Breakfast Recipe: Coconut Chia Oatmeal

A classic oatmeal breakfast (or worse, an instant packet) consists of simple grains and sugar, and not much else. I find that it gives a quick sugar rush, but I’m often hungry within an hour or two.

For last season, David developed a recipe that sticks better to my ribs, combining an oatmeal base with longer-burning chia and coconut, a modest amount of sugar, and some yummy toppings. With over 600 calories, it will almost power me to lunch.

Meal Stats

  • 4.5 ounces (107 grams)
  • 622 calories
  • 138 calories per ounce
An easy, filling, not-to-sweet breakfast


Think of this recipe as a template — it can be changed in any manner of ways. However, don’t stray too far from the 4.5-ounce serving weight, and don’t skip the sugar or salt.

For example, use:

  • Dried blueberries, dried apple pieces, or dried strawberries instead of raisins.
  • Macadamia nuts instead of almonds, if you prefer an extra rich flavor and higher caloric density.
  • Protein powder instead of coconut milk powder, though a vanilla flavored brand is recommended.

You can also employ the overnight oats method, and soak the cereal in water the night before. The oats and chia seeds will be soft enough to eat for a quick start.

At Home Preparation

For solo trips, all ingredients can be combined into a small, ziplock bag. If you backpack a lot, mixing together a large batch that you can individually portion throughout the season will save you time.

For groups, it can be easier to accommodate everyone’s preferences by combining all the oats, chia seeds, and coconut milk powder in one bag. Keep the sugar and toppings separate, and let people mix them in to their taste.

Field Preparation

Preparing this meal is very easy.

  1. Bring 8-10 ounces of water to a boil.
  2. Take your pot off the flame. Add the bag of ingredients to the water and stir.
  3. Let the mixture sit for 3-5 minutes. If you put it back on the heat, stir constantly to avoid burning the meal.

Using extra water, about 12 ounces, will give you a looser consistency. This makes cleanup easier. Watch for splatters if you put the mix back over the flame.

Have questions or an experience with this meal? Leave a comment.

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  1. CJ Watt on December 1, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    Hi – does this recipe call for quick oats or the variety which requires cooking for 10-10 min?

    • Andrew Skurka on December 1, 2019 at 5:24 pm

      You could use whatever kind of oatmeal you’d like.

      We normally use Old Fashioned Quaker Oats, purchased in huge boxes at Costco. Those require about 5 minutes of total cook time, though this could just be 5 minutes in the pot after adding the ingredients to boiling water.

  2. Joe on December 1, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    How much salt and cinnamon? The chart above says 0.0 for each one.

    • Andrew Skurka on December 1, 2019 at 5:26 pm

      To taste. It’s less than 0.05 oz, so won’t register on a postal scale.

  3. Steven on December 5, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    This is a great recipe, thank you for sharing. I already pack oats, protein powder, and chia seeds as my breakfast most days and it hadn’t ocurred to me to build on it as a backpacking meal.

    I use Target’s quick oats, which are softer than Quaker, and found cooking unnecessary due to how soft they get after 5-10 minutes.

  4. Matt Swider on December 6, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    This sounds very similar to what I eat for breakfast at home regularly. Only difference is I substitute ground flaxseeds and hemp hearts for the oatmeal. Cal/oz goes up a bit with this substitution, and it works great making the night before. Cost/oz goes up with the substitution though, but also gluten free. I eat it cold, but on the trail it would be easy to heat water, add ingredients, remove heat. The flaxseed (and chia) really soaks up the liquids, so certainly the amount of water maybe different.

    • Erik on February 21, 2020 at 2:40 pm

      Matt, not sure if you meant that the oats aren’t gluten-free, but other than any cross-contamination in processing, the oats themselves are. Brands like Bob’s Mill offer versions that are fully gluten-free.

      • Matt on February 21, 2020 at 5:13 pm

        Yes, I was referring to cross contamination. I have a son who is Celiac and while it doesn’t bother me, I do tend to pay more attention than the average Joe to what may contain gluten.

  5. Nancy Fichtner on December 13, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    I use quick-cooking oats, and in addition to most of the above also add organic butter powder, hemp hearts,—freeze-dried fruit (which tastes like fresh fruit when it is hydrated—Trader Joe’s) Also weighs less than dried fruit. I am able to pack a lot of calories into a fairly small serving.

  6. Chris Nadasi on February 20, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Thanks for the excellent information on your site!

    Wanted to share one of our tricks. We typically add almond meal (Costco) to any of our oatmeal preps. It boosts calories, protein, and fat and creates a nice consistency. We usually use a 1:3 ratio (almond/oatmeal).

    Thanks again for the cool recipes.

  7. Saavik on July 23, 2020 at 8:31 am

    Leaning into the ‘tropical’ tastes, we subbed cut up pieces of dried mangos (Costco) for the raisins, and cardamom for the cinnamon. Haven’t subbed the macadamias for almonds but that would absolutely be in keeping with the flavor/tropical theme.

  8. Louise on July 26, 2020 at 3:04 pm

    Another great recipe! I used regular milk powder rather than coconut milk powder as the latter had a sour taste for some reason. Also, ground the flax and chia seeds before I left home as these tend to get stuck between teeth and flossing on the trail can be a challenge.

  9. Emmilee on April 27, 2021 at 8:42 am

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. I’m eager to try it out on my next backpacking trip.

    One small hitch: the ingredients list is not currently displaying with the blog post. It says the Google Sheets file has been deleted. (I checked a couple of your other recipes and this same error message occurred there, too.) Would you mind sharing the ingredients list with the amounts?

    Many thanks!

    • Andrew Skurka on May 3, 2021 at 10:01 am

      It should be fixed.

      • Esther on May 5, 2021 at 8:38 am

        Not sure what the issue is, but the ingredient list is also not showing up for me. It has given me this error message the last few times that I have checked, over the course of the last couple days:

        “Google Docs encountered an error. Please try reloading this page, or coming back to it in a few minutes.

        To learn more about the Google Docs editors, please visit our help center.

        We’re sorry for the inconvenience.
        – The Google Docs Team”

        Thanks for sharing your recipes! Just hopeful to get the ingredient list/proportions!

        • Andrew Skurka on May 7, 2021 at 8:43 am

          The page has been updated, so I’m guessing that it’s a cache issue. Clearing it out should fix it.

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