How to make porridge and the health benefits of oats

Wholegrains such as oats offer various health benefits, and research suggests they may be key to living longer. Discover more about the nutritional profile of your porridge, plus creative ideas for techniques and toppings.

Bowl of porridge topped with blueberries

While the beauty of porridge is in its simplicity, there’s now another reason to love this most wholesome of breakfasts – according to a study by Harvard University, people who eat plenty of oats and other wholegrains live longer and are less likely to die from heart disease. Our health editor Roxanne Fisher talks us through the benefits of the unassuming oat…

"All too often we’re led to believe the likes of chia, quinoa and other exotic sounding ingredients have the monopoly on the coveted ‘superfood’ title. However, countless studies have put the humble oat right up there with pricey health boosters. The cereal grain’s proven talents include helping to lower high blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol – not to mention a packed portfolio of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Oats are also the go-to fitness food for beginners and athletes alike. A bowl of their slow-releasing, wholegrain goodness an hour before exercise ensures blood sugar levels remain steady through a workout, while providing enough energy to keep you going.

 
Their stellar credentials were boosted even further by a recent study in the US claiming people who ate a diet rich in wholegrains were about 15% less likely to die from heart disease, compared with people who opted instead for white and refined options.

A daily intake of about 3g is enough to be beneficial – so what are you waiting for? Our favourite way to enjoy oats is in a creamy bowl of porridge. Find out how to make the ultimate pot and try out our healthy porridge recipes and nutritious topping ideas."

How to make the ultimate porridge

Porridge in a bowl topped with syrup


Start with the basics... the oats

Our food editor Cassie says the type of oats you choose for your porridge is really down to personal preference. Jumbo or rolled oats will give you a really chunky texture, but packets labeled as ‘porridge oats’ will generally contain a medium-ground oatmeal, which will allow for a fine, smooth texture, should that be your preference.
 

The liquid

Porridge can be made with just water, but if that sounds too much like austere gruel, stir in a touch of yogurt too. A more orthodox route is using regular, soya or nut milk with the fat content of your choice – or opt for a half water/half milk blend. Alternatively, use plain yogurt on its own, or go really luxe with coconut milk.

Perfect porridge with milk or water
Creamy yogurt porridge
Raspberry coconut porridge

Bowl of porridge with raspberries and mint leaves next to pan of porridge


The method

For a truly creamy porridge, employ a slow and steady approach. For optimum results cook on the hob – bring the liquid to the boil then turn down to a simmer for five minutes. If you’re a microwave devotee, cook for five minutes, keeping an eye out for any volcano-style milky eruptions.


Change it up

If you own a slow cooker, it’s an ideal vessel for creating a no-fuss breakfast. Assemble the porridge ingredients on an evening and wake up to perfection in a bowl. Robust, jumbo oats work best for this method.

Slow cooker porridge

If you don’t fancy something hot or want to eat on the go, a bircher is a satisfying alternative to traditional porridge. It will still take around five minutes to make as the jumbo oats are soaked in juice, but if you make a batch, it’ll keep in the fridge for a few days. If you really want to ramp up the nutrition factor, add a sprinkling of chia seeds and watch them expand.

Bircher

Apple & blueberry bircher
Vanilla-almond chia breakfast bowl


Toppings and additions...

Flavourings

Give your porridge instant pizzazz by adding simple flavours. Nut butters such as almond, hazelnut or cashew give porridge a real hearty depth – just make sure you stir vigorously to dissolve any clumps. Try simple spice like cinnamon, nutmeg or mixed spice, added at the end of cooking, vanilla extract, creamed or dessicated coconut or a touch of jam.

Sweets for my sweet

Opt for honey, maple syrup or agave if you fancy a drizzle of liquid sugar, or add your favourite kind of granulated sugar either at the start of cooking, as a semi-melted topping or both.

Our favourite porridge toppings…

Compote

Bowl of porridge topped with beetroot and cranberry compote

Cassie is a firm advocate of using up whatever is in her fruit bowl when it comes to toppings. Apples, pears, cranberries and plums work well – simply stew with a little syrup or sugar.

Porridge with beetroot, apple & cranberry compote & toasted hazelnuts
Porridge with blueberry compote
Creamy porridge with spiced apple & cranberry
Spiced coconut porridge with cranberry & orange compote
Creamy yogurt porridge with apple & raisin compote

Fruit

Bowl of porridge topped with banana

Banana, grated apple, thin slices of pear and blueberries are some of our favourite fruits to scatter over a warming bowl of porridge. Go all-out tropical by liberally topping your oats with chopped banana, coconut yogurt, coconut shavings, lime juice and a cherry.

