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.


  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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. 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…

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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 =)

  8. 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!

  9. 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. 🙂

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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…

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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!!

  20. 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. 🙂

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. You said in the post that steel cut oats are ‘healthier’? I’ve never heard that before – only that they are a different texture. Can you point me toward information about how/why steel cut oats would be healthier than rolled oats? Thanks.

    1. I’m a registered dietitian and can perhaps offer info that might help. The difference primarily lies in the way the oats are processced. Steel cut oats are the whole oat kernel that is simply cut into pieces with a steel blade, leaving behind all parts of the grain. Rolled oats are rolled between two large drums or presses, which removes the outer bran and makes the kernel flat. That makes it easier and faster to cook, but also removes much of the outer bran, which is where some of the fiber and fat is. Both types of oats are nutritious and a good choice. According to the USDA, 1/2 cup of dry rolled oats has approximately 190 calories, 3.5 g fat, 7 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. 1/2 cup of dry steel-cut oats has approximately 300 calories, 5 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fiber.

  24. Love, love, love this recipe! I adore steel cut oats and find myself craving them many mornings…but with a four month old, keeping watch over a simmering pot of oats for 15-20 minutes just doesn’t fit in to my day. I try to eat oatmeal every day to keep my milk supply up so I will definitely be trying this recipe…ASAP! Thank you!

  25. I buy my steel cut oats at Costco in a 4 lb bag (Bob’s Red Mill brand) for like five bucks! Super cheap!
    I make my crockpot steel cut oats on a Sunday afternoon, throw it in the fridge when it’s done, and eat it for the next 3 or 4 days. It heats up beautifully with a little milk on top with bananas and blueberries! Yummy! Great recipe-haven’t tried cooking it with apples yet. Next on the list, for sure.

  26. I just found out I’m allergic to all dairy and to almonds (among lots of other things). I’ve been using almond milk up until now, but now need to find an alternative. I’m wondering if rice milk or soy milk might work in this recipe?


  27. I read that whole first paragraph saying to myself, “oh huh, Kate. I’m not buying it,” but I grinned the whole way through reading it. You are so funny. I love steel cut oatmeal, and your idea of adding pumpkin spice to it sounds crazy good! See you next month at Gygi’s!

  28. This came out really good! I used granny smith apples, but my oatmeal was completely cooked in about 3 hours! My apples weren’t mushy, but they were medium hard…I wasn’t sure if they were supposed to be mushy or not, but I had to shut off the crockpot since the oats were completely cooked! I added a little sprinkle of Stevia and even my 2 year old ate 3 bowls! Yummy!

  29. I have been doing 1 cup of steel cut oats in a bowl. Then I add 2 cups boiling water. Then I cover it with a shower cap or plastic wrap overnite. Next morning I add another cup of water and bring to a boil. Then simmer it for five minutes. I haven’t had good luck with my crockpot and this works better for my life.

  30. We have been loving oatmeal lately, so I can’t wait to try this. And we recently switched to getting only full fat dairy products as part of a move towards eliminating processed food. We’re getting non-homogenized whole milk from a local dairy, and you wouldn’t believe how good it is! I made your cupcake frosting with it for my 2 year old’s birthday, and it was absolutely heavenly!

  31. This almost went perfectly for me! I was talking to my husband while I was throwing everything in the crockpot and completely forgot to add the butter! It turned out fine with out it, but still. And then I think I let it go a little to long because I checked on it at 6 hours and it still had so much liquid so I was afraid it hadn’t cooked enough, when if I’d just stirred it it would have been fine. I had some crust of overcooked oatmeal on the bottom and sides of my crockpot but it separated its self and came off easily…probably for my crockpot 6 hours would have done the trick. It’s super tasty, though…I love the taste and texture in comparison to quick oats. And it’s not overly sweet at all. Yum!

  32. I have a question that might seem a little dumb. I’ve tried a recipe like this before and it came out as inedible glue! What would be the best description of how it should look when it’s done? I definitely like the suggestion of cooking it while you can watch it the first time.

  33. I think I read in the book “365 Days of Slow Cooking” that you can use a smaller oven-safe dish inside your slow cooker if you need a smaller crock pot. I think she said just to put your food in the smaller dish, cover it with plastic wrap, and put it inside your crock pot, cover with the crock pot lid, and cook as directed.

    Oh, and your description of how you just have the easiest mornings – I laughed out loud through the whole thing. It’s crazy, but that’s just like my life! LOL. Bedtime injuries! How does that happen, anyway? Oh, wait, we’re supposed to pretending it doesn’t happen. 😉

  34. Made this today as a “test run” for a weekend breakfast idea. It was the perfect amount and turned out so delicious. We are definately doing it again. (Side note my slow cooler only took about 6 hours to cook it to perfection)

  35. Looking forward to making this! And I’ve just discovered the supreme goodness of putting pecans on breakfast cereal, so i appreciate that you included that.

  36. Holy Delicious!! I made this for breakfast Sunday – It was a hit with every member of my family, including my 2-year-old! Thanks again for another great recipe, ladies!

  37. I LOOOOVE steel cut oats and make them regularly. Even better and quicker than a slow-cooker is a pressure cooker! I have an electronic pressure cooker with a timer and all i have to do is put everything in the night before, set the timer and voila! Perfect oats right at breakfast time. Also, if I forget, I often blend up steel cut oats in the blender until they resemble a really course flour. This cuts WAY down on cooking time. Then i throw them in a pan with water, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and simmer for about 8 minutes. So good!

  38. For those of you living near a Winco, you can buy steel cut oats in their bulk section for about 60 cents per pound. I buy their 25 lb bag and it costs me 14 dollars. WAYY cheaper than any where else I’ve found.

  39. I make something sorta like this and it is just fantastic using agave nectar or brown rice syrup, apple juice, cranberries. Excited to try this out…steel cut oats rock!

  40. Is it ok to omit the flax seed? Not that I’m against flax seed or anything, but we don’t have it at our grocery store, and I’d rather not pay for the shipping to purchase it online…

  41. I make steel cut oats like this about once a week in the fall/winter. It always cooks longer than 7 hours. And forget whole milk- I USE CREAM!:) 2 cups water and one cup heavy cream- I promise it is awesome!

  42. Made this for today and it turned out great. So much better than other versions I’ve tried. My favorite part might be the salt AFTER cooking … Yum!!! Great tip :-). I also have a bigger slow cooker but I just doubled the recipe for oatmeal all week 🙂

  43. I put this recipe together last night in the crock pot, and left a note for my 10 year old son to eat this for breakfast. In parentheses I put that the recipe was from “Our Best Bites”. He later informed me today that when he saw that breakfast was oatmeal, he was going to skip it and eat cold cereal instead. He then finished reading my note and saw that it was your recipe, so he changed his mind. He said that if it was from “Our Best Bites” it must be good, since up to this point we love all your recipes we’ve tried! He said it was really good, but he’d like more apple chunks in it next time…yeah he said “next time”!!

  44. We make this recipe all the time… love it! Also, I always scan the first paragraph or so before I get to the recipe and it makes me laugh – it’s refreshing someone else doesn’t have perfect mornings every day 🙂

  45. I love The Yummy Life. She out me on to THEEE best refrigerated iced coffee ever and iced tea. Only way I make both of them. So when I purchase steel cut oats I will attempt recipe in my 6 Qrt. Hamilton Beach slow cooker using 1/4 cup less liquid.
    Thanks for sharing.

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