Perfect Steel Cut Oats
Learn how to make perfect steel cut oats that are creamy and flavorful, and never mushy. This steel cut oatmeal is a healthy, hearty breakfast that you can make ahead.
Do you get excited about oatmeal for breakfast? I do, but I feel like oatmeal is often underrated. If you’re used to thinking of oatmeal as something that must merely be tolerated for the sake of eating a healthy breakfast, then read on.
When it comes to cooking a warm bowl of oatmeal, steel cut oats are my favorite. They cook up wonderfully creamy and not at all mushy. Since steel cut oats are less processed than other types of oats, they have a deliciously chewy texture.
This steel cut oatmeal is a healthy breakfast that you’ll look forward to!
In this post I’ll teach you how to cook the perfect bowl of steel cut oats on the stove top. If you have an Instant Pot, be sure to check out my Instant Pot steel cut oats recipe for a hands-off way to cook your morning bowl of oatmeal.
I’m also sharing lots of tasty oatmeal topping ideas because that’s where the real fun happens – choosing what to put in your perfect bowl of oatmeal.
What are Steel Cut Oats?
All oats start off as oat groats, which are whole oat grains. The difference between the different types of oats is based on how much the groats have been processed:
Steel-Cut Oats: Steel cut oats are the least processed of the three types of oats. Steel cut oats are made by chopping the whole oat groats into pieces.
Steel cut oats retain their slightly chewy texture after cooking. They take longer to cook than rolled oats or instant oats, but their flavor and texture is well worth the time.
Rolled Oats: To make rolled oats, the whole oat grains are first heated to make them softer and then flattened. Oatmeal made with rolled oats has some texture, but I don’t enjoy it nearly as much as steel cut oatmeal.
Instant Oats: As their name suggests, instant oats cook the most quickly. They are the most processed type of oats. Instant oats are rolled oats that have been pre-cooked and then chopped into tiny pieces. Instant oatmeal is often mushy and bland, and I avoid it whenever possible.
All of these types of oatmeal have health benefits, so which one you choose really depends on your texture and flavor preferences. I like steel cut oats best because of their deliciously chewy, slightly nutty texture. I also like steel cut oats for meal prep because they keep and reheat well when you make them ahead (more on that below).
How to Cook Steel Cut Oats
Cooking steel cut oats is a simple process. You can cook a pot of steel cut oatmeal on the stove in about 25 minutes. That may sound like a long time, but I promise this steel cut oats recipe is so easy. While your oatmeal simmers on the stove, you can sip your coffee and enjoy the morning (or empty the dishwasher).
(Optional) Toast the oats: Some steel cut oats recipes call for toasting the oats before cooking them. While the toasted oats do have a richer, nuttier flavor, I usually skip this step to keep my breakfast prep quick and easy. Your oats will be delicious either way!
If you choose to toast the oats, place the raw oats in your medium saucepan before adding any liquid. Add a little butter or oil to the pan. Toast until the oats are lightly golden and fragrant, stirring them often. Then add the liquid right to the pan with the oats and continue with your recipe.
Choose your liquid: You’ll need 4 cups of liquid for 1 cup of steel cut oats. I like to use 3 cups of water and 1 cup of milk. The milk makes the oatmeal extra creamy. You can use whichever type of milk you prefer; I usually use almond milk in my steel cut oats.
Pour the water and/or milk into a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil on the stove. Add a pinch of salt to enhance the flavor of your oatmeal.
Simmer the oats: Add your steel cut oats to the boiling liquid, stir, and then turn down the heat to low. You want the oats to be simmering but not boiling vigorously.
It will take your oatmeal anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to cook. If you like your oats with more texture, cook them between 20 and 25 minutes. Cook the oats longer for a softer texture, adding more liquid as necessary.
Flavor your oatmeal: This steel cut oats recipe is endlessly customizable. I always stir in a little vanilla extract, cinnamon and pure maple syrup. After that, I top my oatmeal based on what I’m craving that day.
You can keep your oatmeal sweet or make it savory. What you mix into your oatmeal is up to you – I’ve listed some topping ideas below.
How to Store and Reheat Steel Cut Oats
You can make a big batch of steel cut oatmeal on Sunday and then eat it throughout the week. Cooked oatmeal will last for up to 5 days in the refrigerator, or you can freeze it for longer storage (up to 3 months).
- To store steel cut oats in the refrigerator: Portion the oatmeal into individual serving size containers (mason jars work well) for grab and go breakfasts. Since I eat breakfast at home, I store my cooked oats in one bigger storage container that I can scoop out of during the week.
- Freezing steel cut oats: I like to freeze extra steel cut oats in small portions using these silicone muffin cups. Fill each muffin cup with cooked oats and place on a tray in the freezer. Once the oatmeal has frozen, you can pop it out of the muffin cups and store it in a zip-top bag or other airtight container in the freezer.
- How to reheat steel cut oats: It is easiest to reheat your oatmeal in the microwave, but you can also reheat oats on the stove. Add a little milk when you reheat your oats, since oatmeal thickens as it cools.
Ideas for Oatmeal Toppings
Add more protein, fiber and other nutrients to your morning bowl of oatmeal with some tasty toppings and mix-ins!
- nuts or nut butters
- seeds such as pepitas or sunflower seeds
- chia seeds or flaxseed
- fresh berries
- chopped apple or pear
- sliced banana
- fresh figs
- mandarin orange
- dried fruits, such as raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dates or dried cherries
- pumpkin puree or applesauce
- a fried egg
- cheese and breakfast sausage
- milk (almond, coconut, dairy, etc.)
- Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
- coconut flakes
- chocolate chips
- jam or preserves
- cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, gingerbread spice mix
- cocoa powder
- pure maple syrup or brown sugar
Cooking Tips for this Steel Cut Oatmeal Recipe
- You can make this recipe with water or a combination of water and your milk of choice (almond milk, coconut milk, dairy milk, etc.).
- Watch your oatmeal closely and stir it often as it simmers on the stove to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- For oatmeal with more chewy texture, cook it for less time, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- For creamier, softer oatmeal cook it for about 25 to 30 minutes on the stove and add more liquid as needed for your desired texture.
Perfect Steel Cut Oats
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup almond milk, or other milk or water
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pour the water and milk (if using) into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Add the oats and salt to the pan, stir, and reduce the heat to a low simmer.
- Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring often, until the oats are your desired texture. Cook for 20-25 minutes for oats with more chewy texture; cook longer for softer oats, adding more liquid as needed.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon.
- Add toppings as desired (see ideas in the post above).
- If desired, you may toast your oats before cooking them. Place the oats in a medium saucepan and add a little bit of butter or oil. Toast over medium-low heat until lightly golden and fragrant. Then proceed with the recipe as directed, adding the liquid and simmering.
- Cooked steel cut oats can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If freezing, you can freeze small portions in silicone muffin cups. Thaw and reheat with a splash of milk. See more tips in the post above.