We love steel cut oats! Here’s our deep-dive into making the best steel cut oats at home including how to cook them on the stovetop, in the slow cooker, and in a pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot).
How are Steel Cut Oats Different to Rolled Oats?
Steel-cut oats are whole oat groats cut into small bits (instead of rolled into flat discs like with rolled oats). They take slightly longer to cook than other oat varieties but are delicious.
When cooked, steel-cut oats have a creamy, chewy texture. In our house, steel-cut oats are referred to fancy oatmeal. We love them!
Old fashioned or rolled oats are what we use in our Everyday Oatmeal Recipe. They look like flat, roundish discs. Whole grains of oats are steamed and then pressed until flattened to make them.
How to Cook Steel Cut Oats
We cook steel cut oats on the stovetop, although you can make them in a slow cooker and pressure cooker (Instant Pot). The method is is simple and hands-off.
We do not recommend cooking steel cut oats in the microwave. If you need a quick oatmeal recipe, see our rolled oats oatmeal recipe that has tips for making it in the microwave.
When cooking them on the stove, we follow this simple method:
- Toast the oats in a tablespoon of butter or vegan butter for about 2 minutes to add flavor.
- Add water and cook uncovered, at a low simmer, for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Stir well, and then add 1/2 to 1 cup of milk to make the oats extra creamy.
- Stir in spices, more butter, and a little sweetener.
Cooking Ratio for Stovetop Steel Cut Oats
When cooking steel cut oats on the stovetop, the ratio to remember is one part oatmeal to three parts liquid. Keep in mind that this ratio is for stovetop oats. The ratio varies slightly when a slow cooker or pressure cooker are used (tips for these devices are below). Here are two portion sizes to help you out:
- Two servings = 1/2 cup steel cut oats + 1 ½ cups water
- Four servings = 1 cup steel cut oats + 3 cups water
Once the oatmeal is cooked, we love adding an extra splash of liquid so that they are extra creamy. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of milk (dairy or non-dairy), and then allow the oats to sit and absorb it for a few minutes before serving.
Tip: If you ever find that your oatmeal is too dry, add an extra splash of water or milk, and it will loosen up for you. We’ve also noticed that as steel cut oats sit, they continue to absorb liquid. So if your oats have been sitting for a while or you’ve stored them in the fridge overnight, add a splash of water or milk when reheating them.
How to Cook Steel Cut Oats in a Slow Cooker
Slow cooker steel cut oats are much creamier than when they are cooked using other methods (think creamy, delicious oatmeal pudding). To cook steel cut oats in the slow cooker, combine 1 cup steel cut oats with 4 cups water. Add whatever seasonings you love (I add 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt). Cover the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 7 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours. Stir the oats before serving. For extra creamy oatmeal, stir in 1/2 to 1 cup of milk.
How to Cook Steel Cut Oats in a Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot)
To cook steel cut oats in a pressure cooker like an Instant Pot, combine 1 cup steel cut oats with 3 cups water, a pinch of salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon butter (or vegan butter). Give the oats a stir, secure the lid, and then cook on the manual or pressure cooker setting for 3 minutes at high pressure.
When the cooking time is complete, allow the cooker to naturally release all of its pressure. Stir well before serving. For creamier oats, add 1/2 to 1 cup milk.
FAQ: Do I need to soak steel cut oats before cooking them?
You do not need to soak steel cut oats before cooking them. However, if you soak steel cut oats in water (usually 8 hours or overnight), they will soften slightly. Since the oats are softer, they cook quicker the next morning.
Soaking also may help unlock some of the nutrients in the oats, making them more available to us to absorb. If you do plan on soaking steel cut oats, the stovetop cook time will reduce by about half.
You can stir just about anything you love into cooked oatmeal, but here’s a bit of extra oatmeal inspiration for you:
- Mashed fruit — I love mashed banana stirred into my oatmeal
- Toasted nuts and seeds like walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, or roasted pumpkin seeds
- Nut butter like peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter
- Chia seeds, hemp seeds, or ground flax
- Splash of cream, milk, buttermilk, yogurt, or non-dairy milk
- Vanilla extract
- Brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup
- Dried fruit (like cranberries, mulberries, or raisins)
- Fresh fruit like berries, bananas, or apples
- Baking spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice
- Sautéed spinach or kale and a poached egg or soft boiled egg
Easy Steel Cut Oats
Steel cut oats are whole oat groats cut into small bits (instead of rolled into flat discs like with rolled oats). They take slightly longer to cook than other oat varieties but are delicious. When cooked, steel cut oats have a creamy, chewy texture. We love them topped with fruit and nut butter, but take a look at our article above for topping suggestions.
For a quicker cooking time, consider soaking the oats in water the night before you plan to make them. Soaking them will reduce the cooking time by about half.
You Will Need
2 tablespoons butter or vegan butter
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups water
1/2 to 1 cup milk, dairy or non-dairy
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sweetener like brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup
Optional oatmeal toppings like nut butter, fruit, nuts, and seeds
- Toast the oats in butter
1Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the bottom of a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the oats and stir them around in the butter for a minute or two, or until they begin to smell nutty. Continue to next step.
- Cook Oats
1Combine the oats with the water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat so that the water is just barely simmering. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice to lift any oats stuck to the bottom of the pan.
2Stir in the milk, butter, cinnamon, and honey. Cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until the oats are soft with a slight chew. If the oatmeal seems dry, add a splash more water or milk.
3Serve with your favorite oatmeal toppings.
- Storing and Make Ahead
1Store cooked steel cut oats in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and freeze for up to 3 months. Steel cut oats thicken as they sit, so you might find that you need to add a splash of water or milk when reheating them to achieve the perfect consistency again.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- Tips for cooking steel cut oats in a slow cooker and pressure cooker are in the article above.
- For gluten-free oatmeal, make sure that the oats and any toppings that you plan to use are certified gluten-free.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values. We did not include any toppings in the calculations. We assumed whole milk in the calculations.