The Speedy Guide to Make-Ahead Oatmeal

Try these four easy, make-ahead techniques and you can enjoy delicious oatmeal, no matter what type of morning you're having.

No time to stand over a pot making a hearty oatmeal breakfast? Skip the instant packets—these four easy techniques let you prep ahead and enjoy delicious oats with minimal fuss during the morning rush.

OVERNIGHT OATS: Breakfast on the Go
Overnight oats are simply old fashioned, rolled oats that have “soaked up” any sort of liquid—usually yogurt, milk, or non-dairy milk—therefore eliminating the need to cook. This cross between a yogurt bowl, smoothie, and oatmeal is great for grabbing on your way out the door, because it’s best eaten chilled or at room temperature. No microwave required.

The Recipe: For a single serving, Katherine Younger of suggests placing ½ cup rolled oats and about 1 cup liquid (the general favorite is a mixture of yogurt and milk) in a jar, bowl, or container. Add in optional mix-ins like chopped fruit, chia seeds, vanilla extract, and honey and stir. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, your oats will be thick, chewy, and ready to eat. Top with more milk, fruit, and toppings as desired.

SLOW COOKER OATS: “Instant” Hot Breakfast
For a hot bowlful of oatmeal that’s ready when you wake up, fire up your rice cooker or slow cooker at bedtime.

The Recipe: Place all of your oatmeal fixings—steel cut oats, the recommended ratio of water or milk, fruit, sweetener, and any other mix-ins—in your cooker. Emily Malone of recommends using the porridge setting on a rice cooker and using a timer, so the dish will finish cooking when you want to eat. For a slow cooker, turn it on just before going to bed—seven to eight hours is the max, says Lynn Andriani of Rise and dine.

BIG-BATCH OATMEAL: No-Brainer Breakfast
Oatmeal doesn’t have to be freshly made that day to be creamy and delicious—a pot will keep remarkably well in the fridge over the course of three to four days.

The Recipe: To make four servings, place 1 cup steel cut oats (or 2 cups rolled oats) in pot, along with 4 cups water or milk and a pinch of salt. Follow package directions and cook until oats are almost soft and most of the liquid is absorbed, then add in thinly sliced banana, frozen berries, honey, or vanilla extract, as desired. Add a splash more water so oatmeal is slightly more wet than normal; remove from heat and let cool. Place in containers and refrigerate for up to four days, or freeze individual sized servings. Each morning, simply scoop out your desired serving into a bowl and microwave, adding a splash of water or milk if needed.

BAKED OATMEAL: Brunch with Friends
Prep a pie pan of baked oatmeal the night before, and all you have to do is slide it in the oven for 30 minutes in the morning. The fancy presentation and light, fluffy texture that’s reminiscent of bread pudding make it perfect for casual entertaining.

The Recipe: Make your everyday oat and fruit mixture, then spoon into a buttered pie pan or casserole dish. One trick is to add a dash of baking powder and an egg to give it more of an airy texture. For more inspiration, try this recipe from Heidi Swanson, of 101 Cookbooks. You can adapt by using blueberries, and can get it ready the night before for easier morning baking.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest