Also, due to the increasing clean eating trend, porridge has become more and more popular. To exploit this, we are seeing an alarming amount of ‘junk’ variations masked as porridge, with refined grains used in order to speed up the preparation and cooking time, and more and more added sugar to attract those with a sweeter tooth.
What you can end up with is a sugary, refined breakfast cereal made from ground oats, flour and sugar, more akin to a frosted children’s cereal than the traditional, nutritious, high fibre, unrefined carb source that many of us know and love.
Who Makes The Best Porridge?I’m not going to perform a full nutritional analysis of each, as they are all variations of the same thing. I also limited myself to oat porridge as this is the most popular, and tried the plain variety before one of the optional toppings (honey if available).
So, with a post workout carb craving, I went out to try the porridge options from some of the popular coffee shop chains to find who provides the best porridge, and who to avoid...
Caffè NeroCaffè Nero provide a plain instant oat porridge which is pre packed in 240g cartons and prepared by adding hot milk (skimmed, semi or soya) or water. You can choose between maple syrup or a berry compote as a topping, or make use of the free sugar and sweeteners available.
Caffè Nero porridge in instant pots
I tried it both plain, and then with a honey topping. It tastes fine, a bit more oaty than the usual instant oats. The texture was quite smooth, but did have a bit of a welcome grainy texture. It also had some lumps where the barista did not stir it thoroughly enough (perhaps I should have stirred it after, but was not instructed to do so).
Quite a smooth texture but not runny and tastes good
There was no nutritional information nor ingredients displayed on the pot, but the nutritional information is available from the Caff
Nero website. I was not asked what sort of milk I wanted.
Overall, the porridge is pretty good and it’s available all day, so not a bad option and one which I would buy again.
StarbucksLike Cafè Nero, Starbucks offer instant oat porridge in cartons which are prepared by adding a choice of regular or soya milk.
Optional toppings are included with the price, and consist of honey or dried fruit. The dried fruit sachet contains raisins, currants and cranberries, but there are very few cranberries present.
Starbucks porridge pot with a sachet of dried fruit
Like Nero, no ingredients or nutritional information were displayed on the pot, but the dried fruit contained both sets of information (89 kcal per portion).
Sugar and multiple sweeteners are available free of charge, including Stevia. There is also cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and cocoa powder available free.
Runny, watery and unpleasant
The finished porridge has a very runny texture, and tastes pretty bland with a powdery aftertaste. Not at all pleasant, so much so that I didn’t finish it. The taste was not improved with the addition of sweetener, nor the dried fruit.
Starbucks porridge is available all day for £1.99 per portion. Overall rating is pretty poor, so I would definitely not have this one again.
CostaCosta also offer a pre packed instant porridge which it claims is made with whole grain oat flakes. The full ingredients and nutritional information is printed on the pack. It contains dried skimmed milk and what appears to be a lot of refined sugar. It’s prepared by adding hot water, with no option of using different milk types as the pot already contains powdered milk.
Costa porridge pots with nutritional information
The finished porridge has a good texture, and actually looks like a whole grain porridge. It tastes okay, although it is very sweet even without the addition of the honey or jam. On inspection of the ingredients, this porridge is 60% oats, with the rest of the ingredients coming from the skimmed milk powder and sugar. So, definitely not the healthy option, but more akin to sugary junk cereal.
Great texture like proper oats, but very sweet and full of sugar
Good if you like your porridge sweet and thick, but don’t try to kid yourself that this is a decent breakfast. Costa porridge is available all day at £1.85 per serving with the optional toppings costing 35p each.
PretPret are known for their healthy and nutritious foods, so I was expecting something good here. They have two porridge options available, Prets Proper Porridge (an oat porridge) and Five Grain Porridge (made from pinhead oats, quinoa, amaranth, golden linseed and brown linseed and cooked in coconut water).
This is real, slow cooked porridge (rather than instant oat cereal) made with jumbo oats, water and skimmed milk, and is cooked in advance and kept warm in the serving pots. Optional toppings of honey, berry compote or mango and seed compote are available with no extra cost, plus there is also sugar, sweetener and salt available.
