Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats with Apple and Cranberries
Creamy slow cooker steel cut oats with a fall twist. This delicious breakfast can be prepared the night before and be ready for you when you wake up in the morning!
This post is in partnership with Bob’s Red Mill.
We’re busting out the slow cookers today for the world’s easiest breakfast! I double-checked the recipe archives and it has been approximately seven months since I shared a slow cooker recipe.
When it comes to weekday breakfasts, I’m quite possibly the laziest cook on the planet. Coffee is the first order of business, and food comes second. Don’t get me wrong, I love breakfast. More specifically, I love hot breakfasts, particularly in the fall and winter months.
In college I would regularly make myself eggs or banana oatmeal before heading to class (mind you, this was upstate New York, so hot breakfasts were basically required in order to maintain body temperature). But growing up, there was always a fine line between sleeping more and eating breakfast. I was willing to set aside around 15 minutes for preparing breakfast and that was my limit.
Old habits die hard.
For all the reasons above, steel cut oats (Irish oats) have rarely made the breakfast cut, despite the fact that its chewy texture and nutty flavor is far superior, in my opinion, to regular oatmeal. Due to its coarser texture, steel cut oats generally take around 30 minutes to cook on the stovetop start to finish. Aka. about 10 minutes and 20 stirs too long for the average weekday breakfast.
This is where the slow cooker comes in and works its magic. Slow cooker steel cut oats are a godsend to anyone short on time in the morning (this concept also works in a rice cooker!), particularly my husband, Connor, who wakes up regularly at 4:30 AM for work.
You can throw all of the ingredients into the slow cooker insert the night before, give it a good stir, and wake up to perfectly cooked steel cut oats the next morning. It takes about two minutes of effort just before you go to bed and that’s about it.
These slow cooker steel cut oats will be ready faster than it takes to toast a slice of bread, and they will be much more delicious, hearty, and filling. Perfect for individuals, couples, or families on different schedules on the weekdays, but also ideal for the holidays when you’re staying up late and need to have an easy breakfast ready-to-go for houseguests or family.
How to Make Steel Cut Oats In a Slow Cooker:
I always use Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats because, in my humble opinion, they are the best. No, really, they won the World Porridge Making Championships in Scotland. They beat the Scottish at their own game!
The steel cut oats are cooked in unsweetened almond milk. While I don’t love to drink the stuff on its own, I love using almond or other nut milks for cooking breakfast grains. It produces really creamy and flavorful oats, but you are welcome to use other nut milks or a combination of water/regular milk if you prefer.
Tips for Success:
After doing some slow cooker research, I did discover a few important tricks to preparing steel cut oats in the slow cooker. This isn’t rocket science, but these are worth noting:
- give your slow cooker insert a light coating of cooking spray to prevent any sticking (all slow cookers behave differently!)
- it is best to use a smaller volume capacity slow cooker (2-quart or 4-quart) for recipes using just 1 cup of steel cut oats (4 servings); if you only have a larger capacity slow cooker, double the recipe. otherwise they might crisp up, dry out, or brown on the edges!
- the oats will develop a thin surface skin as they cook. it will be integrated after you give the oatmeal a few stirs, and no one will be the wiser.
- slow cookers are not created equal. does your slow cooker run hot? if it does, reduce the time slightly and, if possible, give it a few stirs as it cooks.
In case any of you are curious, this is the slow cooker that I own and use. It is the only brand of slow cooker I’ve ever used, but I can only say good things about it. It also has a keep warm function, which I love.
Steel Cut Oatmeal Toppings:
To give these slow cooker steel cut oats a fall twist, I added in cozy things like chopped apple (I prefer tarter Granny Smiths for cooking purposes, but other sweeter varieties for topping!), fresh cranberries, a touch of maple syrup, and fall spices. I loved the occasional bite of tart cranberry along with the sweeter cooked apple. Feel free to mix it up!
Oh, and I put cardamom in this because I have an inexplicable urge to add cardamom to ALL THE THINGS. Sorry (ps. you can totally leave it out).
Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats with Apple and Cranberries
- Cooking Spray
- 1 cup (175 g) Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats *do not substitute quick-cooking steel cut or rolled oats
- 1 large Granny Smith apple cored and diced
- ½ cup (50 g) fresh cranberries
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom optional
- 2 pinches kosher salt
- 4½ cups (36 oz) unsweetened almond milk plus more for serving
- chopped or julienned apple
- almond slices/chopped almonds
- dried cranberries
- turbinado sugar or pure maple syrup
- ground cinnamon for sprinkling
- Spray a 2-quart or 4-quart slow cooker insert lightly with cooking spray. If you are using a larger volume slow cooker, be sure to double the recipe quantity as this quantity will not cook properly in a 6-quart slow cooker. Slow cookers that run HOT might cause the cooking liquid to evaporate more quickly. This may result in slightly thicker skin or crust developing on the surface of the oats (see notes below) or sides of the insert. When in doubt, reduce the cook time and adjust as necessary.
