Slow Cooker Overnight Cranberry Apple Oatmeal

I’ve fallen head over heels in love with slow cooker oatmeal!

Vertical image of two white bowls filled with porridge topped with fruit slices, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

In the past, I typically regarded oatmeal as a simple, uninspired dish that usually came in the overly processed instant variety, with no fresh and natural ingredients to bring any additional flavors.

It was always a last resort, an I-guess-I-should-eat-something type of breakfast.

Then I decided to give it another chance by making my own fun version.

I soon found out that adding a few tasty ingredients and a unique cooking method to the good ol’ standby made a world of difference.

Those flavorful changes turned what would otherwise be a bland morning meal into something truly delicious, healthy, and filling enough to easily carry me through to a late lunch.

Vertical image of two white bowls filled with a creamy porridge topped with fresh fruit next to a red towel and metal spoons.

So I’ve said goodbye to those instant pre-flavored bags! And they weren’t exchanged for quick-cooking oats prepared on the stovetop. Though these usually take less than 10 minutes to prepare, I’ve found they still require some babysitting while standing at the stove stirring the pot.

And with the way I usually get ready in the morning, sometimes I don’t even have that amount of time!

I was familiar with a few recipes for overnight oats chilled in the fridge, but I was looking for a hot, comforting bowl to enjoy in the morning that was packed with flavor.

That’s when I realized it was time to pull out my slow cooker. I decided to employ this appliance to have my breakfast ready and waiting for me when I wake up with a rumbling stomach.

Vertical close-up image of a white bowl filled with a creamy porridge topped with slices of fresh fruit.

Steel-cut oats are used in this recipe, and they are able to maintain some texture throughout the long hours of slow and steady simmering.

This method of preparing oatmeal turned out wonderfully. At first, I was just topping it with sliced strawberries fresh from the farmers market. But once fall came around, I wanted something that would be more seasonally appropriate for the colder months.

For this autumnal version, I added diced apples, dried cranberries, and a few dashes of warming spices to the mixture.

This breakfast takes just a few minutes to prep before bed, and it is truly phenomenal.

Vertical top-down image of white bowls filled with creamy thick porridge topped with slices of fresh fruit next to dried cranberries and a red towel.

Throughout the cooking process, the apples soften and release their juices into the mixture, and the cranberries become rehydrated and plump.

The oats soak in all the flavor from the fruit and spices to create a seriously delicious yet simple meal for breakfast.

So the next time you find yourself about to complain about “boring” bowl of mush, toss the pre-sweetened and artificially flavored individual packets far away and try my homemade recipe instead.

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Horizontal image of two white bowls filled with a creamy porridge topped with fresh fruit next to spoons.

Slow Cooker Overnight Cranberry Apple Oatmeal


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Total Time: 8 hours, 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings (3 1/2 cups) 1x

Description

Juicy apples, dried cranberries, and warming spices combine with steel-cut oats in the slow cooker for a make-ahead breakfast you’ll be dreaming about.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 tablespoon coconut or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups steel-cut oats
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 cups peeled and diced Granny Smith apples (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 6 cups water or milk (or 1/2 milk and 1/2 water)
  • Milk, for serving (optional)
  • Sweetener, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Grease a 6-quart slow cooker insert with the oil to prevent sticking. Add the oats, cranberries, diced apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, brown sugar, and water and/or milk. Stir to combine.
  2. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours.
  3. Divide the oatmeal among serving bowls, thin to desired consistency with milk, sweeten to taste, and serve warm. 
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Category: Oatmeal
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Breakfast

Keywords: slow cooker, oatmeal, apple, cinnamon, cranberry

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Gather, Prep, and Measure Ingredients

Get out your 6-quart slow cooker and plug it in. I like to use the slow cooker setting on my Instant Pot.

Horizontal image of bowls of ingredients to make a fall-themed oatmeal.

Measure the oil, water, and milk. You can use all water in this recipe or all milk for an especially rich, creamy flavor. You can also use half milk and half water.

Any variety of milk or your favorite non-dairy alternative will work well in this recipe.

Measure the oats, dried cranberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and brown sugar. If you want more of a fall flavor profile, sub 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Peel and dice the apples. Choose a firm variety like Granny Smith that will maintain its texture during the long cooking process.

Step 2 – Add Ingredients to Slow Cooker

Coat the slow cooker insert with the oil. I like to use my fingers or a paper towel to make sure the sides and the bottom are thoroughly covered with oil.

Horizontal image of assorted piles of ingredients in a slow cooker insert.

This step is a tremendous help during cleanup as it ensures that the mixture doesn’t stick to the pot. An insert liner could be used as well.

Horizontal image of mixing together ingredients in a slow cooker insert.

To the insert, add the oats, cranberries, diced apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, brown sugar, and water and/or milk. I like to use a rubber or silicone spatula to stir and make sure the ingredients are combined well.

Step 3 – Cook, Stir, and Serve

Place the lid on your slow cooker and set the timer to cook on low heat for 8 hours.

Horizontal image of cooked cubes of apples over a mixture in a slow cooker insert.

If using an Instant Pot, do not cook this recipe under pressure!

When it is ready and you remove the lid, you’ll see that the apples have risen to the top. Using a spatula, give the mixture a good stir to evenly distribute all of the ingredients.

Now is a good time to thin the mixture with more milk if you’d like a smoother consistency. Taste and add more sweetener if desired. Each serving can be thinned and sweetened to taste in individual bowls as well.

Horizontal top-down image of a white bowl with a creamy porridge topped with dried fruit and fresh apple slices.

Honey, maple syrup, granulated sugar, or additional brown sugar are all great options for an added boost of sweetness.

Divide the oatmeal among serving bowls, and serve warm. I like to garnish mine with fresh apple slices with the skin on for a pop of color. For a touch of crunch, garnish with toasted walnuts or pecans.

Can I Substitute Another Variety of Oats for the Steel-Cut?

The short answer is plain and simple: nope!

Horizontal image of two white bowls filled with a creamy porridge topped with fresh fruit next to spoons.

While you can switch up the fruit and spices to your liking, you do not want to swap in rolled oats for this specific recipe.

The steel-cut variety is a firm, minimally processed grain that requires more cooking to soften than the rolled (aka old fashioned) style.

Because rolled oats absorb more liquid, their final texture will become too soft and mushy after cooking for a long period of time overnight, compared to steel-cut which will maintain some of their delightfully chewy texture.

So while you can certainly cook a batch of the old-fashioned variety on another culinary journey, stick with steel-cut this time around for our slow cooker recipe.

There’s no cozier feeling than snuggling up to a bowl of spiced, creamy, apple- and cranberry-studded oatmeal.

What delicious ingredients will you add to make this overnight recipe even dreamier? Share your favorite flavorful ideas in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

Ground cinnamon is a wonderfully warm partner that can enhance the flavor of so many foods. Try these recipes next that also showcase the earthy spice:

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Chelsea Miller on November 24, 2014. Last updated on September 22, 2022.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

29 thoughts on “Slow Cooker Overnight Cranberry Apple Oatmeal”

  1. I just started eating steel cut oats for breakfast every morning and know I will need a recipe soon to spice it up soon! This looks amazing and it seems too good to be true that it can be ready when I wake up in the morning. Thanks for the great idea!

    Reply
  2. I love oatmeal for breakfast as it is so warm and filling, without the unhealthy guilt of a bacon sandwich. I usually just chop fruit onto the top, but I can imagine that cooking it altogether will really boost the flavour. Sadly, workday mornings are such a rush that oatmeal has become an occasional weekend treat of a breakfast, so an overnight slow cooker version might be the answer to my problem. Sticking everything in and turning it on couldn’t really be any easier, could it?!

    My slow cooker doesn’t have a timer, but given that it takes 8 hours to cook anyway, I should still be able to give this a go. If I’m up late to put it on, and then hubby is up early to switch it to keep warm… I think it’s a plan!

    Reply
  3. …and the boredom is out!!! yay!!…i would stare at my bowl of oatmeal and frown wondering why its so plain and flat…but now my breakfast session will be filled with color and pomp!…i must say, am delighted and already anticipating my breakfast sessions henceforth 🙂

    Reply
  4. This sounds absolutely amazing. I have also been thinking about eating oatmeal again, but I just don’t like eating the instant variety and the quick-cooking oats are just so boring. This is definitely a healthy sounding alternative and adding the steel cut oats makes it even better. I wonder if you could add other berries to this like dried cherries or dried blueberries to make it even more delicious?

