14 Best Toppings To Make Breakfast Cereal More Exciting

Looking to reinvent your ho-hum morning breakfast cereal routine? Have you tried adding toppings? It's a simple way to make your morning cereal more interesting and your breakfast even more nutritious with health benefits you may not even be aware of. Whether it's the cereal box you usually reach for or a bowl of oatmeal, eating these breakfast staples day in and day out can get mundane. By the way, if you still enjoy your favorite sugary kid's cereal, that's totally fine, too. Those often already have all the bells and whistles.

So, if you're looking to jazz up your plain corn flakes, bran, flakes, puffed wheat or rice, oats, or whatever cereal you're typically eating, then read on for some great topping ideas. They're not just your usual tips, either. We've got the kind of ideas that will make you wonder why you haven't thought of them before.

1. Honey, maple syrup, and date syrup

If you're a sweet tooth at heart, then you likely prefer your cereal on the sweeter side. But, before you reach for the sugary cereal or add a teaspoon of sugar to your choice of cereal milk, have you thought of drizzling something syrupy and maybe even tastier/healthier onto your cold cereal or oatmeal? A spoonful of honey, maple syrup, or even date syrup can be just the flavor profile you're looking for. And not to mention even more nutritious for you than calorie-laden sugar.

Honey has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The same goes for maple syrup. Both are much lower on the glycemic index, too, meaning you won't have the sugar rush and the following sugar crash after consuming them when compared to refined sugar. But even lower on the glycemic index than all three of these is date syrup, which is much higher in vitamins and minerals. We weren't the first civilization to know this, either. The use of date syrup can actually be traced back to ancient biblical times — only recently have its benefits been discovered in the United States. 

2. Fresh fruit

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, sliced bananas. You've probably seen these common fruit options on cereal boxes in the "suggested serving" photo, and maybe you've even tried them a few times. Sure, they're solid choices, but how about going for something more adventurous? How about trying some chopped mango, sliced kiwi, sliced starfruit, a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, or even a few spoonfuls of passionfruit pulp?

Whichever fruit you decide on (the conventional or the tropical), know that you're doing your body a favor. There are so many great benefits to having fresh fruit first thing in the morning. Fresh fruit is a great way to break your overnight fast. Experts say it's better to start with fruit than the typical morning cup of joe, but we won't proselytize here. Eating fruit in the morning helps stimulate digestion and, beyond that, it's packed with vitamins, minerals, and immune-boosting properties that can help fight inflammation. So, bring on the fruit bounty with your cereal.

3. Spices

A fresh grating of cinnamon or nutmeg can really enliven your breakfast cereal. You can even use a spice mixture like pumpkin pie spice or an unsweetened chai tea mix if you like a combination of warming spices that include black pepper, cardamom, and cloves, among others. Can't you just imagine enjoying this in the autumn and winter, especially as a topping on a bowl of steaming oatmeal, maybe including some chopped apple for the classic cinnamon-apple pairing?

Not only do spices taste good, but they can also be very beneficial for your health. Just a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon every day can help reduce inflammation, reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) while upping good cholesterol (HDL). Not to mention it can boost your mood and regulate your energy throughout the day. Who knew that this particular tree bark (choose Ceylon over Cassia) could be so good for you? Nutmeg, too, has similar benefits to cinnamon, also helping to reduce inflammation with antioxidant benefits.

4. Dried fruit

You likely have a lonely package of raisins hanging around in the back of your cupboard that you haven't used in quite a while. Try adding a sprinkle of raisins to your bran flakes for that familiar pairing, or any other type of breakfast cereal for that matter. But don't just stop there — there's an entire world of dried fruit waiting for you to discover. Dried apricots, dried plums, dried cranberries, dried mango, dried papaya, dried goji berries, and even crispy dried fruit, like banana flakes or coconut flakes.

You might be wondering if dried fruit is as healthy as fresh fruit. Well, yes — in moderation it's fine. Dried fruit actually has a more concentrated amount of antioxidants, but they're also much sweeter than fresh fruit. And sometimes dried fruit is sold with added sugar to make it more appealing. Instead, look for dried fruit that hasn't been additionally sweetened, and don't feel guilty about adding some to your cereal in the morning.

5. Cocoa

Die-hard chocolate lover? We can relate! There's no reason why you can't have some chocolate in your breakfast cereal. Okay, you may not be breaking an entire bar of chocolate into your cereal, but what about a dusting of unsweetened cocoa powder or, even better, a sprinkling of crunchy cocoa nibs? 

Not only can you enjoy the pleasure of chocolate at breakfast time, but you'll also be pleased to know that chocolate in these particular forms has superpowers. Dark chocolate can help increase good cholesterol, lower high blood pressure, and increase your mood (like cinnamon mentioned above) because it helps raise serotonin levels. Now, we can all use a mood boost, especially on a Monday morning! So the next time you feel like indulging your chocolate craving in the morning, go right ahead without shame or judgment. Reach for the cocoa or cocoa nibs — you're actually doing yourself a favor.

6. Nuts

Almonds and walnuts make great snacks, but they may be even better as crunchy toppings for your breakfast cereal. These types of nuts are among the most popular, which is why they're often added to cereal, baked goods, and sweet treats. But there's more to the world of nuts than these usual suspects. Don't forget about the other nuts like pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, and peanuts. Add some tropical flair to your bowl of cereal with macadamia or Brazil nuts. Or, if you like nuts with a creamier texture, choose cashews or peanuts. And, if you mix in some dried fruit, you can have an even more interesting mix of textures and flavors. 

To bring out the best flavors in certain nuts, you'll want to toast them in a dry pan over medium heat — just watch them closely so they don't burn. Almonds, walnuts, and pecans all benefit from a brief toasting to bring out their flavors. Once the nuts have cooled, add them to your cereal whole or chopped.

