My son loves to have oatmeal in the morning, but the amount of work involved often makes me feel like I’m starting the day behind schedule. But when I add my slow cooker to the equation, suddenly a whole world of oatmeal possibilities beckons.
Slow cooker oatmeal uses the longer-cooking steel-cut variety, which adds more body and a nuttier flavor to this heart-healthy breakfast. I keep it simple with classic warming spices like cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom, then round it out with golden raisins that melt into the final dish, giving it a sweetness without any additional sugar.
Best of all—you can dump everything into your slow cooker the night before and not stir it again until morning. Breakfast has never been easier.
When you’re ready to eat, throw in fruits, nuts, or any other sweeteners to add even more flavor and make this recipe your own.
LET’S TALK ABOUT OATS
This recipe for slow cooker oatmeal is written to make easy swaps and additions, but there is one element that cannot be altered: steel-cut oats.
All oatmeal comes from the same source, but the way it is processed impacts its flavor, cooking time, and texture. Only steel-cut oats can stand up to the cooking time needed for the slow cooker—to get the right texture (and avoid a pile of mush!) stick with the steel-cut oats for this recipe.
Steel Cut Oats: Steel cut oats are cut by, you guessed it, steel blades. This ensures the original oat stays mostly intact along with all the flavor and chewiness, but it does require more time to cook. By cooking steel cut oats in the slow cooker, you get all of the benefits minus the wait time.
Old Fashioned Oats: This oat is commonly used in oatmeal and is also called rolled oats. As the name suggests, these oats are steamed and rolled in order to flatten them out and make them thinner for faster cooking.
Quick Oats: Quick oats are rolled even thinner and often steamed longer than old fashioned oats to reduce cooking time. They excel at speed, but all of that processing reduces the flavor and virtually eliminates any texture.
A NOTE ON SLOW COOKERS
Every slow cooker has its own quirks and settings, but this recipe should be fairly universal no matter what kind you have.
That being said, you may want to consider adding more or less liquid if the amounts seem off (or if you prefer a thicker or looser consistency); stirring occasionally if your slow cooker is old and has hot spots; and considering the timing of starting your slow cooker if it doesn’t have a timer or warming options.
This is a recipe for six portions, which works great for a family of four with leftovers. If you want to make oatmeal for a crowd, go ahead and double the recipe, however, I wouldn’t cut this recipe in half. It may not cook the same if there isn’t as much liquid in the pot. This is especially true if your slow cooker doesn’t have a tight seal or has vent holes.
- To reduce cleanup, you can use a slow cooker liner. I don’t use a liner, and it still cleans up easily, but it may require a little scrubbing.
- Cook this oatmeal on your slow cooker’s lowest setting.
- If your slow cooker has a timer, set it to cook for seven hours at low, then warm until you’re ready to eat.
- This recipe’s larger serving size should fill any slow cooker well enough to prevent overcooked edges. If you have a slow cooker that is prone to overcooked edges, that’s totally fine too—just stir them in!
It’s a difficult recipe to mess up, which is why it’s so wonderful to incorporate it into your evening routine so your morning can run smoothly.
WHAT IS THE BEST LIQUID FOR SLOW COOKER OATMEAL?
This recipe uses an even ratio of milk to water because it gives the oatmeal body without becoming too heavy. If you’re dairy-free, plant-based milk or just water will work too. It could impact the body and flavor of the oatmeal, but it will still taste great.
OATMEAL SWAPS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
I wrote this oatmeal recipe to serve as a base for your own personal experimentation. You can add, swap, and substitute everything from the liquid in the recipe to the spices and fruit. Just don’t swap the steel-cut oats!
Here are some of my favorite oatmeal add-ins. Stir them in right before you are ready to eat:
- Sliced bananas
- Chopped stone fruits or apples
- Unsweetened coconut
- Sliced or chopped nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pecans
- Superfoods like ground flaxseeds
- Drizzle honey or agave
- Brown sugar
Oatmeal flavor swaps:
Don’t feel like you have to stick with the spices listed in the recipe; add any of the spices below or swap one for another.
The goal with this recipe is to give the steel-cut oats a lot of flavor without a lot of work, so sub in whatever you want. The main elements not to be disturbed in this recipe are the liquid ratio and the steel cut oats. Beyond that, use your imagination—you can have a new variation every single day with this template as your guide.
HOW TO STORE, FREEZE, AND REHEAT LEFTOVER OATMEAL
The great news about six portions is that even if you’re making slow cooker oatmeal for just for one or two, this recipe reheats like a dream.
You can store the oatmeal in the fridge for up to five days or in the freezer for three months.
To freeze leftover oatmeal, separate it into individual portions. Otherwise, you’ll be left with a giant block of oatmeal that will inevitably overcook as it reheats.
To reheat oatmeal from the fridge, simply cook it in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring as needed. You can add a small amount of water or milk to help reconstitute the oatmeal.
To cook the oatmeal straight from frozen, you can reheat from frozen in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between until hot.
If you don’t have a microwave, you can reheat on the stovetop from the fridge, but I wouldn’t recommend reheating the oatmeal directly from the freezer on the stovetop. It’s best to take the oatmeal out of the freezer and let it thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating on the stovetop.