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The Healthiest Quick Oatmeal

The Healthiest Quick Oatmeal

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
Additions—see below

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.

Serves 8

Easy Morning Oatmeal—basic rice cooker technique
1 cup steel cut oats
4 cups water
Additions—see below

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.

Serves 4

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.

Read more: Food, All recipes, Basics, Entrees, , ,

By Melissa Breyer, Producer, Care2 Green Living.

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


+ add your own
3:27AM PDT on Oct 11, 2014

Thank you :)

9:41PM PDT on May 20, 2014

Great idea. I never would have thought to use my slow cooker or rice steamer.

My favorite add-ins are prunes, walnuts and a hefty sprinkle of cinnamon and sweetened with Monk fruit powder.

Believe it or not, the very same makers of the dubious Splenda, make the vey best Monk Fruit product on the market. Even better than the kind you can find on the internet.

10:12PM PST on Dec 20, 2013

I absolutely love oatmeal,I was born &raised in NJ & on those cold winter days I always had my oatmeal. Im looking for a recipe for Oatmeal cranberry bars. And thanks for the tips..

1:43AM PDT on Apr 18, 2013

Thank you.

6:03AM PDT on Mar 16, 2013

Good old fashioned oats works well for a quick breakfast and gives a good amount of fiber as well. 1c Old Fashioned Oats, 1 3/4c water, dash of salt (optional I don't but to taste) in a microwave safe container that is high enough to allow for the rise of the cooking oatmeal (at least 2 - 3 inches above the level of oats with water before cooking) microwave 4 min and enjoy. Some microwaves my take more or less time, mine is an average home microwave. I also like to add cinnamon and raisins, or cut up raw apple (small pieces), to the bowl prior to cooking and it comes out great. 2 servings can save one for the next day reheats in 1 - 2

6:18AM PST on Feb 19, 2013

I love the texture of steel cut oats. By adding fruit and nuts, it is the best for breakfast!

4:51AM PST on Feb 19, 2013

Thank you.

8:56AM PST on Jan 26, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

11:56PM PDT on Oct 15, 2012

Here's my recipe:
4 &1/2 cups water or milk
1 TBSP salt (opt)
1 cup steel cut oats
Bring liquid to a boil, add oats , stir, cover pan, and turn burner OFF
Leave pan sit on the burner till oats cool

I do this while I'm fixing dinner and after dinner and the kitchen is cleaned up, I put the oats in a covered container and put in the fridge. This makes it very, very easy to nuke the next morning and everyone gets exactly as much as they want.. If you have a big family make a bigger pot full
NOTE: as soon as the pan is empty or the bowls, fill with cold water for easier washing.

5:49AM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

Can't go wrong by eating this healthy. Eating this healthy, fruits, nuts, grains, no red meats, beans, greens will keep you out of the Doctor's office.

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