) Keep the mix in the freezer if not planning to use it up anytime soon.

To serve, add boiling water to a portion of mix in a bowl, stir, and wait a few minutes for the mix to hydrate. (For thicker oatmeal, use less water; for thinner oatmeal, use more.)

*Note: For vegans, skip the powdered milk and add a little soy or nut milk when serving. 

What do you eat for a quick, healthy breakfast?


  1. Anonymous19/2/16 21:49

    I have been buying the the Better Oats brand of microwave oatmeal packets recently. The ingredient list is pretty short, many of the flavors include flaxseeds, and they have an organic variety that includes quinoa, barley, wheat and rye. Not nearly as good as homemade, but a step up from the more typical instant oatmeal packets. I stock up when they are on sale for $2 at the grocery store.

  2. Those ingredients sound good. I need to step up my intake of alternative grains and reduce wheat, even though I mostly eat whole grains versus white. This week I've been reading the book Anticancer, which presents crucial health information for everyone, not just cancer patients, and it has convinced me to drastically cut my sugar consumption (which mostly takes the form of dark chocolate) and greatly increase my intake of Omega-3s and other anti-inflammatory (and thus cancer-fighting) foods. That would also mean tweaking this recipe, so we'll see what I come up with.


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