Ultimate Oatmeal Guide

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Breakfast maybe the most important meal of the day but it’s also the most chaotic. Please tell me I’m not the only one who struggles to eat healthy in the midst of a busy morning.

We have some quick and easy breakfast items like frozen waffles and cereal but we don’t feel as satisfied after eating them. Maybe because they are processed foods and not whole foods. I want a hot, filling breakfast.

My go to breakfast is Oatmeal.

Everything you need to know about oatmeal

You may be thinking, “oatmeal takes too long” or “it’s too complicated.” I want to share my tricks for easy, delicious oatmeal that everyone in your house will love.

OATS: The Basics

There are a lot of different types of oats you can buy. You can find them in pretty much any store that sells groceries. If you have a gluten sensitivity you need to buy certified gluten-free oats. They are more expensive but it is necessary. If gluten isn’t an issue you will be able to buy any oats you like.

I typically stick to three types of oats — Quick Oats, Rolled Oats and Steel Cut Oats.

Quick Oats

Quick oats cook quickly and easily. They are oats they have been rolled, cut into small pieces and steamed to precook them.

If you eat quick oats you may feel hungry sooner than when you enjoy the less processed oats mentioned below.

Avoid the instant oatmeal packages. These often come in flavors like apple cinnamon or maple and brown sugar. Unless you buy some special healthy version they are likely full of junk. Oatmeal is easy to make, you don’t need these packages.

Rolled Oats

Rolled oats are rolled flat and slightly precooked by steaming, the result is a fairly quick cooking oatmeal. Rolled oats are often used in granola and baking as well.

Steel Cut Oats

Steel cut oats are oat groats that have been cut into pieces. I think they look like little rocks, they do not look like the instant or rolled oats. These take a longer time to cook.

Cooking Oatmeal

When I was a kid I only knew of microwave instant oatmeal. Yes, we bought the little packages — I loved them. Looking back they were healthier than the Count Chocula I normally ate.

Even as an adult I bought the packages for a while until I realized how expensive they were. Buying the large container (you know the one that makes a good drum) was much less expensive. Even my kids, the older kids that are now adults, could make their own oatmeal in the microwave.

Before the microwaves critics speak up let me say that I think eating healthy food that has been microwaved is better than eating unhealthy food. For some people and schedules, a microwave makes the difference between a healthy breakfast and a fast food drive-thru breakfast. If you don’t approve of microwaves that is ok, you don’t have to use one.


Quick oats and rolled oats can be cooked easily in the microwave. Oatmeal rises when it is cooking so I recommend using a much larger bowl than needed and keeping an eye on it. If you don’t, you will need extra time to wash out your microwave.

Use 1 cup of quick or rolled oats and 1 3/4 cup of water and microwave on high for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes for quick oats or 2 to 3 minutes for rolled oats. Remove them from microwave carefully and stir. If they don’t seem done you can microwave them for a little longer, in 30 second intervals until done.

Stove Top

On mornings when I have more time I cook oats on the stove. Use the same measurements as above but bring water to boil, then add oats and a dash of salt if desired. After you pour the oats in reduce heat to a simmer. Quick oats will need to cook for about 1-5 minutes, rolled oats for about 5-10 minutes.

Keep your eye on the oats as they are cooking and stir regularly.

Steel Cut Oats can also be cooked on the stove. These require a much longer cooking time of about 20-30 minutes.

Crock Pot

Some people cook steel cut oats in the Crock Pot as well. This requires a bit more water because of the longer cooking time.

Instant Pot

I prefer cooking my Steel Cut Oats in my Instant Pot. Though it does take a while for the Instant Pot to come to pressure and to release pressure the cook time is only 3 minutes (on manual) for a total time of about 30 minutes. Even though that isn’t quick, once you start it you can walk away and not worry about stirring or burning anything.

oatmeal guide

Un-Recipes for Oatmeal

I often share oatmeal in my meal plans but I don’t always link to a recipe. The reason is that I don’t follow actual recipes for my oatmeal. I just stick to my favorite add-ins!

For me, I like to incorporate 3 different type of things into my oatmeal: Something Sweet, Fruit and Nuts/Seeds.

Something Sweet

By far my favorite sweetener is maple syrup. I think it is from my childhood packets of maple and brown sugar flavored instant oatmeal. Other sweeteners include stevia, dates, agave, raw sugar or whatever you prefer. Sometimes I’ll skip adding something sweet and just stick to the fruit.


Go wild here, or be like me and choose seasonal favorites. Apples, raisins, berries (we often use frozen berries for a budget-friendly option), bananas, coconut, or whatever you have on hand. In the summer I lean more toward fresh berries and in the winter I use apples and raisins.


