We might do a big fancy brunch on the weekends, but microwave oatmeal is our go-to for a quick healthy breakfast on most weekday mornings. It’s Pete’s favorite breakfast. Especially when topped with walnuts, fresh fruit, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. And since we’re working from home, we’ve perfected a toothsome flavorful bowl of microwaved oats with a variety of fun toppings so it never gets boring.
There are lots of tips for you below to help you make the tastiest microwave oatmeal in under two minutes. We show you how to get the oats/liquid ratio just right, how to make sure it doesn’t boil over and create a mess, plus we list a bunch of ideas for toppings too.
WHAT IS THE RATIO OF OATMEAL TO WATER OR MILK?
The most common question asked is, “what is the best ratio of oatmeal to water?” The best liquid-to-oats ratio for a perfect microwave oatmeal is 1:1. A serving of oats is typically ½ cup of dry oats, so you would use ½ cup of water or milk. For a full bowl, use a cup of oats and a cup of water. Personally, my favorite sized serving is 3/4 cup of oats and 3/4 cup of water. Using a 1:1 ratio will give you a fluffy, almost toothsome oatmeal that’s hearty and delicious!
If you’re looking for a bowl of oats that’s filling, but lighter in calories, I’d recommend 1/3 cup of oats as it is typically only 100 calories. Then you could add a 1/3 cup of water (or coconut milk if you want to make it more creamy), and top it with fresh fruit.
DO YOU USE MILK OR WATER TO MAKE OATMEAL?
Personally, Pete and I both prefer to make our oatmeal with water and then add flavor to it with toppings. I also like how using water makes it simple while also not overpowering the toasty flavor of the oatmeal.
But I sometimes add a plant-based milk to make it creamy. I’m lactose intolerant, though. So even though I might love dairy, dairy doesn’t always love me back. Truly, it’s your own personal preference whether you make oatmeal with water, milk, or plant-based milk.
For plant-based milk, I recommend either coconut milk or oat milk for a creamy flavor. And for the ultimate in dairy-free creaminess, try a coconut milk or oat milk coffee creamer. It is much lighter than dairy coffee creamers, but has just a little more of an indulgent flavor.
HOW LONG SHOULD I MICROWAVE OATMEAL?
This is the best tip for getting your oatmeal just right. Microwave the water (or milk) FIRST. Pour your water or milk into a microwave safe bowl. I like to use a glass measuring cup with a handle and spout. Microwave the water for one minute. Pour the water evenly over the oatmeal in the bowl. Then microwave the bowl again for 30 seconds. Using this method will give you the best texture, and a perfectly done bowl of microwave oatmeal, without having it boil over in the microwave.
One tip though, add your toppings (such as nuts and fruit) after microwaving. Especially to keep the nuts (such as pecans or walnuts) crunch for texture. Otherwise the nuts and fruits will get a bit chewy or mushy.
HOW DO YOU COOK OATMEAL IN THE MICROWAVE WITHOUT BOILING IT OVER?
If your microwave oatmeal is boiling over, there are two possible scenarios. Either there’s too much liquid, or you’ve microwaved it for too long. Like I mentioned above, a 1:1 ratio of dry oats to liquid is best. Also make sure your bowl is no more than 3/4 full, so the oatmeal has room to fluff up. If you’d like a more soupy or cereal-like oatmeal, add a little more liquid to it after it’s done cooking in the microwave. Also, never microwave oatmeal for more than thirty seconds to a minute at a time.
Another thing to be mindful of is the wattage of your microwave. The higher the watts, the more power, and the less cooking time you’ll need. If you have a higher watt microwave, cook your oatmeal 30 seconds at a time until you achieve the desired temperature.
QUICK-COOKING OATS vs OLD FASHIONED OATS
Old Fashioned oats are best for making microwave oatmeal as the oats are whole and produce a great texture and flavor. Quick-cooking oats tend to be mushy and quite honestly I never use them. Plus, you don’t really need to save cooking time when regular oats typically cook in one to two minutes anyway.
One thing I wouldn’t use for microwave oatmeal is steel cut or Irish oats. Those oats are still more whole in form and need to be cooked on the stovetop for a longer period of time. Old Fashioned oats have been rolled, or flattened, so they’ll cook much quicker and are better cooking in the microwave.
WHAT ARE THE BEST OATMEAL TOPPINGS?
There’s such a great variety of toppings that are delicious with microwave oatmeal that your morning bowl of oats should never get boring. If you have family staying with you, it can be fun to create an oatmeal bar too so everyone can pick their own toppings! From fresh fruit, to a variety of different nuts, dried fruits like currants and cherries, and spices, there’s a whole lot of different things you can add for a variety of flavors and textures.
