Home From Erika's Kitchen The Breakfast Club: Flavorful and Filling Steel Cut Oatmeal That’ll Make You Quit the Packets for Good

The Breakfast Club: Flavorful and Filling Steel Cut Oatmeal That’ll Make You Quit the Packets for Good

by Erika Nicole Kendall

When people first set out to start eating better, one of the first things people tell you is, “Oh, just eat some oatmeal for breakfast.” In fact, if you follow the BGG2WL Meal Plans, one of the things I mention straight up is the affordability and ease of oatmeal.

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But which kind? And what the hell do I do with it?

Oh, should I just get some packets? I mean, these packets should work, right?

Not quite.

If you take a look at the side label for one of your boxes of oatmeal packets – you know, the kind that you just add warm water to – you’ll notice a few things:

Quaker Oats Peaches and Cream

For starters, the ingredients list is out of control. “Peach flavored apple flakes,” “powdered creaming agent,” “hydrogenated” oils – and we’ve talked about that, although hydrogenated coconut oil is a new one for me – and guar gum… basically, nothing about this oatmeal is authentic.

And, not to mention, the nutrition facts. The fiber is low, the protein is low, but the sugar? That’s awfully high. Two and a half teaspoons of sugar for what amounts to less than two thirds of a cup of oatmeal for breakfast?

Raise your hand if you ate multiple packets at once. I can’t even type right now because I’ve got both hands in the air. Lucky for you, I’m pretty good at typing with my toes.

I’ll disinfect my keyboard later.

Making oatmeal at home might require more effort than, say, making a large batch of granola, portioning it out, and eating that like cereal, but it’s so worth it… especially on those cold winter mornings. (Or even mornings where it was so hot the night before, you woke up to a freezing house because of the A/C.) For Mini-me, her weekend mornings aren’t complete until she gets to choose what kind of oatmeal she gets that day.

Roller oats are awesome, buuuuut… steel cut oatmeal is a different kind of beast.

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It looks differently from your regular rolled oats. The texture is far creamier. It’s higher in protein and fiber – averaging at around 7-9 grams of each fiber and protein across brands. It’s also super easy to make at home.

What are steel cut oats? They’re literally the whole groats, kernels (or berries; see: wheatberries) of cereal grains, crushed and cut cross-wise into little pellets that, when boiled, make a creamy and ultra filling bowl of yum. That is… if you know what you’re doing.

An improperly cooked pot of steel cut oats will leave you eating something crunchy and chewy in unpleasant ways. And, while the level of done-ness is totally up to you, just know that if yours wasn’t smooth and creamy, it’s not because you failed at life. There are simply a few variables that you need to tweak.

For starters, the water content. The water to oats ratio for steel cut oatmeal is always 3:1. If you’re cooking half a cup of dried steel-cut oats, you need three half-cups of water. If you’re cooking a full cup of steel-cut oats, you need three cups of water.

In other words, however much oats you’re putting in your pot, you need at least three of that much in water to cook it.

You start with boiling water, and then you drop your oats into the pot. Almost instantly, you should get a nice, frothy texture going. It’s almost kinda gross looking… but YOLO. (I’ve really got to stop saying YOLO.)

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As soon as the pot is bubbling with the oats inside, turn your stove down as low as possible. Mine literally goes on the “Lo” setting.

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Slowly, you’ll notice the oats will begin to puff up, and the water will look as if it’s beginning to drain. Good. Still not done, yet. This process should take anywhere from 30-45 minutes, depending upon how hot your stove gets.

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Now, we’re closer to done. When your oatmeal looks like this, give it a good stir. You should see oats that are fuller, softer, and give way to a creamier consistency in the pot.

Scoop your oats into your bowl, and flavor at will. You can use dried fruits and spices, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, whatever you like. Chances are high that anything in this bowl has far fewer ingredients, far more protein and fiber, and far less sugar than anything you’ve poured out of a packet. The entire process takes 30-45 minutes.

These are Mini-me’s oats, with frozen blueberries, brown sugar, salt, and butter.

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…and those are steel cut oats with cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar.

Now, let’s talk troubleshooting.

