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What Is Porridge & How Do You Cook It?

Porridge is a simple yet tricky dish. 

But if it’s new to you, this article will answer all of your questions about porridge and how to make it.

Let’s face it: porridge is a divisive food.

It might even be the most polarizing food, next to fish sticks and gelatin.

The people who love it, LOVE it.

And the people who find it less appealing than other dishes?

Well, they are pretty vocal about that too.

But, what is porridge?

Porridge is a delicious and versatile meal that you can enjoy any time of the day.

Hot and steamy or cold and refreshing, either way, it is a treat everyone can delight in.

It is ideal for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack—a real winner!

Just add milk and some sugar, and you have a comforting breakfast.

For a fruity, spicy take on porridge, try it with blueberries and a dash of cinnamon.

And if you are looking for a more savory flavor, add butter and cheese.

You can certainly have fun with lots of variations!

Table Of Contents

What is porridge?

Porridge is a simple, edible sludge or slurry made by stirring oats or other grains into boiling water, letting it cook for a little bit, then removing it from the heat to absorb water.

You can also make porridge with different grains like buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, or amaranth, and the liquid that goes in it can be milk, water, or a mixture of both.

As a matter of fact, porridge has been around for a long time, going back to the Roman era, when oats were grown for animal feed.

But it was only during the early Medieval Ages that Scots started mixing oats and water to make a cheap staple food for the poor.

Then, it became more popular in the 19th century, so people started adding nuts, seeds, and fresh or dried fruits to their porridge.

This made it more accessible for everyone, including the upper classes.

Now, people from politicians to top models eat porridge for breakfast.

And what was once thought of as poor people’s food is now on five-star menus all over the world.

Porridge vs. oatmeal

Oatmeal and porridge are two different things because of their ingredients.

Also, oatmeal is softer than other types of porridge because it cooks faster than other grains, meaning the fibers in it break down more quickly.

You can make porridge with any type of grain, including rice, wheat, millet, oat, and quinoa, while oatmeal is just a type of porridge you can make with oats.

That is one of the reasons why people use the terms oatmeal and porridge interchangeably.

To put it simply, you can have any type of porridge you want, as long as it’s made from ground grain, but only oats can be oatmeal.

But even though they are very different, oatmeal and porridge can still be both sweet and savory dishes depending on what you serve with them or put on them, like applesauce or bananas for sweetness and cheese or nuts for additional flavors.

Love oatmeal? Unlock some smartest tips and tricks on reheating oatmeal in this FAQ guide, too!

What is porridge made of?

Porridge is a hot cereal made by boiling grains or legumes in milk, broth, or water. 

The result is a thick, dense consistency similar to gruel.

So, if you are thinking about your childhood when you think about porridge, you are pretty right!

Also, you can make good porridge from other types of whole grains like corn, rice, maize, millet, spelt, barley, and wheat.

And in regions around the world, people often add different main ingredients to their porridge recipes.

Rice porridge, or congee, is popular in Asian cuisines.

While people living on the island of Jamaica usually use cornmeal to make their porridge. 

At the same time, Italians generally prefer polenta (maize meal) to make theirs instead.

This proves that anyone can make a tasty porridge as long as they get creative enough.

Types of Porridge

Porridge is the quintessential comfort food.

It is rich, warm, and comforting, just the way food should be! 

And whether you are feeling sad or under the weather, a bowl of porridge can make everything better.

Well, here is an exciting fact: you can eat porridge for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and still enjoy a different kind of porridge at every meal.

So, let’s explore some of the world’s most popular porridge dishes!

1. Grits

Grits are a corn porridge that originated with Native Americans and is popular as a breakfast dish in South America.

The main ingredient to make grits is ground corn, and you can prepare them by boiling ground corn in water until they are soft and creamy.

More elaborate preparations may include adding butter, cheese, or milk to prepare them with more flavor and creaminess.

You can serve them plain with salt and pepper, but if you want to take them to a different level, you can try adding some cheese, bacon bits, shrimps, or any savory ingredient.

Hey! We also have a few different techniques you can use for reheating up grits.

2. Congee

Congee is a type of Asian rice porridge that many people eat for breakfast in many different places.

Serving congee for dinner or lunch is also common, and many cooks prepare it with sides like vegetables or slices of meat.

In its most basic form, congee is usually just rice boiled long enough to make it look like porridge.

One common way to serve congee is with toppings like white pepper, spring onions, soy sauce, peanuts, and poached eggs.

In China, people often pair it with salted duck eggs, dace paste, lettuce, pickled tofu, and bamboo shoots.

Sounds tasty, right?

3. Oatmeal

Oatmeal has existed on people’s tables for a long time, and it is always in style.

You can even get your day to a good start with a hearty meal like this one.

And if you want to add a little flavor to this dish, there are so many ways to do it!

Oatmeal comes in many forms, including rolled oats, crushed oats, ground oats, and steel-cut oats.

To make oatmeal, you can cook the oats in any liquid, like water or milk, until you reach your desired consistency.

Sprinkle some salt to enhance the flavor, then top it off with a bit of syrup, brown sugar, a drizzle of honey, raisins, and/or nuts.

Voila, it is as simple as that!

Get inspire to use oatmeal in new and delicious ways with these 21 Savory Oatmeal Recipe Ideas and 19 Delish Oatmeal Recipes!

4. Genfo

Genfo sounds like a ’70s product or maybe a new energy drink, but it is actually a traditional dish from Ethiopia.

It is a thick porridge made from various grains and legumes, and it can be served either savory or sweet.

In Ethiopia, people traditionally serve genfo during special occasions, such as holidays and weddings. 

People there also consume it during coffee ceremonies.

To cook Genfo, start by combining your preferred grain or legume with water.

Add the grain to a pot and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.

Once boiling, pour in just enough water to cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and mix it with a wooden spoon until it is smooth and thick, like porridge.

And if you wish, you can fill its center with a mixture of garlic, ginger, chili peppers, and basil.

5. Polenta

A lot of people think of grits and polenta as the same thing, but they really differ from each other.

They are both ground grains, but modern polenta is made with cornmeal that is boiled and ground.

Also, residents in rural Italy call this polenta soup or corn porridge; and many of them like to make it into a loaf that can be grilled, baked, or fried.

Another interesting fact is that Italian farmers used to eat polenta for all three of their meals, including breakfast.

They were known to have paired it with cheese, which turned out to be a classic food pairing that has been around for a long time and is still popular with Italians today.

6. Harissa

Harissa is a porridge that comes from the Ararat plains in Armenia.

This dish usually has korkot, a type of wheat that has been roasted, cracked, or dried.

And it usually has traditional Armenian meat, like lamb or chicken.

When people in Armenia celebrate Easter and other religious events, they eat this dish.

And they swap the meat in this porridge with many different herbs.

You can make harissa by soaking wheat overnight and simmering it with cubed meat and seasonings.

7. Hasty Pudding

Hasty pudding is often confused with Indian pudding, but there are some notable differences.

Typically, hasty pudding uses very little to zero molasses or spices that common Indian pudding recipes call for, such as ginger and nutmeg.

Also, hasty pudding is usually made from cornmeal, while Indian pudding is made with wheat flour.

This dish is called “Indian” because it is made with ingredients that the Native Americans in New England gave to the first English settlers in the area.

Then, the colonists changed their recipe for porridge to make what we now call Indian pudding.

They used local products like maple syrup and cornmeal and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon.

The result was a sweet and spicy dessert with hints of vanilla bean flavor!

How to cook porridge

Porridge can be a complicated dish to cook, but with the right instructions, you will be able to cook perfect porridge every time. Follow these steps:

  1. Toast the oats or grain in a dry pan on medium-high heat until they smell good. Make sure to stir the toasted oats or grain often with a spoon or wooden spoon while the liquid comes to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan.
  2. Turn the heat down to its lowest setting, and simmer for about 10 minutes (or until you reach your desired consistency), stirring frequently.
  3. Then add your choice of flavorings and other seasonings about halfway through cooking.
  4. Allow it to sit for another five minutes, then top with your favorite vegetables, meat, or other ingredients. 
  5. You may also pair it with milk, sauce, or any other sides you like.

