Boatmeal — Oatmeal on a Boat

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2011 • all rights reserved

Boatmeal (Oatmeal on a Boat): How to cook oatmeal with far less fuel and heat -- perfect on a boat, backpacking, camping, RV or in a hot climate!I learned this trick for making oatmeal on a college backpacking trip, where we literally had to carry all the stove fuel on our backs.  Believe me, we didn’t want to have to carry one bit more than we had to — but it was chilly and a hot breakfast each day sounded good.

Instant oatmeal can be hard to find in some places, and it’s usually more expensive when you do find it.  But you don’t need it!

Old-fashioned oatmeal cooks up in just 5 minutes and doesn’t take any more cooking fuel than just bringing the water to a boil . . . if you know this trick.

As we were standing in line for dinner at our first LoretoFest, I was talking with the cruiser in front of me.  I don’t remember her name, but she said that her husband loved oatmeal for breakfast but she hated fixing it because all she could get was old-fashioned oatmeal and it just made the galley so hot.  When I told her this way to make it, she immediately dubbed it “boatmeal” and the name stuck.

Boatmeal:  Oatmeal on a Boat

Per serving:

1 cup water

1/3 cup oatmeal

dash salt

Optional:  dried fruit, raisins, dates, nuts, cinnamon

Put everything except any optional nuts in a pan and mix together.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Immediately turn the stove off and let it 5 minutes, covered.

Serve, adding nuts over the top if desired (if boiled, nuts lose their crispness).


Boatmeal is just one of the recipes in The Boat Galley Cookbook, all of which are designed to be easy to cook on a boat.  Some, such as this, have innovative cooking techniques.  Others offer easy ways to prepare old favorites with electrical appliances while others offer numerous substitutions for hard-to-find ingredients.

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  1. I prefer steel cut oats. Found that I can let them set in the measured amount of water overnight. The next morning I add what ever I want – except nuts – before I bring them to a boil for about 30 seconds. Then let them set covered for about 15 min. before adding the final touches.

    The steel cut oats do not taste any different than the rolled oats, but their texture is more like rice.

  2. We have done boatmeal for years aboard our boat. I use 1/3 cup of oats, a tablespoon of dry whole milk powder, a teaspoon of Splenda, a few shakes of cinnamon, some nuts,(pecans, walnuts almonds) and some chopped dry fruit(apples, raisins, cranberries or mango)Then I add a little water, warmed in the winter, cool in the summer, and stir it up. It’s more like a granola than a cooked mash. We love it!

  3. I can’t stand the mush that oatmeal makes when you boil it directly. I use “old fashion” oatmeal but I boil the water separately, then pour into a bowl with my oats and whatever flavor additives I choose for the day (commonly sugar and red pepper sauce), cover and let stand. The texture is perfect and you get no gluey mess.

  4. ummmm… or substitute apple juice for the water – you can either nuke it for 2 minutes and then let it sit, or do it exactly the same as boatmeal! My latest favorite for breakfast. Be sure to add cinnamon and stir before partaking.

  5. Might have to try that in the morning. Maybe even a few walnuts!

  6. Chuck Burns on Facebook says:

    Great I have always been concerned with the energy wasted with cooking instructions that have you bring water to boil or an oven up to temperature. Some things can start cooking with that energy and this illustrates it perfectly. Any news on the Kindle edition of the Boat Galley Cookbook?

  7. Funny you mention that . . . I just sent an email a few minutes ago asking about the status. As soon as I hear anything, I’ll post a note.

  8. Chuck Burns on Facebook says:

    Terrific…I have found my iPad to be the savior for having reading materials on the boat…We can get books and magazines electronically, save paper, save weight, not worry about getting them or moving…it was designed for boaters… I believe it..

  9. Sue Klumb on Facebook says:

    “Boatmeal”…our favorite now…thanks Carolyn 🙂

  10. Use organic rolled oats ..big ones …pour water on leave overnight or3/4 hours …bring to heat…not even to boiling …just hot enough to enjoy …kept all the crew on Southern Ocean race to Aus very happy and regular !!!!! jono

  11. Totally obsessed with your boatmeal!! Make it ALL the time…so easy. My fam’s favorite combo is slivered almonds, shredded dried coconut and brown sugar!! SOOOOOO yummy!!

    • Oooh, that sounds good! Sitting here right now with my bowl with raisins, walnuts and brown sugar. I may just have to get some coconut — never thought of putting it in oatmeal, but I love it in oatmeal cookies, so I’m thinking I’d love it!

  12. or cook the oatmeal in coconut milk…

  13. Mom we’ve had boatmeal the past two cold mornings… Add walnuts and craisins.

  14. I can’t say enough how much your wonderful site has helped me prepare for our voyage. I just ordered the book yesterday and I know it will have a treasured spot aboard s/v Nalani. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  15. One of my crew has pint soupThermos bottles, pours boiling water in, rite amount of oatmeal, puts lid on, lets it set for several minutes, adds fruit, raisens, eats it out of thermos. Rinse it out, done with dishes.

  16. Thanks I love oatmeal and the instant often has too much sugar.

  17. We love boatmeal!!!

  18. I rather like Cream of Wheat but that’s a comfort food for me. Oatmeal certainly has its place on our breakfast table as well (sometimes for dinner also). Cooking with residual heat is a great idea, especially aboard. Scorching and burning are a thing of the past with this technique so even if some boat chore or radio net distracts your meal isn’t ruined.

    I do prefer the old-fashioned regular oatmeal. It seems to be readily available in small stores off the beaten track. Closer to major population centers it has been more challenging to find. The various instant varieties taste a little off to me.

  19. Even easier: combine your oats, milk ( i use boxed soy or almond as I am allergic to dairy), sweetener and/or fruits the night before and leave in fridge. In the morning it is a minute to warm it up though we have eaten it cold.

  20. coconut? brilliant!

  21. This is very close to the way Swedish parents cook porridge everyday( mum mother is Swedish) Its super easy, try it drizzled with honey. Its our go to brekky on Sailing The Planet.

  22. I simply soak it without using heat and enjoy it that way.

  23. Steven Burke says:

    …and it’s SO good for you. 🙂

  24. I have used this method on land for all sorts of things…rice, pasta, oatmeal….on land… incredibly well…..Wouldn’t it be nice if we were as conscious of our energy usage on land as we are on our boats!

  25. I love the boatmeal and boat galley they give you very helpful tips when you are sick .thanks!?

  26. Sounds like oatmeal to me. No big secret.

  27. Just saw a recipe for carrot cake oatmeal. Going to try it.

  28. Stir in some peanut butter for protein

  29. I set old fashioned oats in water or almond milk overnight then just cook up in 5 mins in the a.m. craisins & orange; apples, walnuts & cinnamon or shredded coconut. Yummy

    • Barbara Leonard says:

      We used to have a B&B and one of our favorite recipes was to put a bit of honey in the bottom of a glass or cup, add oats and dried fruit, cover with milk (or cream if you have it), cover and let soak overnight in the fridge. In the morning we topped it with a bit of granola or toasted coconut and nuts for crunch. Very elegant and very easy.

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