How To Make Oatmeal on the Stovetop

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Among the recipes that friends and family ask about most frequently, including how to make a proper pot of rice or how to cook perfect chicken breast every time, how to make a decent pot of oatmeal is always up there on the list. It seems that every home cook is chasing that elusive ideal pot of oatmeal: thick but not mushy, and fluffy but not chewy. Making good oatmeal can happen without much brain power (even while you’re still waiting for the coffee to brew) — this recipe will show you just how to do it.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Why Stovetop Cooking Makes the Best Oatmeal

Stovetop cooking gives you the most control over your oatmeal — something that baked or slow cooker oatmeal can’t promise. It also cooks the oatmeal relatively quickly. Most pots of oatmeal go awry in their ratio of water to oats, and with how long the oats are cooked. Instead, think of cooking oatmeal as you would other whole grains. Amounts matter and they can make a world of a difference.

For Your Information

  • This recipe calls for rolled oats — no quick-cooking or steel-cut oats here. You’ll need two cups.
  • A two-quart pot is the perfect size for making enough oatmeal to serve four people.
  • Oh, and make sure you’re stocked up on toppings too: 10 Sweet & Savory Ways to Top Your Morning Oatmeal.

3 Steps for a Perfect Pot of Oatmeal

  1. Bring the water to a boil first. You want a three-to-two ratio of water to rolled oats. Bringing the water to a boil before you add the oats keeps them from absorbing too much water.
  2. Add the oats at a simmer. Once boiling, drop the temp down to a gentle simmer and add the oats. Simmer for three minutes, stirring here and there. Then shut of the heat and move the pot off the burner.
  3. Cover and rest for five minutes. This is where the magic happens: Let the oats absorb the water without stirring or simmering. Perfect oatmeal is just ahead, so get your toppings ready.
(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Some Serving Suggestions

For me, the most classic bowl of oatmeal has a little knob of butter, melting slowly into the nooks a crannies; a splash of sweet, cold cream; and just a sprinkling of dark brown sugar. But oatmeal is in many ways the ultimate blank canvas — you can add cheese and pickled jalapeños, or fresh fruit and shaved chocolate. Really, you could eat this perfect pot of oatmeal every day and not get bored once you’ve mastered it.

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How To Make Oatmeal on the Stovetop: The Simplest, Easiest Method



  • 3 cups


  • 1/4 teaspoon


  • 2 cups

    old-fashioned rolled oats

  • Toppings, as desired


  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Medium saucepan

  • Wooden spoon or silicone spatula


  1. Bring the water and salt to a boil. Bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.

  2. Add the oats and simmer for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the oats and stir to combine. Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  3. Cover the pot and rest for 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes (this gives the oats time to absorb more water).

  4. Top and serve as desired. Serve the oatmeal with toppings as desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.