Oats are not only inexpensive and high in nutrients such as fiber and protein but also easy to prepare, making them an excellent breakfast choice for those on a tight schedule. Nothing beats a warm bowl of oatmeal to start the day right, especially during winter months. Here is a guide on how to cook oats in different ways, from stove-top to a slow cooker.

Steel-cut oats

Steel-cut oats are the most nutritious type of oats and require the longest cooking time. They are whole-grain groats that have been chopped into pieces but not processed like rolled or instant oats. That said, they have a nutty, chewy texture that is worth the extra cooking time. Here is how to cook steel-cut oats for a serving of four:

– Combine four cups of water and one cup of steel-cut oats in a pot. Bring to a boil over high heat.
– Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the oats achieve a creamy consistency.
– Remove the pot from the heat and let cool for a few minutes before serving with your favorite toppings, such as fresh fruits, nuts, and cinnamon.

Rolled oats

Rolled oats, also known as old-fashioned oats, are the most common type of oats found in stores. They are made by steaming and flattening oat groats, resulting in thin and smooth flakes that cook faster than steel-cut oats. Rolled oats are ideal for making oatmeal cookies, oat bars, or granola. Here is how to cook rolled oats for a serving of four:

– Combine four cups of water and one cup of rolled oats in a pot. Bring to a boil over high heat.
– Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the oats become tender and creamy.
– Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes before serving with toppings such as honey, berries, and almond milk.

Instant oats

Instant oats are the most processed type of oats, precooked and dried before being packaged. They usually come in small packets with added flavors such as cinnamon and maple syrup. Instant oats are the fastest to cook, taking only one minute or less, but are also the least nutritious due to the added sugars and preservatives. Here is how to cook instant oats for a serving of four:

– Combine four cups of water and one cup of instant oats in a microwave-safe bowl.
– Microwave the oats on high for one minute, then stir.
– Continue microwaving in 30-second increments, stirring after each until the oats reach your desired consistency.
– Let cool for a few minutes before serving, but be careful not to overcook the oats as they may become too mushy.

Overnight oats

Overnight oats are a no-cook option that involves soaking rolled oats overnight in milk or yogurt. This technique allows the oats to absorb the liquid, soften, and develop a creamy and silky texture. Overnight oats are perfect for meal prep and can be customized with different toppings and sweeteners. Here is a basic recipe for overnight oats:

– Combine one cup of rolled oats, one cup of milk (any kind), and one tablespoon of sweetener (honey, maple syrup, or agave) in a jar or bowl.
– Optional add-ins: one tablespoon of chia seeds, vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, or spices such as nutmeg or cinnamon.
– Mix well and seal the jar or bowl with a lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for at least six hours.
– Before serving, stir well and add toppings such as fresh fruits, nuts, or granola.


Q: How much water should I use to cook oats?
A: The general rule is to use twice as much water as oats, for example, two cups of water for one cup of oats. However, the ratio may vary depending on the type of oats and your preferred consistency.

Q: Can I cook oats in a rice cooker?
A: Yes, you can cook steel-cut or rolled oats in a rice cooker using the same ratio of water and oats as on the stove-top. Follow your rice cooker’s instructions and choose the “porridge” or “cook” setting.

Q: How can I make my oats less bland?
A: Oats are versatile and can be flavored with various herbs, spices, fruits, nuts, and sweeteners. Try adding cinnamon, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, grated apples, mashed bananas, peanut butter, or coconut flakes to your oats for extra flavor.

Q: Can I freeze cooked oats?
A: Yes, you can freeze leftover cooked oats in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw the oats in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the microwave or on the stove, adding a splash of milk or water to loosen them up.

Q: Are oats gluten-free?
A: Oats are naturally gluten-free, but they may get contaminated with gluten during processing and storage. Look for certified gluten-free oats if you have a gluten allergy or intolerance.

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