    Reply
  5. I love oatmeal, and I bet this recipe would be good with raisins as well. The best thing about oatmeal is it fills a person up. It’s very easy to make, and is also healthy. I’m 46 years old, I must admit as a kid I’d get tired of eating it. I suppose that would happen with any food. Would like to try this slow cooker version.

    Reply
  6. This looks simple and delicious. I would probably start this off on the stove, in a normal pan. Once brought to the boil, I would put it in my Wonderbag overnight. Having breakfast pre-prepared makes life so much easier in the mornings,

    Reply
  7. I’ve been in an oatmeal phase myself. I love porridge in general though – oats, rice, wheat. I’ve never made it in a slow cooker though. It’s a great idea to explore to have a hot breakfast you don’t actually have to take time for. I wonder if it’s something you can make in a larger portion and then reheat the leftovers for the rest of the week.

    Reply
  8. This is perfect for these cold winter mornings. I am not a big fan of raisins so substituting them with cranberries is right up my alley. My supermarket recently started carrying steel cut oats os I’m going to try this recipe very soon.

    Reply
  9. I’m a big fan of oatmeal and wanted to find this exact recipe/method to replace my instant kind at home. It doesn’t taste really any different from the store bought which is amazing, and makes me feel more healthy after I eat it. This type saves me a lot of money too!

    Reply
  10. Oh, this is nice! Until now the only variations to my oatmeal have been brown sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon. As you can probably imagine its really easy to get burned out on it when it’s the same 3 ways your entire life. My children have a much needed change to look forward to in the morning. 🙂

    Reply
  11. Through the summer months I actually eat my porridge and fruit raw and cold because I found it too hot and heavy on the stomach when the weather was really warm. All you need to do is soak it in milk (or water or dairy free alternative) overnight with the fruit and it is ready to eat as and when you are ready in the morning. I don’t usually leave it in the fridge overnight if the weather is warm, but I don’t have dairy milk so don’t need to worry about it going sour. I have found it adds a totally different aspect to porridge.

    Also if you soak the oats and fruit overnight, and want to cook it, they only take a few minutes to bring up to temperature in the morning plus a quite ‘cook’ and they are ready.

    Reply
  12. This looks amazing. I recently received a small 1.5 quart slow cooker from my place of work as an anniversary gift. I can’t wait to try all the different recipes I find. I love oatmeal. I used to buy the instant, but I have been using quick-oats or the old fashioned style. Which taste so much better and gives you more volume per serving. I would love to try steel-cut oats and see the difference. I am going to save this recipe to try later. Thanks.

    Reply
  13. I’m also a late convert to the delights of oatmeal. I always preferred cream of wheat or cream of rice, and still love those, but have also become a fan over the past year or so. I’d also heard of the cold overnight in the refrigerator method, but that didn’t appeal to me. Your recipe sounds so easy and delicious that I can’t wait to try it, and I don’t use my slow cooker much, so I wasn’t even aware they make liners, which I will promptly buy.

    Reply
  14. This is a really nice one. I have a few friends that insist on microwaving everything still. It is toxic nuclear waste as I call it. This method will be great for them to see cause they can prepare it the night before and it will even be hot for them. Less work, healthier, and I am sure it will taste outrageous. Slow cookers do wonders for dishes.

    Reply
  15. Cranberry and apple is one of my favorite combos, so naturally this is right up my alley. I don’t have a slow cooker but I think I may need to get one, as mornings can sometimes be so hectic that I don’t have the time to cook oats. Having breakfast ready ahead of time is ideal in such cases.

    Reply
  16. Woww this sounds absolutely delicious! I only use my crock pot for dinner-type meals, so I never would’ve thought this one up. Definitely gonna give it a try this week 🙂

    Reply
  17. Okay this looks amazing! I love that you can spice it up a bit from the usual boring routine. I also like that the recipe isn’t burdensome and it’s brief. I bet this smells so good in the morning! I’ll definitely be trying this, especially for my two young kids!

