In October of 2015, Kim asked via email if I happened to have a recipe for morning glory baked oatmeal. Kim mentioned that her brother had purchased something similar from Zig’s Bakery at Lancaster Central Market and kindly shared some with her. It was love at first bite, and she wanted to make some on her own.
Morning glory muffins found their fame in the early 1980s after an appearance in Gourmet Magazine. Pam McKinstry had created the recipe several years prior to serve the patrons of her Morning Glory Café on Nantucket. In 1991 the muffins were chosen as one of the magazine’s 25 favorite recipes from the past 50 years.
And no wonder. The flavorful muffins are lightly spiced and loaded with nourishing fruit, veggies, and nuts. When transformed into baked oatmeal, hearty whole-grain oats replace the flour, supplying added nutrients and staying power.
As luck would have it, I was in the formative stages of a carrot cake baked oatmeal that was quite similar to Kim’s request. I emailed my recipe to Kim, mentioning that it was still a work in progress. My family had enjoyed the recipe as written, but I had a few adjustments in mind, so I mentioned those in case Kim wanted to try.
In Kim’s words, the oatmeal was excellent. So you may be wondering why it took me two years to share the recipe!
Baking is regarded as an exact science, yet years of trial and error have taught me that baked oatmeal recipes tend to be both flexible and forgiving. Accordingly, every time I made this recipe, I’d adjust a factor to see if I could make it better.
After experimenting with varying quantities of eggs, oats, fruit, sweetener, oil, spices—and changing the type of sweetener and oil—I ended up with versions that were all slightly different but all quite tasty. Ultimately, nobody could choose which variation was the “the best.”
With the return of cool mornings, the warming flavor of this recipe began calling my name, and I went back to my recipe notes. After making no less than six casseroles in the past month (and looking forward to breakfast each and every morning), I decided it was time to publish.
The recipe below is chock-full of healthy add-ins and relies as much as possible on the fruit’s natural sweetness. I reduced the brown sugar to the lowest amount that my kids still enjoy, but you could reduce it further if preferred. Conversely, if you find the finished product not sweet enough, add an extra sprinkle of sugar or drizzle of maple syrup on top, and then bump up the sugar by a few tablespoons the next time. Similarly, if you prefer an all-natural sweetener, use maple syrup or honey in place of the brown sugar. You’re probably starting to get the point!
But there’s more. Two eggs will do the job; three provides more binding power with a bit more denseness. If you don’t like coconut, skip it. If you don’t do dairy, use almond or coconut milk (we do eat dairy, but I often bake with Silk’s unsweetened almond-coconut milk and enjoy its subtle flavor).
Initially, I thought an eight-ounce can of crushed pineapple was a bit too much, so I reduced it to half a can. After all the other changes, I increased the amount incrementally and ended right back at the whole can (which conveniently avoids unneeded extras). If you’re tempted to use less, simply make up for the difference with extra liquid, be it in the form of milk or even an egg.
A fresh, sweet apple adds excellent flavor and moisture to the oatmeal. In a pinch you could use a four-ounce cup of applesauce. Still, you’ll need the get out the grater for the carrots. I consider them non-negotiable, and the store-bought, pre-shredded variety tends to be a bit too coarse and dry for this application.
So while I encourage you to make the following recipe as written and am optimistic that you will enjoy it as much as we do, I’m giving you full permission to tweak the recipe according to personal preference. The odds of success are in your favor!
The recipe makes a big pan-full, and the flavor improves over time. After the oatmeal has completely cooled, I cover and store it in the refrigerator where it will keep for the better part of a week. It freezes well, too.
Yield: 8 generous servings
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups milk (I typically use almond or coconut; any kind will work)
- 1 1/2 cups grated carrot (not pre-shredded; I use a box grater and add to cups without packing it down—it’s about 6 ounces, shredded)
- 1 medium apple, shredded (I use a sweet apple like a Fuji or Gala, don’t peel, and include any juice)
- 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, with juice
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut*
- 1/2 cup raisins, golden or dark*
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup melted coconut oil or butter*
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cups old-fashioned oats (make sure to level off)
Grease or butter a 9×13 baking dish; set aside.
Lightly beat the eggs in a mixing bowl, and then add the remaining ingredients except the oats. Mix well. Add the oats, and stir to fully incorporate.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the oatmeal to rest for 1-4 hours. (It can sit on the counter for up to 2 hours but should be refrigerated for longer periods.) This will give the oats time to plump up. (If you’re short on time, you can bake immediately; you may need to add a few extra minutes to the cooking time.)
When ready to bake, uncover the oatmeal and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. If the oatmeal has been refrigerated, allow the baking dish to sit on the counter while the oven preheats. Bake for 30 minutes, give or take a few based on individual oven, or until just firm in the center.
May serve with warmed milk, additional nuts, and/or sliced bananas. It’s delicious eaten plain, too.
Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator. Reheat gently in the microwave or enjoy cold.
- *I use unsweetened coconut, but sweetened coconut may be used if preferred. If you’re not a coconut fan, simply omit. The same goes for the raisins, although these do contribute to the natural sweetness in the recipe. If omitting, you may wish to increase the brown sugar to 1/2 cup or so.
- If you’d like to increase the complexity of the flavors, you could add freshly ground nutmeg, ground cloves, and ground allspice. (I’d start with a 1/4 teaspoon of the ones you enjoy, increasing based on personal preference.)
- Tip: It’s helpful to bring your ingredients to room temperature before mixing so that the coconut oil or butter doesn’t re-harden when combined with the cold milk and eggs. If this happens, you may warm the mixture in the microwave just enough to melt and incorporate–but not enough to cook.
For similar flavors, you may enjoy my carrot cake recipe, which is made with almond flour and naturally gluten-free…
…or these wholesome muffins. The muffins are healthy yet so tasty, I sometimes frost them and serve as cupcakes!