hot cereal with apricots and walnuts

Join Culinate

With a free Culinate membership, you can:

  • Create your own recipe collections
  • Queue recipes for later use
  • Blog your culinary endeavors
  • Be part of our online community of cooks
  • And much more…
Join Now

Steel-Cut Oats, Basic Method

From the collection
Serves 3 to 4
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Yield 3 cups


Imported steel-cut oats are increasingly more readily available, but they are expensive and not always as fresh as they might be. I recommend buying steel-cut oats (as well as oats in other forms) from bulk bins — they are far more affordable that way and don’t involve shipping grain halfway around the world for your breakfast. Leftover oatmeal can be worked into pancakes, muffins, and bread. I love the texture and moistness precooked grains give to a dish. Some might call it mushier, but I see it as a nutty, nice variation.


3 cups water, milk, or a mixture
1 cup steel-cut oats
tsp. salt


  1. Bring the water or milk to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Add the salt and pour in the oats.
  2. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook, without stirring, until the oats have softened and plumped up, 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat and let sit, covered, for another 10 minutes.
  4. If your cereal is too thick, you can always thin it with more water or milk. Traditionally, Scotch oats are served with cold milk.


Garnish the finished cereal with chopped dried fruit and nuts. Sweeten to taste with honey, agave nectar, or brown sugar.

Read more in Deborah Madison’s article about hot cereal breakfasts.

This content is from the Deborah Madison collection.

There are 7 comments on this item
Add a comment
28% recommend this recipe
1. by Emily H. on Jan 14, 2009 at 3:31 PM PST

I love steel-cut oats, too, but I’ve begun soaking them overnight first in water and a bit of salt and yogurt. They cook more quickly and reach a slightly softer (still chewy, though) texture that I prefer. I’ve also read that soaking helps to break down the phytates in grains like oats that hinder absorption of nutrients. Regardless, I love the way they turn out with an overnight soak.

2. by dgreenwood on Apr 28, 2009 at 7:24 AM PDT

I remember what a revelation steel cut oats were to me, a confirmed cereal hater through childhood. They didn’t resemble the wallpaper paste texture of rolled oats. The other thing I discovered was that I didn’t like them sweet! So I generally season mine with Spike, or salt/pepper. Sometimes I add chives and if I’m feeling decadent, a pat of butter. Nuts are also good, and mixing in a little plain yogurt or buttermilk is traditional.

I’m happy to read that I don’t have to stir - I have typically cooked 1 c oats to 4 c water stirring until creamy - about 15 minutes! then simmer until done, another 25 minutes or so. Your method is quicker and less labor intensive - hooray! I’ve also used a crockpot overnight - makes for instant breakfast but a bit on the mushy side.

3. by Marion McDiarmid on May 3, 2009 at 8:32 AM PDT

It’s interesting how imported steel cut oats are often called Irish Oats , but when I was in Ireland I discovered they are called pinhead. Isn’t that a great name ? I agree they are indeed far superior to flaked. For those of you who don’t like them sweet, also try cooking in chicken (or veggie) broth. My Irish auntie says they should be brought to a boil the night before, turned off, and they’ll be ready in the morning!

4. by anonymous on Jun 3, 2009 at 1:09 PM PDT

Thank you Marion for your aunties tip! I knew there had to be a low effort means to prepare this awesome cereal

For those with a decent rice cooker, I recommend using it to prepare steel cut oats. I enjoy mine with walnuts, dried blueberries and a little brown sugar.

5. by anonymous on Aug 11, 2009 at 4:06 PM PDT

I have been eating steel cut oats for quite a while, and recently I have been toasting them in the pan before adding liquid. Adds a very nice flavor.

6. by Heather Christensen on Dec 16, 2009 at 12:44 PM PST

Love this method! Great texture, and I don’t have to worry about the oats sticking to the pan.

7. by Holly Cook on Jun 21, 2010 at 9:12 PM PDT

I love steel cut oats. My mom used to make them for me all the time. I recently asked her how she gets them so soft and creamy. Here it is: bring 3 cups of milk and a cup of oats just to a boil. Add a pinch of salt. Stir and cover the pot. Turn off the heat and don’t open the pot until the next morning. Add what you like and reheat when you are ready to eat. So good.

Add a comment

Think before you type

Culinate welcomes comments that are on-topic, clean, and courteous. For the benefit of the community we reserve the right to delete comments that contain advertising, personal attacks, profanity, or which are thinly disguised attempts to promote another website.

Please enter your comment

Format: Bare URLs are automatically linked; use this style: [ "place text to be linked here"] for prettier links. You may specify *bold* or _italic_ text. No HTML please.

Please identify yourself

Not a member? Sign up!

Please prove that you’re not a computer

Deborah Madison

Our Table

Joy of Cooking app

A new tool for the kitchen

The latest in our collection of cooking apps.

Graze: Bites from the Site
First Person

The secret sharer

A father’s legacy

The Culinate Interview

Mollie Katzen

The vegetarian-cooking pioneer


Down South

Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more

Local Flavors

A winter romesco sauce

Good on everything

Editor’s Choice