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Buying your oats in bulk is the cheapest option. (Spoiler: It’s always the cheapest option.) Sure, you can get yours from a package, just be sure to check the side label to make sure nothing unnecessary is lurking within.

As with all grains, store your oats in an air-tight container.

If your oats are done and there’s more water in the pot than you’d like, then you can always use a slotted spoon to scoop your oats out of the pot. The excess liquid would fall between the holes in the spoon, and you’d get your oats. Be mindful of this next time you make oats, and adjust your water for your stove and pot accordingly. (Sometimes, heats and temperatures may vary, and other variables like altitude and weather can make a difference, as well.)

If your oats have burned on the bottom, to the point where your entire pot was coated in oats, no worry – scoop out whatever oats you can eat into your bowl, and then fill your pot with warm water. Let it soak, and a spoon should help your oats slide right out of your pot.

If you don’t have time to cook your oats in the morning… well, that’s why we have overnight oats! Bring your water to a boil, turn off your stove, dump your oats in, add a generous pinch of salt for every cup of oats you’re cooking, stir, cover your pot, and leave it.

Yes, leave it. You read correctly.

When you awake the next morning, you’ll add a fourth cup of water to your oats, stir, and put it on low heat. Give it ten minutes tops, and you should have thick, creamy, pudding-like oatmeal, too. This video from America’s Text Kitchen goes into pretty in-depth detail about this process.

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Suppose you don’t want to use sugar at all. No worries, baby. When I sat in on a panel that Mark Bittman was giving once, he talked about the glories of savory oatmeal, something he discusses in his book, Vegan Before 6 (that’s my affiliate link – if you’re interested in buying the book, use my link and I’ll get a few pennies from the sale.) I wound up making a parsley and Parmesan oatmeal that was so good, I almost proposed to myself. Seriously, it was basically breakfast risotto. And I was – and still am – here for it.

Steel cut oats are delicious, infinitely flavor-able, and affordable. At less than $2 per pound, when purchased in bulk and eaten with delicious spices, you could easily get five days worth of breakfast for less than $10.

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See? Make those steel cut oats happen today!

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36 comments

Aishah @ Coffee, Love, Health February 10, 2014 - 6:04 PM

So good you almost proposed to yourself… LOL You are HILARIOUS. For so long, I read blog after blog about how amazing oatmeal was and I just couldn’t develop that passion. Now that I REALLY want to overcome my weight once and for all, I decided the first step is I need to feel full in the morning so that I’m not famished by lunch time. I found oatmeal to do the trick. Now that I make it at home, usually with a smashed banana inside, I’ve learned to love it 🙂 But you say Steel Cut is even creamier? I’m all about creamy! Must try! Thank you for the detailed post 🙂

Erika Nicole Kendall February 10, 2014 - 8:39 PM

It’s sooo creamy. In fact, I think it’s more of a creamy consistency, whereas banana might serve as more of a “thickening agent.” And, if you let it sit just right, it thickens up and it’s almost like a pudding. It’s so delish. SO delish.

Aishah @ Coffee, Love, Health February 11, 2014 - 11:53 AM

Girl I trust you, I must try. I’m all about the creamy!! I’m going to see if I can find it at the “Roots” grocery store near our house.

Eva February 10, 2014 - 11:40 PM

I love old fashioned oatmeal too, if I couldn’t cook the oatmeal I wouldn’t eat it. I bought the package stuff for my kids when they were older and wanted the different flavors, it was that or cereal.ugh.

Zinnia February 11, 2014 - 2:48 AM

Oatmeal with honey with some fruits is definitely a great breakfast. You’ll get the energy that you need for the day, plus the fact that you are eating healthy. Having oats for breakfast helped me in my alosing Weight journey!

La Toya February 11, 2014 - 12:05 PM

Hi Erika!

I love your site! I’ve recently started eating steel cut oatmeal and I have discovered I prefer using almond milk instead of water to cook my oatmeal. Have you ever tried cooking your oatmeal using anything other than water?

Erika Nicole Kendall February 13, 2014 - 12:01 AM

I haven’t, but that’s merely because I don’t keep much other than water in the house. But the America’s Test Kitchen video that I linked above actually uses apple cider to finish off the oatmeal, and in that same vein I could see using tea leaves and a mesh strainer to put flavored water into the pot.

