Overnight Steel Cut Oats

I’m a big, huge fan of breakfasts that pretty much make themselves (let’s be serious, count me a fan of any meal that makes itself as long as it isn’t icky). We have a breakfast rotation that ebbs and flows depending on the morning, the attitudes of children and mothers who may or may not be morning people, any last minute breakfast cravings and several other factors.

I have loads of fantastic breakfast recipes but some are just not suited to busy school mornings. Our family goes in cycles of eating the classic breakfast foods over and over until we need a change. Right now our rotation on any given week for the last month or so consists of these goodies:

Blender Wheat Pancakes (at least 1-2X per week; definitely the most-oft made pancakes during this recent cycle)
Em’s Overnight Pancakes (I use this when I don’t have an inch of time to even whip up pancake batter)
Refrigerator Bran Muffins (I keep the baked muffins in the freezer, serve them alongside yogurt and green smoothies)
French Toast (no recipe, just simple egg/milk mixture with homemade bread)
Cold Cereal (1X a week, more or less, on the mornings I can’t face the reality of a hot breakfast; we try to nab the cereal on the healthy-ish end of the spectrum – high fiber/low sugar – which is probably why my poor children are the only kids in the universe not excited about cold cereal)
Scrambled eggs and Toast (again, no recipe)

Overnight Steel Cut Oats

There are a few other breakfast options I’ll throw in now and again, like this slow cooker overnight oatmeal or just regular oatmeal microwaved quick in the morning. But I’ve neglected to share our favorite way to eat oatmeal. And if no-brainer is a word that entices you to make something then you better listen up.

This is a no-brainer.

The night before, I bring water to a boil and throw in some steel cut oats and a pinch of salt. Boil for one minute, cover and let it rest overnight. The next morning it is thick and tender and perfectly cooked. A 1-2 minute warmup is all that is required to get breakfast on the table. I’ve been hesitant to share it with you because I have a feeling most of you know about it already and/or it is so simple, “recipe” is quite a loose term.

Overnight Steel Cut Oats

All of us prefer steel cut oats to regular so this version of oatmeal is a hit all around. And guess what? Although I’ve been making steel cut oats like this for years, just recently we tried a variation wherein half the steel cut oats were swapped for quinoa and it’s cooked the exact same way. Holy deliciousness.

Our favorite oatmeal toppings are a swirl of honey or maple syrup or agave nectar followed up with a hefty dotting of fresh fruit (in lots of varieties; whatever is in season), dried fruit, and sometimes even freeze-dried fruit if I haven’t been to the grocery store in forever.

A lovely breakfast that pretty much makes itself. And like I said, I’m a huge fan of that.

One Year Ago: Cinnamon Apple Cider Muffins
Two Years Ago: White Bean and Sausage Ragout {with Tomatoes, Kale and Zucchini}
Three Years Ago: Baked Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Overnight Steel Cut Oats

Yield: Serves about 4

Overnight Steel Cut Oats

You'll see from my pictures that sometimes we get a little wild and crazy with this recipe and use half quinoa, half steel cut oats. The directions and water/salt amounts are completely the same, just change out half the steel cut oats for rinsed quinoa. Yum!


  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium or large saucepan (big enough to accommodate about 4 cups of cooked oatmeal with a bit of room to spare).
  2. When it reaches a rolling boil, stir in the oats and salt. Boil for one minute (watching closely so it doesn't boil over).
  3. Remove from the heat and stir. Cover the pot and let it sit overnight, 8-12 hours.
  4. In the morning before serving, stir the oatmeal to recombine the oats with any residual liquid and heat over medium for 1-2 minutes until the oatmeal is heated through.
  5. Serve with your favorite oatmeal toppings! We love bananas, craisins, agave nectar or a bit of brown sugar, blueberries, and lots of other fruits.

Recipe Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

77 Responses to Overnight Steel Cut Oats

  1. Steffi says:

    We love it too, and my favorite is fresh pomegranate and banana. A little maple syrup and maybe some seeds and nuts oh my Lord!!!!! Absolutely to die for!!!!!

  2. Emily says:

    I’ve seen recipes that cook steel-cut oats the night before for a few minutes, as well as those that just put the oats in milk and let soak (no cooking). Is there a reason you prefer this method over the other?

    • Mel says:

      Mostly, it’s the one I tried that worked out every time and it’s become my go-to. I haven’t tried all the other methods out there.

  3. Jessica says:

    I tried this recipe last night. I was disappointed that the oatmeal came out very mushy. I like my steal cut oats to still be a little chewy and this did not have that effect. Is the only way to do this to cook it less time? That would not work since I was hoping to put it in before bed. I had it in for 8 hours.