MICROWAVE OATMEAL TOPPINGS
Here’s a list of microwave oatmeal topping ideas for you along with the amount you’d add to a bowl of oatmeal. Pick one from each category to make the perfect bowl of oatmeal.
NUTS & SEEDS (USE 2 TBSP PER BOWL)
Adding nuts or seeds to oatmeal gives it a little protein kick that makes it filling. Plus, I think the nuts add to the texture and comforting flavor of a hot bowl of oatmeal. I have some fun nut and fruit pairings below with our fruit topping suggestions. Add these AFTER microwaving the oatmeal to preserve their crunchy texture.
- almond slices
- dried coconut
- pumpkin seeds
- flax seeds
- chia seeds
- hemp seed
- quinoa flakes
For more nutty flavor and added protein, you could also mix a tablespoon of peanut butter or almond butter in with the oats. There’s also powdered peanut butter that has less sugar and fat, but the same great nutty flavor.
FRUIT TOPPINGS ( USE ¼ Cup PER BOWL)
Here’s were you can get creative with fruit and nut pairings! I like to do banana walnut, cherry almond, or apple and pecan. Blueberry and pecan is great too, a bit like a muffin in a bowl. And cranberry apple is one of our favorites during the winter months. Picking your favorite flavor pairing makes oatmeal seem like dessert, even if there are no sweeteners added. If you’re warming up your oats in the microwave, I’d suggest adding the fruit after it’s heated so the fruit keeps its texture.
- banana slices
- apple slices
- peach slices
- pineapple slices
- dried cherries
- dried blueberries
- dried cranberries
- dried apple rings
- dried pineapple
- dried currents
Pumpkin Spice Microwave Oatmeal
I don’t typically used canned fruit in oatmeal, but I do make an exception for pumpkin spice! To make a pumpkin spice microwave oatmeal, add 1/4 cup of pureed canned pumpkin per bowl of oatmeal along with 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar or maple syrup. Top with walnuts or pecans and it is SO good.
MICROWAVE OATMEAL SWEETENERS (USE 1 tsp PER BOWL)
Sweeteners are definitely a personal preference. Depending on the fruit you add, you might not even need a sweetener. But if you do, here’s a list beyond basic sugar that will help give your oatmeal a sweet flavor.
- maple syrup
- brown sugar
Also, while not a sweetener, vanilla extract is a great addition to oatmeal. You’ll only need about a half teaspoon per bowl of microwave oatmeal.
TYPES OF MILK THAT ARE GREAT FOR OATMEAL (USE ½ Cup to 1 Cup)
You don’t need milk to make a delicious bowl of oatmeal. But it will add a more creamy flavor. My personal favorites are coconut milk or oat milk.
- Regular Dairy Milk
- Almond Milk
- Coconut Milk
- Cashew Milk
- Oat Milk
- Soy Milk
- Oat Milk Coffee Creamer
- Coconut Milk Coffee Creamer
SPICES THAT TASTE GREAT ON MICROWAVE OATMEAL (USE 1 tsp PER BOWL)
A little vanilla adds a touch of sweetness and a sort of baked-goods flavor to any oatmeal. We love to use cinnamon everyday. And pumpkin pie spice is wonderful during the fall and winter months!
- pumpkin pie spice
- cardamom (start with just a 1/2 tsp of this spice per bowl as it can be strong)
We hope these tips and list of toppings inspires you to make a quick and delicious bowl of microwave oatmeal in the morning! There’s a printable recipe card below to make it easy to print and stick to your refrigerator for easy access in the morning when you’re ready to create the perfect bowl of oatmeal.
- 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
- 3/4 cup water or milk
- 2 Tbsp nuts (see notes for list of ideas)
- 1/4 cup fruit (see notes for list of ideas)
- 1 tsp sweetener (see notes)
- Pour water or milk into a micrwave safe measuring cup and microwave for 1 minute.
- Add oats to serving bowl and pour microwaved water over oats and stir.
- Microwave bowl of oats again for an additional 30 seconds.
- Top with your prefered toppings of nuts, fruit, spices, and sweetener. Enjoy!
NUTS (2 TBSP)
FRUIT (¼ Cup)
dried apple rings
SWEETENERS (1 tsp)
MILK (½ Cup to 1 Cup)
SPICES (1 tsp)
pumpkin pie spice
TOPPING PAIRING IDEAS
- Banana, Walnuts, & Vanilla
- Apple, Walnuts, & Cinnamon
- Blueberries, Pecans, Vanilla, & Brown Sugar
- Dried Cherries, Almonds, & Vanilla
- Dried Coconut, Walnuts, & Brown Sugar
- Fresh Peaches and Brown Sugar
- 1/4 Cup Pureed Pumpkin, Brown Sugar, and Pecans