Oatmeal offers an alternative to breadcrumbs when you’re looking for a binder, or for a coating for crispy baked or fried items. Depending on the texture you’re after, you may want to send the oats through a blender for a few pulses to create a finer, more evenly textured product.

A binder is an ingredient you use to help the elements of a dish stick together. Dishes in which breadcrumbs often serve such a purpose include meatloaf and meatballs.

Step 1: Select

Choose the right oats. Steel cut may be too rough and gritty for your recipe. Go for instant or old-fashioned rolled varieties.

Step 2: Pulse

Run the oats through a blender or a food processor until more finely processed. This step isn’t required, but it does prevent large flakes from showing up in your loaf or balls.

Step 3: Measure

Note the amount of breadcrumbs called for in your recipe. Measure out this amount of pulsed, or nonpulsed, oatmeal.

Step 4: Stir In

Add to your recipe just as if you were adding breadcrumbs. If the recipe calls for soaking in milk first, do so.

If you’re looking for a crispy coating for chicken with a healthy vibe, or just a slightly different texture, opt for rolled oats. Oatmeal could also cover other hearty pan-fried or baked breaded items, such as turkey cutlets or thin steaks. Substitute oatmeal measure for measure and whiz it in the blender or food processor for a finer texture, if desired. The finer texture may adhere better during the breading process, and resist over-browning or burning better than whole flakes.

Step 1: Measure

Put an adequate amount of oatmeal in a bowl to coat the chicken or protein. Use about 1 1/2 cups of oatmeal for four 5-ounce chicken breasts, for example.

Step 2: Season

Add seasoning to the oatmeal. Include salt as well as other spices of choice, such as paprika, cumin, dried oregano, dried Italian blend and garlic powder. Place the mix in a shallow bowl.

Step 3: Set Up Stations

Set up two other stations. One should have just plain flour in a bowl and the other, two large eggs beaten with a tablespoon of water — also in a shallow bowl.

Tips

If you’re avoiding flour, use cornstarch or a gluten-free baking mix as the flour station.

Step 4: Pass Through

Pass the chicken breast or other protein through the breading stations. First dip the breasts in the flour and shake off any excess. Immerse in the eggs and allow extra moisture to drip off. Finally, place in the bowl with the oats and thoroughly coat. Place on a plate as you finish the other servings.

Step 5: Cook Up

Bake in an already heated 375 F oven for about 30 minutes on a greased baking sheet, or until the meat is cooked through and the outer layer is crispy.

Tips

Pan-fry the chicken in a tablespoon or two of olive oil as an alternative. Finish baking in the oven, though, to encourage the chicken to cook more evenly and avoid burning the oats on the outside.

Serve the final crispy chicken, sliced, with a salsa.