Showing you how to cook steel cut oats (with step by step photos) for a perfectly creamy, nutritious and easy to customize breakfast. Make a big batch of oats ahead of time and store in the fridge or freezer for an easy reheat breakfast, or enjoy right away with one of 7 different toppings. It’s the perfect balanced breakfast!
If you ask me, nothing beats a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. I am officially hooked! From overnight oats to baked oatmeal, there are so many options to prep and serve it that breakfast will never be boring. At the top of my list for flavor and texture is the perfect bowl of steel cut oats.
Steel cut versus rolled oats
The reason that steel cut oats top my list of oatmeal? That perfect chewy texture. Unlike rolled oats, steel cut oats are not soft and mushy. They hold a nice chewy texture which holds up amazingly well for meal prep.
Steel cut oats– are very similar to the harvested oat grain (groat), and have been cut into pieces using a steel blade. They take longer to cook and have a chewy texture.
Rolled oats- have been steamed and rolled flat (hence the name ‘rolled oats’). Cook quickly and work well in baked goods. Rolled oats have a soft texture.
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Four methods to cook steel cut oats
- Stove Top– simmer for 25-35 minutes, stirring frequently near the end.
- Instant Pot– my go-to method because you can ‘set it and forget it’ and don’t need to stir it. Check out my favorite Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats recipe.
- Slow Cooker– cook on low for 6-8 hours, you may want a slow cooker liner as it can tend to burn and stick towards the end of the cook time.
- No cook– believe it or not, you can prepare Overnight Steel Cut Oats without cooking!
To soak or not to soak
Some recipes call for soaking the steel cut oats before cooking. The reasoning includes quickening the cook time and making them easier to digest. I personally skip this step in favor of getting them on to cook quickly, and the recipe in this post is tested with un-soaked oats.
Toast first for extra flavor
If you are looking to bring your oats to the next level, take the time to sautee your uncooked oats for 5 minutes in a little coconut oil or butter before adding the other ingredients. Toasting the oats releases a slight nutty flavor and gives your oatmeal a little extra pizzazz.
Consider this an optional step.
No need for milk
It might seem intuitive to add milk or almond milk to achieve added flavor and creaminess to the steel cut oats, but through years of experimentation I find this is not the case. Cooking the oats in milk actually makes them more prone to boil over on the stove, and I just find it unnecessary.
In order to achieve the perfect creamy texture, the important thing is to use the correct water: oatmeal ratio (listed in the recipe card below). For the best flavor, feel free to toast the oatmeal first, or focus on other ingredients to boost the flavors.
How to cook steel cut oats
1. Toast oats (optional)- Melt butter in the bottom of a pot or Instant Pot using the sauté function. Add oats. Toast while stirring frequently for 5-10 minutes. Oats are toasted when they turn a golden color and emit a nutty aroma.
2. Add remaining ingredients- Add water, cinnamon and vanilla. Stir until combined.
a. Cook on high pressure in the Instant Pot for 2 minutes with a full natural pressure release
b. Slow cook on low for 6-8 hours
c. Simmer for 25-35 minutes on the stove top (covered and stirring frequently towards the end)
4. Final touches- stir in maple syrup to taste, then serve or store for later.
Storage + reheating tips
The best thing about these oats is how amazingly well they keep! Steel cut oats are a staple in our meal prep routine. Here is how we store them:
- Portion out in meal prep containers with frozen berries.
- Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Reheat in the microwave with a splash of almond milk until steaming hot.
- Top with nut butter, hemp hearts and a bit of extra syrup, then enjoy.
- Freeze in meal prep containers or portion out into a lightly greased muffin tin, until solid.
- Allow to sit on the counter for 10 minutes, then pop oats out by slipping a knife into the muffin tin. Transfer to freezer bag or silicone bag.
- Microwave from frozen with a splash of almond milk. Stop the microwave, stir, and add more milk as needed.
- Top with berries, nut butter, hemp hearts and additional syrup and enjoy!
7 Flavor Variations
Spice up the base recipe with the following variations:
- Apple Cinnamon– 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce, 1 large apple peeled and cut into small pieces, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, top with pecans
- Pumpkin– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 cup pumpkin puree
- Lemon Blueberry– zest from 1 lemon, 1-2 cups blueberries
- Peanut Butter Chocolate– 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- Coconut Key Lime– 1 teaspoon coconut extract, 1 tablespoon key lime zest, 1-2 cups strawberries kiwis or pineapple, 1/4 cup toasted coconut to garnish
- Zucchini Chocolate Chip– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 cup shredded zucchini drained of excess liquid, 1/4 cup chocolate chips
- Strawberry Vanilla Chai– 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon chai spice blend, 1 cup chopped strawberries + more to top
More breakfast ideas
- Healthy Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches
- 7 Healthy Breakfast Egg Muffins
- 7 Easy Baked Oatmeal Muffins
- 36 Healthy Meal Prep Breakfast Ideas
- Perfect Fluffy Protein Pancakes
7 Healthy Steel Cut Oats Recipes
- 1 tablespoon butter (optional; to toast the oats)
- 1 cup steel cut oats (see note *)
- 3 Instant Pot or 4 (slow cooker, stove-top) cups water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- After cooking:
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup or more to taste
- 1 large apple peeled and cut into small pieces
- 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce (stir in after cooking if using Instant Pot)
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans (to top)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup pumpkin puree (stir in after cooking if using Instant Pot)
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds/pepitas (to top)
- zest from 1 lemon (add after cooking base recipe)
- 1-2 cups blueberries (add after cooking base recipe)
- chia seeds (add after cooking base recipe)
Peanut Butter Chocolate
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter (stir in after cooking base recipe)
- 1-2 cups berries (to top)
- chia seeds (add after cooking base recipe)
Coconut Key Lime
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract (omit cinnamon from base recipe)
- 1 tablespoon key lime zest (stir in after cooking base recipe)
- 1-2 cups strawberries kiwis or pineapple (to top)
- 1/4 cup toasted coconut (to top)
Zucchini Chocolate Chip
- 1 cup shredded zucchini (drained of excess liquid; stir in after cooking base recipe)
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips (to top)
Strawberry Vanilla Chai
- 1 teaspoon chai spice blend (omit cinnamon from base recipe; *see note)
- 1 cup chopped strawberries
- 1-2 cups chopped fresh strawberries (to top)
- (Optional but adds extra flavor). Select the 'sauté' function on the Instant Pot. Add the butter and melt. Add the steel cut oats and sauté, stirring occasionally for 5 or so minutes, until fragrant and golden.
- Add the water, vanilla and cinnamon (and other ingredients as needed for flavor variations)
- Cook on high pressure for 2 minutes, followed by natural pressure release (let the Instant Pot sit for 20 minutes up to 120 minutes).
- Remove lid and stir in maple syrup and any other ingredients for the flavor variations.
- (Optional but adds extra flavor). Heat a pan over medium heat. Add the butter and melt. Add the steel cut oats and sauté, stirring occasionally for 5 or so minutes, until fragrant and golden.
- Spray the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray or use a slow cooker liner. Transfer steel cut oats and add the water, vanilla and cinnamon (and other ingredients as needed for flavor variations)
- Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
- Stir in maple syrup and any other ingredients for the flavor variations.
- Heat a 4 quart pot over medium heat. Add the butter and melt. Add the steel cut oats and sauté, stirring occasionally for 5 or so minutes, until fragrant and golden.
- Add the water, vanilla and cinnamon (and other ingredients as needed for flavor variations).
- Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25-35 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in maple syrup and any other ingredients for the flavor variations.