If your taste buds are anything like mine, plain oatmeal is reminiscent of dry cat food and sadness. The thought of calling plain oats a “meal” is simply disheartening, despite health benefits.

I started my second semester of sophomore year with a box of plain oatmeal, brown sugar, and nuts. The goal: find some tasty recipes for the easy, nutrient-rich microwaveable packs sitting on my shelf. 

chocolate, porridge, oatmeal, cereal, milk, coffee
Jennifer Walter

As much as I can’t stomach the tasteless grit of unflavored oats, this whole grain is extremely versatile. From the time I was little, I remember making everything from cookies to oat-based energy bites. I don't usually buy flavored packs of oatmeal because of their high sugar content, so I like to experiment with mix-ins to add flavors that are a lot less processed.

These three liquid blends add a twist to arguably the simplest breakfast out there.

1. Tea

milk, tea, chocolate, coffee
Jennifer Walter

Instead of water, I cooked my oats in a fragrant brew of cinnamon vanilla tea. I filled the oatmeal packet to its usual 2/3 fill line and cooked for the standard 2 minutes.

There’s no such thing as “strong” tea when it comes to using it as a substitute for water in your oatmeal. Steep your favorite flavor for as long as you can without it becoming bitter.

Floral teas, like white rose or honey chamomile, may be too weak for this recipe. Opt for a strong fruit or chai blend to really soak into your oats.

cereal, honey, sweet
Jennifer Walter

Honey and brown sugar pair well with many flavors, so use these to bring out the taste of tea in your final product. Toss in some nuts and fruit, or eat it plain.

2. Juice

tea, milk, coffee
Jennifer Walter

This is a great go-to for those of us stuck in dorms. Pick up some juice boxes at the store and fill your empty paper packet to the fill line for a sweet substitute.

For my breakfast, I chose apple juice, which ended up being pretty tart once cooked. I tossed some walnuts on top for a nutty addition, but peanut or almond butter could’ve been a nice mix-in as well. 

3. Coffee

soup, broth, coffee, dairy product, cream, milk
Jennifer Walter

I have to admit I was skeptical about cooking steel-cut oats in coffee (it looked pretty disgusting at first). But with the right mix of warm brew and half-and-half, I was buzzing off of this new recipe in no time.

Steel-cut oats require more liquid than regular oats, so I used a higher liquid-to-solid ratio for this experiment. For the 1/4 cup of oats cooked, I used 1/2 cup of warm coffee and 1/4 cup of half and half. This gave the concoction a creaminess that doesn’t come with tea or juice.

After it was cooked, I blended in cinnamon and brown sugar for taste. The sugar was a great enhancer for the coffee taste, but a flavored latte syrup, such as vanilla or hazelnut, could do the trick as well.