Toasted Four Grain Cereal Recipe

A hot, filling, wintertime DIY four-grain breakfast cereal that you can trick out with all sorts of different toppings.

Toasted Four Grain Cereal

Somehow, I've managed to pass the weekday breakfast baton. Wayne has always been the house barista, keeping me (and any visiting friends) adequately caffeinated. At some point, a couple years back, he started adding a toasty overnight oatmeal to his morning repertoire. Actually, he usually does a blend of oats and other rolled grains, but if you like oatmeal, you'll like this. Lynn, from Satsuma Press, stayed with us recently, was asking about the recipe. This is for her and any of you who are looking for a hot, filling, wintertime breakfast cereal that you can trick out with all sorts of different toppings.

Four Grain Cereal

There are a number of four or five-grain breakfast cereal blends you can buy ready-mixed. That said, it is incredibly easy to make your own blend, and keep it on-hand in a jar. We've been using a blend of rolled oats, rolled rye, rolled barley, and rolled spelt. But don't sweat it if you can't find those exact grains. Browse the bin section of your grocery or natural foods store, see what they have, and go from there. The only rolled grain I haven't loved as a part of our mix was Kamut.

Four Grain Cereal

One of the things I love most about this ritual is the one thing that might put some of you off. The "day-ahead" factor. The night before Wayne makes his cereal, he toasts the grains in a bit of butter. You have to plan ahead a bit, but the trade-off is a house that smells like a batch of oatmeal cookies is baking. Here, the scent drifts from the kitchen at the back of the house, up the hallway, and into each room along the way. It's one of the last things he does at the end of the day, and it let's you know breakfast is going to be good.

I kept track of some of the toppings I've used over the past couple off weeks and listed them below. Allow me to highlight the buttermilk maple butter, which I make for waffles, but use it here as well. Creamy, sweet, with a bit of tang - a generous drizzle is all you need.

A couple other links: I had some fun with the Remodelista ladies, for their new Style Counsel feature. Aaaand my run at the Piglet over at Food52 ended abruptly with a Momofuku Milk Bar face-off. :/ Looking forward to watching the next few rounds from the sidelines though.

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Toasted Four Grain Cereal

The key here is flexibility - don't worry if you can't find these exact grains. The technique will work with rolled oats, store-bought five-grain cereals, or experiment with other rolled grains you come across in the bin section of your store or local natural foods shop. This recipe instructs you to soak the cereal overnight, but you can certainly do everything the morning of, the grains will just take a bit longer to cook. A

Four grain cereal blend:
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100g rolled oats
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100g rolled rye
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100g rolled barley
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100g rolled spelt

Make a jar of four grain cereal blend, to keep on hand, by combining the rolled oats, rye, barley, and spelt. Store in an airtight container. You now have enough to make four batches.

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 2/3 cup / 560 ml water, plus more to your preference

Optional toppings:
- bourbon blueberries*
- buttermilk maple butter**
- lots of toasted nuts & seeds
- tiny drizzle of half & half or cream
- chopped apples sauteed in a bit of butter and cinnamon
- in summer, brown sugar-mashed berries

The night before you want to enjoy your cereal, melt the butter over medium-high heat in a saucepan. Add 1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100 g of the four grain cereal mixture, and stir well to coat. Add the salt and continue to cook, stirring often, until the grains have really toasted and are quite fragrant - roughly 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, add the water, and leave overnight.

The next morning, heat the cereal over medium-high until it comes to a simmer. Leave it for about 10 minutes, or until the cereal is cooked through. Here's the thing - the cereal will thicken more the longer it simmers, so timing is truly a judgement call here. If you prefer a thinner cereal, feel free to adjust with more water. When the consistency seems right, taste, and add more salt if needed. Also, at this point, the cereal is unsweetened, and it's really up to you to doll it up to your liking. Many days, I keep it simple and add a small drizzle of maple syrup, a tiny splash of cream, and whatever toasted nuts are nearby, but I kept track of some favorite recent toppings up above, and noted them in the ingredient list - bourbon blueberries for the weekend, buttermilk maple butter mid-week :)...Enjoy.

Serves 2-3.

*Bourbon Blueberries: Place dried blueberries in a jar and cover with bourbon. Refrigerate until ready to use. These are super-boozy. I typically drain, then season them with brown sugar before using. Or serve in a puddle of the bourbon that has been blended with maple syrup.

