Steel Cut Oats | How to Cook the Perfect Bowl

Maybe I have old-fashioned taste in breakfast, but if I could only have one morning meal for the rest of my life, it would be a bowl of steel cut oatmeal. Today, I’m going to be sharing how to cook steel cut oats that are creamy and perfect every time. They’re endlessly customizable, never mushy, and can be made ahead for healthy breakfasts all week. If you think oatmeal is bland, unappealing, or (as one reader expressed) you “just can’t get into it,” this foolproof steel cut oats recipe is worth another chance.

How to cook steel cut oats. The secret to making perfect steel cut oatmeal on the stovetop that turns out perfectly every time! Healthy and low calorie, this is the only oatmeal recipe you need. Simple, vegan, and high in fiber, steel cut oats keep you full all morning long.

Growing up, we always had a box of fruity-flavored oatmeal packets stuffed under the bottom shelf of our pantry. They were sugary (that part I didn’t mind) and microwaved up into a kind of slop that would change tints depending upon what flavor of fruit it was supposed to imitate. Strawberry was a dull, sad pink; blueberry was gray; peach was…well, we never did figure out what to call that color.

Then, I became older and wiser. I bought the oatmeal packets without the sugar. They tasted terrible. No wonder people thought oatmeal was terrible!

Then, at long last, I was in a cute cafe where I spotted something called “steel cut oats” at the top of the menu. Feeling somewhat magnanimous (but mostly curious) I decided to give this steel cut oatmeal business a chance.

SOUL MATES. In place of the bland, textureless muck that had been my prior bowls of oatmeal, steel cut oats were thick and creamy, pleasantly chewy and nutty, and left me feeling satisfied in a deep, wholesome way that I thought was reserved only for those who practice yoga.

Steel cut oats make a delicious, healthy breakfast.

The difference between steel cut oats and the instant oatmeal I had been eating is like comparing different foods.

Are Steel Cut Oats the Same as Rolled Oats or Instant Oatmeal?

In the sense that all come from the same grain, yes. How they are processed, however, is different, which is why making a bowl of oatmeal with each of the different types of oats yields different results.

  • Steel Cut Oats: The best bowl of oatmeal. The oats are left whole and cut into pieces with a steel mill. Steel cut oats are the least processed and therefore maintain the best texture when cooked. They also take the longest amount of time to cook (as you will see, it’s worth waiting).
  • Rolled Oats: A respectable though not otherworldly bowl of oatmeal. The oats are steamed and pressed flat. If you are in a big hurry and need breakfast in a few minutes, rolled oats are reliable option. They are also my favorite for baking (steel cut oats stay way too crunchy).
  • Instant Oats: Just say no to a bowl of instant oatmeal. These are rolled oats that are cut into small pieces. By the time you heat them, they lose all texture (hence, mushy). Instant oats work nicely in some recipes where you don’t want the oatmeal to maintain its complete texture, like these Healthy No Bake Cookies, but would not be a good choice for a tasty breakfast.

If you’d like to make overnight oats, I recommend this overnight steel cut oats recipe, which is served cold and one of my favorite make-ahead breakfasts during the warmer months. If you are are cooking for a crowd, these slow cooker steel cut oats are another option.

For a cozy, everyday breakfast, however, a steaming, creamy bowl of classic stove top steel cut oatmeal is my forever love.

Easy Steel Cut Oatmeal. Top with berries, nuts, or nut butter to make your perfect bowl!

How to Cook Steel Cut Oats

STEP ONE: Pick Your Liquid.

  • For every 1 cup of steel cut oats, you’ll need 2 1/2 to 3 cups of liquid, depending upon how thick you’d like them to be (less liquid = thicker steel cut oatmeal).
  • I like to do a mix of water and milk to make the steel cut oats extra creamy. You can use any kind of milk you like. I typically opt for almond milk (perfect if you need vegan steel cut oats). If you are feeling indulgent (or are Ina Garten or the Pioneer Woman), whole milk is indisputably delicious.

STEP TWO: Place the Liquid, Oats, and SALT in a Saucepan.

  • Note the emphasis on salt above. Add a good pinch for each cup of steel cut oats.
  • I always recommend kosher salt, which has a clean taste. Also, because the grains are larger, you’ll more easily avoid over salting your food.
  • Salt won’t make the oats taste salty. Rather, it wakes up their flavor and helps ensure the oats are not at all bland.

STEP THREE: Bring to a Boil, Reduce to a Simmer.

  • Let the oats simmer for about 20 minutes to start. You don’t need to babysit them. Simply stir the oats every now and then to make sure they aren’t sticking to the bottom and to remind yourself how delicious this bowl of steel cut oatmeal is going to be.

