What's the Difference Between Oatmeal and Porridge?

One is an ingredient, the other is a dish.

overhead shot porridge versus oatmeal

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

If you want to fuel up in the morning (or any time of day, for that matter), oatmeal is a great way to do it. It's high in whole-grain fiber and protein and low in calories. If you stay away from the flavored instant packets, it's also sugar-free. In all types of oatmeal—whole oat groats, steel cut, Scottish and rolled—the nutrition remains basically the same.

What Is Porridge?

Oatmeal can be made into a type of porridge, and the two terms are often used interchangeably because oatmeal is so commonly used. Not all porridge, however, is made from oats. A porridge is a hot cereal that can be made from a variety of grains, vegetables, or even some legumes. (Remember the nursery rhyme "Peas porridge hot?") Porridge is most commonly boiled in water or milk until it has a mushy consistency. In some cases, broth is used.

Varieties of Porridge

cornmeal in bowl

Yulia Furman / Shutterstock

The list of varieties of porridge is long. Porridge can be made from corn, for example. Many Americans eat corn-based porridges including polenta, cornmeal mush, and grits, but many other countries have their own version of corn porridge. Champurrado is a Mexican porridge made from corn, sugar, milk, and chocolate. In East Africa, corn flour and sorghum are mixed with other ground grains to make uji. Congee is a savory rice-based porridge served in China, while Filipinos enjoys arroz caldo, another rice-based porridge cooked with broth.

Porridge can also be made from potatoes, wheat, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, farro, sorghum, rye, kasha, and spelt, as well as other grains and legumes. The basics of porridge seem to be the same all over the world—a dry grain, legume or vegetable turned into a mushy dish using a hot liquid. From there, the possibilities are endless because of what you can add to the porridge.

How to Make Porridge

Chef Jamie Oliver shows how to make a big pot of plain oat porridge, and then has suggestions to serve it five different ways, including adding chocolate to it.

Adding chocolate to oatmeal might be a bit unfamiliar, but it's just the start. If you really want to go with the unusual, this Millet Porridge with Lavender Strawberries and Super Seeds will definitely take you out of your hot breakfast cereal comfort zone.

More standard additions include brown sugar and cinnamon, along with sliced bananas or berries, a spoonful of nut butter or jam, and a drizzle of milk or cream. You can certainly stick to your tried-and-true oatmeal in the morning, but now you know that there's a world of porridge options out there, waiting to stick to your ribs and carry you through the day.