As long as whatever liquid you’re using won’t wind up separating in the boil, I suspect you’ll be fine to use it to flavor your oats. 🙂

Brokenweed February 12, 2014 - 10:46 AM

I like a bit more chewy, so I just soak a quarter cup overnight with a cup water. In the morning I add another cup and they are ready in less that ten minutes – the amount of time it takes me to chop fruit and nuts.

LaLa February 12, 2014 - 11:26 AM

I ♡♡♡♡♡ Steel cut oats! I eat them faithfully! !

Owen February 12, 2014 - 2:12 PM

Erika

If you ever get the chance try adding some almond milk to your steel cut oats, it’s just amazing. I would love it if you’d try it and let me know how you like it 🙂

Erika Nicole Kendall February 14, 2014 - 11:28 AM

Y’know, I keep my oats water-based because I like it simple. I don’t want to add a bunch of stuff to it that won’t really affect the taste much, especially since I’m mindful of my calories.

Nneka, Working Mystic February 12, 2014 - 4:48 PM

I’m so glad I came across this article Erika. I had oatmeal for the first time on Saturday. It was delicious. That day I added pineapple. Since then, I’ve been adding raisins.

What’s your opinion on the one-minute oats?

Erika Nicole Kendall February 12, 2014 - 11:51 PM

Far less fiber, far less protein, not always as clean. Not really worth it. If you need a quick morning option, I’d just go with overnight oats.

Stacy February 12, 2014 - 4:58 PM

Love this. I love old fashioned oats, but definitely will try steel cut. Thanks.

Marilyn Rogers February 12, 2014 - 9:33 PM

Where can I buy the steel cut oatmeal at?

Thank You

Erika Nicole Kendall February 12, 2014 - 11:50 PM

Usually, the same place as your other oatmeals in your grocery store. I’ve always bought mine in bulk from Whole Foods.

Robin February 13, 2014 - 1:01 PM

This sounds absoulutely delicious! In order to save time, I will try this in a crock pot.

Angela February 13, 2014 - 2:11 PM

Okay, I am here for savory oats. Might go make some right now, in fact. I did enjoy overnight steel cut oats (I don’t heat mine, just let them soak in almond milk, Greek yogurt, and spices overnight–or several nights when I make in large batches) after shoveling out the house this morning. Savory oats would make a great alternative to polenta, which I was planning for this weekend anyway.

Great idea, Erika!
@AquaGoddessDC

Sally February 14, 2014 - 4:30 AM

Steel cut oatmeal is definitely the way to go. I would avoid adding any sugar though, including maple syrup. Sugar just isn’t that good for you and kind of goes against the reason for eating steel cut oatmeal. A really good way to make this is with fruit and a little cinnamon. Apples are good as are most berries. Raisins are incredible but a little sweet. I think someone mentioned pineapple above, which sounds good. Nice post and great advice!

Erika Nicole Kendall February 14, 2014 - 9:53 AM

So, I’ve written extensively about the perils of sugar, but going cold turkey isn’t for everyone. That’s the kind of thing that sends people into withdrawals that compel them to binge eat. I know. I’ve been there.

That being said, if the goal is to convert people away from eating the metric ton of sugar that they eat at breakfast, then grinding up a couple of teaspoons of brown sugar to put in a bowl of oatmeal that usually has six teaspoons is a major league upgrade. Doubly so if the person becomes active on top of that.

I don’t like absolutism in wellness. It’s a journey, and people need as many tools as they can get to help guide them through it for every step of the way. I don’t like sugar in my oatmeal, but if making steel cut oats with frozen raspberries and a teaspoon of sugar makes my daughter want fruity pebbles less, then that’s what I’m giving her. LOLOL

Megan February 18, 2014 - 8:54 AM

I used the over night method, and I am in love! I added cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of ginger honey. It was a perfect breakfast and much better than the instant stuff. Thank You!

Cecilia March 23, 2014 - 4:53 PM

Hi!

