Oat bars take humble oatmeal and make it so fun with TOPPINGS.
We love oatmeal for being delicious and comforting, cheap and easy to make, and filling.
And with a make-your-own bowl set up of an oatmeal toppings bar, everyone can get what they want! Plus the added bonus of getting to discuss which combo is the best.
Oat bars are so low-key and easy to set up. You can do most of the work the day before and then just set things out in the morning.
They're a great casual brunch or breakfast and would be really fun to do for birthday parties, Mother's Day, graduation parties, or any time you want a social morning meal!
Steel cut oats or bust! Once you go steel cut, there is no going back. They are the creamiest, and keep their texture for a long time while being kept warm.
If we're doing a smaller oat bar, I love this recipe for overnight oats in the slow cooker - you can cook them overnight and then keep warm in the slow cooker!
For bigger crowds, it's easy to whip up a lot of oats stovetop and then transition to the slow cooker to keep warm.
Steel cut oats can be kept on the 'warm' setting of a slow cooker for several hours with no negative impact on texture. Make sure to stir them and add a splash more water if needed so they don't stick!
And speaking of water, I do recommend making oats with water for this.
The Set Up
Making any food item into a fun bar is really just a matter of making all the fixings easily accessible and all in one place.
For a hot oatmeal breakfast bar, I start with bowls, napkins, and spoons, then the slow cooker of oats, followed by all of the toppings! That way, people can work their way through and grab everything they need. (And double back for more).
A decently sized counter is good since toppings tend to spread out.
Also access to an outlet is important if you're keeping oats warm in a slow cooker.
Oats - steel cut are the best! you can get them on amazon, though you can find them much cheaper in stores. I've tried all variety of brands and never been disappointed!
Slow cooker - for keeping the cooked oats warm. I have this basic one and it gets the job done.
Bowls for the oats - smaller ones are perfect so people can fill up multiple times and try different combos. If you want disposable, these are the perfect size.
Mini bowls + spoons - good for small toppings.
You can do as many or as few toppings as you want for a good oatmeal bar! I do sometimes think too many options can be overwhelming, so definitely a scenario where less can be more.
A lot of the 'sweet toppings' are pantry and fridge staples, which makes it easy to throw a variety of toppings together any time!
Sweet toppings for oatmeal
Fresh fruit (bananas, berries, apples, pears)
Dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, raisins, coconut)
Nuts (chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, peanuts, peanut butter)
Milk or cream
Savory toppings for oatmeal
Meats (bacon, ham, sausage crumbles)
Fresh herbs (basil, parsley, tarragon, etc.)
Grated or shredded cheese
Jarred goods (sundried tomatoes, olives)
Greens (arugala, sautéed spinach or kale)
Olive oil or butter
Spices (red pepper flakes, black pepper, etc.)
Nuts or seeds (chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, pistacios, pumpkin seeds)
Condiments (tahini, dijon, tomato jam, salsa, hot sauce)
Vegetables (green onion, shallot, tomato, roasted root veggies, jalapeño)
Fried or scrambled eggs
chocolate covered strawberries: fresh strawberries + chocolate chips + milk
cinnamon brown sugar apple: apples + brown sugar + cinnamon + milk + butter
PB+J: milk + peanut butter + jam + chopped peanuts + blackberries
ants on oats: raisins + peanut butter + honey + milk + butter
chocolate coconut almond: chocolate + coconut + almonds + milk
italianesque: sundried tomato + basil + sautéed kale + black pepper
greens and bacon: shallot + bacon + arugala + parmesan
spicy breakfast oats: sausage crumbles + fried egg + red pepper flakes + green onion