    Reply
  18. Thank you Chelsea Miller for your wonderful recipe. I love oats. It is a childhood favorite. I especially love a nice hot bowl of oats in winter where the days are chilly and one need a warm filling bowl of oats in the tummy. I certainly will be trying this recipe. Again… thank you.

    Reply
  19. I haven’t had a nice bowl of oatmeal in a while. Looking a the pictures reminds me of having a big hot steamy bowl of oatmeal on a chilly winter morning. I like the idea of the cranberries. I’m going to have to give this a try. It’s starting to get chilly outside, so now might be the perfect to time to reunite with a steamy bowl of oatmeal!!

    Reply
  20. Oatmeal is so healthy, but I’ve never quite liked it’s taste. So, I’ve been on a lookout for healthy breakfast ideas with oatmeal that will satisfy my picky tastebuds. I really think this recipe will do th trick. And since I plan to prepare it at night, it’ll save me a lot of time in the morning. Thank you!

    Reply
  21. Who knew oatmeal could look so good. I honestly think this recipe could turn me into oatmeal’s #1 fan! I read your Crockpot Cook and Carry Slow Cooker article today, and after seeing this recipe, I won’t be able to wait until I can have my very own wedding, to get it into the gift list. I’m just going to have to get it own my own after all, for a chance of tasting this simple, but amazing looking dish. Thanks for the great recipe.

    Reply
  22. I am always looking for a savory dish that I can make in my crock pot. They are so convenient and tender from the effects of slow cooking. This is a busy mom’s best friend. Always in the running for new meals and this is definitely something new and guaranteed good. My kids love oatmeal and slow-cooked sounds like heaven. Maybe I can use blueberries or apples instead.

    Reply
  23. Oatmeal is so delicious to me. My all time favorite kind of oatmeal to eat is Apples and Cinnamon. I seriously want to try some steel cut oatmeal, but I buy the old-fashioned oats a lot and occasionally I still buy the instant Oatmeal when its on sale.

    Reply
  24. Out of all of the different types of oatmeal that I have tasted, this looks scrumptious. I’m an instant oatmeal person, so I’ve had literally all of the flavors from Quaker oatmeal brand. This is different and daring. I can’t imagine slow roasting oatmeal for eight hours, but served with milk, I’m sure it is worth it. Cranberries and apples are awesome.

    Reply
  25. This looked so tasty I tried but…I microwaved it. Don’t judge me! I don’t want to get a slow cooker until I move for the last time, so I had to work with what I had, haha.

    Despite my inferior tools, it came out really tasty! I used a low setting and mix several times. Even my roommate came sniffing, and she hates oatmeal.

    I really want to try the slow-cooker version, but until I can I’m definitely making this again.

    Reply
  26. I think that the last time that I tried a good oatmeal breakfast was a good 4-5 years ago, and this recipe definitely made me miss it. It seems a great idea when it comes to breakfast, without mentioning that it also looks really easy to do and extremely delicious, of course. Even if I’m not the biggest fan of cinnamon, I bet you that I will crave for it on winter, I’m going to give it a try by that time.

    Reply
  27. Well I cannot say that I have ever used a slow cooker to make oatmeal, but now that I see the recipe it does make a lot of sense. It seems to me to be the perfect thing to let cook overnight, and then when you wake up in the morning, give it a stir, hop in the shower and enjoy this for breakfast. I love a good bowl of oatmeal, but I do not really care for the microwave stuff, so this would really be a great new breakfast addition for me. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  28. This sounds great! I’ve always used instant oatmeal, but I was never fond of all the sugar the prepared mixes use, and it would be nice to try something healthier. I like including fruit in oatmeal as well, and berries or dried fruit find their way into my oatmeal. I also like to use nuts, especially pecans, walnuts, or the occasional hazelnut. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds also add some nice vegetarian protein. I think oatmeal with fruit would also be nice with a big spoonful of Nutella stirred in for a special occasion breakfast.

    Reply
  29. Making this recipe for a second time. It’s delicious! My husband even likes it and he’s a picky eater. For those asking about using milk, I’ve used unsweetened, vanilla almond milk both times. I don’t see why regular milk wouldn’t work also.

    Reply

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