I find myself irresistibly drawn to packets of instant oatmeal—with so little time in the morning it seems such an attractive alternative to 30 minutes of stirring the much healthier steel-cut oats. The devil on my shoulder entices me with whispers of “quick, easy, the kids will love it.” The hemp-wearing angel on the other side advises, “over-sweetened, over-processed, less-nutritious.” Turns out, I can kick the devil to the curb on this one—here’s how to make healthy, fruit-laden, steel-cut oats in minutes.
Not only do steel cut oats rate well on the glycemic index, but they are loaded with health-boosting fiber. And while a single serving of a popular instant oatmeal contains 12 grams of sugar and 1 gram of soluble fiber—a serving of steel cut oats has 0 grams of sugar and over 2 grams of soluble fiber. But it’s all of that super healthy fiber that requires the long stovetop time. So what’s the trick for quick steel cut oats?
If you are guessing slow-cooker, bingo! And a rice-cooker can do it too: just add the ingredients, turn it on, get ready for your day, and return to breakfast in half an hour. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for several days and can be easily reheated. The variations are endless, a list of great additions is compiled below. The favorite in my household is a few giant handfuls of blueberries (fresh or frozen) thrown in with the oats and water, and nothing else—the result is a big sweet, purple, oaty wonder that leaves that smug little angel on the shoulder feeling pretty darn plucky.
Overnight Oatmeal—basic slow cooker technique
2 cups steel cut oats
6 to 8 cups water
The rule of thumb here is to use 6 cups of water if it will cook for less than 8 hours, and use 8 cups of water if it will cook for more than 8 hours. Add ingredients, cover, cook on the lowest setting overnight, and serve in the morning.
Easy Morning Oatmeal—basic rice cooker technique
1 cup steel cut oats
4 cups water
It’s better to make smaller batches when using a rice cooker to avoid the mix from bubbling over. Add ingredients, cover, cook on low for 25 to 30 minutes, and serve.
Additions to mix and match
Fresh or frozen fruit: as much as you want to add. We add so many blueberries that it is almost like a blueberry stew with oatmeal garnish. Bananas make it extra creamy, and try pumpkin puree for a change of pace.
Dried fruit: cherries, cranberries, raisins, dates, figs, you name it.
Nuts: if you add these before cooking, they get soft—stir them after cooking if you prefer more crunch. You can also add nut butter.
Sweeteners: Honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, or your favorite natural sweetener.
Seasoning: Vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom each work well with oatmeal.
By the way, in case you’re wondering: Steel cut oats are whole oat groats that have been sliced. Rolled oats are oat groats that have been steamed, rolled and flaked for easier cooking. Quick cooking oats are rolled oats that have been chopped into even smaller pieces and “instant” oats are mashed and nearly powdered.