Oatmeal with Milk (Sweet Dalia Inspired)
Here’s how to make a creamy bowl of rolled oats (or old-fashioned oats) with milk. Inspired by dalia, a South Asian porridge, this recipe shares how to make oats with milk in the most delicious way. All you need for this stovetop recipe is a (preferably non-stick) saucepan, 3 ingredients, and 20 minutes!
There’s a reason for the dearth of breakfast recipes on my blog. Most mornings, I find myself making parathas, french toast, or this creamy bowl of oatmeal. With kids, these tend to be the easiest, most tantrum-proof breakfasts.
Growing up, we called oatmeal “dalia”, the word for a warming, milky, South Asian-style porridge. Oats weren’t a big part of the agriculture in India and Pakistan, so porridge was usually made with broken barley or wheat. As South Asians spread across the West, naturally, we started to make dalia with the most befitting cereal grain – oats.
Oats with Milk
Before reading my friend Kathryn’s post on Creamy Oatmeal, I didn’t know Americans usually cook their oatmeal with only water. I thought that’s how they serve oatmeal at hotel breakfasts: soggy and necessitating toppings.
I’ve noticed that all across the world (most recently at Heathrow airport), oatmeal is creamy, milky and actually appetizing. This recipe is inspired by the South Asian method of making porridge, but it’s really just oatmeal made in the most delightful way – with milk.
The Key to Making Oatmeal with Milk
This may seem counterintuitive, but I find the best way to make rolled oats with milk is to still use water while cooking it. Like any other grain, rolled oats need water to penetrate the surface, giving the oats a chance to soften and swell. Using only milk to cook the oats – though still better than using only water – will give you firm, in-tact oats that haven’t broken down as well as they can.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Here’s what you need to make a simple bowl of oatmeal with milk:
- Water: To get the right texture, you want just enough water so that the oats drink it up but don’t entirely cook in it.
- Using too little water = toothsome oats + heavy oatmeal.
- Using too much water = soggy, watered down oats.
- Type of Oats: Whole oat groats are processed in various ways to make different forms of oatmeal. This recipe calls for rolled oats (also called old-fashioned oats).
- You could use the same method for steel cut oats but you’ll need more liquid and a much longer cooking time. For this reason, I usually make steel cut oats in the slow cooker or Instant Pot.
- For quick cooking oats (not Instant Oats), you really don’t need water at all to cook them down well. (They’re perfect for overnight oats.)
- Milk: I use whole milk but you can use any dairy-free milk as long as it won’t disintegrate once you bring it to a boil.
- Sweeteners & Toppings: Unless I do sweet toppings, I always sweeten oatmeal. Raw cane sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and honey all work great. If you’re using sugar and are sure of the amount of you want, you can also add it along with the milk.
How to Make Oats with Milk
Time needed: 20 minutes
The quick summary: First, cook the oats in water, add milk and cook further/reduce. If needed, add a splash of milk before serving to keep it light & runny.
- Bring water to a boil. Then add oats and a pinch of salt (if using). Lower the heat to bring to a simmer.
- Cook until the water evaporates/reduces down and the oats are partially cooked.
- Add the milk and raise the heat to bring it to a boil (or allow it to come to simmer on its own). Then lower the heat and allow it to simmer for another 10 minutes. Stir every so often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
- The milk will thicken and reduce, but it’ll still be runny and pourable. If it gets too thick, add a splash of milk and mix to combine.
Honestly, before I thought to ‘develop a recipe’ for this, I’d often just cook the oats down in water and add milk without measuring. Once the milk reduced and oatmeal thickened, I’d finish with a splash of milk, which worked just fine. All this is to say – this is not a finicky oatmeal recipe. If you cook it first in water, then in milk for 15-20 minutes, you’ll enjoy wonderfully cooked rolled oats with milk.
Oatmeal Topping Idea – Caramelized Bananas
Though this oatmeal is delicious enough to not need toppings, they’re never a bad idea. Even good-old dalia was/is often topped with dry fruit or nuts.
Years ago I was inspired by the legendary Local Milk Blog to top oatmeal with caramelized bananas and blanched, slivered almonds and that’s since remained one of my favorite toppings. To make it:
- Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter and lay the bananas in a single layer. Sprinkle sugar on the bananas and fry for 2-3 minutes, until the bottom is caramelized. Use a fork to flip them over and fry for another 2 minutes.
- You can also toast the almonds separately or throw them in last minute along with the bananas. She recommends topping it with flaky salt.
More Topping Ideas & Flavor Combinations
- Classics: Honey, jam/preserves/compotes, fresh fruit (such as bananas and berries), nuts, and seeds.
- Dried fruit: Sultanas, raisins, dried berries.
- Nut Butters: Peanut butter and almond butter are most common for adding protein.
- Fall: Cinnamon, nutmeg, apples, pecans, and brown sugar.
- Omega-3 boost: Flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and chocolate chips.
- South Asian Style: Nuts, dates, and jaggery powder.
Tips on Making Oats with Milk
- No matter what my pictures and video convey, do not use a gorgeous ceramic saucepan. Instead, grab your nonstick.
- Combination oats: One thing I’ve tried and loved is mixing rolled oats AND quick cooking oats. Keep the same liquid ratios and cook time. It adds texture and interest to a regular bowl of oats.
- You can always adjust the consistency by cooking longer for thicker oatmeal, and adding a splash of milk for thinner oatmeal.
How to Store and Reheat
- To store: Place in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- To reheat: Place in a microwave-safe bowl and add a splash of milk. Microwave until heated through. Use a fork to help the oats disintegrate into the milk.
Tried this recipe? If you have a minute, please consider leaving a comment telling me how it was! If you’re on Instagram, please tag me so I can see your creations. I truly love hearing from you. Thank you!
Oatmeal with Milk (How to make Oats with Milk)
- 1 cup water
- pinch kosher salt, optional
- ½ cup (~40-45 g) rolled oats, I’ve tried quaker & bob’s red mill
- 1 – 1 ½ cup whole milk, or 2% reduced milk – See Note 1
- sweetener of choice, as desired
- toppings, as desired
Topping Idea (Optional)
- 1 small ripe banana, sliced ¼” thick widthwise or halved lengthwise
- 1 tsp turbinado sugar, demerara sugar, brown sugar, or cane sugar
- 1/2 tbsp butter, salted or unsalted are both fine
- blanched, slivered or sliced almonds, optionally toasted
- Nonstick Saucepan (Small to Medium sized)
- Heat a small to medium nonstick saucepan over med-high heat. Add water and a pinch of salt (if using) and bring to a boil.
- Add the oats and lower the heat to bring it to a simmer. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the water evaporates and the oats swell (~5 min).
- Add the milk and raise the heat to bring it to a boil (or allow it to come to boil on its own). Lower the heat to medium and allow the oats to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes (depending on the heat and size of your pan). Meanwhile, prepare topping, if desired.
- (Optional Topping) – To prepare caramelized bananas: Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter and lay the bananas in a single layer. Sprinkle sugar on the bananas and fry for 2-3 minutes, until the bottom is caramelized. Use a fork to flip them over and fry for another 2 minutes. Set aside.
- Scrape the edges of the saucepan as needed. The milk will thicken and reduce, but it’ll still be runny and pourable. If it gets too thick (likely if you used 1 cup milk), add a splash of milk and mix to combine.
- Turn off the heat and place into your bowl. Serve hot with sweetener of choice. If topping with caramelized bananas, spread the bananas on the oatmeal, and top with almonds, if desired.