I’ve fallen head over heels in love with slow cooker oatmeal!
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.
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.
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.
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.Print
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.
- 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)
- 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.
- Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.”