Pret Proper Porridge is pre-cooked and kept warm on the shelf
I tried the oat porridge, both plain and then with honey and a little salt. The porridge has a perfect consistency and texture. It tastes delicious, like proper whole grain oats should. The honey is thick enough to spoon rather than drizzle. An excellent porridge.
Great texture and tastes delicious
Nutritional information is available on the shelf (like all of Prets products) and also on the Pret website.
Overall this is damn fine porridge, but be aware that the breakfast menu is only available until 11am. A pity this is not available in the evenings after a late workout or a post club run coffee and refuel.
Coffee#1Rather than offer pre-made porridge, Brains owned Coffee#1 provide a selection of four different porridges, each of which is cooked to order using skimmed or soya milk!
Each porridge variety is individually priced, starting at £1.85 for the plain, up to £2.65. The four varieties are Blueberry, Mixed Seeds & Maple Syrup, Banana, Honey & Cinnamon, Chocolate Chip or the fore mentioned Plain. All the porridges are naturally flavoured with real ingredients rather than flavoured with artificial flavours, sweeteners and sugar.
In the name of research, I had to try all of the options available here as they were so varied. Never say I’m not dedicated. The young lady was very helpful and prepared a mini bowl of each.
Three mini bowls of Coffee#1 fresh porridges
I started with the Plain as this is the base for all the others. This has an excellent, thick, whole grain oaty taste. Thicker than the offers from it’s competitors, so great if you like your porridge with a little bit of a chew. Almost as good as Prets Proper Porridge.
The Chocolate Chip is topped with real chocolate drops and is pretty sweet but with a proper, real milk chocolate taste. The Banana, Honey & Cinnamon uses freshly sliced banana, so no artificial, mock banana taste and not too sweet. Similarly, the Blueberry, Mixed Seeds & Maple Syrup is not made using a compote but actual berries (which may have been frozen). Again, this is not too sweet, but full of flavour and natural sweetness and my favourite of the lot as it looks great and provides a more well rounded breakfast.
Each variety is cooked to order using natural ingredients
Coffee#1 will cook you a porridge any time of the day. Non appear to have any sugar added, and don’t need it, although sugar and sweetener is available free. Toppings are added to order, so you can adjust the amount of honey or syrup on request. There is no nutritional information or ingredient list available, and the Coffee#1 website does not currently have this information available.
Top marks all round and definitely the best place to go if you want porridge as it has an option to cater for every taste. I can’t wait to take my running club there after a club run.
GreggsGreggs has taken a bit of a new direction recently and has started competing with the high street coffee shops instead of just the bakers it was previously. It’s products are aimed more at the value instead of luxury.
There are three varieties of instant porridge available; Plain, Syrup and Red Berry, all in 234g pots. The pots have all the ingredients and nutritional information printed on the outside.
Greggs porridge pot with full nutrition and ingredient information
There are quite a lot of additives in these pots, and each is made from only 58% oats with the next ingredient being refined sugar, so definitely not the healthy option!
The texture is pretty horrible, with a runny, paste like texture, like baby food. They are not quite as sweet as I was expecting with all that sugar, but they are very sweet (even the plain). I did not try all available as I couldn’t finish the plain.
The porridge is like a runny paste and tastes like baby food
At only £1 per pot, they are the cheapest on offer but that is not enough to tempt me back.
The ResultsBelow is a summary of the results of my porridge binging adventure;
|Caffe Nero||£1.60||240g||210||all day|
The best and worst of the Coffee Shop porridges...
After all that porridge eating, the winner is definately Coffee#1 with it’s range of freshly cooked porridges available all day. It’s followed by Pret coming in at second. Both offer real, cooked porridge instead of the instant porridge pots from the others. As I said, the Five Grain Porridge from Pret was not tested due to this test being just oat porridges, and it lost some points due to the porridge only being available up until 11am.
Last was Greggs which fell just behind Starbucks which was a surprise to me. I will not try either of these again.