If you hare allergic to nuts do not use nuts. If you can have nuts I recommend walnuts, slivered almonds or pecans. Seeds are a fun option that I choose most of the time. Chia seeds, hemp seeds, ground flax seeds and pumpkin seeds are all really good.

Where to Buy

I buy most of my oats online. We go through a lot so I order them using my Amazon Prime account so I can get two day free shipping. Trust me, it is easier than taking the kids to the store. Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial to see if it works for you.

I encourage you to try different kinds of oats and different cooking methods. I’ll list some of the oats we use for reference but buy what works for you. Once you find a brand that you love you can sign up for “subscribe and save” on Amazon to get it delivered to you on a schedule, like one a month, or every six weeks.

Buying Oats

GF Harvest Rolled Oats Organic, GMO-Free, facility is wheat, soy and peanut-free. I met the family behind GF Harvest at an expo and believe them to have the utmost integrity and transparency about their process.


Jules Shepard was kind enough to inform me that Bob’s Red Mill Oats are not certified gluten-free. I was not aware of this and thought they were. Although the label says gluten-free and they are not certified. I encourage you to read more from Bob’s Red Mill and from Gluten-Free Watch Dog

If you do not have Celiac disease or a gluten-intolerance the Bob’s Red Mill oats will be okay for you. See Jules comment below for more information. You can also purchase GF products from her site.

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Quick Oats

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Steel Cut Oats

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Rolled Oats

Bob’s Red Mill Oats

Quaker Oats (I’ve never purchased these from Amazon but they are budget-friendly so I included them)

Bulk bins and store-brand in your local grocery store will typically have a great price.

Your Turn

How do you cook and eat oatmeal? Got a favorite recipe or fruit combo?

My favorite oatmeal of all time is a little more extravagant that I made regularly. It has cardamom, toasted coconut and chai. See the full recipe at Gluten-Free and More.

Need a quick, easy and healthy breakfast? Overnight Oats is vegan (plant-based) option will simplify your mornings. Use GF oats for a gluten-free version.

Don’t forget Overnight Oats! It’s perfect for those of us who don’t want to cook at all!

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  1. Thanks for putting all the tips together, Holly! Our family love oatmeal for breakfast. It is easy to make and so versatile.

  2. I always had oatmeal up to 18 years ( or so) old, I think. We cooked the stuff in milk, though.

    • Yes, you can cook it in milk. I love the way it tastes when cooked with plant-milk but it’s less budget-friendly that way. The creaminess makes up for it though.

  3. During the winter only (in the Seattle area at least) Costco sells large bags of Bob’s Red Mill “quick cooking steel cut oats” that take 5-7 mins but still have a nice steel cut oat texture. They are my go-to oats. I keep a few bags in my extra freezer because they’re only $7-8 (I love amazon, but I bought the same bag from them in the summer once and it was $20+) Oatmeal is awesome! 🙂

    • Danelle, That is a screaming deal! I wish they had it here. Our Costco has the Quaker Oats (Instant) but I don’t like Instant Oats as much as the others.
      Smart moving storing them to use all year. 🙂

  4. This is awesome. Can’t wait to follow you and get more great recipe ideas.

  5. I love to add a very ripe banana during cooking. It adds sweetness and creaminess and practically dissolves in the oatmeal. I also love to add a handful of dried cranberries or blueberries to my liquid as it boils. They add sweetness to the oatmeal and plump up beautifully.

    • YUM! Rebecca! You and I think alike. For a long time I didn’t like warm banana in my oatmeal but now I love it. Reminds me of banana pudding!
      Most of the time I’ll wait until the oatmeal is done before I add anything else in since we don’t always want the same things. We all really love dried cranberries in oatmeal though.

  6. I love this guide to oatmeal – so handy and a great resource!

    However, you need to know that Bob’s Red Mill oats are NOT certified Gluten Free, nor are they purity protocol oats. In fact, NO Bob’s Red Mill products are certified gluten free. Their labeling is confusing, so it’s understandable why folks think their products are certified but they are not.

    For the full listing of manufacturers selling CERTIFIED gluten-free and purity protocol oats, go to the Gluten Free Watchdog updated list: https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/news/oats-produced-under-a-gluten-free-purity-protocol-listing-of-suppliers-and-manufacturers/

    For more on why this distinction is very important for those who eat gluten free for medical reasons: https://gfjules.com/shopping-for-safe-gluten-free-products/

    I hope that this information helps keep folks safe!

    • Thank you Jules for sharing this information with me and my readers. You are right, the labeling is very confusing. I’m very appreciative of you helping me understand this better so I can share this with my readers.

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