How to Make Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Seasonal Compotes (3 Types)


During training seasons, very early mornings were always a part of my routine. I often hit the water at 6 a.m., which means I got to the pool at 5:15 a.m. or so to begin my preparation work, and that means my wake-up call was somewhere around 4:30 a.m. Skipping breakfast was never an option. When you’re working out for hours on end, you need to eat something nutritious first thing in order to keep your energy levels stable. And making breakfast that early in the morning had to be easy. But just because it was easy didn’t mean it wasn’t delicious!

On Sundays, I would make a big pot of steel-cut oats, transfer the cooked oatmeal to a glass container, and keep it in the fridge for a week’s worth of breakfasts. Regular steel-cut oats (not the quick-cook variety) are filled with fiber, protein, and whole grains—and they’re easy to digest, too, which is especially important before a two-hour swim session. But as nutritious as they are, they can be a bit boring on their own, so I came up with some flavorful toppings. I also add ground flaxseed (for fiber and omega-3 fatty acids) and coconut oil (for medium-chain triglycerides) to boost the overall nutrition of my oatmeal.

I’ve also included recipes for three of my favorite compotes to eat with oatmeal. They can be made ahead, too: Once you’ve made the toppings, refrigerate them until cool.

Then transfer them to an ice cube tray and freeze until solid. Pop the compote blocks into a plastic zip-top bag, label and date it, and store it in the freezer for up to 6 months. When you’re ready to eat your breakfast, scoop some oatmeal into a microwavable bowl and add a cube or two of compote.

Microwave until warm, and enjoy! We all need things that make us happy in the morning, even at 5 a.m. This is one of them.

Ingredients Steel-Cut Oatmeal:

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil, to taste
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed
  • Compote, for serving

How To Make (Directions)

  1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. When the water is boiling, whisk in the steel-cut oats and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add a heavy pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the oats are cooked through and have absorbed all the water, 20 to 25 minutes.  Add the coconut oil and ground flaxseed and cook for 1 minute more, stirring to incorporate them into the mixture.
  2. Serve immediately with your choice of compote on top, or let the oatmeal cool and then transfer it to a resealable container. The cooled oatmeal will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.


My mom made something very similar to this when I was a kid. She would cook extra-ripe bananas with a little sugar and cinnamon until they had a jammy consistency, and I loved to eat it on top of French toast. In my version, I first brown the butter to give it a rich, nutty flavor that tastes almost decadent with the sweet bananas.

I’ll often throw some walnuts or pecans into my oatmeal bowl, too, for more nut flavor and some crunch (not to mention the extra fiber and omega-3s!).

Ingredients banana brown butter:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more to taste
  • Kosher salt

How To Make (Directions)

In a small saucepan (a light-colored pan is best so that you can see the butter change color as it cooks), melt the butter over medium heat. Swirl the butter around in the pan as it bubbles up, using a spoon to skim off and discard any white foam that collects on the top. Continue to cook the butter, swirling the pan occasionally.

Keep a close eye on it because the browning process happens quickly. After about 5 minutes, the butter will turn a golden brown color and smell nutty. Quickly add the bananas, cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bananas melt into the butter, about 5 minutes. At this point, you can leave the banana butter as is or pulse it in a small food processor for a smoother consistency. Taste and add more cinnamon if you like.


My grandparents have two mature peach trees that produce a bumper crop every summer. It’s impossible to keep up with the supply. I’ll freeze some for smoothies, grill some more for a salad (see this page), and make this peach compote. If you don’t have a supply of fresh peaches or simply do not want to bother peeling them, feel free to substitute peeled frozen peaches (about 3 cups) and add about 5 minutes to the overall cooking time.

Ingredients peaches and cream:

5 ripe peaches
1½ teaspoons light brown sugar, or more to taste
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract (see Note)
1 tablespoon heavy cream

How To Make (Directions)

  1. To peel the peaches, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and place it nearby. Using a small knife, score the skin of each peach by cutting an X in the bottom (the size of the X doesn’t really matter). When the water is at a rolling boil, add the peaches. Boil for 60 seconds, then immediately transfer them to the ice water to cool.
  2. When the peaches are cool enough to handle, use your fingers to pull the skins off; they should slide off easily. Cut the peeled peaches in half. Remove and discard the pits. Coarsely chop the peaches into chunks (you should have about 3 cups) and put them in a small saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons water and set the pan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peaches start releasing their liquid, about 2 minutes, then stir in the brown sugar and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peaches are very soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Using a potato masher or a fork, mash the peaches in the saucepan until they are mostly broken up. Cook, stirring occasionally until the compote has reduced to about 2 cups, 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the vanilla and taste for seasoning. Depending on the ripeness of the peaches, you may want to add another 1½ teaspoons brown sugar. Stir in the heavy cream.

VANILLA PASTE Ever since I discovered vanilla paste and tasted its superior flavor, I rarely use vanilla extract. You can find the paste in quality grocery stores, but if you can’t find it, substitute vanilla extract.


Few things scream “spring” more than the combination of strawberries and rhubarb. Unlike many compote recipes that are overwhelmingly sweet, this one has only a touch of sweetness to the tart rhubarb still shines. When strawberries are at their peak, make a big batch of this compote to freeze for future use.

Ingredients for roasted strawberry:

2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced ¼-inch thick
1 large stalk rhubarb, cut into ½-inch cubes (2 cups)
2 tablespoons sugar
Kosher salt
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest (from a ¼ lemon)

How To Make (Directions)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, toss together the strawberries, rhubarb, and sugar. Roast, stirring once or twice, until the strawberries and rhubarb are thoroughly softened, 20 minutes.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a small food processor, add ⅛ teaspoon salt and the lemon zest, and pulse a few times, until there are still some chunks remaining, or to your preferred consistency.

From left: Roasted Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote, Banana Brown Butter, Peaches and Cream.