Breakfast To Go: Warm Overnight Steel Cut Oats

Jan 6, 2016

January can be a hard jolt back to reality—torn from the lazy comfort of winter holidays, relaxed school and work schedules and long, lingering mornings, it can be tempting to sacrifice breakfast in favour of time.

Breakfast is referred to as the most important meal of the day for several reasons (for both kids and adults): it’s vital to refuel after your overnight fast ("break the fast," get it?) in order to provide much-needed energy and restore blood glucose levels, both of which help maximize mental and physical performance.

If you’re a parent, you’re right to insist your kids eat a little something before they head out the door.

Breakfast provides an opportunity to get some essential nutrients in, too—as with any meal, it should be a balance of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Whole grains and fruits (and even vegetables) keep kids (and grown-ups) at top form while providing energy that will last through to lunchtime.

Breakfast doesn’t have to be prepackaged to be portable!

Coffee shop muffins and packaged cereal bars may be convenient, but may not be the best nutritional choices; when it’s cold outside, a warm breakfast can be especially nourishing—and if you spend a few minutes preparing the night before, it’s a sound investment in your kids’ health as well as your pocketbook. Breakfast doesn’t have to be prepackaged to be portable!

Steel cut oats—oats chopped from groats that haven’t been rolled and flattened yet—are particularly nutty and chewy compared to traditional oats. They take longer to cook (about half an hour on the stove) and require more water (1 cup oats to 3-4 cups water, depending on how saucy or dry you like your porridge), but they can be made in large batches.

A cup of steel cut oats

Try refrigerating cooked steel cut oats for a few days or dividing them into empty muffin tins and freeze, then transfer the hardened pucks to a freezer bag for longer storage (pop one out and microwave it for an instant breakfast).

If you keep jars of dried fruit, toasted nuts and even coconut on hand, alongside the usual brown sugar/honey/maple syrup, it will be easy to assemble a pretty amazing breakfast in a matter of minutes.

You'll Also Love: Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Smoothie

But I recently learned a new trick that changes everything—particularly if you’re in the position to take breakfast with you in the morning.

With overnight steel cut oats in individual jars, kids can eat in the back seat on the way to school, or you can grab one with the lid on, pop it in your bag and microwave it at work.

Best of all: each serving costs mere cents—a huge savings compared to virtually anything else you can pick up—and provides a nutritional boost, too.

I love this method!

You Will Need:

  • 1 1/2 cups steel-cut oats
  • 3 1/2-4 cups water
  • pinch salt
  • screw-top jars (I like the kind with the rings and snap lids)
  • any toppings you like (berries, nuts, raisins, shredded coconut)


1. In a medium-large saucepan, bring the oats, water and salt to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes, then remove from the heat, stir and divide the mixture between 5 jars. Let stand for an hour or so, until they’ve cooled down a bit, then put the lids on and put them in the fridge. That’s it!

Jars full of overnight oats.

2. As they cool, the oats will absorb the rest of the liquid. All you need to do is grab a jar from the fridge, remove the lid and pop the jar in the microwave to reheat. Add your choice of toppings and eat breakfast straight from the jar. It’s environmentally friendly, too!

Jars of overnight oats with toppings.

Of course, you could add any additions straight to the jar after cooking the oats. Raisins and other dried fruit will plump up as they sit and a shake of cinnamon is always a good idea. Add chopped nuts later, to keep them crunchy—ditto fresh berries, which could get watery.

Makes 5 servings.

Article Author Julie Van Rosendaal
Julie Van Rosendaal

Julie Van Rosendaal is the author of six best-selling cookbooks (with a seventh due out this fall), the food editor of Parents Canada magazine and the food and nutrition columnist on the Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One. She is a recipe developer, TV personality, food stylist and writes about food for local, national and international publications. She is perhaps best known as the voice behind her popular food blog, Dinner with Julie, where she documents real life at home in Calgary with her husband and nine-year-old son. Connect on twitter @dinnerwithjulie.


Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.