Steel cut oatmeal with figs and cardamom

April 28, 2006 at 9:18 am (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), breakfast, From a friend, Grains, Moosewood, Quick weeknight recipe)

I’ve never been a big oatmeal fan, and when I do eat oats I generally eat rolled oats because they’re fast. But everyone’s been telling me to try steel cut oats instead (also known as irish oats). So I decided to try this recipe my friend sent me, from the cookbook Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

Serves Four

1 cup irish or steel-cut oats
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 Tbs. vegetable oil or butter (I used 4 tsp. canola)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 – 1 cup chopped dates or figs (I used 6 turkish figs)


In a 2-4 quart saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, lightly toast the steel cut oats in a saucepan with a little oil (put the heat on medium), just until there is a subtle color change to golden brown. This enhances the nutty flavor and chewy, satisfying texture of the oats.

Once the oats are toasted, add them to the water, reduce the heat to medium and cook them uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (don’t stir TOO often or you compromise the texture). I like to set my timer for 20 minutes and stir at the 10 and 5 minute warnings, and at 2 minute til.

In the meantime, chop the dates or figs. Cook the chopped figs or dates in 1/2 cup water. Let them come to a low boil and then simmer for another ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ground cardamom once the fruit is simmering. After ten minutes, the figs or dates should have softened and the water reduced nearly to a glaze or thick paste. Add a little more water during the cooking process if needed. Once the figs/dates are softened to your liking, remove from heat and add the vanilla extract. (I like to wait to start chopping the figs until the oats have been cooking for ten minutes, since I don’t really need to be around for those first ten minutes. I can do the -5 and -2 minute stirs while I’m chopping, then I get the figs to a simmer about the same time I turn the oats down to low, and I can stir the oats and the figs at the same time.)

After the oatmeal has cooked for 20 minutes, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the salt and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes, stirring more frequently to make sure the oats don’t stick to the pot.

Remove the oats from the heat and stir in the date or fig mixture. Allow to stand another 3 minutes before serving.

My notes

A quarter of the recipe is probably enough to fill me up, but I must say I still wanted to eat more.

The texture is excellent, way better than my normal rolled oats I make. And I really like the texture and flavor of the figs in it. The cardamom, however, I could taste in only a few bites. I think maybe it didn’t mix well, and stuck to just a few of the figs. What would happen if I added it to the oats instead of the figs? Also, I found it just a bit too salty. Maybe next time I’ll try a heaping 1/8 tsp.

These reheat well in the microwave (and possibly on the stovetop too, although I have to check). You may have to add a little water though. However, when I ate the second half, reheated in the micowave, it wasn’t salty at all. Maybe I just didn’t mix my salt well and it all ended up in the other half. It also tasted less sweet…

Also a few questions from the laziest cook in the world, who never met a shortcut she didn’t like:

1) Why are the figs cooked separately? How would it be different if you just threw them in for the last ten minutes with the salt?

2) Couldn’t we just throw the cardamom it in at the beginning too? Does something happen to it when it hits boiling water?

Update May 06, 2006: The salt level seems fine when I use coarse kosher salt, but I’ve taken to adding the salt when I add the oats to the water to ensure that it gets mixed well. I’ve also started adding more cardamom and vanilla, between 1/2 tsp. and 3/4 tsp. each. This recipe is definitely better with the full 1 cup of figs, although even with 1 cup it’s still not particularlly sweet. Derek added about 1/2 Tbs. maple syrup to his. 3/4 figs is all right too, and lower calorie, but not quite as decadent tasting. Derek says this recipe is great.

Rating: B
Derek: A


  1. Robbie said,

    I tried this, but I made some modifications (Some because of ingredients issues, and some cus I’m lazy). I didn’t toast the oatmeal first because I was lazy. I used dates instead of figs, and I didn’t put in any cardamom because we didn’t have any. I didn’t really measure the dates or the vanilla, but it came out really well. Much tastier than oatmeal with brown sugar (our staple), but not too much more work.

    I will need to try with the figs and cardamom…..

  2. Claire karp said,

    I would recommend using cardamom seeds instead of powder, is soooo much better, I use two pods, I sometimes toast them and sometimes just like that. I also like this with apricot preserves, and some splenda

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