  4. Lana says:

    Thank you!! I never knew you could do this! It is now the way I prepare a fast oatmeal breakfast!

    One thing I do different is toast the oats in a little butter before I add the boiling water. And then with the water I do 3 cups of water and in the morning add 1 cup of milk when I heat it up. The whole family loves it!!!!

  5. mamalala says:

    Been meaning to thank you for this recipe. I make this about once a week for my family and my non-oatmeal loving hubby loves this. I think it is the tender and hearty oats of steel cut ones. Thanks again for an easy recipe!

  6. Melanie says:

    Love this! I made it last night and fed it to the fam this morning before church. Super duper easy. I used Quaker brand, and I found it to be a little runnier than I like, so I’ll scale back the water a little bit next time. Probably just a difference in brand. Interestingly enough, I also noticed the green foam on top. I’m glad this post is fairly anonymous, so that I can admit to quickly stirring it away and hoping that it was just my imagination. Out of sight, out of mind. But hey, we made it to church on time with full bellies. I just happened upon your comment with the link now, and it turns out that our “iron-y” well water is likely the source. Thanks Mel!

  7. Caroline says:

    Ohh I am so excited to try this “recipe”! Steel cut oat preparation is so daunting, and this seems effortless. Putting this on the stove now! 🙂

  8. Emily says:

    I didn’t read all the comments so my apologies if this has been addressed already. But I’m wondering if this method would work for barley? I have a bunch in the pantry and am not sure how to use it all up. I may give it a shot and hope for the best!

  9. Clarissa says:

    It’s fall and time to get back to hot breakfasts. I’m so glad I forgot the proportions of water to steel cut oats for soaking over night. I have always soaked them but never with a one minute boil at the beginning. What a difference!! Really, completely different! I love them this way. I’m so glad I stumbled on your method. Thanks so much for posting.

  10. Hugh Olive says:

    I started eating steel cut oats as a potential cure for GURD. After trying several methods to fix them I finally settled on: soak 1 cup oats overnight in water. In morning microwave for 2 min., stir and microwave another 2 min., stir and microwave 1 min. remove from microwave and allow to cool before enjoying. Berries added during season, Sliced almonds everyday. The GURD hasn’t disappeared but it is much better.

    • Clarissa says:

      Hi Hugh, you may want to try Mel’s over night method. I’m not an expert on GURD but my mother’s generations old recipe for digestive issues is oatmeal cooked in water, a bit soupy consistency (no sugar, no dairy) plus a plain well cooked carrot (no butter) on the side… sounds terrible I know but the combination is apparently thought to be very soothing. I would guess that this old way of soaking oats really allows the (don’t know what it’s officially called) mucilage (y) part of the oats to develop and that makes the soothing coating in the digestive system. It is necessary to do this for a few days and to eat blandly and easily digestible foods the rest of the day or if it’s really bad… just repeat that oat and carrot combination for a few meals until feeling better. So that’s the home remedy. Your doctor shouldn’t be ignored. 🙂

  11. Mandi says:

    I’m absolutely LOVING all of your recipes. I tried this last night and my daughter & I both loved it. I’ll definitely be making it again, but using a bit less water as we both would prefer our oatmeal more “dry”.

  12. jen says:

    I got the strange green gloss on mine, but googled it, found it was ok and stirred it in. Was delighted to have breakfast ready, and we all loved the chew of steel cut for a change. We’d never had steel cut before and found these a little too watery so we cooked in a little cream of wheat to thicken. Next time I’ll just cutback the water a bit. Thanks for a new easy breakfast.

  13. mstarkey60 says:

    I know I’m late to this discussion and don’t have the time to read the entire feed. Can this be done with almond milk or with skim milk and still be ok to sit out overnight?

    • Mel says:

      mstarkey60- The recipe doesn’t call for milk during the cooking process so you will have to experiment if you want to use milk instead of water; although I wouldn’t recommend leaving it out all night if using milk. Good luck!

  14. Yarrow says:

    Great recipe! I love steel-cut oats, and eat them for almost ever breakfast, but they just take so long to cook in the morning. This has cut down on a huge amount of time!

    I was wondering, have you ever tried millet or brown rice with this method? My father has been clamoring for millet for breakfast, but I haven’t been able to drag myself down there and cook it for thirty minutes.

  15. Emily says:

    So steel cut oats are different than quaker old fashioned oatmeal right? I am trying to find something specifically labeled “steel cut oats?” 🙂 Bear with me…

    • Mel says:

      Emily – Yes, steel cut oats are different than rolled oats. They are smaller in size but more crunchy in texture. McCann’s is a popular brand.

