This Toasted-Black-Sesame Instant Oatmeal Puts Quaker’s Bland Flavors to Shame

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

Oatmeal is the most humble and versatile of breakfast foods, and I am a lifelong fan. When time permits, I’ll happily spend an hour at the stove stirring a pot of gritty, steel-cut Irish porridge in pursuit of a heartier start to the day. Out of necessity, though, I’m usually an instant-oatmeal girl — which requires a level of sacrifice, palate-wise. While single-serve packets of oats are convenient, it must be said that supermarket brands like Quaker are complacent in their flavor offerings. There tends to be way too much cinnamon and way too much sugar involved, not to mention those depressing little dehydrated fruit bits of dubious origin.

So when I saw comedian and Fishwife co-founder Caroline Goldfarb posting about Yishi instant oats on her Instagram Stories a few weeks back, I placed an immediate and curious order. Yishi oats are inspired by the breakfast cereals the company’s founder ate as a kid in China. The sample pack I purchased included five flavors: toasted black sesame, matcha, red bean and goji berry, and taro bubble tea. No powdered maple syrup, no raisins, no Protestants in funny hats. Also, refreshingly, no telltale chunky crystals mixed in with the oats: Yishi doesn’t add sugar to any of its flavors, which is a nice break from the tooth-decaying sweetness of other brands.

I spent a pleasant week enjoying a new variety of instant oatmeal each morning before work, excited to no longer be stranded on cinnamon island. Exciting flavor combinations aside, a real point of difference was texture. Alongside organic oats, each cup of Yishi oatmeal contains a mix of flax seeds, hemp seeds, and almonds. These nuts and seeds provide a satisfyingly gritty base, one that’s especially amplified in the toasted-black-sesame flavor, which was by far my favorite, to the extent that I’m thinking about buying it in the larger resealable-pouch size.

Honestly, all the flavors I tried were delicious — the taro was surprisingly crunchy, with added chia seeds, while matcha was smooth and subtle. With its high antioxidant levels, the red-bean and goji flavor promised to make me feel “radiant,” which is a huge burden to place on a breakfast cereal being eaten by someone in the midst of a difficult Saturn return, but it did provide some level of cheer. I haven’t yet tried the very intriguing sweet-osmanthus and turmeric flavor, but I’m not sure how it could go wrong.

As with all instant oatmeal, I found one should avoid reading Yishi’s packet instructions, which advise adding about double the amount of water necessary. Take it from an oatmeal-head: you’re going to want to add just a dribble of very hot water, and stir well. We’re aiming for creaminess, not soupiness. A temperature and consistency that is, dare I say it, just right. (The brand also says its oats can be soaked overnight in the fridge — an option I’ll definitely be pursuing when I switch from my winter to summer oat routine.) Another aside: the single-serve cups are very much snack-sized: If breakfast is your power meal, you’ll probably eat two in one sitting. Which is a great excuse to mix and match different flavors, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe a toasted-sesame entree with taro as dessert.

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This Black-Sesame Instant Oatmeal Puts Quaker to Shame