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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I have been a reader of your journal for a long time but have never posted before. I would like to tell you how much I enjoy your column and photographs and love the enticing glimpses you give us of your old home. I live in an old house not far from Victoria, Vancouver Island and now that we have a direct flight to San Francisco I am very tempted to experience all the wonderful eating and cooking cultural experiences available there. We grow or locally source lots of our food and I am the proud Mum of Melanie who has co-ordinated the Feast of Fields on Vancouver Island for several years. I am prompted to write and tell you how delicious your lemon chutney recipe has turned out using the first good crop from my Meyer lemon tree. We are not necessarily vegetarian eaters but I find it challenging to make vegetables interesting...your column allows no excuses. Hope some day to meet you in person.

HS: Thanks for the nice note Susan :) Glad you are enjoying the chutney.

Susan B

What a great recipe. I make overnight oats often, but I have not made cooked oats in a while. I am definitely going to try this recipe.

Maria @ Sinfully Nutritious

Cholesterol is a new problem at our house. Can you toast the grains without butter?

HS: Sure - you could do olive oil, or a good sunflower oil.

valerie s.

There is nothing better than the smell of breakfast and the anticipation it brings, so to smell it the night before? Utterly decadent. I love that the grains are toasted in butter - this must be incredibly delicious.


I'm an oatmeal fanatic and always looking for interesting ways to change it up! Thanks for the recipe!!


Very nice. Can Heidi or anyone else tell me what vegetable or fruit was on the table in the third photo. It looks like a whole bunch of parsnips just a very deep yellow or light orange color.

HS: Hi Janet - That's a Buddha's hand. It smells incredible.

Janet Paula

Thank you for this great post. I am always on the look out for healthy recipes for my family. I am going to make some up and take it with us on vacation/camping.

Geraldine Saucier

This looks great- I'm absolutely going to start expanding my typical oatmeal routine. I love it with stewed prunes! (Sounds like an old-person dish, but simmer some prunes with water, lemon zest, maple syrup and cinnamon and you'll be converted too)


Fantastic recipe. I'm making it tonight. Question: Do you leave the toasted grains at room temp. overnight, or do you refrigerate them? Thanks!

HS: Hi Steve, Wayne leaves the pot on the countertop.


Yeah, I don't agree with the tournament of cookbooks decision. I cook from both of your cookbooks and your website at least 3-4 nights per week. If I made one thing from Momofuku, I'd be at the gym the rest of the week. Life is better with you :)


I can't wait to try this recipe. I eat a lot of oatmeal and steel oats. For sweetening, I cook the oats with 1 chopped up medjool date. When I do this I don't need any extra sweetener. I also top with it off with a Tbsp. of flax seed oil for an extra nutritional boost and an extra nutty flavor.


In my opinion, you were robbed in the Piglet Tournament......I love that you provide recipes and thinking that elevate and celebrate food that can be eaten everyday.....I'm just saying.....


This looks like a great muesli recipe. What do you think? instead of soaking it in water overnight soak it in yogurt and then just eat it cold?


That was a rough go in the Piglet. I'm not sure what I'd do, as all I want for Groundhog's day, Valentine's Day, President's Day, etc., is one copy of each book. One for every day and one for special fat girl occasions. It's probably better to be the everyday girl though, I'd say.


Your site, photos and books make me smile and smile, thank you! We pour boiling water on our cereal grains, then put them in a widemouthed thermos overnight... ta da instant hot breakfast.


Heidi, the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook is incredible, but to be perfectly honest, it's not anywhere near as useful as yours. I've cooked 10-12 of the recipes in your cookbook so far, and all of them have been absolutely splendid. You win my vote, anyway.


If you use the steel cut oats it's even better. They have so much more texture than the rolled oats and are nutty. Delicious! I make up a large batch and heat up a little each day.


i love you!


This is a wonderful way to incorporate slow-cooking grains into a warm, ready breakfast. I've been using a similar day-ahead technique for months that you might really enjoy. Instead of toasting the grains, I put them in a jar with a scoop of plain yogurt and warm water, and shake. The grains break down and release their enzymes overnight, resulting in a slightly soured, rich porridge in the am. I usually start with a full jar on Sunday and use about half each morning, refilling the jar with more oats and warm water as the week progresses. By Friday or Saturday (or, in the summer, Wednesday), the oats are delightfully fermented, and I can toss what's left into an easy yeast bread (your recipe from 2011 is perfect for this) for a cheater's sourdough. These oats are delicious, versatile and healthful -- and fermented, like the kombucha of breakfast treats. My thanks for continuing this inspiring, invigorating recipe collage. We housemates in Oakland send our collective cheers your way.

HS: Oakland representing with an awesome idea! Thank you.


You can toast the grains without any butter or oil at all. Use a heavy pan and stir to prevent burning. Stop when the grains are a medium brown and fragrant.


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