It came as no surprise that oatmeal topped The Food Channel’s list of the Top Ten Breakfast Trends. We actually had identified oatmeal as an emerging trend a while back and the only question was whether it would still be “hot” enough (so to speak) by the time we did this report. Well, the action McDonald’s recently took in adding oatmeal to its menu proved it’s still worth watching. Not to mention eating.
There’s nothing like oatmeal for breakfast. That’s why we’re a little surprised it took all these fast food places so long to add it to their menu.
Now that it’s here, though, it’s here to stay.
Yes, oatmeal has come into its own. Today’s oatmeal is not only heart-healthy, it’s delicious. So, we decided to do a few comparisons to see: What’s the best oatmeal out there?
Best oatmeal, in our opinion? The seven-grain at Caribou Coffee. It has a nice nuttiness, comforting combinations like blueberry and almond, and a welcome warmth that just starts your day right—whenever your day starts, because it’s available all day. And the seven-grain is what sets it apart.
A close second? Hang on, all you fast food snobs. McDonald’s oatmeal is, if not king, at least the crown prince of oatmeals (and, it’s less than $2). It has red and green apples, two kinds of raisins, cranberries, a touch of brown sugar, maple, and a splash of cream. And the oatmeal itself isn’t shabby—it is flavorful, with a great consistency, and enough toppings that you get some fruit in every single bite. It, too, is available all day, meaning you can get a shot of healthy whenever you are in the mood. The only problem is consistency. Our team tried this oatmeal, in Goldilocks style, at multiple franchise locations across a couple of states and found it perfect in some places, way too thick in at least one, and runny in another. Once McDonald’s can get that consistency, well, consistent, then this one could be a regular stop on the way to work. Lots of kudos to them for even being in this healthy category with a winning product.
We also like the oatmeal at La Madeleine, where there is a bit more elegance than you get from either McDonald’s or Caribou. At La Madeleine, it’s a mix of self serve and decadence (the chocolate almond croissant sets the bar for pastries), and you can top off your oatmeal with a choice of blueberry or strawberry, pecan or almonds. Making it takes just enough extra time that you know it’s freshly made.
While we credit Starbucks for trying—and admit we were really, really excited when they added oatmeal to the menu—imagine our disappointment when we placed our first order. The barista actually opened the packet of instant mix right in front of us, ending any mystery as to its origins. Other, smaller packets followed, giving us our choice of nuts or brown sugar toppings. It all seemed, and tasted, processed and packaged, and we haven’t been back.
An earlier entrée into the oatmeal onslaught came from Corner Bakery, and its oatmeal is good enough to go back for. But what started out as innovative has become industrialized, and we’re pretty sure the bowls have gotten smaller.
We haven’t tried them all. Au Bon Pain and Tim Horton have each introduced an Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal. Jamba Juice has introduced organic steel cut oats with real fruit topping options including apples, berries and bananas. Potbelly has it on the menu, too. So oatmeal is definitely on trend, and your taste buds may find that you like a different one.
And, when it comes to oatmeal, it’s not all fast food. The finer dining places have added oatmeal to the breakfast menu, too. Among the more intriguing options is the oatmeal crème brulee from Swissôtel Chicago. They bill it as the perfect alternative to pancakes or toast, and it is right on trend with breakfasts that have a more European flair (see our breakfast trends, here). Executive Chef Dan McGee notes, “Our oatmeal crème brulee is the perfect marriage of rich custard with the subtle taste of oatmeal. I find that this combination is delightful and a pleasant surprise for most guests who order this breakfast for the first time.”
Here’s Chef McGee’s Oatmeal Crème Brulee recipe.
Of course, there’s nothing like making oatmeal at home. For something different, try Chef McGee’s recipe, or one of these great recipes: