Skirlie – fast savoury oats

by admin on June 1, 2009 · 42 comments

Post image for Skirlie – fast savoury oats

Skirlie is an old-fashioned savoury oat dish from Scotland made with oats and onions cooked in butter or dripping.  I’ve been experimenting with this again recently made with olive oil, fresh herbs and a few extra veggies.  It’s ridiculously easy to make, healthy and far easier to wash up than porridge.

Skirlie has a different texture to porridge; it’s a little moist but also chewy, more like the consistency of cooked brown rice. Ergo, if you aren’t keen on porridge in all its gloopiness you may find that you enjoy skirlie. Likewise die hard porridge fans may find it takes a few mouthfuls to get used to.

That gelatinous wobble of properly made porridge comes from the beta glucan in the oats, a type of soluble fibre that becomes jelly-like when moist.  Large amounts of this soluble fibre is root of many of those health benefits ascribed to oats.  It can keep you feeling full through an ability to swell up dramatically when moist and also because it causes the energy from the oats to be released very slowly into your bloodstream (oats are low GI) .  Soluble fibre also seems to assist your body in getting rid of excess cholesterol, helping to protect against cardiovascular disease (and in case you wanted to know but didn’t like to ask, yes soluble fibre helps to keep you regular too).  Skirlie contains just as much of this beta glucan as porridge, it’s just that it is less physically apparent than in porrdige because the dish contains so much less liquid.  Instead all of that that expansion of the oats will happen inside your stomach instead making skirlie a fairly filling prospect.


Oats love the temperate UK climate, growing over the winter months with about half of the crop going for human consumption and half for animal feed (there’s more info on UK arable crops from DEFRA if you’re interested).

Like so many vegetarian dishes, top it with a poached egg and you have a complete meal (brunch perhaps?). I also use skirlie as a side dish to oily fish or roast chicken (it’s even better with meals that have a little gravy or sauce alongside).  You could also try using it as a stuffing or stirring it into mash.  The flavourings and vegetables you use can be swopped and changed, for example on other days I’ve made skirlie with orange zest, lemon thyme and skinny ribbons of leek.

skirlie with poached egg

Recipe for Spring skirlie

I use a non-stick pan, with enough room to stir the spinach in which can take up a lot of space before it wilts down.

Serves 2 - 3 as a side dish

100g, about a cup, of rolled oats (also called old-fashioned oats, oatflakes and flaked oats)
2 tbsp olive oil
4 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 large handfuls baby spinach, washed and roughly shredded
Hot water
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the spring onion and cook for for five minutes, taking care not to burn.

Add the thyme leaves.  Reduce the heat and stir in the oats.  Cook on a low heat for five minutes.  The oats will absorb the oil and develop a toasty flavour.

Add a small splash of hot water and continue cooking for a couple more minutes .  The oats should soften slightly but keep their shape. Add a little more water if desired.

Stir in the spinach and warm until the spinach has wilted into the oats.

Serve immediately, ideally in warmed bowls.

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Wendy June 1, 2009 at 22:25

Funny to see skirlie as a dish in its own right. I only ever eat it with mince and tatties!
Nice to have a fresh perspective. :)

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Arwen from Hoglet K June 2, 2009 at 01:05

Your poached egg looks beautifully runny. It’s amazing how an egg really makes a meal more substantial. This sounds nice and quick to make.

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Rachel June 2, 2009 at 01:42

Are the oats rolled or steel-cut or some other form?

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Kalyn June 2, 2009 at 04:09

This sounds so interesting and good. I was going to ask what Rachel did, what type of oats did you use? I’m guessing from the cooking time it must be rolled oats (at least that’s what they are called here.)

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renee anne June 2, 2009 at 05:09

wow!
I have never seen anything like this. I am definitely going to try this as soon as i get some spinach!!
yummo!

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Johanna June 2, 2009 at 09:06

this looks most interesting – I love oats but can’t stand porridge despite trying so I love the idea of this! Never heard of skirdle will be trying this

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Helen June 2, 2009 at 10:09

I love savoury oatmeal. I think that it makes an excellent breakfast, but I am told that I do like odd things for breakfast!

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Em June 2, 2009 at 10:58

Thankyou so much for this recipe Sophie – I’d not heard of skirlie before. We had this for dinner tonight with some leftover tinned salmon and lemon halves – it was so good! And quick and filling, on a rainy winter evening after swimming lessons. The boys begged for more :)

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aforkfulofspaghetti June 2, 2009 at 11:01

That SO appeals – esp with the egg on top!
I’m going to have to try that asap. It’ll get me in the mood for my Scottish holiday in a couple of weeks’ time. Yum.

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Steph Butcher June 2, 2009 at 11:55

Looks yummy, healthy and cheap too. I’m going to try it tonight as I’ve got all the ingredients to hand. I shall add an egg as well.

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Joanna June 2, 2009 at 14:55

Skirlie’s one of my favourites … love the idea of stirring it into mashed potato … but not sure I’m ready to eat it at breakfast ;)
Joanna

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Ele June 2, 2009 at 15:49

Sophie, this looks delicious. I’ve never heard of skirlie before, but any kind of grain dish topped with an egg, and I’m sold! I will definitely have to try this.
I’m assuming you used steel-cut oats for this recipe? I have the hardest time finding them in London…

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Sophie June 2, 2009 at 18:46

Hi all. Wonderful to see so much enthusiasm for oats!
Lots of sensible questions about what type of oats to use. I’ve done a bit of research to double check as the oats I buy just say “Organic Oats” on the front…
The oats I use are rolled oats, also known as old-fashioned oats, oatflakes and flaked oats. There’s a good pictorial guide here if you’re not sure what sort you have in your cupboard: http://www.eatmoreoats.com/aboutoats.html#types
They’re essentially whole grains of oats flattened with rollers, so not chunky like steel cut oats, and not partial oats like quick cook oats which are flattened steel cut oats. I’ll amend the recipe to make it clearer.
Em – I’m amazed that you’ve managed to try this out already and really pleased that you and your boys enjoyed it

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Elaine June 2, 2009 at 19:16

What a tasty, healthy way to get your grains & greens. I’ve combined oats with different fruits but never veggies.
I’m looking forward to making Skirlie with my first harvest of kale.
Thanks for introducing me to another great Scottish creation. (Didn’t they invent the modern world?)

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Sophie June 3, 2009 at 08:12

MMMM…I love this dish : healthy & so delicious at the same time too!
Yum! thanks for this lovely information!

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Nancy June 4, 2009 at 10:28

Another blogger directed me to your blog as we both posted savory oat recipes on the same day! Mine is a bit different, and not as close to a complete meal as yours ( http://therovinglemon.blogspot.com/2009/06/whole-grains.html), and I came up with it when I was living in Oxford! Since I’m already eating mine for breakfast/lunch, maybe I’ll try yours for dinner….

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Alan Joel June 4, 2009 at 14:42

Wow, this is great. I love skirlie and it’s great to see someone writing about how to eat it healthfully and deliciously. Wonderful picture and delicious recipe!

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Laila June 5, 2009 at 15:58

What luck I have in finding your recipe! I’ve been trying to eat heartier, but less fat and calorie breakfasts lately, ie, no pancakes. This is going to be SO good tomorrow morning! Thank you!

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Kevin June 6, 2009 at 19:55

I like the sound of doing a savoury oat dish. A poached egg with a nice runny yolk would be perfect on it.

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Cascadia Girl June 7, 2009 at 00:42

Love this… I think I’ll try it, adding in some chopped, toasted walnuts.
Thanks!

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Becky June 7, 2009 at 10:23

Delicious. I love the idea of savoury oats, trying to eat more old fashioned grains

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Riz Din June 17, 2009 at 22:53

I recently had a bowl of savoury wholegrain rice with spinach greens stirred in and a lightly fried egg on top. The idea must have come from this post, which I’d read a week earlier. And there I was thinking I’d had an original idea! Still, it tasted great. Thanks!

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Anh June 18, 2009 at 04:10

Oh this is an eye opener. Savoury oats, who would have thought? I just bought a huge bag of organic rolled oats. I know what I am going to use them for now!

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vandana goswami June 27, 2009 at 05:44

Thank you for this lovely, healthy recipe. I did not have any spinach, so I used boiled chickpeas and steamed mung beans. Came out great.
Vandana

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Deborah September 16, 2009 at 20:04

I made this for dinner last night for my husband and teenage son (who usually turns his nose up at anything new) We all loved it, served it with cold canned salmon and sliced lemons like someone else suggested. My only suggestion would be to double the recipe. It was sort of like eating savory granola.
Thank you!

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kathryn October 7, 2009 at 08:13

I had your Skirlie for breakfast this morning and it’s fabulous Sophie. I used about 1/4 of an onion, instead of the Spring onions and dried oregano as the herb (as they were in my cupboard). I put a poached egg on top and loved the whole thing. Unlike most porridges, it also kept me going all morning. I’m going to have it again tomorrow.

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about hampers October 12, 2009 at 06:05

sumptuous and very healthy. Look forward that all the ingredients are toxic-free and preservative-free.

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Shona January 6, 2010 at 20:54

The skirly we normally make up here is definitely not healthy- all that suet!
I am curious that you say you use rolled oats, I’ve never cooked with them and only ever have pinhead oatmeal in my cupboard. (my granny wouldn’t have it any other way) :)
This looks interesting though, I think I will try this out!

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Scott April 14, 2010 at 17:33

I’ve just tried this with pinhead oatmeal and its delicious! I toasted the oats for a few minutes in a pan with a tiny amount of olive oil, then added the onions and a bit more oil and cooked for ten minutes on a low heat before adding the other ingredients. As pinhead is basically whole oats cut into two or three bits with steel cutters (hence its other name) it needs a bit more cooking than rolled oats. It also doesn’t go so gloopy as rolled (often called porridge) oats and makes better porridge too!
For info, in Scotland you also get fine, medium and coarse oatmeal, each of which is ground like flour, along with rolled oats and pinhead oatmeal.
One other oatmeal tip: coat trout, mackerel or herring in oatmeal (preferably coarse or pinhead), then fry in butter. Delicious!

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Scott April 14, 2010 at 17:34

I’ve just tried this with pinhead oatmeal and its delicious! I toasted the oats for a few minutes in a pan with a tiny amount of olive oil, then added the onions and a bit more oil and cooked for ten minutes on a low heat before adding the other ingredients. As pinhead is basically whole oats cut into two or three bits with steel cutters (hence its other name) it needs a bit more cooking than rolled oats. It also doesn’t go so gloopy as rolled (often called porridge) oats and makes better porridge too!
For info, in Scotland you also get fine, medium and coarse oatmeal, each of which is ground like flour, along with rolled oats and pinhead oatmeal.
One other oatmeal tip: coat trout, mackerel or herring in oatmeal (preferably coarse or pinhead), then fry in butter. Delicious!

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Nancy February 1, 2011 at 02:10

Genius idea! Trust those Scots. I once made toasted oats in a skillet with thyme and orange but it was years ago and I forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder. Greens are a great addition.

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Lesley Doherty September 4, 2011 at 00:38

Yum. I’m in Australia trying to haul back my borderline cholesterol to normal where it’s been all my life.

Having this for tea.

Thanks for the idea.

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Keith Andreetti February 16, 2014 at 08:00

My Aberdeenshire granny would turn in her grave! Skirlie for us was beef dripping, onion, salt and oats. Served with roastbeef and potatoes roast and boiled.

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Joyce Friedgen March 12, 2014 at 02:51

Is there a recipe book of Scottish and/or Welsh recipes? When I was in the UK, I loved the food in Scotland and Wales.

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Leah Tabak August 21, 2014 at 13:37

I am so excited to try this! Have been looking for nutritious and filling vegan breakfasts. Thank you so much for explaining about the nutritional profile of the oats and how they fill you up.

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