Now that we're all back to school and back to work, the mornings feel a lot more rushed than they did back in July. These days it's all about speed and convenience. Whether you're eating breakfast at home or on the go, packets of instant oatmeal are handy to keep around. Add water or milk and give them a few minutes in the microwave or on the stovetop, and you're good to go.
Because breakfast is the most important meal of the day, members of our office tried six national brands of regular, unflavored instant oatmeal. We're sharing our thoughts on all six brands, as well as our most favorite type of instant oats in the bunch. Want to see our top pick?
How We Selected the 6 Brands
I selected a variety of well-known national brands of unflavored instant oatmeal packets (no maple and brown sugar or apple-cinnamon here) that can be found at most grocery stores across the country. We tasted brands I found from visiting a variety of major grocery stores in New York City.
How We Set Up the Blind Taste Test
I cooked each variety of instant oatmeal in the microwave, according to the individual package instructions (these were roughly the same, with some very minimal variation), and assigned each bowl of oats a letter. I then lined up the bowls on a table. As my officemates spooned each type of oatmeal into a tasting cup, I asked them to give me their thoughts on all six brands. While there were toppings lined up on the table, tasters were only allowed to add these after giving their observations of each brand of oats.
The Taste Test Results
Unlike many of the other taste tests, no one was able to identify individual brands — they didn't even have any guesses. A common word used to describe just about every oatmeal was "bland," but that's not surprising when you have a product with no added sugar, and little to no salt. Nonetheless, the brands varied more than I expected, both with texture and some slight differences with taste.
Here's the rundown of what our tasters had to say about each brand of instant oatmeal they tasted, in alphabetical order.
McCann's Quick Cooking Rolled Oats (3.69/16 ounces)
We know McCann's for their Irish steel-cut oats, so I was surprised when I came across their offering of quick-cooking rolled oats. Unlike the other brands, this one was not sold in individual packets. These oats cooked up "thick" according to one of my officemates. Another added that they "had good consistency," and held their texture surprisingly well.
Nature's Path Hot Oatmeal ($3.00/14 ounces)
What made these oats stand out with everyone in the office was the texture. Right away toasters noted that this was "good," and mentioned that they "liked the thickness." The oats held their shape without getting too mushy.
Quaker Instant Oatmeal ($4.99/12 ounces)
If you've never noticed before, Quaker dominates the shelf when it comes to oatmeal. With the exception of Trader Joe's, who offered only their own brand, Quaker was available at every store I visited. A few people noticed the size of the oats were "smaller than some of the other brands."
Trader Joe's Oatmeal Complete ($2.99/12 ounces)
This bowl of oats looked very different from all the others right from the start. It was the first thing everyone at the office noticed immediately. The oats didn't hold their shape and hearty texture as well as some of the other brands. Instead they almost seemed to dissolve into themselves. Looking past the "gummy consistency," as it was described by some, the taste was what you'd expect from unflavored instant oats.
Whole Foods Organic Instant Oatmeal ($3.89/11 ounces)
As you might expect from Whole Foods, these oats contain very few additives, and don't include salt. While the oats held their shape well, their texture "looked a little gummy." While these tasted plain on their own, they would have made a nice base for some dried fruit, nuts, and honey.
Instant Oatmeal: The Office Favorite
While all of these brands came out well in our taste tests, one stood up as the favorite.
Foodtown Instant Oatmeal (3.99/12 ounces)
It's not all the time we have a unanimous winner, but these generic brand oats received the vote of approval from everyone in the office. They were the favorite amongst everyone. While the consistency looked visibly thinner than the other brands, these oats didn't taste thin or watery. They held their texture well, and thanks to a little bit of added salt, had a great flavor.
Taste Tester Quotes
- The flavor is good. I could eat it plain without anything on it.
- Looks watery, but it's not.
- For unflavored oats, they don't have that bland taste you'd expect.
- Good consistency; my favorite!
- Mmm, kind of salty.
Do you have a favorite brand of instant oatmeal? Any brand we missed that we have to try? Let us know in the comments!