Instant Pot steel cut oats are a quick and healthy breakfast made in about half the time compared to the stovetop method. Cooking the hearty oats in a pressure cooker creates a tender and creamy consistency, without the need for constant stirring.
Perfect oats every time!
Steel cut oats have a delightfully nutty flavor that cooks into a creamy porridge but with a slight chew. One drawback is that the robust groats take substantially longer to cook compared to rolled oats. That obstacle stops most of us from grabbing the container on those hectic days. The solution is to use the Instant Pot, it’s a game-changer!
Using an electric pressure cooker has several advantages. The elevated boiling point in the enclosed vessel cooks the grains in just 6 minutes. Giving them a chance to sit and absorb the residual water ensures perfect consistency. One of the best perks is that you don’t need to stir the pot at all, it’s a totally hands-off experience until you’re ready to serve!
Why it typically takes so long to cook
Oats are a hearty cereal grain that comes in many different types, there are even gluten-free certified products. What makes steel cut oats unique is that the bran is still left on. The result is what is called oat groats, which have a wonderful nutty flavor.
Fiber packed and nutritious groats are chopped into smaller pieces so it’s easier to cook. They’re minimally processed and have not been steamed to pre-gelatinize the starches. Therefore, it takes more work and time to soften the outer bran and inner endosperm and germ.
Pressure cooking saves you time!
There are a handful of ways to cook steel cut oats. Using the slow cooker, microwave, or overnight oats are some of the most convenient methods. That’s until the Instant Pot grew in popularity.
Locking the oats and water in a pressurized chamber, around 11.6 psi increases the liquid’s boiling point from 212ºF (100ºC) up to around 242°F (117ºC). That means that the bran gets softened faster while the starches hydrate and swell quicker than any other method, especially compared to the stovetop.
Variation in the oat-to-water ratio
Using typically cooking methods, 1 cup of steel cut oats needs 4 cups of water. This factors in water evaporation out of the cooking vessel during the time needed to hydrate the grain. However, since the pressure cooker is a closed pot, no steam or moisture is released, it all stays inside. Therefore, all you need is 3 cups of water instead of 4.
Texture changes at different cook times
For creamy oatmeal that has contrasting chew and some separate grains, cook on high pressure for 6 minutes and naturally release the pressure for 15 minutes. I tested a wide range of times, and natural pressure release combinations (from 1 to up to 20 minutes at high pressure) and found that this was the optimal texture and consistency.
Interestingly, the oats can cook from as low as 1 minute for the chewiest texture to as high as 20 minutes for the softest and most porridge-like consistency. As time increases, the grain texture becomes less chewy and thicker.
The role of rice starches
Oats have a high starch component which helps them go from tough grains to a soft, thick, hot cereal. This is due to the process of starch gelatinization (absorption and swelling) and pasting (thickening). As the oat starches swell, they soften and create a creamy consistency. Overtime they thicken up, especially as they cool down and sometimes clump together.
Let the oats sit
You’ll notice that when you open the pot there will be some water sitting on top. This is good! The oats need that extra moisture mixed in to complete the absorption process. This allows the grains to be suspended in the water and thicken to just the right consistency. About 10 minutes is perfect for sitting before eating.
What about using milk?
If you’re like me you enjoy the extra richness milk or plant-based options add to the consistency of oatmeal. I tested cooking oats in dairy and almond milk. Because there are other solids in the milk (protein, sugar, fat, vitamins, minerals) the oats have a little more chew because less water is available.
Also, the sugar and proteins in the dairy cause some maillard browning in the bottom of the pot, giving it a cooked flavor (which some people may like). I recommend not using more than 3 cups of milk in the recipe (half of the liquid) to prevent scalding or curdling. The best solution is to add a splash of your preferred milk right before serving.
Add your favorite mix-ins or toppings
- Milk: Dairy, nut milk, or plant-based products to add richness in flavor.
- Nut butter: A few teaspoons of peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter for protein.
- Toppings: Fresh fruit like sliced bananas and berries, crunchy chopped nuts, cocoa powder or nibs, chia and flax seeds all provide extra flavor and nutritional boosts.
Make a little or make a lot
The bonus of using an Instant Pot is that you can seamlessly increase or decrease the amount of oats to suit your needs. You can add as little as ½ cup for a single serving (1 ½ cups cooked) or up to 3 cups (9 cups cooked) for a 6-quart capacity. Make sure that the pot is not filled past halfway to account for the expansion of the oats.
Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats
- 2 cups (360 g) steel cut oats
- ½ teaspoon (2 g) kosher salt
- 6 cups (1.4 L) water
- In a 6-quart Instant Pot add steel cut oats, salt, and water.
- Make sure that the release valve is in the "Sealing" position.
- Place the lid on, turn and lock.
- Press the "Manual" button on high pressure and then set the timer to 6 minutes using the "+" or "-" buttons.
- It will take about 15 minutes for the pot to heat and build up the pressure. You will see some steam release from the lid, and then the time will start on the display.
- Once cooking time is complete, allow the pressure to naturally release for 15 minutes.
- Press the “Keep Warm/Cancel” button.
- Carefully twist the steam release handle on the lid to "Venting" position.
- Turn off the Instant Pot by pressing the “cancel” button.
- Carefully remove the lid, opening the top away from you as steam will be released from the pot.
- There will be some liquid on top, stir to incorporate.
- Allow the oats to sit for 10 minutes to completely absorb the water before serving.
- Adjusting texture: For chewier oats cook for 4 minutes on high pressure, for softer oats cook for 8 minutes on high pressure. Keep the natural release time at 15 minutes, and sit time for 5 to 10 minutes.
- For a creamier oatmeal: Add up to 3 cups of dairy or plant-based milk to the recipe plus 3 cups of water. Alternatively, add some milk to the hot oats right before serving.
- Storing: Oatmeal can be portioned into smaller servings, cooled at room temperature, then covered and refrigerated for up to 4 to 5 days. If water starts to seep out of the grains, it’s no longer good to eat from a taste perspective.
- Freezing: Portion oatmeal out in single servings into quart-sized bags. These can be stored for up to 1 month. Defrost the night before in the refrigerator or place bag in a warm bowl of water until no longer frozen.
- Reheating: Reheat oatmeal in a microwave on high power at 30-second intervals until warm. On the stovetop cook over medium heat until warm. Add more milk or water as needed to adjust the consistency for both methods.