Overnight Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal

You know what the easiest part of my day is? Mornings. Especially school mornings. Things always go super smooth because my kids always go to bed on time the night before and fall asleep promptly, not keeping each other up or coming out to ask for drinks and Band-Aids (for, you know, all those bedtime injuries) and bathroom trips. I have a dog that lets herself out of the house to take care of business and she definitely does not go bark incessantly at her nemeses, the ugly terrier and the stump-tailed beagle next door. And my baby? He’s always super considerate about feedings and diaper changes and he’s great about waiting until everyone is squared away and awake and happy and dressed and fed so I can take care of his needs.

Yeah, that’s not my life. If it’s your life, I think you and I would lack a fundamental understanding of each other. I need all the help I can get in the mornings.

I found this recipe a few months ago  on The Yummy Life  and it has quickly become my favorite go-to breakfast for busy (and not-so-busy mornings). I have all sorts of variations in the works, so keep your eyes out for other fun overnight oatmeals over the next few months.

You’ll need steel cut oats, milk (I used whole; I’ve been reading some interesting research on implementing whole milk in a healthy diet), water, brown sugar, cinnamon, 2 baking apples (Fujis are sweet, Granny Smiths are tart), and salted butter. You can also add some ground flax seeds for extra nutrition.

Okay, here’s the thing with slow-cooker oatmeal–the first time you make this, I really, really, reeeeeally recommend making this for dinner on a day when you’re going to be around to keep an eye on things. Because every slow cooker cooks a little differently, there’s a possibility it won’t be done after seven hours or, more likely, there’s a possibility it could overcook. And then you’ll be sad and breakfastless. So it is really not the worst idea in the world to figure out how this recipe works in your slow cooker when you can control the situation instead of while you’re sleeping.


Steel-cut oats.

They’re the whole oats, just cut up. This means they’re much heartier, healthier, and more filling than rolled oats. It also means that cooking rolled oats like this will likely end in mushy goopiness.

So spray the slow cooker (well, the removable crock part, not the whole slow cooker–I know 99.9% of you are smart enough to realize that, but that darn .1% ruins it for everyone) with non-stick cooking spray and place the oats, brown sugar, ground flax, and cinnamon in a 3 1/2 quart slow cooker. You can go larger–a slow cooker up to 6 1/2 quart is fine–but don’t use the biggest, baddest slow cookers out there.

Chop up two apples (I love Fuji apples, but Granny Smiths would also work).

and add them along with the milk, water, and butter to the oatmeal mixture.

Cover and cook on low for 7 hours (keeping in mind that all slow cookers cook differently). Before serving, stir (or don’t…but I like to stir mine because I’m crazy like that) and serve.

Keep in mind that this is oatmeal and it’s probably not going to be seasoned EXACTLY how everyone at your breakfast table will want it straight out of the pot. It might not be sweet enough or cinamonny enough or creamy enough, so serve with additional milk, brown sugar, chopped walnuts or pecans (if you want ’em), and a sprinkling of cinnamon or apple pie spice. I also sprinkle mine with a little salt rather than cooking it with the salt–I’ve found I use less and notice it more (in a good way) when it’s sprinkled on top of the oatmeal.

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Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. My favorite overnight-oatmeal-in-a-crockpot tip: use a lamp timer to turn the crockpot on exactly when you need it to avoid over cooking.

  2. I am currently avoiding dairy. Would it work with fake milk of some sort? I usually use soy milk but I could get another type if that would work better.

  3. How fun to read how much you’ve liked this oatmeal! I love your suggestion of cooking the first batch during the day when you’re at home so you can keep an eye on it. I’ve had so many readers learn the hard way that their slow cookers cook a lot hotter than mine. 7 hours is perfect in mine, but way too long in others. Great advice! I’ll pass it on. Thanks for linking to me, too. 🙂

  4. Mmmm sounds so home-y and satisfying! Would be perfect for the Fall weather (that will hopefully be moving southward soon)!

  5. This was funny to see today. I just made the coconut milk and banana slow cooker oatmeal from this website last week and loved it. I was going to do this one tonight anyway. Love you guys! I am looking forward to seeing you at TOFW in Phoenix!!