Classic stove top steel cut oatmeal is a healthy breakfast that is endlessly customizable.

STEP FOUR: Choose Your Texture.

  • Once the oats have been simmering 20 minutes, they’ll need about 5 to 10 minutes of additional simmering to reach their ideal texture.
  • “Ideal” is defined by YOU, the oatmeal chef! Like your oats more chewy? Stop cooking them sooner. Softer, thicker, and creamier is more your style? Let them go the full half hour. Thirty minutes is my personal steel cut oatmeal sweet spot.
  • The steel cut oats will continue to thicken as they cool, so don’t panic if they seem too thin.

STEP FIVE: Top ’Em Off!

  • This is the fun part. Steel cut oats are a healthy blank canvas for any of your favorite toppings and mix-ins. Fresh fruit, nuts, peanut butter or almond butter, and chia seeds are some of my go-tos.

This steel cut oats recipe will change your breakfast forever! An easy step by step recipe with lots of ideas for topping.

How to Store Steel Cut Oats

Since steel cut oatmeal takes longer to make than I typically have time for on an average weekday morning, I like to make a double batch on weekends and store it for healthy breakfasts all week long.

  • To refrigerate: If you are super organized or want to be able easily grab a single serving, portion the oatmeal into individual containers. You can also just put it all into one giant container, then scoop your desired amount into a bowl the morning you heat it up. Steel cut oatmeal can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
  • To freeze: Portion your desired amount of the cooked steel cut oats into your container of choice. Freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

How to Reheat Steel Cut Oats

  • Place the steel cut oatmeal in a microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan. Add a good splash of milk or water. Reheat gently in the microwave or on the stovetop, stirring a few times throughout and adding more liquid as needed to keep it from drying out.
  • Note on portions: Oatmeal quadruples when it’s reheated. OK, don’t quote me on that exact math, but I find that by the time the oats absorb the extra liquid, I end up with a much larger serving than it appeared when I first scooped it into my bowl.

Questions? Thoughts? Confessions of oatmeal love (or hate!)? LET ME KNOW!

I’d love to hear what you think about steel cut oats, along with any of your favorite toppings.

How to cook steel cut oats. The secret to making perfect steel cut oatmeal on the stovetop that turns out perfectly every time! Healthy and low calorie, this is the only oatmeal recipe you need. Simple, vegan, and high in fiber, steel cut oats keep you full all morning long.
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Steel Cut Oats | How to Cook the Perfect Bowl

Yield: 4 servings (about 4 cups)
Prep Time:
5 mins
Cook Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
30 mins
How to cook steel cut oats. The secret to making perfect steel cut oatmeal on the stovetop that turns out delicious and creamy every time! Healthy and low calorie, this is the only oatmeal recipe you need. Simple, vegan, and high in fiber, steel cut oats keep you full all morning long. Easy to make ahead and you can add any of your favorite toppings.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups water — plus additional as needed
  • 1 cup milk — any kind you like (I use unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1 cup  steel cut oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt — do not omit this!
  • Toppings and mix-ins of choice — see blog post above for suggestions

Instructions

  1. Place 2 1/2 cups water and milk in a medium/large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. As soon as the liquid boils, stir in the oats and salt. Return the mixture to a steady boil, then immediately reduce the heat to low so that the oats are at a gentle simmer. Don’t walk away from the pot at this point, as oats sometimes like to boil over. If your oats start to foam up and you are concerned, lift the pan right off the heat and let it settle down a bit before returning the pan to the heat to finish cooking.
  3. Let the oats gently simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping along the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking. At this point, judge how chewy or creamy you’d like your oatmeal. For softer, creamier oats, continue cooking for 5 to 10 additional minutes, stirring every few minutes until the oatmeal is as tender as you like. If the oatmeal becomes thicker than you’d like, splash in a little extra water or milk to thin it out to your desired consistency.
  4. Remove the oatmeal from the heat and let sit a few minutes to finish thickening. Enjoy hot with any of your favorite toppings.

Recipe Notes

  • Leftover steel cut oatmeal is a meal-pepper’s dream! Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, either as one large batch or in individual portions. Oatmeal will thicken as it chills. Reheat gently in the microwave or on the stove with an extra splash of liquid to thin it back out.
  • Steel cut oats are also very freezer friendly. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Healthy Breakfast, Perfect Oatmeal Recipe, Steel Cut Oats

Nutrition Information

Amount per serving (1 (of 4), about 1 cup) — Calories: 158, Fat: 3g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Carbohydrates: 27g, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 1g, Protein: 5g

Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

How to cook steel cut oats. The secret to making perfect steel cut oatmeal on the stovetop that turns out delicious and creamy every time! Healthy and low calorie, this is the only oatmeal recipe you need. Simple, vegan, and high in fiber, steel cut oats keep you full all morning long. Easy to make ahead and great for any toppings you love like peanut butter, apple, and banana. #steelcutoats #healthy #vegan

This post contains some affiliate links, which means that I make a small commission off items you purchase at no additional cost to you.

