One of my favorite post-run breakfasts in winter is a warming bowl of oatmeal. All it takes is some good gluten-free oats, a spoonful of Greek yogurt, and some cinnamon to make a delicious dish. Sometimes I’ll toss in a little flaxseed, a few berries or bits of chopped apple, but slow-cooked stovetop oatmeal needs no fancy garnish!
But sometimes, despite my best efforts, I simply don’t have the extra few minutes necessary to stand over the stove. Life moves pretty fast, and while of course I try to stop and look around so I don’t miss it, there have been mornings where I can’t curb the pace for anything – I need to get in from a run, shower, and get back out the door! In times like these, I turn to pre-packaged oatmeal. Yes, it’s expensive, and there are added ingredients you’d prefer not to include when fueling your body, but I tend to use the 90/10 rule – if I’m cooking and focusing on fresh ingredients 90 percent of the time, there’s a little wiggle room the other 10 percent. And if instant oatmeal is my convenient indulgence…well, there are far worse indulgences in this world!
The options for certified gluten-free instant oatmeal have expanded over the past few years. I’ve tested a few, and have a few thoughts to share in case you find yourself in a breakfast bind and in need of guidance. I tend to go for the flavored versions when it’s instant, because often I am literally making my oatmeal in a to-go mug when I get to that point and can’t bring all my add-ins along with me. So without further ado, the three contenders:
Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal packets come in six flavors – natural, apple cinnamon, banana maple, maple raisin, cranberry cinnamon, and strawberry brown sugar. I’ve tried them all, and my favorite is definitely the banana maple (perhaps because it reminds me of the taste of my marvelous muffins!) The apple cinnamon is also good. The strawberry brown sugar comes in third place, and the maple raisin and cranberry cinnamon finish off the podium simply because I couldn’t really taste the flavors – which is fine, I like plain oatmeal, but when you’re expecting something else it can come off as bland. I am also not a fan of raisins, so I’m a little biased. The natural flavor is definitely the best plain instant oatmeal, but I’m not including it in the flavor rankings for obvious reasons!
Banana Maple with Flax: stirred properly, there is a taste of real maple syrup, and there is a healthy helping of small chunks of dried banana as well. For best results, mix the oatmeal with hot water and leave it to sit for 5-10 minutes; it soaks up the liquid to create a heartier portion just like slow-cooking oats. It’s a pretty thick consistency, which I like – I hate runny oatmeal!
Bakery on Main:
Bakery on Main instant oatmeal packets also come in six flavors – traditional, apple pie, blueberry scone, carrot cake, maple multigrain, and strawberry shortcake. I’ve tried the traditional, apple pie, and maple multigrain. I favored the apple pie over the maple multigrain, but for a good comparison have shown the maple here. The oatmeal is not quite as thick when adding the same amount of liquid and letting the oats absorb it for the same amount of time, but it is still very creamy and filling for instant oats.
Maple Multigrain: Not quite as much of a taste of maple syrup, but definitely still a good flavor and much better than being overly sweet.
Chex Gluten Free:
Chex cereal is great for gluten-free folks who still like some crunch to add to their morning bowl of milk or yogurt. I love classic Corn Chex, and some of the newer flavors are great (I hate that they don’t have plain Honey Chex, though – Honey Nut is not for the nut-free!) So I was excited to see the new Chex gluten-free instant oatmeal on shelves. (Psst…Chex also makes quick-cooking rolled oats, which are running a close second to my Country Choice rolled oats for use in some of my recipes). The instant oatmeal packets come in Original, Apple Cinnamon, and Maple Brown Sugar. If you prefer a sweeter flavor, Chex Apple Cinnamon and Maple Brown Sugar are the way to go.
Compared to Glutenfreeda and Bakery on Main, Chex Maple Brown Sugar definitely had the strongest maple taste. If you don’t like overly sweet oats, stick with the original flavor or try a subtler oatmeal from one of the other brands. The oats were thicker than average for instant oatmeal, but did not approach the same consistency as the other brands using the same amount of liquid (in fact, I had to spoon some out to prevent eating oatmeal soup). The packet contains 45g (relative to 48g for Glutenfreeda flavored oatmeal and 50g for Bakery on Main) so it isn’t a substantial difference, but I’d advise reducing the amount of water or milk added by a tablespoon or two.
To sum it up: all three brands offer some great options, and which one you prefer is going to depend on your personal tastes – do you like your oatmeal thick or do you prefer it to be a little more spoonable? Sweeter or subtler hints of flavor? Portion size? All good to consider! Personally, the win for me has to be Glutenfreeda – I just love thicker oatmeal, and it definitely hits the target in that regard. But I really like the others as well, and honestly I will probably buy whichever brand is on sale when I’m in need of some grab-and-go oats. So, for now…”oats-ver” and out!
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