- Combine the steel cut oats, diced apple, cranberries, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon, cardamom, salt, and almond milk. Stir to mix thoroughly. Cover and cook on low heat for 6 hours (for firmer oats) to 8 hours (softer oats with the slightest chew), stirring once or twice if possible (if cooking overnight, you can skip this step). As the oats are cooking a thin, dark colored skin may form on top of the oats and they will look slightly dry at first glance. Don’t worry. Go ahead and stir the oats well until they are creamy and smooth, the skin will be absorbed and incorporated by stirring. If you prefer looser oats, stir in an additional ½ cup (120 mL) or more of almond milk. Serve hot and garnish with toppings as desired.
- Leftover oats can be stored in a container in the refrigerator. I always add a generous splash or milk or water before reheating – it loosens the oatmeal and improves the texture tremendously!
Tips for Success:
- If you’re slow cooker runs hot, this bain marie slow cooker method is worth checking out and trying!
15 Comments on “Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats with Apple and Cranberries”
I have done this overnight slow cooker method with whole oat grains and and it turned out great. I was a little skeptical about doing it all night with steel cut oats, but I was out of the oat groats, so I thought I’d give it a try. The results were disappointing. It came out so overcooked that it was more like pudding than the characteristically chewy, nutty steel cut oats. I’m sure the answer is that it needs less time, but then why bother? The purpose of a slow cooker is convenience, and if you have to set your alarm to get up in the wee hours of the morning to turn it off, instead of sleeping through the night…… what’s the point. It only takes 25 to 30 min to cook them on the stove, so for the crockpot, I’ll stick with the oat groats.
Hi, this recipe was tested very thoroughly and I never experienced overcooked steel cut oats with it or gotten that feedback before. It was designed for people that want to throw something together the night before and wake up early – like 5-7 am (and have hot breakfast) – most slow cookers turn to warm function, and it should not overcook in that setting either if it needed to sit for a bit. In addition, cooked steel cut oats make great leftovers, so there is still value in cooking a large batch and having it prepped for the week. Please read the tips for success in the blog post itself, because it includes additional details and maybe there were some changes that caused issues.
The oats should be tender and cooked through, but still retain some of the signature chewiness, as you can see from the photos. It sounds like either your slow cooker functions differently than mine or maybe something else was changed – please provide extra details so that I can better troubleshoot. I don’t think you are using these, but also if you’re using “quick-cooking” steel cut oats, this recipe would not work for those.
Really, really like this recipe but LOVE your measuring spoons. Are they available?
Unfortunately, they’re a bit old, so I don’t think they’re available anymore but they’re from Anthropologie. However, I generally use them for photography purposes and don’t recommend decorative measuring spoons/cups for function because they don’t tend to be as accurate. Hope this helps!
How big is a serving?
I don’t have a literal amount once cooked to share with you (I don’t calculate my servings by volume), but it would be the equivalent of 1/4 cup raw steel cut oats with apples and all of the other ingredients. It makes for a medium to large bowl of cooked steel cut oats! Hope this helps.
Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe! I’ve made this wice now … the first batch was good but I learned a few things. The first batch was for Christmas morning for visiting family. I used a larger capacity cooker, so followed your advice to double the recipe. I woke up before sunrise smelling the delicious scents of the oats and maple… and something burning. My cooker seems to get too hot even on low for this recipe. It was still good minus the burnt stuff all around the edge. Tonight I started them early in the evening so I could have them done before bed. I used a smaller cooker without doubling the recipe…. perfect! The only change I made was doubling the cranberries. It turned out amazing – all dished up in single serving containers ready to go. Just one question – do they freeze well? Thanks for this fantastic breakfast option for the winter!
Question. What do you do if only one person will eat this each day? Can they be reheated?
Yes! I usually reheat it in the microwave in 30 second intervals, but I always add a splash of milk or water and then stir. It will be fairly gelatinous from the fridge before you heat it up, but once you add a bit of liquid and warm it, then stir – it will come together again! Hope this helps Paula!
I’m always on the lookout for slow cooker steel cut oatmeal recipes, it’s the best way to cook them. This one hits all the right notes, the flavor is awesome and it makes enough that I can freeze in single portion containers and eat whenever I’m in the mood for oatmeal. I love that it uses almond milk! I did add flax seed meal (just 2T). I also love that it has cardamom. I bought some to make pumpkin pie spice and it’s incredibly hard to find recipes to use it on its own.
So thrilled to hear that! I need to make this oatmeal again, and I also want to try it in my new pressure cooker 🙂 If you’re looking for more cardamom recipes, here are just a handful that use it: https://www.abeautifulplate.com/tag/cardamom/
Cardamom is one of my favorite spices, so I have to literally stop myself from adding it to almost everything, especially at this of year, haha!
I have yet to get a pressure cooker but I’d love to know how that turns out! This oatmeal is on permanent rotation with slow cooker banana bread steel,cut oats. I added 1 teaspoon of cardamom to the last batch I made of the banana and it was amazing! Thanks for the cardamom links! Can’t wait to try some of them!
And I completely forgot to ask if you’ve made this oatmeal with dried cranberries? (Blonde moment). I’m having a hard time finding fresh or frozen and used the last fresh I had in the last batch. Help!
It would definitely work with dried cranberries too! Except I would just reduce the quantity a bit since fresh/dried have different volume. I prefer the unsweetened ones if you can find them! 🙂
Having this for breakfast right now! Yum!