Recently I found myself hitting the snooze button one too many times, then hurtling breakfast at my kids while trying to get us all out the door before the school bell rang. Skipping breakfast during that rush, I'd come home to cold eggs or oatmeal. Feeling cranky that no one was really enjoying breakfast and that I was starting my day without the energy I needed, I decided on a solution that was industriously DIY.
Oatmeal cups aren't new, but they've been filling the supermarket shelves more than ever in the last few years. Quaker Oats and Bob's Red Mill each have overnight or classic warm versions of ready-to-heat-and-eat oats for breakfast on the run. This cozy DIY version can be made in a hurry, and the result is a slightly sweet, super-creamy cup of oatmeal that allows our family a staggered breakfast that is completely customizable to each person's tastes and schedule.
What Are Instant Oatmeal Cups?
The idea behind instant oatmeal cups is simple: Put oatmeal, a little thickener, and your favorite toppings in a jar that is just waiting for warm water whenever you're ready to eat. Similar to creating bags of your favorite instant oatmeal at home, these cups have the added utility of being eat straight from their jars. Made with rolled oats and thickened with oat flour and cooked with hot water or the microwave, the resulting oatmeal is a tiny bit chewy with plenty of sweet creamy texture. (You can add more milk or water to thin the oatmeal to your favorite consistency.)
For Your Information
- Fill each cup with 1/2 cup of the oat mixture, and you'll need 1/2 cup of boiling water to cook the oats.
- These cups are made with whole rolled oats as well as oat flour. You can make the oat flour by quickly pulsing the oats in a food processor or blender.
- We prefer toppings that have a long shelf-life in the pantry, so choose nuts, seeds, dried fruit, coconut, and chocolate chips for flavoring and topping the oatmeal cups.
Key Steps for Instant Oatmeal Cups
- For creamier oats, use oat flour: Sure, you can put oats in a jar and then cover them with hot water and get a pretty decent cup of oatmeal, but for a creamy cup of oats that tastes like it was cooked on the stovetop, a few tablespoons of oat flour per cup makes the difference.
- Layer the toppings on last: This is as much for aesthetics as it is for making sure that the oats cook evenly and the toppings stay crisp or chewy.
- Cover to cook before serving: There are two ways to cook the oatmeal when you're ready to eat — more on that below — but be sure to cover the oats after adding the hot water or after microwaving so they continue to cook.
Our Favorite Oatmeal Cup Jars
We love these 14-ounce Arc Working Glass Jars with Lids for DIY oatmeal cups. The short stature makes them easier to fill and the lids make them stackable and portable. They cost a little more than canning jars but you'll be using them regularly for everything from oatmeal to soup on the go!
Storing and Serving DIY Oatmeal Cups
Store your ready-to-eat oatmeal cup in a cool, dark place like the pantry, where well-covered they'll keep for up to three months.
When you're ready to eat, there are two ways to cook the oatmeal. The first option is to add 1/2 cup (or more) of boiling water to the jar, stir, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. The oats and oat flour will absorb the water, making a perfectly creamy cup of oats. The second method is to add 1/2 cup (or again more, if you prefer a thinner oatmeal) cool water to the jar and microwave the jar, uncovered, for 3 minutes and then remove the jar from the microwave, cover, and let stand 2 minutes. Either way, this is like a little gift to my snooze-button-loving future self.
How To Make DIY Instant Oatmeal Cups
Makes 8 oatmeal cups
What You Need
old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
packed light brown sugar
- Optional add-ins (amount per cup):
dried fruit, such as raisins, chopped apples, cherries, or strawberries
mini chocolate chips or candied ginger
Large mixing bowl
Measuring cup or measuring spoon
Food processor or small spice grinder
(8-ounce) jars or cups with lids
Pulse 1 cup of the oats into oat flour. Place 1 cup of the oats in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment or small spice grinder and pulse until the texture of cornmeal. This oat flour will help thicken and make the instant oatmeal creamy. Transfer to a large bowl.
Combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Add the remaining oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and stir to combine.
Divide the oat mixture into 8 (1/2-cup) servings. Divide the oat mixture into 8 jars or other lidded containers such as disposable coffee cups (1/2 cup in each). Add any optional toppings to each jar.
Seal and store. Cover the jars and store at room temperature until ready to use.
To serve. When ready to serve, add 1/2 cup of boiling water to each jar. Stir to combine, cover again, and let sit for 5 minutes.
Microwave directions: Alternatively, you can add cool water and microwave on high for 1 minute. Let sit 2 minutes and enjoy.
Gluten-free: For gluten-free oatmeal cups, check the package label to make sure the oats have been processed in a gluten-free facility.
Storage: The jars can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 months.