Freezing Steel Cut Oatmeal : A Quick and Nutritious Breakfast

This morning I had the chance to try out my version of Trader Joe’s Steel Cut Oats. For those of you not familiar with steel cut oats, let me define them for you with the help of Wikipedia. Steel cut oats are the whole oat which has been cut into pieces with, what I have read, is a steel blade. They are minimally processed and take FOREVER to cook. (Forever, that is, if you have a fussing baby in a high chair and a high energy preschooler singing her way through the morning in the kitchen. Definitely too forever to be an every morning occurrence.) I find them to be a bit nuttier and chewier than regular rolled oats, and definitely more filling. That’s the thing about these oats, they are super good for you and filling. The two most important things you can hope for in a breakfast if you ask me.

I had received a tip at my last Weight Watchers meeting that Trader Joe’s had a frozen “quick” version that gave you the nutrition of the steel oat without taking up your entire morning, so I bought some earlier this week to try them out. They microwaved up perfectly and tasted great. I decided it was time to figure out how to do this cheaper myself. (Trader Joe’s charged $1.99 for two “pucks” in a box, and I knew a pound of oats bulk at our local co-op would run me less than that and feed me for more than two mornings.)

The first thing I did was make sure it was a low-key morning. (If you don’t have kids, you can skip this step.) The baby went down for a nap, and I let Holly play on the computer to play games. Thank you Disney Channel!

Step #2: Cook the oats. The label on the bulk container at my co-op said 1 cup oats:4 cups of water. I used that ratio, but as it was cooking I did google around and found that people have experimented with less water to get a bit of a different result. (Thicker, chewier…etc.) To cook the oats you simply bring your water to a boil, add the oats, and cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes. Again, time varies depending on how you like them. I did what the label said and loved the results. I also doubled it–making 2 cups of oats with 8 cups of water.

Word of caution, these do create a bit of a mess. When I had them covered they spit and sputtered everywhere, so I occasionally lifted the lid to cut down on the oat-y water I would have to clean up, so I could stir it, and because I am nosy like that. (I never can leave a lid alone.)

**This is most likely specific to only me, but I used two different burners (one set on high, one on low) so that I wouldn’t burn the bottom of the pan. Side note: I hate electric stoves. The ability to simmer after boiling is….well…it doesn’t appear there really is a way to simmer after boiling on my stove because the coil takes to long to cool down. After messing up countless recipes, I came up with this trick to assist me with accurate heating.***

When the 45 minutes was up I stirred them a bit, tasted them, and decided they were good. I made myself a bowl of them for breakfast, and poured the rest of the pot of them into a big pyrex glass bowl to cool.

Where this bowl came from I have no idea, but I am a firm believer that everyone has one of these bowls in their kitchen and if asked, no, they wouldn’t know how they got one either. They just seem to appear.

Once the oats cool spend an inappropriate amount of time styling the kitchen table so that when people look at your blog it won’t look like you took a photo of goopy oats on a dirty counter. Oh wait, that’s probably specific only to me. Let me try this again…..

Step #3: Once the oats have had a chance to cool, pour into the muffin pans. The pretty picture at the beginning of this post show you how this will look. From the research I found online, it doesn’t appear you have to grease the pans, but I did spray one and not the others to see which oats would come out easier. (When I do this later, I will re-edit the post and let you know.)***edited***The oats came out perfectly easy either way, so there is no need to spray or grease beforehand.

I ended up with just enough oats to fill one standard muffin pan, and two mini-ones. I didn’t think to measure as I did the larger one (I just poured right from my handy pyrex bowl) but I am pretty sure it’s probably around a cup. The little muffin pans were about 1/4 cup each.

In they went into the freezer. Where they still are. (Is it me, or does my freezer look really ominous?) I am going to freeze them until they are solid, so at the very least I am going to leave them in there until lunch. I have read about a few techniques to get them out and I think I will be going with the “pry then with a knife after soaking the bottom of the pan in some hot water” option. I will, of course, update this post with the results.***edited***Seems like freezing for about three hours did the trick! And the hot water soak? PERFECT. I put the muffin pan in about an inch of hot tap water for only two minutes and they all popped right out!

I plan to store them in freezer bags once this whole experiment is done, and if they are anything like the Trader Joe’s version they will take only 2-3 minutes in the microwave to cook each morning…and…be delicious.