I wanted to say that I really, really love your blog. I appreciate that this is coming from a woman who not only struggled with weight loss, met her goals, but still appreciates real food (and isn’t afraid to admit she still loves the bad kind of food too!).

I’ve read so many websites about people’s journey to their goals of fitness and weight loss, but yours speaks to me more than any of them. I appreciate the idea that you look to real food rather than eating more of those protein bars, powders and tablets to reach ones goals. Thank you for inspiring so many by sharing your journey and wisdom.

Robyn April 30, 2014 - 7:45 PM

Have you ever had oat groats? I can only find them at Whole Foods in the bulk bins. I love the chewy, chunky texture. I forgot all about them until I was reading your post here. Now I’m dying for some. I also use Coach’s Oats (get them at Costco). They have more of a steel cut texture but cook faster. I hope those are considered clean.

Rochelle Wade May 21, 2014 - 11:51 AM

I have been completely anti oatmeal for years. My grandmother fed me the packets almost every morning before school. I always had the same kind. The Apple Cinnamon in the packet. Now that I’m trying to eat better breakfast and lunch ideas escape me other than eggs with veggies and smoothies. I like variety and I’m going to try real real hard to push oatmeal back into my life. Especially since I need to eat healthy on a budget. I will be off to the grocery store on payday to try this out!

Thanks so much for your blog!

Dan September 27, 2014 - 11:14 PM

Seems so much better than the boxed crap that passes as oatmeal … I’ve have to try making this for breakfast someday!

Lisala Agyemang-Duah October 1, 2014 - 8:44 PM

I eat ’em everyday. I vary it with fresh fruit and spices, or just homemade almond milk. Oats fill me up easy to cook and cheap.

Ciji McBride October 6, 2014 - 1:50 PM

I know oatmeal has wonderful health benefits BUT the texture… I just can’t eat them. Would Cream of Wheat or Cream of Rice be a sufficient alternative?

Erika Nicole Kendall October 9, 2014 - 10:06 PM

My first instinct is to say no. Look at the ingredients label and the nutrient facts – are the fiber and protein comparable? Is there sugar?

Patrice October 11, 2014 - 11:56 PM

Came across this at the perfect time, I’m resolving to figure out making Steel Cut Oats myself instead of paying $3-4 dollars buying it every morning (shakes fist at “mix-ins” making it usually more like $5)..The overnight method might be the way to go for me…

acn March 12, 2015 - 11:56 PM

it looks like you prepared this with a rice cooker, did you use a pot or rice cooker?

Erika Nicole Kendall March 13, 2015 - 5:10 PM

Definitely a regular pot. I don’t own a rice cooker!

joi April 19, 2015 - 4:58 AM

Erika,

To be honest I was a package oatmeal person maple and brown sugar you name it I had it.. I will most definitely give this a try thank you for this blog it really helps the bbws in the world.

Erika Nicole Kendall April 19, 2015 - 4:07 PM

Aw, and that’s okay! We do what we know until we know something different (and better!) Hopefully this recipe works for you – and, if it doesn’t, let me know! Maybe we can come up with something better!

Tinera August 1, 2016 - 2:47 PM

I eat breakfast at my desk at work every morning. There’s no way I can make this oatmeal before or at work. Any tips to avoid the microwave oatmeal?

Erika Nicole Kendall August 9, 2016 - 10:57 AM

Overnight oats! Someone else left a comment about making overnight oats that could help. You can even do them in the microwave in the morning after the overnight part if need be.

Cynthia August 3, 2016 - 9:11 PM

I make steel cut oats every Sunday night in my crockpot. I portion out the servings in 5 days worth of breakfasts for work. I admit I eat them cold mostly, has a bread pudding consistency. I add cinnamon, mashed frozen bananas (or fresh) handfuls of walmuts or almonds, and raisins or lower sugar versions of dried cranberry. Every single day, I only use water, no milk, no salt, no butter. I throw in a sprinkle of frozen blueberries in each single container because Dr recommended them. I’m no health nut, started eating the steel cut oats after gaining all of weight and very high blood pressure. If you search the Internet for steel cut oats in crockpot you will find lots of overnight crockpot recipes for steel cut oats.

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