  16. Sandy says:

    Just thought I’d Share my way of making Steel Cut Oats for myself.
    I take approximately 1/4 Oats and about 1/2 cup Almond Milk, mix in a mug, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. Then I take the mug with me to work and heat for 2 minutes in the microwave. I add some cinnamon and sugar and enjoy.
    Its easy peasy and taste really good. Its is also good with fresh blueberries.

  17. Karen says:

    Hi Mel, thank you for the awesome recipe! I made it last night and it was delicious, specially before my long run this morning. I was looking for a quick recipe for marathon day, I am staying in a hotel and need to make sure I know and practice what I eat on race day. This is it! Just one food safety advice, you must refrigerate the oatmeal overnite. Once you heat food, as it starts losing it’s heated temperature, bacteria will start growing in less than an hour. Putting it in the fridge allows the oats to still be perfect.

  18. Doris Clark says:

    I can’t wait to try this!. Great blog!

  19. Adrian says:

    I went to the market and picked up all the ingredients. I’m going to make this tonight and eat it in the morning. I can’t wait to try it

  20. Li says:

    However, eating too much of whole grains can cause ‘leaky gut’ danger – linked to Celiac disease (apparently, even soaking then cooking may not help much). Refer to 1 article here, from Dr Mercola – http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/01/21/grains-causing-gut-leaks.aspx#!

    “As we noted earlier, the highest amounts of WGA is found in whole wheat, including its sprouted form, which is touted as being the most healthful form of all … The traditional ways of addressing many of these anti-nutrients is, in fact, by sprouting, fermenting and cooking.

    ** However, lectins are designed to withstand degradation through a wide range of pH and temperatures. WGA lectin is particularly tough because it’s actually formed by the same disulfide bonds that give strength and resilience to vulcanized rubber and human hair. “

  21. Li says:

    *Save electricity & also save time*

    Hi Mel & all,

    If any of you would want to save electricity as well, esp those cooking steelcut oats for 1 person only — you can use a “Thermos” or Thermal flask / bottle. (Or if cooking alot of oats or other food, can use a “Shuttle Cooker”). Food left inside any of these thermal containers can be softened / cooked overnight.

    Btw, for all grains (& beans & legumes), I read online that they need to be soaked before can cook & eat. I SOAK them over 24 hrs first (let it soak by leaving in fridge so as to reduce foaming), before “cooking” it in the thermal flask with hot / boiling water.

  22. mandy says:

    Amaaaazing! Do you have any more of these “no-brainer” recipes laying around? I’m finally starting to work through the bag of steel cut oats I’ve had lounging in my cupboard for months : )

  23. Brittany says:

    I tried the oats again, just cooked them a minute or two longer and it worked like a charm! Such a genius way to cook steel cut oats!

  24. Brittany says:

    Just made this last night and my oatmeal seemed to have a lot of liquid still in it. I know I put the correct amount of water/oats in. Has this ever happened to you?

    • Mel says:

      Brittany – hmmm, this hasn’t happened to me…I wonder, do you think it needed slightly longer cooking time the night before? Were the oats tender in the morning? If so, you might be able to get away with using less water the night before.

  25. Taylor Anne Caraway says:

    Hi Mel! I love your recipes. I tried this one last night and woke up to moldy oats! Any ideas? There was green fuzz over the top. I was so bummed! I have a 2 month old and 2 year old and my husband is deployed, so I’m always looking for easy breakfast recipes. I’d love to make this one work for me. Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Taylor – the good news is that your oats aren’t moldy (the bad news is that they do look nasty and green). Someone else asked the same thing above you in the comment thread and I directed them to this article: http://www.ehow.com/info_8054241_causes-foam-steel-cut-oats.html. I’ve had the same thing happen before and freaked out before I realized it’s a simple chemical reaction of sorts and isn’t harmful at all. It’s only happened once or twice in the 50+ times I’ve made this recipe. Hope that helps!

  26. Monina says:

    I stumbled upon your blog simply looking up steel cut oats which are preferred from a healthier standpoint. Am glad to learn more about steel cut oats and numerous variations of cooking esp with insights on preparing healthier, more delish food in view of rushed mornings. I’ve been bad all these years and would like to change my ways esp for the sake of my children while keeping string budgets in tow. Thanks for sharing excellent ideas… keep the stream flowing of discussing “healthy” please… i need help quite badly as cancer is in our genes. Looking forward to more awesome recipes of healthy food and eating… cheers!

  27. Lindsay says:

    Thank you, thank you for sharing your talents with the rest of us readers!! We tried these today (mixed with 1/3 quinoa), a dab of coconut oil, cinnamon, and a splash of vanilla. Delish!!