7. Seeds

Let's take a look at the wide world of seeds! Try topping your breakfast cereal with seeds or mixing them into your oatmeal. Not only are you adding flavor and crunch to your morning bowl, but you're also adding nutritional value: Seeds are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. There are sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, or even chia seeds to consider.

With flaxseeds, you can choose either the whole seeds or flaxseed meal, which is a lot easier to digest since the tiny seeds have been ground. Flaxseed meal has the added benefit of helping with regularity. Then there are chia seeds, which are now more popular to eat than keep as a plant pet! The great thing about chia seeds is that they swell up in your milk, so you can have a unique jellied texture along with the crunch. Muck like flaxseeds, chia seeds also help with digestion.

8. Yogurt

Topping your cereal with some creamy yogurt is a nice way to add some unexpected texture. Or, you could even swap out your cereal milk with yogurt entirely, especially when you crave something that's more like a dessert. A plain yogurt, a vanilla-flavored one, or even fruit-flavored yogurts are all strong contenders for topping your morning cereal. If, however, you avoid dairy, feel free to use your favorite non-dairy yogurt like soy, almond, cashew, or coconut varieties. You'll get the same great creamy and cooling effect in plant-based form.

If you're looking for an extra protein-packed breakfast cereal topping, choose plain Greek yogurt, which has more protein than regular yogurt because it has been strained from the excess whey. And because of that, it's also creamier and thicker, making it feel most like a dessert. Add a drizzling of honey and a scattering of nuts like pistachios and walnuts, and you'll have a baklava-inspired breakfast cereal. Opa!

9. Bran

For some extra fiber, add a spoonful or two of bran to your breakfast cereal. Not only will you get a pleasant nutty taste, you'll also experience many health benefits: Bran can help with regularity, control blood sugar, and even lower cholesterol. But, what is bran exactly? Bran is the fibrous outer layer on all cereal grains including oat, wheat, rice, and even corn. Besides all the good things that this natural fiber can do for you, bran makes a great flavor pairing with cereal flakes. And many cereal flakes include bran, too, for example, bran flakes. So it's a no-brainer.

Try sprinkling wheat, oat, or rice bran over breakfast cereal, over oatmeal, and even over yogurt. And don't just stop there, mix and match with other toppings on this list. Bran would go well sprinkled over wheat flakes, topped with a handful of blueberries or even raisins (if you don't happen to have fresh fruit on hand). As you can tell, bran doesn't have to be boring!

10. Granola

Of course, you can enjoy granola (or muesli) on its own for breakfast with milk or even yogurt, but you could also top your favorite breakfast cereal flakes with granola for an entirely new morning experience. You may even like how with certain cereals, like bran flakes, you'll create an interplay in textures, the quick-to-get-soggy bran flakes will contrast with the long-lasting crunch of the granola. Choose from among different granola blends, and mix and match each with your favorite breakfast cereal flakes. For example, you might like to pair a chocolatey granola with classic cornflakes or a perennial favorite raisin-and-nut granola with bran flakes.

Get adventurous with your granola-and-cereal pairings by going beyond these suggestions. Take some inspiration from other topping options on this list to create your personalized blend of ingredients. Add some sliced banana or a dollop of yogurt, and you'll take your granola-topped breakfast cereal to the next level!

11. Jam, preserves, or compote

Jam is such a morning staple, especially on toast or fresh biscuits. But have you ever thought of adding a spoonful to your breakfast cereal? It's also great stirred into oatmeal. Homemade fruit preserves and compotes also make a great breakfast cereal topping. If you don't happen to have any fresh or frozen fruit at home, but you crave a sweet bite of something, go ahead and reach for your favorite jar of strawberry jam, cherry preserves, peach compote, or whatever you love the most. Jam is a great addition to cereal because it contains chunks of fruit unlike jelly, which is mostly made from the fruit's strained liquid. This way jam versus jelly will offer a much more interesting textural experience!

Maybe you have some preserves your aunt made this past summer and gifted you, here's the opportunity to use them and enjoy. Or, go with your favorite brand from the supermarket or farmers' market. Choose a low-sugar version if you're concerned it may be too sweet to add to your morning flakes. A spoonful goes a long way in adding flavor and texture to your bowl of cereal.

12. Cottage cheese

It seems that cottage cheese is all the rage these days. Who could have guessed that this would happen? Cottage cheese is making a comeback and it won't be disappearing any time soon. It's also being reborn in all kinds of recipes, even pasta, cake, and queso dip. But, if you like to enjoy dairy products and fresh cheeses au naturel, go ahead and try topping your breakfast cereal with a few spoonfuls of cottage cheese. Add some fresh berries to the top. Or, try a spoonful of strawberry jam, a handful of raisins, or even some frozen mangoes, and you'll have a really nice play on textures and flavors.

But, if you're tired of adding milk to your morning cereal, swap it out with cottage cheese and create a nutrient-packed breakfast bowl! Cottage cheese makes a healthy post-workout snack, too. So, don't just limit yourself to eating it for breakfast.

13. Frozen fruit

There are so many uses for frozen fruit chilling your iced tea. You'll love adding frozen fruit to your cereal when you want something cool, especially during those dog days of summer. Not to mention frozen fruit is available in stores all year long so you can enjoy your favorite fruit even when they're out of season. Your cereal milk will also stay cold longer with frozen fruit, and you'll enjoy the experience of each sweet and cool bite of your breakfast cereal.

But you don't have to rely on store-bought frozen fruit. Instead freeze all kinds of fresh fruit when they're in season for use later. Just make sure to cut fruits like mangoes, peaches, and bananas into chunks or slices. You'll want to space berries apart, freeze fruit on a tray or plate so they don't stick together, and then transfer them to a freezer bag.