Old-Fashioned Mexican Oatmeal Recipe [Avena]

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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.

Bowls of Mexican oatmeal made with evaporated milk, cinnamon sticks, and honey, topped with bananas, blueberries and brown sugar.

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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, eight 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.

Bowl of Mexican oatmeal with cinnamon sticks and fruit toppings in the background.

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

With two 9-year-olds at home, that’s a major bonus for me!

Tips for 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 a sprinkle of cinnamon if you can’t get your hands on the real deal. However, cinnamon sticks will lend a fuller flavor to the oatmeal.

Ingredients for Mexican oatmeal breakfast, including old fashioned oats, cinnamon sticks, evaporated milk, honey, and vanilla with a dash of salt.
Mexican oatmeal ingredients

Tip #2: Add plenty of evaporated milk

When I skimped on the milk in the past, the end result was a very dry texture. Some of the milk will boil off, so I use up to 3/4 of a 12-ounce can if not the whole can. (See tip #5 on what to do with any leftover milk.)

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

If you allow the mixture to reach a full boil (monitoring it closely) and then reduce the heat to a low boil, the end result will be gooey and moist, which is ideal.

Spoon of oatmeal over a pot of Mexican oatmeal after adding oats and evaporated milk.
Boiling Mexican oatmeal with evaporated milk

Tip #4: Sweeten the Mexican oatmeal with honey

While there are many options for sweetening avena (see the recipe notes below), I usually opt for honey. It provides just enough sweetness to balance the cinnamon and evaporated milk without overpowering the dish.

Sweetening Mexican oatmeal recipe with honey dipper.

Tip #5: Reserve the remaining milk for leftovers

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

Mexican Oatmeal Recipe Notes

  • 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, apples, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, walnuts, or pecans. Each of my boys prefers a different combination, which creates more variety from week to week.
  • In place of honey, you can substitute any sweetener of choice. Consider adding brown sugar, maple syrup, cane sugar, or other artificial sweeteners depending on your taste. 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.
Bowls of Mexican oatmeal recipe filled with blueberries, cinnamon sticks, and bananas.

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

Pin it for later!

Bowl of Mexican oatmeal (avena) shown with cinnamon sticks and fruit in the background.
Bowls of Mexican oatmeal recipe filled with blueberries, cinnamon sticks, and bananas

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, nuts, 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 21 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
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 (about 2/3 of 12-ounce can)
  • ¼ cup honey (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Boil water and cinnamon sticks in a medium-size saucepan with a dash of salt. Alternatively, you can add ground cinnamon after cooking the oatmeal.
    Boiling cinnamon sticks to make Mexican oatmeal (avena)
  • Once water is boiling, turn the heat to medium-low and add oatmeal. Watch closely to make sure the water doesn’t boil over.
    Adding oats to boiling water to make Mexican avena recipe (oatmeal with evaporated milk)
  • When most of the water from the oatmeal has boiled off, add the evaporated milk. You may add more than the recipe suggests depending on the desired consistency. Cook at a low boil, 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.
    Bowls of Mexican oatmeal recipe filled with blueberries, cinnamon sticks, and bananas


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.
Almond milk is a good alternative for a lactose-free Mexican oatmeal recipe variation.


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. I know this says 4 servings but what is the serving size amount? I couldn’t find it. My kids and I love this recipe

    1. Hi Alanna. I’m so glad you love the recipe! I don’t have a precise measurement for the serving size, but it makes four bowls for our family with adult portions. I would estimate it’s about 1 to 1 1/2 cups per serving. I hope this helps!

  2. 5 stars
    This was very good! Such a delicious flavor! I’m wondering when I should take out the cinnamon sticks? Do they stay in the whole time the oatmeal is cooking? Thank you for the recipe!

    1. Thanks for the nice comment! I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Ashley! We sometimes leave our cinnamon sticks in the oatmeal when we serve it. It’s just a matter of preference. I leave them in when I’m storing leftovers, but I remove them when I serve my kids. Enjoy!

    2. Sorry, I forgot to mention that I do leave them in the whole time. If the flavor is too strong for you, you can remove them. I also find that some brands of cinnamon sticks are stronger than others. Our favorite is Fiesta.

  3. 5 stars
    This is my go to recipe for oatmeal! It’s simply the best and only way to eat oatmeal. I add some chia seeds and recently added an Abuelita Chocolate tablet. It’s so tasty! Thanks for sharing your recipe.

    1. That’s amazing to hear! I’m so glad you like it. I LOVE Abuelita chocolate, and the tablets are the way to go. That may be something I have to try. Thanks for the nice comment!

    1. I’m so happy to hear that, Cynthia! This recipe is near and dear to my heart and has been passed down through generations in my family. I hope you enjoy it too.

    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!

  4. 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!