Oatmeal is one of winter’s simplest and coziest breakfast foods. It can also be one of the most exciting. 

Utah’s Hell’s Backbone Grill describes its oatmeal as a dreamy, creamy, steamy bowl that can make the rest of your day dreamy as well. Can you say the same about yours? If not, let’s talk toppings. Whether you cook rolled or steel-cut oats (or instant oats as a last resort or if you’re camping), adventurous add-ons can make all the difference. Part of the delight of oatmeal is its versatility, so experiment with fun and flavorful toppings. Here are a few ideas to get you started. 

Crunch

Properly cooked oatmeal should have a gentle chew, like well-cooked pasta. What it doesn’t have is crunch, so add some texture.

• Toast some nuts (any nuts, or a mixture) in a skillet until they just brown. Toss them in a mixture of cinnamon sugar and sprinkle them over your hot oats. 

• Toast coconut and sprinkle over the oatmeal with some chopped, dried pineapple. 

• Top with toasted peanuts and add a few dollops of your favorite jelly.

Sweet

Sometimes, you gotta have sweet in the morning. Of course, there’s maple syrup or brown sugar. You know that. But how about these?

• Maple sugar. It has a more intense flavor than the syrup.

• Chocolate chips. Yes, chocolate chips—milk, dark or even white. Drop them into hot oatmeal and let them melt as you eat. 

• Sweetened fruit. Slice strawberries the night before, sprinkle them with sugar so they get juicy, and top your bowl of oats. Any berry is good with oatmeal, but you don’t need to pre-sweeten raspberries, blackberries or blueberries. Just sprinkle them with sugar as you fix your bowl. 

Umami

Maybe you want heftier protein in the morning? No problem. 

• Top your oatmeal with cooked, crumbled bacon.

• Slide a poached or fried egg on top and garnish it with sliced avocado. 

• Add some slivered smoked salmon and dollops of softened cream cheese.

Liquid Assets

Experiment with the cooking liquid. For example, add a dash of vanilla if you’re planning on sweet. Or pour in some vegetable stock if you’re planning on savory. If you cook with water, add a dash of salt. In any case, add a pat of butter as soon as the oatmeal is done to enrich its texture.

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