I hope this inspires someone out there to do the same thing. In the end it really wasn’t all that much time, probably 90 minutes from start to finish. If you don’t have kids, and are not stopping to take photos, I am sure it’s even less time. With the price and sugar content of cereal nowadays, definitely worth it! I spent just under five dollars for four and a half pounds of oats, and I am sure that that many oats will last at least two months if not more. Enjoy!

Many thanks to Amy at newnostalgia for inspiring this post.




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  • April - I LOOOOOVE this idea!! I can’t wait to try it. Your Project Life pages are gorgeous, as are your photos. Looking forward to seeing more.ReplyCancel

    • Heather Johnson - It works like a charm. The whole family has them every morning, I am now obsessed with making anything and everything ahead! Let me know how it turns out:)ReplyCancel

  • Laurie - Try doing a quick google search of cooking steel cut oatmeal in the crock pot overnight. I always have mine over cook because I start it about 9pm then wake up at 7 which means the sides are a little burned…. but cooking them in the crock for the 4 hours then freezing = awesomeness. I can’t wait to try this idea to freeze. Also the pumpkin pie oatmeal recipe floating around is AMAZING! I have five kids and they all LOVE it.ReplyCancel

  • Natasha - Thank you for the idea! I used it to freeze plain cooked steel cut oats and a recipe I made using steel cut oats and quinoa (from Epicurious). This will be my go to for meal-planning!ReplyCancel

    • admin - Glad it can help! I wouldn’t eat nearly as much oatmeal as I do if I didn’t do it this way…it’s so easy:)ReplyCancel

  • Andy - To make cooking the oats easier and less messy, try a crock-pot slow cooker. I use it when cooking grits and it works great. Heat the water first and put it in the slow cooker with the oats and forget about it for 4 hours.ReplyCancel

  • Susan - Thanks for the idea! I use a rice cooker for steel-cut oats. 3 parts water, 1 part oats, one pinch of salt. 25 minutes or so to oaty goodness.ReplyCancel

    • admin - I will have to try it that way too. Love how doing it ahead makes us that much more likely to eat them everyday!ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - What if I can’t use a microwave to heat it up in the morning? I made steel-cut oatmeal almost every morning for breakfast and add lots of fruit and walnuts. I am participating in a relay race this coming weekend (12 runners running 200 miles in 24 hours). I am trying to figure out my snacks/meals since my whole routine will be thrown off. If I freeze what I take, will I be able to eat it like a muffin type thing after it has defrosted some? I’m just trying to find a way to still get my steel-cut oatmeal without cooking it (since I will be in a van or running all weekend!).ReplyCancel

    • admin - That’s a great question–I have never tried to thaw a puck out without the microwave. If you end up doing it, I would love to hear how it turned out. I am thinking it actually could work–although it might get a little sticky as it loosens up.ReplyCancel

  • Mac - For Stephanie: Measure individual servings into quart freezer bags instead of muffin tins. Freeze them flat! They’ll take up less room, and thaw (and warm!) quite quickly at room temperature or under hot running water! Enjoy!ReplyCancel

  • Renee - Have been doing this for years. I use a silicone muffin pan so with just a twist they pop right out! Also add my seasonings/frozen fruit right before freezing so im totally ready to go. They seem to last about 3 months frozen before they get a little gooshy when you reheat them.ReplyCancel

    • Heather - I never thought of adding the fruit right in–that’s awesome! Thanks for the idea…I am going to try that next time!ReplyCancel

  • Beth - I just came upon this posting as I was looking for the same thing: a lower cost option to the frozen TJ pucks. Love the muffin pan plan.
    A no-microwave option: use the quick cook steel cut oats and a 1-cup ziplock style bowl. Put 1/3c oats, dried blueberries, and nuts in the bowl, add milk to near the top, and leave in the fridge overnight. The oats expand, the berries rehydrate, and you can eat it cold or heat it up if desired.ReplyCancel

    • Heather - What a great idea! I will definitely try this. This has been one of my more popular posts–it always amazes me how many people are making steel cut oats! We love them, and this method works so well. And is so easy!ReplyCancel

  • Therese - Yeaaaaaa! Thank you! I just made pumpkin pie oatmeal for my two weeee ones. And they loved it. I need something quick to store for school breakfasts. Thank you for sharing. And go to this website Chocolate over katie, she has healthy delicious deserts! Yes you read that rightReplyCancel

  • Courtney Richardson - This is awesome 🙂 Thanks for sharing!! I found your post after making a HUGE batch in my crockpot and it was too much for the week. I just popped them in the freezer.ReplyCancel

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