This method for cooking steel cut oats results in a PERFECT texture – it’s creamy, chewy, and nutty, but NOT mushy or sticky. Bringing the oats to a boil, covering them, turning off the heat, and letting them sit overnight on the stovetop results in that perfect texture every time. In the morning, all you need to do is add a cup of your favorite milk or milk alternative and simmer for a few minutes to warm up! It’s a hands-off, easy, fast method to make steel cut oatmeal that makes busy mornings a breeze.
I had always heard that steel cut oatmeal was delicious. But I tried making it with the directions on the package and was always underwhelmed. The oats took a long time to cook, with mediocre results. Not to mention, it was always a stuck-on mess in the pot! Which is why I’m here to tell you: IGNORE the package directions. There IS another way! This overnight steel cut oats cooking method will be the last one, and easiest one, you’ll ever need. NO sliminess/mushiness, and NO sticking!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had plenty of oatmeal, steel cut or otherwise, that results in a slimy, gruel-like texture, like wet concrete. Not anymore! The trick is: stir as LITTLE as possible, and allow the oats to absorb the water slowly – in this case, overnight!
When I first heard about this overnight cooking method for steel cut oats from Christopher Kimball on the Milk Street Podcast (one of my favorite cooking podcasts), I knew I had to try it. I’m completely sold – this recipe is perfect for all of you who want easy, fast, healthy breakfasts in the morning! Make it for one or two people with a small portion, or the whole family or a crowd in a bigger portion. Everyone can top it how they want, but my favorite is a little pat of Irish butter, a sprinkle of brown sugar, and a spoonful of defrosted frozen berries.
But why does oatmeal get slimy in the first place?
Oats are high in soluble fiber, which is super healthy for you. It’s also the stuff that can result in a slimy texture. It’s the same thing found in Okra. If you’ve ever had an okra stew, Stirring activates that soluble fiber, in the same way kneading/stirring flour too much activates gluten (causing cookies or muffins to be tough) or stirring rice too much activates the starch, (making it sticky and mushy). The trick to not getting it to be slimy? Don’t stir it too much, and let it slowly absorb the water instead of boiling/simmering, which also causes movement.
- Steel Cut Oats – I love McCann’s brand.
- Milk – I use whole milk, but any kind, or substitute, will work. Almondmilk works really well and adds a nice flavor.
How to make perfect steel cut oats
Just stir 1 cup of steel cut oats, 3 cups of water, and one half a teaspoon of salt in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, stir ONCE, turn off the heat, and cover. Leave it overnight, then in the morning, stir in 1 cup of your favorite milk or milk substitute, bring to a boil again and cover and simmer on low for 10 minutes. That’s it! Now, you can serve and top with what you want!
(Does leaving the oats out overnight make you feel nervous? See more below for an alternative for refrigerating!)
Are steel cut oats healthier for you than other oats?
Steel cut oats are more minimally processed than other oats. This means they retain more of their natural nutrients, take longer to digest, have more fiber in them, and are also lower on the glycemic index scale. While oats are healthy and nutritious in any form, steel cut oats do have a lot of benefits when compared with other oat varieties!
Can I add other ingredients to steel cut oats?
Sure! With this overnight method, you will want to save adding most ingredients until the next day. You can stir in things like dried fruit, chopped nuts, or other things when you add the milk. The night before, feel free to add spices, like cinnamon or nutmeg.
Is it safe to leave the oats out like this overnight?
You may be wondering: “Is it actually OK to leave the oats out on the stovetop overnight?” And I’ll respond with: it depends on your comfort level here.
I’ll say this: if Christopher Kimball says it’s OK, and other big food publications like The Kitchn say it’s OK, then it’s OK with me. I personally have never had a problem, and I’m also not one to be overly paranoid about this kind of thing (I love sushi, and prefer my steak medium-rare and my ahi tuna even rarer!).
