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Dorm Cooking: 5 Delicious Oatmeal Variations Made in under 5 minutes

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but rarely do we have time in the mornings to make a run to the dining hall. Enter: easy but flavorful oatmeal. It’s versatile, packed with important nutrients, and can be made in under 5 minutes. While all you absolutely need is rolled oats, water or nut milk, and a microwave, the following recipes offer quick inspiration with simple, nutritious ingredients that make your morning oatmeal anything but bland.   

Plain & Simple 


  • ⅓ cup rolled oats

  • Pinch (¼ tsp) each of sea salt and cinnamon 

  • 2 tbsp chia seeds

  • ⅔ cup water or nut milk (coconut, almond, or oat milk are my go-to choices!) 

  • ½ tsp vanilla extract 

Optional toppings: 

  • Honey

  • Fresh berries

  • Shredded coconut

  • Walnuts 

  • Slivered almonds

  • Cacao nibs

  • Dried fruit

  • Nut or seed butter 

  • Cinnamon or nutmeg

Stir together the rolled oats, salt and cinnamon, chia seeds, and a splash of vanilla extract (optional but really delicious!) in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes and give the bowl a stir. Once you reach your desired consistency, take out of the microwave, let cool for a minute, and add your toppings of choice! 


For a more deluxe version of your morning oatmeal, try out one of the combinations below:

Honey Nut

Plain & Simple with: 

  • 2 tbsp nut butter

  • Honey (to taste)

  • Sprinkle of chia seeds

  • Crushed walnuts

Like the cereal, but cozy. Start with “Plain & Simple.” Upon removing from the microwave, stir in peanut, almond, cashew, or pecan butter, 1 tbsp (or less, adjust to taste) of honey, another sprinkle of chia seeds, and some crushed walnuts or almonds. Top with an extra drizzle of nut butter and a pinch of salt!

Salty Chocolate

Plain & Simple with: 

  • 2 tbsp cacao/cocoa powder

  • Cinnamon

  • 2 tbsp cacao nibs/chocolate chips 

  • Honey (to taste)

This one is dessert for breakfast. Start with “Plain & Simple.” Before microwaving, stir in cacao or cocoa powder. Remove from the microwave and immediately stir in a few shakes of cinnamon and the cacao nibs, or chocolate chips for a sweeter version. If you like your chocolate dark and bitter, keep as is, but if you prefer sweeter chocolate, add a spoonful of honey. Let them warm up in the oatmeal, then top your bowl with another generous pinch of salt (I like to use flaky salt here!) and extra cacao nibs. For a heartier version, add some crushed walnuts or fresh raspberries. 

Blueberry Muffin

Plain & Simple with: 

  • ½ – 1 cup blueberries

  • ½ tsp cinnamon 

  • Drizzle of honey

  • 1 tbsp nut butter (peanut is suggested)

This is my personal favorite–perfect for using up your slightly-mushy blueberries from your last grocery run! Start with “Plain & Simple,” and stir in a small handful of blueberries for the last minute or so. While that is cooking, mash another small handful of blueberries with the back of a fork until it reaches a jam-like consistency. Upon removing the oatmeal from the microwave, stir in your “jam” along with another ½ tsp of cinnamon, a drizzle of honey, and nut butter (peanut is my favorite here). Top your oatmeal with any last berries, extra chia seeds, and a final drizzle of honey. 

Fall Spice

Plain & Simple with: 

  • 1 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

  • 2 tbsp nut butter

  • 6 dried apricots, sliced in half

  • 1 tbsp dried cranberries 

  • Small handful crushed walnuts

A perfect way to start your day as the mornings start to cool down and we crave all-things pumpkin! Start with “Plain & Simple,” but add in 1 tsp of cinnamon or replace with pumpkin pie spice (a seasonal favorite of mine!). Upon removing from the microwave, stir in the nut butter–pecan is a fun fall twist. Toppings are the most important part of this variation–sliced and dried apricots, dried cranberries, crushed walnuts, and a final few shakes of cinnamon really give this bowl a fragrant, burnt-orange fall vibe. If you have it on hand, maple syrup is the perfect autumn-ish addition!

A bonus for the oatmeal connoisseur–Pumpkin Bread Oatmeal

Plain & Simple with: 

  • 3 tbsp pumpkin puree

  • ½  tsp each cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice, plus more to taste

  • 1 tsp maple syrup

  • 1 tsp coconut oil

  • 1 tbsp cacao nibs

  • 1 tbsp pecan butter

  • Crushed walnuts 

An oatmeal for pumpkin bread lovers! Even though it’s definitely the most deluxe of the group, this oatmeal is still made in under 5 minutes and has a simple list of ingredients. To make, start with Plain & Simple and add in the pumpkin puree, additional spices, and maple syrup. Upon removing from the microwave, stir in the coconut oil and cacao nibs. Top with pecan butter, crushed walnuts, and extra pumpkin pie spice until you really get that pumpkin flavor. 

dorm oatmeal with bananas and nut butter. There is a spoon in it
Original photo by Anya D’Costa

dorm oatmeal with spices, nut butter, and chocolate pieces
Original photo by Hannah Biles

Dorm oatmeal with nut butter, cinnamon, chocolate pieces, and dried fruit
Original photo by Hannah Biles


SImple dorm oatmeal with nut butter, chia seeds, and chocolate pieces
Original photo by Hannah Biles

oatmeal with raspberries and coconut
Original photo by Hannah Biles

Fall Spice Oatmeal
Original photo by Hannah Biles


Hannah Biles

Vanderbilt '24

Hannah Biles is a First-Year studying Public Policy and Spanish in the College of Arts in Sciences. Her dream job is to work abroad in a developing economy. She is a passionate foodie and loves all things wellness, travel, and astrology. She also loves to read and play with dogs.
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