5 Unexpected Uses for Oats


After months of waiting, oatmeal season has finally arrived. It’s a fall and winter breakfast staple at our house, and the sight of pumpkins on porches heralds the coming of maple-and-brown-sugar madness. But there are also scores of amazing and unexpected uses for this cereal grain. Here’s a look at a few. (See also: 21 Uses for Salt)

Cuisine Beyond Breakfast

Oats can serve as an interesting foundation for a host of foods.

A couple of years ago, longtime New York Times food writer Mark Bittman put foodies on a high alert when he suggested using oats in an Asian-style porridge dish known as congee. Cooked oats, scallions, and soy sauce may not sound like an ideal combination, but the reviews are mostly favorable, if not glowing.

Oats can also work as a flour substitute, a thickening agent, and even as a healthier version of Shake ‘N Bake.

Skin Care

I spent one of my grade school spring breaks immersed in an oatmeal bath, courtesy of the chicken pox. A couple decades later, oatmeal has become increasingly visible in skin care products.

Bath and body aisles are lined with creams and cleansers that capitalize on the soothing power of oats. Consumers can skip the beauty section and head to the baking section to make their own oatmeal-based skin treatments. You can also stuff an old sock or pantyhose with ground oatmeal and toss it into a hot bath for a full-body experience.

Many acne and poison ivy sufferers tout the healing power of oats. Pulverized oats can serve as a key ingredient in facial masks and treatments to relieve dry skin.

Pet Care

The same oatmeal treatments that can help people with problematic skin often work wonders for dogs. Applying a simple oatmeal-and-water mixture to your pet’s itchy parts can bring quick relief. Some pets can have an oat allergy, though. The problem is that it typically manifests as a skin condition, which can be masked by the other issues plaguing your pooch, so use some caution and common sense.

Odor Eater

Much like baking soda, oatmeal is pretty effective when it comes to neutralizing odors. Put a bowl of uncooked oats in your refrigerator, and forget about smells. Some consumers swear by oatmeal’s ability to counteract cigarette smoke, too. Smokers may want to try lining their ashtrays with oats.

Arts and Crafts

Let’s go beyond the kitchen and the bathroom and into the playroom. Oatmeal, combined with flour and water, can be used to create a nontoxic modeling clay. Children can enhance the concoction with food coloring. It’s best to let their sculptures air dry overnight before making a place on the shelf.

Have more unexpected uses for oats? Please share your additions below.

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Meg Favreau's picture

It's sort of the same as Shake n Bake, but I also like using oats in other places where breadcrumbs would be used, like in veggie burger recipes.

Guest's picture

You can also use oatmeal for pest control. Mosquitoes really hate it and will not bite! If you add some oatmeal to your bath or lotion it will not only help to soften your skin but also leave you bug free!