You Shouldn't Make Oatmeal With Plain Water. Here's Why

At its worst, oatmeal has acquired a reputation for being lackluster. If it's not treated well, it will emerge from the stove (or worse, the microwave) as a gloppy, flavorless mess, destined to stick to your bowl even after a rousing trip through the dishwasher. But at its best, oatmeal can make for a wholesome, multilayered, exciting meal that will actually keep you energized until the afternoon — unlike that giant thermos of coffee you've been downing every morning in place of a real breakfast.

The reasons for oatmeal-gone-wrong are simple. You've probably underseasoned it. That's right: Once again, underseasoning is likely the culprit of your bad breakfast. How can you possibly mix oats with water, throw in a couple berries, and call it a day? Simply put, you shouldn't make your oatmeal with water, and water alone. It's bland and it's sad.

Milk isn't always the answer

It may seem like the first solution is to switch your water out for milk. Wrong. Cooking oatmeal in milk will create that thick, goopy texture that's just a little too similar to rubber cement. Milk is a great addition to oatmeal, but only after the cooking process has wrapped up. According to Bon Appétit, the best way to add milk is to load the oatmeal into your bowl, and then add a pour of your favorite milk. You get all the creaminess, and none of the stickiness. Win-win.

That still leaves the question unanswered: if I shouldn't add plain water into my oatmeal while cooking it, then what should I add? Try tea instead. Yes, it sounds weird, but think about it: By letting hot water absorb those lovely herbs and spices, you're essentially adding delicate flavors to your oatmeal without hardly lifting a finger. And you're also adding tea to your morning breakfast routine, and last time we checked, tea was pretty healthy.

According to The Kitchn, masala chai works particularly well for this. It makes sense: masala chai adds little hints of cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger (among other spices) to your morning bowl. Top the bowl with a little milk, some banana slices, cinnamon, and honey, and guess what? You're no longer cranky before your 9 am meeting.

Go savory with your oatmeal

That's right: Lately, people have been getting into savory oats like it's nobody's business. Are we seeing a trend of people who actually care about breakfast? Too early to tell. Recipes have surfaced for oatmeal topped with spinach, caramelized onions, and of course, fried eggs (via The Food Network).

When you're working with savory, tea doesn't make much sense. So why not opt for broth? It not only adds extra flavor and a wonderful, home-cooked-breakfast sort of smell — it also adds nutrients to your oatmeal. This is a situation where "delicious" and "healthy" choices actually line up, and we couldn't be more excited. Cooking rolled oats in chicken broth will bring some umami flavor to the dish, while topping the finished product with raw, chopped scallions will add in some brightness (via Williams Sonoma). Can you add vegetable broth? Or miso broth? Why not? This trick works especially well when you've already got your own homemade broth lying around in the freezer. 

With seasoned teas and broths, rather than plain, unsalted water, oatmeal gets a lot more fun.