About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

32 comments

  1. I just discovered how much I love steel cut oats several months ago! Have you ever tried cooking them in the Instant Pot? With the delay function, I can mix the oats and water the night before (sadly, I can’t use milk when doing this, but I often add milk after it’s cooked), set it to start a half hour before I wake up, and I have amazing oatmeal each morning when I wake up. I haven’t added salt to them before, so this is definitely something I’ll have to try out! Thanks for the tip.

  2. I have tried freezing steel-cut oats as well before and love how they meal-prep! So convenient when making a large batch.

  3. This food looks so delicious that I already began to drool… lol And the best in it such think that it’s not hard to make it and very fast in cooking. Plus very healthy food because of I lead a healthy lifestyle. It was not all time, but when I start working as essay writer than my time and lifestyle completely changes. I like my work and what I do right now. To help people it’s the main factor why I start work as a writer. And of course a lot of free time. So I can wish everyone such a job and you will eat healthy food every day!

  4. My mom tells me that when she makes steel cut oats ahead of time to reheat later, she doesn’t simmer them as long as if she plans to eat it right away. She only simmers for about 15 minutes because they will continue to absorb the liquid while they cool and while stored in the refrigerator. YMMV but I thought I’d put that out there.

  5. Steel cut oats are so much better than those packets we used to buy. I used to hate oatmeal! Now it’s delicious. Thanks for these great tips on making it even better!

  6. I bet this will taste SO good topped with some summer berries!!

  7. Hi Erin,  I made your steel cut oats this morning for my family for breakfast. Fantastic!!  And, great video! 

    • Lyn, I am so happy to hear that the oats were a hit! Thanks so much for letting me know and for your kind words about the video too.

  8. I’ve been making my steel cut oats this way but not with the salt.  I’m going to try that for sure .  I do use the topping of blueberries and nuts , I prefer walnuts , chia and I also put a little cinnamon and. Sometimes a touch of honey. Yummy!

  9. delicious! I drizzled with honey and a dash of cinnamon!

  10. I know this isn’t a result of this recipe-just wanting some advice-no matter what recipe I use for steel cut oats-I always have a soupy mess instead of thick lucious oats like yours! Any tips or tricks? I follow the recipes to the “t” and it doesn’t seem to work! When I turn the temp down to low to simmer-are we talking like all the way to low or like a 3 (well that’s what it’s labeled as on my stove top) 

    • Hi Christine, it sounds like there may be too much liquid-to-oat ratio if it’s coming out soupy. Try reducing the liquid by a little bit, or continue cooking it longer to get rid of some of the excess. I also find that it firms up in the fridge too!

  11. Can this recipe be modified for the instant pot. Is the liquid to oatmeal changed?

    • Hi Claudia, yes, you can make steel cut oats in the Instant Pot, and the liquid amount is often reduced. I’m seeing 4 to 5 cups of liquid for every 2 cups of oats in a couple recipes I saw in an online search.

  12. My favorite way to eat steel cut oats is savory – I cook them in water until somewhat chewy, then top them with poached eggs and salt and pepper. On an extra fancy day I’ll add a little shredded cheddar cheese too. Making ahead is a must, though; I definitely don’t have 30 minutes every morning to make breakfast!

  13. Hey i love to try your recipe but i can’t find a good pack of steel cut oats at my place, can you place a shopping link of the best brand of steel cut oats?

  14. I’m confused by your instructions. You first said 2 1/2 to 3 cups liquid (milk or water). Then later the instructions say 2 1/2 cups water and 1 cup milk. Which is it?

    • Hi Robin! You add 2 1/2 cups water and 1 cup milk at the beginning. Then if you want thinner oats, you can add milk OR water, whichever you like. I hope you enjoy them!

  15. I think the steal cut oats are to die for, and when cooked right they are just a delectable treat. I’ve found that if you put agova it tastes even better, for me of course. Anyway I just wrote in to say how good the results were and hope to wish good luck, 5 stars for me!

  16. I cannot find steel cut oats that are not instant.  I want the kind that take about 45 minutes to cook.
    I’ve gone on line and still not able to find any that don’t cook instantly.  Can you steer me to the old fashioned oats that haven’t been tampered with to cook quickly.
    Thank you,
    Kay Luther

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