  6. I have to say that my favorite part about this whole post was the sarcastic anecdote about bedtime. We’re having the same types of troubles so it was good to know our kiddos aren’t the only ones who fight sleeping and then pay for it in the morning.

  7. I have tried crockpot oatmeal a few times and it always comes out super mushy and pasty. Any suggestions?

    1. I’d try cutting back on the water by about 1/4 cup. The same thing happens to me when I make rice in Louisiana and cutting back on the water really helps.

  8. I make over-night steel cut oats all the time. It is so good. Since it is just hubby and I, I bought a cute little
    1 1/2 qt, variable heat level slow cooker just to make this for us. The size is perfect and, as mentioned, you don’t want to use the largest crockpot you can find. We like fresh berries or peaches stirred in to the oatmeal shortly brfore we eat it.

  9. Just what I’ve been looking for! My mornings, of course, go very smoothly, with no threats of missing the bus or losing dessert in lunches. This will simply add to the tranquility of my household. Can’t wait to try it!

  10. I recently discovered doing this and found that in a crockpot it got crusty on the outside. But I discovered that you can use your crockpot as a waterbath. But a smaller bowl (even one serving size if needed) in your crockpot and fill the crockpot with water (up to the level of the water level of your smaller bowl.) It works beautifully.

    I also found that I can do this same thing with cracked wheat cereal or cracked 9 grain cereal that I have in my food storage. Just do 1 cup cereal to 2 cups water and keep the rest the same (my recipe calls for 1/2 cup milk, 1 tsp vanilly and 2 TB brown sugar) just dump everything into your inner bowl turn in to low and it is wonderful.

    I love waking up to breakfast already made.

    1. Awesome! I was just wondering if I could make this in pint jars to eat on the go. Thanks!

    1. I’ve had really great luck reheating it on the stovetop with a little extra milk and water. Never tried it in the microwave, but I’m sure it would work.

  11. No offense, but this seems complicated, especially the watching it and adjusting the timing. I have a simpler way…boil water equal to half the amount of liquid for as much steel cut oatmeal as you are making (if you need 4 c liquid, boil 2 c water)…I use the microwave…then dump the steel cut oats into the boiling water, cover, and let sit on the counter overnight. In the AM, dump into the pot, add the other half of the liquid (2 c lowfat milk), salt, cinnamon, chopped fruit, and cook at a slow bubble for 10-15 min. It tends to be creamy and the fruit retains its character/flavor better than when overcooked in the microwave. Just saying…

  12. Hooray for whole milk! It’s all we use in our home. I never use low-fat dairy products, as kids (and even adults) need unprocessed food full of the nutrients naturally found in them. Cholesterol and saturated fat are important for growing healthy brains and bodies. 🙂 Lots of great info on this at http://www.westonaprice.org.

  13. I will definitely try this. My sister (with school age kids) gave me a hot tip similar to this one. If you don’t have steel cut oats just soak regular oats in water overnight and then microwave with added stuff in am. It’s kinda like instant oats but works if you know you are gonna be busy. This looks way yummier though.

  14. I wonder if I could cut this in half and put in a small 2 QT crockpot? There’s only 2 of us and wondered if anyone has tried making a smaller batch..

    1. I did that last night. It cooked slightly too long and was a little mushy, but my small cooker doesn’t have a high/low setting so it could be my fault. Perhaps reduce the cooking time? The flavor was still delicious, and I love the idea of using the whole oat.

  15. Thank you Kate, this sounds absolutely delicious! My family and I love the baked oatmeal recipe that you posted, so I cannot wait for us to try this one.

  16. I saw that recipe on the Yummy Life, too. I seriously love crock pot breakfasts, because it gives me an extra 30 minutes to sleep in!

  17. This looks great! As it’s the beginning of the school year I’m all fired up about feeding my kids different, healthy things for breakfast…not just cold cereal. Hopefully that will be something that will last longer than just the first few weeks. 🙂

  18. I have a rice cooker that I can set a timer on so I throw it in before bed and it’s all ready in the morning (in fact, I’m eating it right now!). I usually throw in honey and almond milk, but apple cinnamon is yumm-y!