**Buttermilk Maple Butter: In a saucepan, over gentle heat, combine equal parts maple syrup, buttermilk, and unsalted butter. Heat just until butter is melted stirring regularly. I typically do 1/2 cup / 120 ml of each. Serve warm.

Prep time: 10 minutes - Cook time: 10 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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mmm... anything with buttermilk maple butter has to be good! :)

Tabitha (From Single to Married)

Waking up to oatmeal cookie smells - not a bad idea! Hearty and healthy breakfast!

Belinda @zomppa

This could be a very good alternative to my regular oatmeal with apples and cinnamon. Just have to find a way to ease up on the butter! Peace Mike

Mike @TheIronYou

I love your twist on the traditional oatmeal breakfast. When I have to work really early, it's my go to for a quick breakfast... with brown sugar and soy milk of course :) Will have to try the boozy blueberries and the buttermilk maple butter. Sounds more like an indulgent weekend treat.


Heidi, the world needs to know what that multi-headed banana is! Please enlighten the masses. (Great idea to toast the oats before soaking.)


This sounds like a great mix of grains to have on hand. I always feel so much better when I start the day off the right way.


What a wonderful recipe. I absolutely love cereal for breakfast, but am always slightly apprehensive as to what goes into the shop bought variety. This looks utterly perfect. And healthy.

Skye (Skye Loves...)

Thank you so much, Heidi. I found your blog only recently, but it addresses my attempted change of eatinghabits so well, with the bright, comforting photographs and mouth-watering ideas. I'm about to start an exam period and kept seeking healthy, filling breakfast ideas other than industrial sugar-y cereals. This sound wonderful, and I plan to try it next week, then come back and report. hope it will be as good with some fresh fruit other tha berries, that are hardly available in my country. Thank you for sharing these wonderful ideas with us.


This looks so great. I love oatmeal for breakfast, but I've never thought of toasting the grains before. When you say to turn off the heat and add the water, do you leave it on the stove top over night or set it in the fridge?


I am wondering what that yellow octopus like flower is in the window picture. I Love the butter toasting aroma of any cereal, can have it as it is tossed with some chopped fruits, chocolate curls and some cream or greek yogurt. Lovely pictures.

sangeeta khanna

It's nice to know exactly what's in the cereal you're eating. I love making my own and adding all sorts of toppings from nuts to fruit. I look forward with experimenting more with varied grains.

Anna @ the shady pine

I recently bought buckwheat groats from whole foods (because i like buckwheat flour) and I made it as I'd make anyother whole grain. Anyway, I found the flavor apalling. Would toasting it like this perhaps create a better flavor?


Ah, the magic of breakfast. Favorite meal of the day! Could I request a recipe for buttermilk maple butter, or do you buy it?

HS: Hi Kilby: I tacked it on at the end of the recipe along w/ the bourbon blueberries. Enjoy!


The cereal looks hearty and comforting and the buttermilk maple butter sounds fab. Lovin' that yellow veggie in the background, Buddha's hand I'm guessing. Nice!

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga

I've never seen spelt, rye or barley flakes either! Sounds so interesting! Do you leave the pot of toasted cereal with water at room temperature overnight or refrigerate it? Loved your interview at Remodelista, btw.

HS: Thanks Charlotte :) - Re: the cereal -he leaves it on the counter.

charlotte au chocolat

one of my favorite cookies ever (and there have been many) is a Nancy Silverton riff on Nutter Butters, from her early dessert cookbook. She begins by toasting oats in a melted butter, alongside a vanilla bean, and HOLY cow, the effect is incredible. applying this same technique to breakfast cereal? love it. the toppings, too. we'll so give this a go. thanks, wayne!


Heidi, you are just so great. This is my first post though I have been OBSESSED with your blog and cookbook now for about a year. My husband keeps joking that he needs to write you a thank-you note for how you've revolutionized my cooking! This recipe looks great, breakfast foods have been on my mind lately! I just found your post for "Easy Little Bread" from Gran's Kitchen cookbook. We've been craving scones lately and wonder if you have any great recipes to pass along?! Thanks for being so inspirational.

HS: HI Stephanie - thanks for the nice note. Check the archives. There are definitely some favorite scone recipes hiding in there.


This looks delicious. I have to say my favorite hot cereal is the oatmeal from Super Natural Every Day, so I am looking forward to trying more of your recommendations!


Oh yum, I've never used spelt or barley flakes...must find them. I wonder if toasting the flakes in coconut oil would work in lieu of butter...


Cool recipes! This must be a healthy recipe for my cooking diary. Thank you very much!

Jess Ng

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