Old-Fashioned Mexican Oatmeal Recipe [Avena]

This traditional recipe for Mexican oatmeal (avena) is near and dear to my heart because I was raised on it, and now my twin boys enjoy it on a weekly basis. It’s a simple breakfast dish that reheats well for leftovers the next day.

Mexican oatmeal with blueberries, raspberries and cinnamon sticks

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Easy Mexican Oatmeal Recipe

It’s a wonder I didn’t publish this Mexican avena recipe sooner. It’s a breakfast dish I’ve been making on a weekly basis for years.

When my boys first started eating solid foods, it was one of the first dishes I introduced. Now, six years later, they still request it regularly. In fact, one of my boys squeals with delight when I mention it’s on the menu for breakfast.

Mexican oatmeal in heart-shaped dish with blueberries, raspberries and cinnamon sticks

The oats are rich and creamy, and the warmth of the “oatmeal soup” provides comfort for the heart and soul. This food also “sticks to the ribs” as they say, so it prevents hunger attacks later in the morning.

With two 6-year-olds at home that’s a major bonus for me!

Tips to Getting Rich, Flavorful and Creamy Mexican Oatmeal

I’ve learned a thing or two after making this recipe over and over again. Hopefully, you can benefit from my years of experimentation.

Tip #1: Use real cinnamon sticks for maximum flavor

Feel free to substitute ground cinnamon if you can’t get your hands on the real deal, but cinnamon sticks will lend a fuller flavor to the oatmeal.

Mexican avena in heart-shaped dish with cinnamon sticks and fruit toppings

Tip #2: Add plenty of evaporated milk

When I’ve skimped on the milk in the past, the end result was a very dry texture. Some of the milk will boil off, so as a rule of thumb, I use about 3/4 of a 12-ounce can.

Tip #3: Let the oatmeal come to a full boil

If you allow the mixture to reach a full boil for a couple of minutes (monitoring it closely), the end result will be frothy, gooey and moist, which is ideal.

Tip #5: Reserve the remaining milk for leftovers

When re-heating any leftover oatmeal in the microwave or on the stove, add the remaining evaporated milk to make the mixture soupy again.

Traditional Mexican oatmeal in heart-shaped dish with blueberries, raspberries and cinnamon sticks

Additional Recipe Notes for Mexican Oatmeal

  • I use conventional old-fashioned oats for this recipe, but you can also substitute steel-cut oats, which provide extra fiber given their minimal processing.
  • For mix-ins, consider adding raisins, granola, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries. Each of my boys has a preferred combination, which creates more variety from week to week.
  • In place of honey, you can also substitute brown sugar, cane sugar, or other artificial sweeteners. Some recipes call for adding piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar or pure cane sugar). However, piloncillo is not easy to break up in its typical conical form, and it would be very time consuming to use this for a quick breakfast meal, in my view.
  • My mother never added vanilla to our oatmeal growing up, but I find it adds just a touch of flavor that complements the cinnamon and honey.
  • Please do not confuse evaporated milk with sweetened condensed milk. The former provides a creamy, slightly caramelized taste and has healthy nutrients similar to milk, while the latter is like syrup and is often used for baked goods.

For another traditional Mexican family recipe, try my pumpkin empanadas–a huge reader favorite that includes piloncillo and anise!

Pin it for later!

Mexican oatmeal (avena) in heart-shaped dish with blueberries, raspberries and cinnamon sticks
Mexican oatmeal (avena) in a heart shaped bowl topped with raspberries, blueberries and cinnamon sticks

Traditional Mexican Oatmeal Recipe

Author: firstdayofhome.com
This rich and creamy Mexican oatmeal (avena con leche) is the perfect breakfast dish any time of year.
It combines a rich cinnamon flavor with the subtle sweetness of evaporated milk, and every person in the family can customize it with fruit, granola or other toppings.
This is the type of recipe handed down through the generations. It's easily reheated for quick leftovers the next morning, too.
4.7 from 9 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Breakfast
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 4
Calories 235 kcal


  • 1 ¾ cup water
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • ¼ cup honey (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • Boil water and cinnamon stick in a medium-size saucepan with a dash of salt. Alternatively, you can add ground cinnamon after cooking the oatmeal.
  • Once water is boiling, turn the heat to medium-low and add oatmeal. Watch closely to make sure the water doesn’t boil over.
  • When most of the water from the oatmeal has boiled off, add the evaporated milk. Cook on medium-to-low heat, stirring frequently until the mixture reaches a rolling boil and begins to thicken.
  • After about 2-3 minutes of simmering, add honey and vanilla to the pot, and stir well. Cook for another 2-3 minutes and remove from heat.
  • Refrigerate the remaining evaporated milk if you plan to reheat leftovers the next day. For reheating, add more milk to maintain a soupy consistency.


You may substitute steel-cut oats for a healthier grain option, but instant oats will not get the same results. Cream of wheat cereal also works well as a substitute, though you may want to add less milk.


Serving: 1gCalories: 235kcalCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 7gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 19mgSodium: 85mgPotassium: 287mgFiber: 3gSugar: 24gVitamin A: 158IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 200mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @firstdayofhome or tag #firstdayofhome!

If you have any questions about how to make this Mexican oatmeal, don’t hesitate to comment below. I respond to each and every message!

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Buen provecho! Enjoy!

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    1. Thanks so much! I hope you enjoy it, CiCi! My mother made this on a regular basis growing up, and it’s just so satisfying. Let me know what you think once you try it!

  1. This looks amazing! I am SO going to use the cinnamon stick trick… Who knew? Oh, I guess your mom did/does… and so do you! I always cook my oatmeal with half water half milk, and then add a bit more cool milk after to cool it off. I’m def going to try this recipe! I believe you can get non-fa (skim)t evaporated milk too, which helps with WW points! Pinned!

    1. Thanks so much, Julie! I think you’ll love the richness of using evaporated milk, even if it’s skim. It makes it almost more like porridge than traditional oatmeal. I’m amazed that my kids still love it after all these years since kids are usually picky eaters! I hope you enjoy it!