A Splash of Tabasco in your Porridge? Welcome to the World of Savoury Oatmeal

Savoury oatmeal and porridge might well sound strange to those of us used to topping our breakfast oats with a splash of milk and sprinkle of sugar. That a “true” Scotsman puts salt in his porridge is a familiar idea but what about a splash of hot sauce, some grated cheese or fried sausage? If you haven’t yet tried savoury porridge, I urge you to give it a go – at least once.

First of all, you might be wondering what the difference is between porridge and oatmeal. The simple answer is that the latter is a variety of the former. That is, oatmeal is a porridge made from rolled oats. Technically, porridge can be made from a whole host of various grains: oats, rice, buckwheat to name three.

The dish known as grits, popular in the Southern states of America, is a porridge made from hominy (white corn). Polenta, a very similar dish, popular in Italy, is made from yellow corn. If you can accept the idea of popular dishes like grits and shrimp casserole, or polenta chicken with salsa then the idea of savoury oat porridge shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Maybe you are coming around to the idea of savoury oatmeal but wondering what’s in it for you; in other words, why should you enter the world of savoury oatmeal? I’ll give you three good reasons.

Oats are incredibly nutritious and healthy

Any way of getting more oats into your diet must be a good thing. Let’s look at some of the health benefits that come with eating oats.

  • Oats lower blood sugar levels
  • Oats provide antioxidants
  • Oats promote healthy bacteria in the gut
  • Oats help relieve constipation
  • Oats make you feel full and can help with weight loss
  • Oats help reduce the chance of colon cancer

Not bad for a food that is also delicious and easy to prepare. Oats also help reduce itchy skin but you have to apply it directly and any hot sauce you’ve added during the cooking process will probably make things worse!

Oats are extremely economical and easy to prepare

You may be ready to admit that oats are indeed cheap but want to counter that rice is, more often than not, cheaper. This is of course true but that doesn’t take away from the fact that oats are still cheap to buy even if not quite as much value for money as rice. However, where oats have rice beaten is that they are far and away more hassle-free to prepare. Oats do not need to be washed or pre-soaked. A portion of oats can be cooked up in the microwave in minutes in a way that rice just cannot be. Whether you are preparing your rice on the hob, in a microwave rice-steamer (I’ve never had much luck with these), or in a dedicated rice-cooker it remains the case that oats are easier and quicker to prepare.

Savoury Oats add something new to your diet

A change is as good as a rest or so they say. Introducing new foods into our diets broadens our horizons and opens up new and novel ways of enjoying what the world has to offer us. It might sound overblown but I genuinely believe this to be the case. Eating should be enjoyable and novel ingredients and taste combinations can only add to this enjoyment.

If you’re not sold on trying savoury oats by now, then you probably never will be. There’s nothing to be gained by being “preachy” when it comes to food. People like what they like and there’s nothing wrong with this in itself. But variety is the spice of life…

5 Savoury Oatmeal Recipes

The first recipe isn’t really a recipe but more of a suggestion. Treat it as an invitation to experiment and have fun! Note how the first three recipes build upon each other.

1. Oatmeal and Sauce

Prepare your oatmeal as you normally would but instead of sugar add some hot sauce like Tabasco or Sriracha. Alternatively, try a splash of Thai fish sauce. If you’re feeling adventurous try both!

2. Oatmeal with Cheese and Bacon

While your oatmeal is cooking, fry some diced onion and chopped bacon in a pan. When the oatmeal is ready, add finely grated cheddar cheese and melted butter. Combine everything together and eat. Don’t forget the hot sauce!

3. Shrimp and “Grits”

The scare-quotes are because we’re not using grits but oatmeal. To prepare: fry some diced onion and green bell pepper; add chopped bacon, garlic and shrimp and fry until cooked; add chicken stock and reduce. Serve over oatmeal porridge to which you’ve added finely grated cheese and butter.

4. Oatmeal with Avocado and Tomatoes

For a vegetarian or vegan option simply prepare your oatmeal as usual before adding sliced avocado and cherry tomatoes. Top with a crispy fried egg.

5. Oatmeal with Filipino Fried Sardines

I have written an entire blog post dedicated to this delicious meal. You can find it here.