Making oatmeal is easy, and it's the perfect meal for fast breakfasts. We'll show you how to make delicious oatmeal, including tips for how to use rolled oats, quick oats, and steel-cut oats. Once you know how to cook oatmeal, try our favorite oatmeal recipes.

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Compared to a towering stack of pancakes or a piled-high biscuit breakfast sandwich, oats have a tough time competing as a breakfast food you crave. But once you learn how to make oatmeal 31 ways—plus how to cook oatmeal with our foolproof oats to liquid ratio—you’ll be bowled over by the flavor and the texture you can score from a fiber-packed bowl. If you want a grab-and-go breakfast option, try our so-easy overnight oats recipes. If you have just a few minutes in the morning to make a hot bowl of oatmeal, turn to the oatmeal cooking instructions utilizing the microwave. Or if you have a few more moments to boil water and cook the whole grains, you can savor some cozy stove-top oats. You can even cook oatmeal in an MVP countertop appliance for a set-and-forget slow cooker breakfast

Below, master how to cook oatmeal, plus score bonus oatmeal directions for toppings and mix-ins so you can dress up your bowl a new way each day of the month. Those hotcakes and fast-food sandwiches officially have some serious competition.

Rolled Oats Steel-Cut Oats
Rolled oats on the left and steel-cut oats on the right.
| Credit: Andy Lyons

Types of Oats for Oatmeal

Making oatmeal starts with choosing the type of oats for your time available and desired consistency.

  • Quick-cooking rolled oats: These speedy oats ($4, Target) are cut into pieces and rolled thinner so they cook in about 1 minute on the stove top. 
  • Rolled oats: Also called old-fashioned oats, rolled oats ($5, Target) are flattened with large rollers into flakes. They take about 5 minutes to be bowl-ready with our oatmeal cooking instructions for the stove top. 
  • Steel-cut oats: Also called Irish oats, Scotch oats, or pinhead oats, steel-cut oats ($4, Target) are cut into several pieces and steamed but not rolled. They offer a chewier texture and take about 25 minutes to cook on the stovetop, or can be cooked in a slow cooker.

How to Make Oatmeal

Now that you’ve selected your oats, learn how to cook oatmeal perfectly every time.

How to Make Oatmeal with Quick-Cooking Oats

This quick oats recipe is ideal for weekday mornings. 

  • Stove top quick-cooking oatmeal directions: For four servings, in a medium saucepan bring 3½ cups water and ¼ teaspoon salt to boiling. Stir in 2 cups quick-cooking oats. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat. If desired, cover and let stand about 30 seconds before serving. This allows the oats to absorb any remaining liquid. For creamier oatmeal, add the oats to the pan along with the water and salt and allow them to come to a boil together.
  • Microwave quick-cooking oatmeal directions: For one serving, in a medium microwave-safe bowl combine 1 cup water, ½ cup quick-cooking oats, and a dash of salt. Microwave on 100% power (high) for 1½ to 2 minutes. Stir before serving.

How to Make Oatmeal with Rolled Oats

If you have a little more time to work with, consider these oatmeal cooking instructions for larger, flat rolled oats.

  • Stove top rolled oatmeal directions: For four servings, in a medium saucepan bring 3¼ cups water and ¼ teaspoon salt to boiling. Stir in 2 cups rolled oats (aka old-fashioned). Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat. If desired, cover and let stand for 2 minutes before serving. This allows the oats to absorb any remaining liquid. For creamier oatmeal, add the oats to the pan along with the water and salt and allow them to come to a boil together.
  • Microwave rolled oatmeal directions: For one serving of rolled oats microwave-style, combine 1 cup water, ½ cup rolled oats, and a dash of salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on 100% power (high) for 2½ to 3 minutes. Stir before serving. (By the way, have you heard about Himalayan pink salt? We adore it in oats.)

How to Make Oatmeal with Steel-Cut Oats

Compared to rolled or quick, steel-cut oats have a lower glycemic index since the less-processed flake format is more challenging for the body to break down. That being said, all oats offer a similar amount of nutrition.

  • Stove top steel-cut oatmeal directions: For six servings (⅔ cup each), in a large saucepan bring 4 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt to boiling. Stir in 1⅓ cups steel-cut oats. Cover and simmer 25 to 30 minutes or until the oats are just tender and the liquid is nearly absorbed. 
  • Make-ahead steel-cut oatmeal directions: Prepare as above. Place cooked oatmeal in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days. Place ⅔ cup chilled cooked oatmeal in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, covered with waxed paper, on 100% power (high) for 50 to 60 seconds or until heated, stirring once.
  • Slow cooker steel-cut oatmeal directions: In a 3½- or 4-quart slow cooker ($40, Bed Bath & Beyond) combine 6 cups water, 2 cups steel-cut oats, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook on a low-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours or on a high-heat setting 3 to 3½ hours.
slow cooker steal-cut oatmeal
Credit: Kritsada Panichgul

Oatmeal Toppers

Perfect for everything from weekday breakfasts to breakfast for dinner, oatmeal tastes incredible whether sweet or savory. After following the oatmeal cooking instructions above, try one of these recipes or topping combos to keep things fresh every day of the month. When listed as ingredients, the oatmeal ratios below are in reference to the amount per serving.

Get the Oatmeal Recipe
  1. ½ teaspoon maple extract + ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  2. ¼ cup applesauce + ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  3. ½ chopped apple + ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  4. 1 slice crumbled cooked bacon + 1 fried egg
  5. Ginger-Sesame Oats with Mushrooms and Charred Green Onions 
  6. 1 tablespoon no-added-sugar preserves + 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
  7. ½ teaspoon vanilla extract + 1 tablespoon apple butter
  8. ¼ avocado, sliced + 2 tablespoons cotija cheese
  9. Swiss Oatmeal
  10. 2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips + ½ cup chopped fresh cherries
  11. 1 poached egg + ½ teaspoon chili powder
  12. ½ banana, sliced + 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  13. ¼ teaspoon almond extract + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  14. 1 tablespoon maple syrup + ¼ cup canned pumpkin
  15. 1 tablespoon brown sugar + 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
  16. Oatmeal with Goat Cheese, Dates, Walnuts, and Honey  
  17. ½ cup blueberries + 2 tablespoons chopped almonds
  18. ½ teaspoon orange zest + ½ cup dried cranberries 
  19. ½ tablespoon everything bagel seasoning + 1 ounce of cream cheese, cubed
  20. ½ cup frozen mixed berries + 1 tablespoon nut butter
  21. Baked Oatmeal
  22. 1 ounce Parmesan cheese + ¼ cup chopped sweet pepper
  23. ½ cup diced pineapple + 1 tablespoon toasted coconut flakes 
  24. 1 jammy egg + ½ teaspoon white miso
  25. 1 tablespoon honey  + 2 sliced fresh figs
  26. ½ sliced peach + ¼ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  27. ½ cup raspberries + 2 tablespoons white chocolate chips
  28. ½ banana, sliced + 1 tablespoon brown sugar 
  29. ½ cup strawberries, sliced + ¼ cup granola
  30. ¼ teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  31. ½ tablespoon chia seeds + ¼ cup crushed pineapple

Now that you know how to make oatmeal and have 31 different ideas for how to make it your own, you’ll be adding oatmeal to almost every grocery list.

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