When you bring the oats to a boil, you are killing any bacteria that are in the oats to begin with. Covering it right after boiling keeps bacteria from the environment out overnight. And, bringing it up to a boil and then simmering the next day will also help kill bacteria. I also start with high quality oats. However, this method is not foolproof.
So if you’re concerned about this, you may want to do the following. Bring to a boil as directed, stir once, then turn off the heat and allow the oats to cool for a little while. Then, transfer to an airtight container and place in the fridge overnight. The oats will still absorb the water and soften really well. Then, in the morning, place in a pot with milk of choice and bring back up to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, as directed.
This makes for a few extra steps, but is a great option if you want to play it extra safe! This is also a great option for if you want to only take a single serving out of the batch and mix with milk and reheat in the microwave instead of dragging out a pot.
How long does steel cut oatmeal last?
Once it’s cooked, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for around 5 days, and reheat portions as needed. This makes it a great option for a make-ahead breakfast idea to have throughout the week!
Can you freeze steel cut oatmeal?
Yes! Just store in a freezer-proof container and leave a little room for expansion. Allow to defrost for a night or two in the fridge for best results before reheating. This is a great opportunity to freeze small, individual portions.
What kinds of topping combinations are good for steel cut oatmeal?
Here are some ideas for topping your steel cut oats!
- My favorite: a pat of Irish butter, a sprinkle of brown sugar, and a scoop of defrosted frozen berries (pictured in the photos here).
- Make it savory: top with a fried or soft boiled egg, green onions, and some shredded cheese.
- Apple cinnamon: Add diced apples when you add the milk to reheat, and use cinnamon in the mix when you cook the oats. Top with maple syrup for sweetness.
- A spoonful of yogurt, a drizzle of honey, and some fresh raspberries.
- Peanut butter and jelly: A scoop of peanut butter and a spoonful of jam swirled into the mix.
- Pumpkin Spice: Add a little canned pumpkin with the milk, as well as some pumpkin pie spice mix to the oats when they cook, and drizzle maple syrup for sweetness.
The possibilities are endless! It’s fun to play around with different toppings on steel cut oatmeal.
Other recipes with oats:
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Steel Cut Oatmeal
- 1 cup steel cut oats (I love McCann's brand)
- 3 cups water
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (see notes)
- 1 cup milk of choice (whole, almond, soy… whatever you want!)
- toppings of choice (sweetener, berries, spices… see notes for ideas)
- In the evening, mix the 1 cup steel cut oats, 3 cups water, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt to a medium pot. Stir together and bring to a boil. Stir ONCE, turn of the heat, and cover. Leave overnight on the stovetop (or refrigerate if you prefer, see notes).
- In the morning, stir in the 1 cup milk of choice and bring back to a boil. Cover and turn the heat down to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Give it one final stir and serve with toppings of choice.
- Note on added salt: feel free to take the amount down to 1/4 teaspoon if you want a lower sodium version. But oats do benefit from adding salt – it doesn’t really make it taste “salty” but does make it not bland, and makes the flavor of the oats pop!
- Stovetop vs. Refrigeration: In my research for this recipe, there was some concern for food safety with leaving the oats out overnight on the stovetop. I personally leave it out on the stovetop, but if you want to be extra cautious with food safety, feel free to transfer the oats, once they have boiled and cooled off for a little while, to an airtight container in the fridge overnight. Then, transfer back to a pot in the morning and proceed, or scoop out a single serving portion and reheat in the microwave.
- Toppings: I personally love to top mine with a pat of Irish salted butter, a sprinkle of brown sugar, and a scoop of defrosted frozen berries. Feel free to top with what you want – maple syrup, honey, a scoop of Greek yogurt, apples and cinnamon, bananas or other fruit, nuts, or even a savory combination like a fried egg with green onions and grated cheese.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for about 5 days. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 6 months and defrost for a night or two in the fridge for best results before reheating.
Nutrition Information Disclaimer
The provided nutrition information is my best estimate and does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. I use an automatic API to calculate this information. Feel free to calculate it yourself using one of these tools:
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