Have you seen the prices that restaurants are charging for bowls of steel-cut oats these days? Six dollars! Eight dollars! Twelve dollars in New York! My goodness. Apparently steel-cut oats are the new overpriced grandpa cardigans of the food scene.
Today, I thought I’d share some tricks for making the creamiest, dreamiest steel-cut oats at home. Your bowl will taste like a million bucks. Or, at least ten dollars. I’m concerned that my photos don’t do this oatmeal justice (it’s not easy to make porridge look sexy), but trust me here. We’ll talk toppings later so you can make yours however you’d like.
If you are new to steel-cut oats, I should explain that they are a less refined version of the old-fashioned and quick-cooking oats you already know. All oats start out the same, as an oat groat. Steel-cut oats are oat groats that have been sliced into smaller pieces, whereas old-fashioned oats are oat groats that have been flattened. They all contain the same pieces and parts, but the difference between slicing and flattening explains why steel-cut oats take longer to cook (around 30 minutes).
Nutritionally speaking, they are pretty much the exact same and share all of the health benefits of oats, so don’t split hairs there. Oats lower bad cholesterol, help stabilize blood sugar levels and on and on.
Steel-cut oats shine in the texture and flavor departments. They are exceptionally creamy and delicious, especially if you toast them beforehand as instructed in the recipe below. Steel-cut oats are also a fun way to change up your morning oatmeal routine. Unlike old-fashioned or instant oats, they reheat beautifully, so you can make one big batch that lasts all week.
Below, you’ll find my go-to steel-cut oat cooking method, which I learned from the geniuses at America’s Test Kitchen. The only hard part is deciding what to mix in and how to top your oatmeal.
If you want to change up your oatmeal each morning, make a basic batch and add whatever toppings sound good the morning of. Or, take a cue from my cranberry-orange steel-cut oats or morning glory oatmeal and pick a theme for the whole batch.
Here are some of my favorite toppings for steel-cut oats:
- Peanut butter, almond butter or pecan butter
- Homemade chia jam or your favorite jelly/jam
- Applesauce, preferably the chunky homemade variety, or grated fresh apple
- Coconut whipped cream or regular whipped cream
- Yogurt or a splash of cream
- Sliced bananas, apples, strawberries, pears, mangos…
- Fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or pomegranate arils
- Dried fruit, like dried cranberries, cherries, blueberries, raisins, chopped dates or apricots…
- Toasted chopped nuts like walnuts, pecans, almonds…
- Toasted pepitas or sunflower seeds
- Flaxseed or chia seeds
- Toasted or raw shredded coconut
- Dark chocolate, either chopped or mini chocolate chips
If you find yourself on a steel-cut oats kick, you might want to check out the overnight oats cooking method or this individual serving freezer option. I haven’t tried either, but I’m intrigued. Here are more oat recipes; if you want to change things up, don’t miss the make-your-own instant oatmeal mix recipe in my cookbook!
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup milk of choice: almond milk, cow’s milk, coconut milk, etc.
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or unsalted butter
- 1 cup steel-cut oats (choose certified gluten-free oats if necessary)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Optional mix-ins: ground spices like cinnamon, dried fruit like cranberries or chopped dates, toasted chopped nuts like walnuts, lemon or orange zest, etc.
- In a large saucepan, combine the water and milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. In the meantime, melt the coconut oil (or butter) in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Once shimmering, add the oats and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, around 2 minutes. This toasting step greatly enhances the flavor of the oats.
- Stir the oats into the simmering water/milk mixture. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very thick.
- Stir in the salt. Continue to simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally and reducing heat as necessary to prevent scorching on the bottom, until almost all of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. (If you have doubled the recipe, your oatmeal might need an extra 5 minutes cooking time here.) The oatmeal will be very creamy when it's done.
- Remove from heat and stir in any mix-ins that you'd like. Let the oatmeal rest for 5 minutes before serving so it has more time to thicken up and cool down a palatable temperature.
- Portion oatmeal into bowls and add any toppings you'd like to portions that you intend to serve immediately. Let any extra oatmeal cool completely before covering and refrigerating for future breakfasts.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Use coconut oil or vegan butter instead of regular butter, and choose a dairy-free milk (or substitute water for the milk).
Make it gluten free: Use certified gluten-free oats and make sure your mix-ins/toppings are gluten free, too.
Make it nut free: Easy. Use nut-free milk and don't add nuts.
Update 10/18/2016: Finally got around to taking better photos of this recipe, so it might look a little different, but the recipe is the same!