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My dear and extremely well-traveled friend Tracy made savory oatmeal for me for the first time a few years ago. This version inspired by her many trips to India is my favorite. 

As a person who loves oatmeal but doesn’t like sweet food in the morning, I am forever in her debt. This dish takes about a half hour to make, but reheats very well, so you can make a big batch for the week if you love a savory breakfast too. This porridge is chewy and nutty, not creamy, and to get this result, steel cut oats are a must.

For add-ins, play around: search the veg bin, use what you love or use up what needs using up!

Sourcing mustard oil, turmeric root, and fresh curry leaves is worth the effort here, but swapping in olive oil and dry turmeric powder also yields delicious results. This version has a good kick from the fresh chilies, so adjust for your palate. It goes like this:


2T mustard oil, or oil of your choice

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

2 or 3 whole curry leaves

2 Thai chiles, or 1 jalapeno, sliced

2 inch piece of ginger, grated

1 inch piece turmeric, grated or 1 teaspoon dry turmeric

1 cup steel cut oats

2½ cups water

2 scallions, sliced

Handful of chopped cilantro

¼ cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

Greek yogurt or labneh (optional, but really good)


In a shallow skillet heat the oil and sauté the shallots, curry leaves, chilies, ginger, and turmeric until the shallots begin to brown.  

Add the oats and stir to coat with oil. Season with salt and black pepper. Add the water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until almost all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes, or longer. It won’t overcook or get mushy if it sits.

When ready to serve stir in the scallions, cilantro and peanuts.  Serve with a dollop of yogurt or labneh, or enjoy it plain.

good morning!

File it!

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About The Author

For Sarah Ross, everyday cooking is about winging it—with a classic or an old favorite recipe given to her by a friend. These are the recipes that get stained with spills from being on repeat, the ones to share.


  • That sounds wicked good! I’ll add it to my ‘breakfast for dinner’ rotation, since I rarely have more than a banana for breakfast.

  • YUM!!!! This looks so delicious and different – I can’t wait to try it!

  • This is an inspiration!

    Lazy way for steel cut oats. Oats + 4X their measure of water in a covered ovenproof dish, leave overnight to soak. In the am, bake in 350 oven 40 minutes or so, leave in warm oven to continue absorbing water till ready to eat. If you can set the oven to start automatically at, say 5:30 for 40 minutes, by 7 or 8 the oats are perfect. Also, once cooked, steel cut oats freeze perfectly – reheat in microwave with maybe a little water.

    • This sounds amazing!!! Can’t wait to try your version of making steel cut oats. Thanx

  • It sounds like a poha recipe we make using oatmeal rather than poha (flattened rice).

    • Thanks for your suggestion to use poha! For a celiac European it is nearly impossible to find a source of GF oat grains, not speaking about a challenge of making my own “steel cut” oats by grinding them.

    • Barbara, you beat me to it! Very reminiscent of poha indeed, with the alliums, ginger, turmeric, cilantro, peanuts. Probably not a bad idea to leave out the potatoes that go into traditional poha. I would do a little cumin tadka on this, for sure!

      I’ve put chili oil and eggs in my oatmeal, added harissa and zhoug… now why in the world did I not think of this?!

      I have never been a fan of sweet breakfasts. Not being judgy of those who are, just observing that in most cultures people don’t begin their day consuming their entire daily quota of sugar.

      • Sounds pretty judgy to me.

      • Yes! The recipe definitely borrows from poha. So much so that I often throw peas in right before letting the mixture steam.

      • I haven’t liked sweet breakfast since childhood. OK, an apple with almond butter is sweet, so that’s my exception. But one reason I try to make a big pot of chili or a tray of stuffed peppers every week is because the leftovers make such a great breakfast/lunch/brunch. Adding savory oatmeal to my repertoire! Egg on top!

        • Kay, does this mean that you did not have some of the leftover bread pudding (made with Tennessee whisky) at breakfast on day 2 of the MDK Knitting Getaway in 2018?

  • When do you add the curry leaves?

    • You should add the curry leaves to the hot oil at the beginning, so they sizzle and release their flavors. As I said above, I would add some cumin seeds too. Curry leaves can be found at Indian grocery stores. They really are best fresh. If you live in a warm (frost free) climate, the plant is easy to grow.

  • Holy smoke, this sounds good. I mean really really good.

  • Fantastic recipe! I also like to mix a little toasted sesame oil and light soy sauce into steel cut oatmeal and top with diced scallions and a fried egg. If I make it for lunch, I use rice instead of the oatmeal.

  • This looks so good — with lots of antioxidants, too. It will definitely fit into my WW plan. Plus, it’s not just for breakfast — I bet this is good as lunch or dinner, too.

  • Thanks everyone, so glad you like. I love all these different variations, especially poha which is new to me. I will try that ASAP. Breakfast for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

  • We’re a club! The Savory Breakfast Club! My daughter and I have a very simple savory oatmeal each morn. Just plain oats with greens of choice, olive oil drizzle when in the bowl. My favorite green is Russian Kale but others are just fine. I tend to add in cotijo at the end, sunflower seeds. Most folks think we’re daft.

  • Right up there with kedgeree! As a gluten avoider, I like a savory option, also. Thanks!

  • Looks yummy! My brother puts butter, salt and pepper on his oatmeal. He will love this for breakfast and I will try it for dinner.

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