How to Cook Steel-Cut Oats On the Stove for a Healthy Whole-Grain Breakfast

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Cooking steel-cut oats on the stove top that are creamy, warming, and delicious is simple enough, but how long you cook the oats depends on what kind they are.

How do you cook steel-cut oats? First, boil water in a saucepan over high heat. Then reduce the heat to low, stir in the oats and a pinch of salt to taste. Return the pot to a boil again and simmer for 30 minutes.

Steel cut oats are an excellent breakfast choice for a number of reasons. They’re hearty, filling, and satisfying. On chilly mornings, they’re deeply warming, with a creamy, spoonable consistency. Plus, these oats are truly versatile. You can transform a plain bowl of stovetop-cooked steel-cut oats into a sweet and decadent or savory and spiced morning meal with minimal ingredients. Once you know how to perfectly make steel cut oats at home, this healthy grain will become a pantry staple.

Steel-cut oats vs. other kinds of oats

Even though they share a similar name, not all of the varieties of oats at the grocery store are created equally. In most well-stocked grocery stores, you will usually find three different types of oats: steel-cut, rolled, and instant. Here’s what differentiates these varieties of oats and what you need to know to make them at home:

  • Steel Cut Oats. These are the least processed variety of oats you’ll find. To make steel-cut oats, harvested groats are simply chopped into small pieces. You’ll see that the pieces are of various sizes and shapes, that’s a normal outcome of the manufacturing process. For this reason, steel-cut oats still have their nutrient-rich bran and germ intact. Therefore, they have a chewier, thicker texture and a stronger oat flavor than other varieties of oats. Because of their thicker shape and size, steel-cut oats take the longest to prepare. Count on cooking the grains for up to 30 minutes for some varieties of steel-cut oats.
  • Rolled Oats are slightly more processed than steel-cut oast. To make rolled oats, harvested groats undergo a steaming and pressing process. This gives the grains their large, flat shape.  This processing makes rolled oats faster cooking than steel-cut, but they also sacrifice some nutritional value and flavor. Rolled oats are also sometimes called old-fashioned oats and can take up to 10 minutes to cook. However, they often cook in closer to 5 minutes.
  • Instant Oats have undergone the most processing to gain their quick-cooking nature. Instant oats, also called quick oats, have been steamed and rolled into even thinner, flatter flakes than rolled oats. This process partially cooks the oats. So by the time you get them home, you can make a hot bowl of instant oats in well under 5 minutes. However, your breakfast will be less flavorful, with a mushier texture, compared to rolled or steel-cut oats.

If you’re looking for the most nutritionally-dense, best-tasting bowl of oats, choose steel-cut. If time is a concern, however, rolled or instant work in a pinch!

How Much is One Serving?

A single serving of steel-cut oats is 1/4 cup of dry grains. Cooking the oats will increase their volume to about 1 cup, which makes a filling and satisfying breakfast, especially when paired with your favorite toppings.

How to Prepare Steel-Cut Oats on the Stove

Making steel-cut oats requires few ingredients and equipment. Most kitchens are already well equipped to prepare a piping hot and satisfying bowl of stovetop steel cut oats any day of the week.

Ingredients to Make Oatmeal

Here’s the short and sweet list of ingredients you need to prepare a tasty breakfast of steel-cut oats.

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 4 cups water
  • Pinch of salt

This ingredient list makes 4 1-cup servings of steel-cut oats. You can scale the recipe up or down by following the same ratio of 1 cup oats to 4 cups water.

Prepping steel cut oats

There’s no prep time when it comes to cooking steel-cut oats. Unlike other grains, such as farro and rice, there’s no need to rinse or soak your oats.

Step 1: Boil water in a saucepan

Pour 4 cups of water per 1 cup of oats into a medium-sized saucepan. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat. As soon as it reaches a boil, turn off the heat.

Step 2: Add the oats

Stir the oats into the boiling water. Do this slowly in a steady stream. Avoid splashing–remember you’re dealing with boiling water!

Step 3: Season the oats

Add a pinch of salt to the pot and stir to combine. Rather than making salty oats, this just serves to improve the oaty flavor of your breakfast. If you add sweet toppings later, a pinch of salt also helps bring out the sweetness. If you don’t know how salt to add, go for 1/8 of a teaspoon per cup of oats.

Step 4: Bring it all to a boil and simmer

Increase the heat to high until you bring the water back to a boil.  Once you’re there, turn down the heat to a simmer and let the oats cook for 30 minutes. Stir the oats every 10 minutes or so to prevent burning.

Step 5: Serve

Once the oats are at your desired point, it’s time to eat! The longer you cook them the thicker they’ll get.

Do steel-cut oats need to be soaked?

There’s no need to soak oats before cooking them. However, if you’re planning ahead and want to save some time in the morning, soaking is a good way to speed up the cooking time on your oats. Some people also prefer the flavor and softer texture that comes from soaking the oats, so it’s worth trying to see what you prefer.

To soak the oats before cooking, cover the oats with water or milk. Cover with an airtight lid. If you’re soaking for longer than 30 minutes, store the oats in the refrigerator. You can soak them for up to 12 hours. Any longer, and you might end up with overly mushy oats. Discard the soaking liquid before cooking.

What goes well with steel-cut oats?

You can mix steel-cut oats with plenty of flavors, toppings, and ingredients. For a light and healthy breakfast with a sweet spin, add fresh chopped fruits, berries, and a drizzle of honey or chopped nuts. Or, take things in a savory direction with curry powder, hot sauce, or any of your favorite savory seasonings.

Can I Make Steel-Cut Oats with Milk?

If you want to kick things up a notch, cook your oats with milk instead of water. The result will be creamier and sweeter, thanks to the natural sweetness of milk. Dairy-milk works, but so do dairy-free options like almond milk, oat milk (not to be too meta), soy milk, and coconut milk.

Storing Cooked Oatmeal

If you’re planning ahead, you can make steel-cut oats in a big batch and have a healthy breakfast available every morning. Store cooked and cooled oats in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.

Storing Dry Oats

Store opened uncooked oats in an airtight container or bag in a cool, dark place. If you live in a very humid environment, you may want to store them in a crisper to keep the oats fresh.

Nutrition in Steel-Cut Oats

One 1-cup serving (1/4 cup dry) of cooked steel-cut oats contains 150 calories, 5 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fat, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, and 1 gram of sugar.

Are Oats Gluten-Free?

Oats are naturally gluten-free. That being said, many brands of oats are processed facilities that also process gluten-containing grains like wheat. If you’re avoiding gluten, always look for certified gluten-free oats to ensure you’re not at risk.

a blue bowl filled with oatmeal and fresh fruit

How to Make Steel-Cut Oats

Perfectly creamy steel-cut oats on the stovetop
Prep Time 0 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American


  • Saucepan
  • Wooden spoon


  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • Pinch salt


  • Bring 4 cus of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. When the water boils, remove it from the heat.
  • Stir in the oats and salt and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to prevent burning.
Keyword Steel-cut oats

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