  28. Sarah says:

    I have followed your blog for a long time – have made many of your wonderful recipes…but this recipe has generated my first ever response! It changed my life! 🙂 I eat steel cut oatmeal every single morning – and make (made) it in the microwave…no time to stand at the stove. I tried this Tuesday night…absolutely delicious. Thank you for all you do!

  29. Rachel R. says:

    Interesting, I like blaming it on their Irish origin. 🙂 Who would have thought! Thanks so much. I’m looking forward to trying it again!

  30. Rachel R. says:

    Hey Mel, I tried this last night, followed the recipe, traded half the steel cut for quinoa, checked on it this morning (about 10 hours after having brought it to a boil) and there was a thin green film on top?! Any ideas on what I did wrong? Just a fluke maybe? I want to try it again but thought to ask…

  31. Michelle says:

    This is wonderful!! Thanks for sharing this!

  32. Amanda says:

    I really enjoyed this Oatmeal! I will definitely start it up a half an hour earlier next time so it can cool down a little before I serve it. I was so excited to try it, I burnt off half my taste buds on the first bite. Once it cooled down, sooo worth the wait!
    I have only recently discovered your website and Ive recommended it no less than 20 of my favorite peeps already.
    I also wanted to tell you thank you for sharing your talent with the world. It is wonderful to find an awesome recipe in a few clicks! I am making a true effort to do as much cooking as possible for my family rather than taking the easy way out and grab the pre-made junk from the freezer isle. About a year and a half ago, my then 5 year old son was diagnosed with leukemia. And although his doctor told me they’re not sure why some kids get it, I can’t help but wondering constantly. One thing that stuck out to me when researching some of the chemotherapy that they would ultimately use to treat him, was that one particular treatment has two uses: as a chemo and as a food additive! (Apparently it helps keep carcinogens from forming in fried food.) Weird! So rather than try to worry every toxic substance out there, I have to decided instead to focus on doing whatever I can to go organic and cook at home as much as possible. Your website has been a God send! Please keep up the good work!

  33. April says:

    Hi Mel! I’m a long-time reader, but I think this is my first comment. I have tried and love many of your recipes, and your site is my first stop when I’m wondering how to make something in particular. I made this recipe this morning/last night, and I had a lot of liquid left over this morning. I’m wondering whether I should cut down the amount of liquid or try cooking the oats a little longer the night before. And you may not have experimented with using any liquid other than water, but I like Claire’s idea of replacing some of the liquid with milk. What do you think?

    • Mel says:

      Hi April, I get funny about leaving dairy ingredients that long at room temperature so personally, I wouldn’t use milk if I was going to leave it on the stovetop all night, but that’s just me. You could cut down on the liquid a little bit and then add milk in the morning to heat it back up.

  34. Claire says:

    I must like my oat chewier because I use this method but only 3 1/4 cup liquid to 1 heaping cup of steel cut oats, for my liquid I usually use at least 1 cup of almond milk and the rest water, makes the oats nice and creamy:)

  35. Tahnycooks says:

    I eat oatmeal probably 3-4 times a week. It’s something I never get sick of! I never thought of putting my steel cut oats in the crock pot overnight though. I’m gonna try it!

  36. Veronica says:

    Thank you so much for this! It is so timely, as I was just trying to figure out how to speed up steel cut oats and my own attempt didn’t work out so well (I just combined the oats and milk and put it int he fridge…three days later they are still pretty firm even after cooking a few minutes). Definitely going to do it this way next time!

  37. Cathy Barzo says:

    I like to soak the steel cut oats in water in the pot overnight — no hot water or cooking yet. In the morning, the oats will have soaked up most/all the water. I add some more water and then cook for about 3 – 5 minutes in the morning. It can also be cooked in milk for a creamier taste. I like to top mine with either ricotta or mascarpone cheese, fruit, sliced almonds and maple syrup. I often cook in some flax meal for added fibre and Omega 3 goodness.

  38. CariO says:

    Please keep these kind of recipes coming! Simple, make ahead, and delicious cannot be beat!

  39. NicoleH says:

    Wow! I’m so glad you shared this no-brainer! I love steel cut oates, but didn’t know about this way of cooking them either. Thanks for sharing!

  40. Stephanie says:

    Eureka! We love steel cut oats. But they’re hardly a quick breakfast. I can’t WAIT to try this.

    And for the leftovers: have you tried fried oatmeal? You just plop your refrigerated oatmeal onto a plate, cut it into slices and fry them on each side in a bit of butter. Topped with fresh berries or peaches and a dollop of creme fraiche, it’s a revelation.