Ways to eat porridge

Oatmeal for breakfast can be a drag for some, but what can we do when we are tired of eating it but still need something refreshing?

That is when porridge enters the scene!

Then, without further ado, here are some recipes for porridge that will keep you warm, full, and completely satisfied:

If your daily breakfast gets boring, try this quinoa porridge with berries for a slightly sweet touch of creaminess in the morning.

It is so easy to make and keep on hand for the week—all you have to do is cook the grains in advance and measure out the fruit and toppings ahead of time.

Then, just assemble your bowl in the morning, and voila! 

You’re ready for the day!

Banana millet breakfast porridge might just be the answer to all your breakfast prayers.

It’s like tasty banana bread but in a bowl!

This warm, easy-to-make recipe will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.

Plus, it is full of filling ingredients like millet and almond butter, so you can feel good about starting your day with this yummy dish.

Comfort food is, well, comforting, but that word can hardly describe the bliss of a warm bowl of chicken congee (or rice porridge).

The flavors of this soft, warm porridge are out of this world; just a bite of it will make your mouth explode with deliciousness!

That is how good this stuff is.

Mmmm, creamy, cheesy polenta.

It is just what you need on a cold, snowy day.

And it is so good; it will be everything you need to go with it.

Plus, this polenta recipe is simple to make—all you need is five (5) ingredients: polenta, parmesan cheese, milk, chicken broth or bone broth, and butter.

There you go!

When you are torn between a smoothie bowl and a hot breakfast, choose both!

With this semolina porridge recipe, you can enjoy the best of both worlds: a hot, hearty bowl of deliciousness topped with your favorite fresh fruits, nuts, and a drizzle of berry sauce.

It’s like eating a cake, but made out of porridge!

If you love to eat breakfast for dinner, this oatmeal with turkey bacon, cheddar, and eggs is for you!

It combines crunchy turkey bacon with soft and cheesy oatmeal to make a quick and easy dish to prepare.

This recipe is also great for those nights when you are craving breakfast but have zero eggs in the fridge (or if it is too late to run to the store).

The bottom line

Porridge is a fine dish.

It is easy to make and has ingredients that are pretty easy to find (unless your standards are pretty high). 

And the thing is, it goes with absolutely everything.

It is true!

Porridge, when done well, can be a savory or sweet dish that complements everything from eggs with a toast to exotic fruit salads.

If you still have doubts,  make some porridge today and try it out for yourself!

You are free to experiment with different ingredients until you discover your own unique, delicious flavor.

Date Nut Millet Porridge

Date Nut Millet Porridge

Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Featuring nuts and dates, this vegan and gluten-free porridge is worth adding into your breakfast and brunch rotation!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c hulled millet
  • 3 T slivered almonds
  • 2 T pumpkin seeds
  • 2 t flax seeds
  • 2 T shredded or flaked unsweetened coconut
  • 3 Medjool dates, chopped
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground nutmeg
  • 2 c unsweetened almond milk

Instructions

  1. Blend millet into coarse flour in a blender or food processor. 
  2. Then heat a dry saucepan over medium-high heat. 
  3. Toast almonds in the hot pan until golden brown. Remove to make room for single layer of remaining seeds.
  4. Add pumpkin seeds next and toast for about 3 minutes. Stir.
  5. Add coconut and flax seeds then toast to golden perfection, about another two minutes. 
  6. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Set aside. 
  7. To the hot pan, add ground millet for about 3 minutes.
  8. Add 1 1/2 c of almond milk, stirring occasionally. 
  9. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil then add dates. 
  10. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer; stirring occasionally.
  11. Put toasted seed mixture to the porridge then add in cinnamon and nutmeg.
  12. Simmer on low for about 6 to 10 minutes or until thickened. 
  13. Spoon porridge into two bowls and garnish with the remaining seed mixture and 1/2 c almond milk. Serve immediately.

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