Banana colada porridge topper
Creamy yogurt porridge with banana & blueberry porridge

Granola

Plum, raisin and granola topped porridge

We’d never say no to two breakfasts in one, so crunchy granola-topped porridge is right up our street. Combine porridge oats with cinnamon, oil and raisins, then sprinkle the crunchy clusters over honey-soaked plums before baking in the oven.

Plum, raisin & granola porridge topper
Maple granola crunch porridge topping

Nuts

Bowl of porridge topped with poached pears

While the silkiness of porridge is one of its charms, adding a bit of texture will create a new dimension. Crush your favourite nut to scatter on top – almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts and Brazil nuts all fit the bill nicely.      

Give your porridge a taste of luxury with aromatic vanilla-poached plums and crunchy toasted almond flakes. Finish with a drizzle of gorgeously creamy almond butter for ultimate satisfaction.

Vanilla poached pears with almond flakes and nut butter topping

Veg

Porridge topped with blueberries, squash and maple syrup

Vegetables in porridge – who'd have thought? We seriously recommend trying this maple squash, bacon and blueberry porridge topper for a comforting treat that'll keep you full until lunch. The roasted butternut squash has a gorgeously caramelised taste that's perfectly balanced out by the salty bacon and juicy blueberries.

Nutritional boosters

Bowl of porridge topped with fruit, seeds and nuts

Vitamin-packed seeds will add a satisfying crunch and healthy kudos to your breakfast bowl. Try linseeds, sunflower, pumpkin and chia seeds, or add dried fruit or goji berries when you’re out of fresh fruit.

Fruit & nut breakfast bowl        

Get more perfect porridge inspiration...

Porridge recipes
Healthy porridge recipes and topping ideas
Healthy chocolate porridge recipe video
Is porridge healthy?

Are you a porridge lover? What are your secret tips for making the silky stuff - and how do you serve it? We'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below... 

 

Comments, questions and tips

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Roger Hill's picture
Roger Hill
25th May, 2018
I’ve been eating porridge every morning for the last 12 or more years I’m 71 and I feel 30 still that this is the best for me porridge fruit,ie: blueberry,mango,various nuts,honey...can’t go wrong...never feel tired...don’t forget exercise though!!
Cait's picture
Cait
20th Feb, 2018
50g oats, a diced apple, peanut butter and coconut milk is divine. Another nice combo is 50g oats, a selection of frozen berries, dessicated coconut and coconut milk. Considering opening a porridge bar here in Milan because Italians just don't believe me when I say how delicious it can be!
Angel Schur's picture
Angel Schur
29th Jan, 2018
I mash a banana in my bowl, add porridge oats, a teaspoon of ground, brown flaxseed, water and cinnamon and microwave it. The banana adds a creamy texture and enough sweetness that I don't need to add anything else. Sometimes I will throw in a few walnuts and top with some fresh blueberries or blackberries at the end, but the basic recipe is perfect!
misspeppcorn's picture
misspeppcorn
26th Oct, 2016
30gms enough milk to cover two mins in microwave then a mix of berries or other fruit depending what I have in, my father always had a big pan on the go in winter for six of us always had sugar on though, but still enjoying it.
FizzH89
15th Oct, 2016
Our 8 year old son has shown some strange and difficult to manage behaviour problems over the last 5 months, and we have come to realise that it is connected to food. If we can get him to eat, his mood improves very quickly. Having kept detailed food and behaviour diaries for many weeks, we have noticed that if he eats bowl of Scott's porridge oats for supper, it almost guarantees that his behaviour will be pleasant the following morning. I had even commented to my husband just last week that I am tempted to write to the manufacturer to see if they can shed any light on why. I have done lots of reading around low GI foods and know that proper porridge oats are a good source. He is under investigation for an explanation (and hopefully a way of managing it) at the hospital. It would appear that they have not come across this problem before.
missimack
13th Aug, 2016
I use 40g of rolled oats, 180g milk, and usually a tbsp of nut butter. 2 minutes in the microwave at 800 W and it's perfect. Then it's just a matter of stirring in some honey and maybe a bit of fruit.
rd3d2
5th Jun, 2016
TIP: I use a deep bowl and cook porridge in the Microwave for 10 minutes flat. The deep bowl allows it to boil up the bowl as much as it likes without boiling over. Perfect porridge every time without the stirring
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Liamreilly848@g...
28th Oct, 2016
I have skimmed milk and 4 or 5 prunes. It has helped me to lose 6 stone in less than 12 months.
sunsetsimulation
10th Oct, 2016
Rolled up oats take forever to cook but I found an easy way to cook them quickly. Put your needed quantity in a small saucepan, cover with boiling water, cover the pan and leave to soak for 5min. Then add a generous splash of milk and cook on the hob for 2-5min until bubbling and your desired consistency.