  41. Lyndsy says:

    I have heard about this method, but wasn’t sure exactly how to do it. Now I know!! Thanks so much!!

  42. Debbie says:

    Can’t wait to try this! We are big fans of steel cut oats, but the cook time is too much for school mornings. We like ours with apples and raisins, so I’ll have to experiment with when to add them in. Thanks!

  43. I love steel cut oats too! And overnight versions are super tasty. Lovely recipe 🙂

  44. Thank you for sharing this! I’ve had steel cut oats in the cupboard for a week now, and I’ve been ignoring them every morning, figuring it’ll be lunchtime before they’re ready! Going to try this, so easy! 🙂

  45. Susan says:

    Hey Mel,

    I love me some good steel cut oats! Try adding 2 mashed bananas to the cooking process, after the oats. Heaven! Also, exchanging 1 cup water for one cup coconut water is awesome too 🙂

  46. Erika says:

    Oh, I wish my hubby liked it… I love it though, but it doesn’t justify turning on the slow cooker to make it just for 1 🙁

    • Barbara says:

      Erika, this doesn’t use a slow cooker. Just the stove. Use any size pot you want . Just put the leftovers in the fridge. You could easily cut the recipe in half, or down even more if you don’t want leftovers .

  47. Jen T says:

    I just made your overnight maple and brown sugar steel cut oats this week and your coconut and almond granola (which I make once a week and is gone in one day). We all love them. I didn’t know you could cook steel cut oats this way. Thanks for sharing!

  48. Jennette says:

    Can I do this with regular oats as well, or will they get too mushy?

    • Mel says:

      Jennette – I’ve never tried it but I don’t think regular oatmeal would work – it’s far too long for them to sit without turning to complete mush.

  49. Just read about cooking steel cut oats overnight. Must be my destiny to make them real soon! 🙂

  50. Megan says:

    In just the last week, as the temperatures start to drop, I have been interested in trying to figure out the oatmeal thing. We’ve been doing the instant packets for years and I hate how much sugar, etc., is in them. I am so glad you shared this recipe. I will get some steel-cut oats and try it out. Thanks!

  51. bluebaker says:

    oh I forgot to mention- we made the homemade pizza crust and sauce- amazingly delish.
    I don’t have a stone, but just one of those perforated pans, which did make a thin, crispy crust that we love.

  52. tina says:

    Funny the timing.. I just last night made a very similar recipe from another site, but this one called for apples. Since we just went apple picking recently, I thought I’d try it. But the quinoa version sounds interesting. I’ll have to give that a try too!.. Have a great day, and an even better weekend!

  53. bluebaker says:

    Hey Mel- guess what also makes a great breakfast- leftover ham/cheese/broccoli quinoa bites. I made them again last nite. They are so good. veggie/grain/protein all in one.
    Thanks for all the great recipes. My bro- in- law gave me some oats that are called
    “pinhead”. is that the same as steel-cut? I know those take a year and a day to cook, so
    they take a little planning. Maybe I’ll try them with the overnite method. Up next for the weekend at our house: the cinnamon roll coffee cake. can’t wait.

  54. Teresa R. says:

    I make this all the time, but it never entered my mind to add quinoa. I can’t wait to try it! The added protein should make the steel cut oats a more nutritious breakfast.

  55. Julie says:

    Ah, thanks so much for sharing this “no-brainer.” We have steel cut oats just about every morning, but it takes SO long — a good part of those precious morning hours. I was JUST thinking this morning about ways we could cut down on the breakfast-making routine. So… lest you withhold ANY more of your cooking tips, remember that one woman’s no-brainer may be another woman’s answer to prayer 🙂

  56. Tami says:

    We love steel cut oats too! You don’t refrigerate the oats? Just leave them on the stovetop?

    • Mel says:

      Tami – no need to refrigerate overnight, they need to sit at room temp to absorb all the hot water. If you have leftovers after eating, those should be refrigerated.

      • Jen says:

        Isn’t there a way to do this with the crockpot? I saw one where you cook it an hour or two then turn it off, leave it covered all night and it’s ready but I cannot find the portions – help!

  57. Sheila says:

    Good morning, Mel! I was eating my steel cut oats with flaxseed, banana, and blueberries as I eagerly logged onto your site to view the latest act of love (recipe) and kindness from Mel. A no-brainer?? Yikes! I spend 30 minutes very late the night before I have steel cut oats in the morning to cook my steel cut oats. 🙁 Your cooking advice affects many lives with goodness. What am I going to do with the extra 28 minutes I have in my day now? Maybe stick those dry pinto beans in the crockpot to create Mels refried beans . . . .:-)

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