  19. I love the recipes on Yummy Life – yum! I tried this in the crockpot (also for dinner) and it turned out really good but the next time I made it I just did it on the stove and it was just as yummy =) I add a little truvia to make it slightly sweeter. The banana walnut is yummy too =)

  20. But Kate, if this only cooks for 7 hours, how are we supposed to sleep for the usual 8 hours?

    BAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA! Just kiddin’! I haven’t slept 8 hours since Jesus was a boy!

    1. L.O.L. This comment made my day! I’m sure I’ll remember it every time I make this recipe!

  21. That ceramic milk carton is just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Sadly, nobody in my family likes oatmeal. Actually we all like it, but we eat it like cold cereal. I know it’s weird. Maybe if our moms had made oatmeal this way instead of the goopy, sticky way they made it, my husband and I would like cooked oatmeal.

  22. This looks soo yummy! Apple cinnamOn is my favorite! I am going to the store now to pick up the ingredients. Quick, off this recipe, question for you. I have been searching for you recipe for colored pop odd (jell-o) and I can’t find it. I know if I could make colored popcorn my 2 1/2 year old would think its pretty cool. Was this recipe taken off the website?

    1. Are you talking about the Fruity Candy Popcorn? I found it in the recipe index, under Desserts, near the bottom under Popcorn and Snack Mixes. I made my first batch recently and it was super tasty!

  23. I tried a very similar recipe I found on Pinterest recently. Like yours, it was 1 cup oats to 3 cups liquid cooked with 2-3 apples in the slow cooker. Mine came out extremely watery and disappointing. I had to fuss with it a lot during cooking and even ended up draining off a bunch of the liquid in the end just to make it edible.

    Then I discovered you can cook the same recipe in a rice cooker. I tried it and it comes out perfectly every single time! This is now my go-to method for cooking steel cut oats. Takes less time than the slow cooker and zero fussing required. The rice cooker also seems to be pretty forgiving as far as changing things up a little (i.e it still works even if you leave the apples out and keep the liquid amount the same).

    1. That sounds awesome! Good to know! Although cooking them in a slow-cooker shouldn’t be fussy at all; it sounds like the one you used night not be heating up to the correct temperature. I’ve made it several times in 2 slow cookers, 1 large and one smaller, and aside from the first time, I’ve never bothered looking at it until it’s done.

    2. Thanks for the hint….I’m going to try it in my rice cooker. I usually just cook mine on the stovetop.

    3. Lots of great comments. I only have a large crockpot, so I wondered how long you cook the oatmeal in the rice cooker? Thanks

    4. I tried it in my rice cooker, with milk, and it bubbled up like crazy and made a mess. Any hints? I love the idea of using my rice cooker more often…

  24. I seriously want to dig into this right now! I do a stove top apple oatmeal but I only have a huge crock-pot and most of the crock-pot oatmeal recipes I see use the smaller ones (as you recommend). I guess a small crock-pot purchase will be in the near future so that I can make this!

  25. Sounds super yummy!! I have seen Irish steel-cut oats at the store, but they seem super pricey. Your picture has Quaker, so I need to search for those kind to try this out. I definitely have mornings like your fantasy….OK, so it’s my fantasy too, and my kids love oatmeal so we’ll have to try this out!!

    1. The ones they sell in the grocery store in the tin cans are SUPER expensive. They sell them at my local wholesale club (BJ’s) much more reasonable (Quaker brand). Also, we have a milling company locally (New Hope Mills) that sells them REALLY cheap. Their shipping is outrageous, so I realize that might not be helpful if you’re not in upstate NY, but maybe there is a similar kind of place near you that sells bulk flours, grains, dried fruits, etc.

    2. The health food store here sells them in their bulk bins for quite a bit cheaper than I have ever found them at the grocery store. I ususally buy them at sunflower market or winco from the bins to refill the quaker can I bought at Target for 4x more.