Apple Pie Baked Oatmeal Is the Best Thing You'll Do for Yourself This Week

Or any week, really.

Apple Pie Baked Oatmeal
Photo: Darcy Lenz

You know those foods that, as soon as you bite in … you know you've really done something good for yourself? It's a gentle affirmation, 'everything is all good.'

For me, baked oatmeal is one of those foods. Shoot, it's not just one of them, baked oatmeal ranks high on the list. Regular stovetop oatmeal is great, but giving this nutritious breakfast icon the baked treatment somehow elevates it to an entirely separate plane of hearty satisfaction. This is due in large part to the fact that you are baking the oats in a lightly sweetened, buttery custard mixture (milk or cream + eggs), which lends an unctuous richness to what is oft considered a somewhat mundane morning meal.

Beyond being utterly delicious, baked oatmeal also happens to be an incredibly pragmatic dish. I love to bake some up on a Sunday so that I can treat myself to an easy-but-awesome breakfast (or snack!) option throughout the week. But you could just as well serve the entire batch warm and fresh from the oven as a brunch entree that says, "Man, I sure do love you people sitting around this table."

I'm sure those who've yet to experience the wholesome delight of this toasty, whole-grain breakfast bake are asking themselves, "Is it just me, or does this lady sound like she's 94?" I understand, but no — my waxing poetic about oats is a reflection of passion. The passion of a young woman, not yet 30, who wants all the world to understand why the heck baked oatmeal rules.

And truthfully, it is for the novices and the doubtful that I created this recipe for Apple Pie Baked Oatmeal. Because this archetype highlights the pillars essential to a great baked oatmeal. Follow the blueprint, and I guarantee that even if you put your own custom spin on the finer details, you will not be disappointed.

Get the Recipe: Apple Pie Baked Oatmeal

The Keys to a Great Baked Oatmeal

top-down view of a baking dish filled with baked oatmeal topped with apple slices
Darcy Lenz

Take Time for Toasting

Many recipes for baked oatmeal you find will not call for this step; and it's true, you can carry on without acknowledging it. However, taking a few moments to first toast your dry rolled oats in a skillet over moderate heat amps the warming, nutty flavor up a few notches. And while you're at it, go ahead and toss the spices you plan to flavor your oats with into the pan too (in the last minute or so of toasting them), as the toasting process helps to fully unlock their fragrant flavor potential.

In the Apple Pie Baked Oatmeal recipe above, I opt for a process known as "dry toasting," meaning, you put the grain/spices directly in the pan without any fat. It's even more important when dry toasting that you keep a close eye on the pan, and stir its contents frequently, to prevent burning. You want to aim for lightly golden brown and fragrant. This process should take around 5 minutes, give or take, over medium-high heat.

Of course, you are certainly more than welcome to toss a pat of butter in the skillet first. This will give your spices a fatty cushion from the heat and hey — a little extra butter never hurts anything.

Don't Forget the Fruit

Honestly now, you can't have oatmeal without fresh fruit. For this apple pie-inspired version, I opted for apple pieces mixed in with the toasty spiced oats, along with a buttery, sauteed maple-apple topping to finish. The result is a gooey, nutty dish of grade-A comfort. And if you want to up the decadence factor, go ahead and double the quantities called for in the apple topping portion of the recipe.

Of course, as winter fades into warmer months, you can use this same recipe as a blueprint, just swapping out the apple pie spices for something a bit lighter (perhaps a delicate blend of cardamom and ginger) and exchange the apples for fresh berries. Fold some of the berries into the oat mixture as it bakes and sprinkle the rest right on top for a beautiful finish.

Apple Pie Baked Oatmeal
Darcy Lenz

The Finishing Touches

I am a firm believer that no bowl of oatmeal, baked or otherwise, is complete without a splash of milk or heavy cream (if I have it around, I always opt for the cream … because I like feeling luxurious, OK?). This adds the perfect finishing touch of refreshing silkiness. So, scoop your portion of warm baked oatmeal into a shallow dish, then pour on a bit of cream. And if you like things on the sweeter side, go ahead and give it an additional drizzle of maple syrup or honey. Dig in and rest assured, you've done a very good thing.

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