How to Cook Apple Pie Steel-Cut Oats in a Slow-Cooker

This week I wholeheartedly embraced the slow-cooker challenge along with dozens of other bloggers. I stewed beans all day, simmered a vegetable stock, and combined ginger, coconut and chicken into a fragrant dinner.

I even used my slow-cooker for breakfast, something I’m going to be doing a whole lot more of, thanks to an ingenious technique discovered via Food 52 for overnight steel-cut oats.

As you’ve read, oatmeal in all its forms is one of my pantry essentials. We use rolled oats in our Overnight Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal, stir steel-cut oats for Brown Butter-Toasted Oatmeal with Roasted Pears, and often cook a pot of quick oats on those hurried Monday mornings.

Of all the varieties of oatmeal, my affections lie with steel-cut oats. However, I am less fond of the 30 or so minutes of cooking time that they require in the morning to reach the perfect creamy, yet toothsome texture. I had tried a few overnight versions, but found that, although convenient, they left the oats with a gummy consistency.

Fortunately, I have come across a completely new method that has – yes, I dare to say it – revolutionized our breakfasts.

How to Cook Steel-Cut Oats in a Slow-Cooker

What you see above is a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup containing our piping hot and perfectly cooked breakfast of “Apple Pie” Steel-Cut Oats. Surrounded by water and covered with a lid, they have steamed overnight in the slow-cooker, resulting in creamy oats that still retain a bit of bite and taste exactly as if they were just made by hand.

Another oatmeal enthusiast named Ying must be credited for the overnight bain-marie method of cooking the oats. Her almond-butter and honey version of steel-cut oats over on Food 52 looks very tempting and is definitely bookmarked for another morning.

I’m absolutely flipped over this method, and happy that it works so well for our family. We love a hot, stick-to-your-ribs breakfast, and this one is fuss-free. There’s not even a sticky, crusty slow-cooker to wash, just a measuring cup to rinse after you have served the cereal.

For me, the apple pie flavor puts this breakfast over the top. Why apple pie? It’s a fun way to incorporate fruit into the breakfast. The combination of brown sugar, spices and double apple (both sauced and grated fresh) creates a flavor profile that is surprisingly close to apple pie.

Feel free to go as heavy or as light on the spices and sugar as you like, but don’t leave out the apple sauce. It really helps to carry the apple flavor through in a mellow way, without too much tang.

Note: My nights are short, and six hours is all the time I’ve given this recipe in the slow-cooker. However, I’m confident that you could leave the oats in for up to nine hours and still get good results. Let me know in the comments how you experiment with the recipe for your perfect breakfast!

Tip: Don’t have a large Pyrex measuring cup? Try a Pyrex loaf pan or serving dish instead. I’m willing to bet even a stainless bowl or couple of wide-mouth jars would work too.

Apple Pie Steel-Cut Oats (Slow-Cooker)
4.7 from 7 reviews
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: 4
  • 3/4 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/2 cup coffee cream (1/2 & 1/2)
  • 2 Tablespoons raw cane sugar, brown sugar, or maple syrup
  • 1 medium apple, washed and grated
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce or apple butter
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water
  1. In a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup, mix together all the ingredients except the water, and combine well. Add the water and slowly mix to combine.
  2. Place the measuring cup in the bottom of a slow-cooker and nearly fill it with room temperature water. It should come up the edges of the Pyrex cup to the same level as the oatmeal.
  3. Cover slow-cooker and place on Low. Cook for 6 hours.
  4. In the morning, remove lid carefully and take out the Pyrex cup. Give the oatmeal a good stir, then portion into four bowls. Serve with cream, fresh chopped apples and toasted walnuts.

Have you ever used your slow-cooker for breakfast?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. amy, that sounds LOVELY and is getting bookmarked now! (and just b/c i’m sure someone will mention it, you might want to add that “coffee cream” is 1/2 and 1/2 to us americans in the audience. :)) thanks for a great recipe idea.

  2. We have oatmeal for breakfast every morning, but I have never tried the steel cut oats. I think that we will have to give it a try! Do you buy them at your local market? Or order them online?

    • I often buy them in bulk at my health food store, or sometimes organic, the Bob’s Red Mill packages. I’m sure you can order Bob’s online.

  3. What a fabulous idea! I love steel-cut oats too but they do require a fair amount of time and attention. Will have to give this method a try! Thanks for the great idea! :)

  4. Neat tutorial! I’ll certainly be trying this tomorrow!

  5. Thanks you! I needed a new recipe. I have a questions about type of oats. I belong to a grain CSA and they gave me live oats. They haven’t been processed at all. Do I need to do something to them to use them in recipes like this? I can’t find any info online. Thanks!

    • Leigh, are they like groats? If so, you could try chopping them up in your food processor (I haven’t tried this!) to make them smaller, or just soak them for a few hours. Let me know how they come out. Sounds interesting!

    • I used to make oat groats in the crock pot over night. I can’t remember the proportions but I know that for the liquid to groat ratio I used 1/2 milk and 1/2 water. They are delicous and I love the texture. The only drawback is that getting the crock pot clean afterward is not fun. Good luck!

  6. What a great idea! Anything that makes the morning easier is a win in my books.

  7. Genius! Now if only steel cut oats agreed with me. I tried them for the first time recently and they were yummy, but I’m going to have to stick with rolled or instant oats. I wonder if this technique could be used to make rice (might get rid of the need for a rice cooker – not that I own one)?

  8. Thank you so much! I’ve been tryig to cook oatmeal in a slow cooker for while and never quite figured out how! I am SO excited to try this! Yea!

  9. Going to try this soon. Making out grocery list today and steel oats will be on there. I love them but the time to make in the am is difficult to have often.

  10. My daughter loves oatmeal for breakfast but is also very eager to eat breakfast RIGHT AWAY and is grumpy until she’s got a full belly. This definitely could make our mornings go more smoothly.

    • It’s the same in our household, Steph. Even I wake up tremendously hungry, being pregnant and all.

      This this recipe the only wait is the cooling down time in the kids bowls!

  11. this sounds amazing! Why have I never used the slow cooker for breakfast?! love it!

  12. I will definitely be trying this out! My almost 3-year old requests oatmeal for breakfast DAILY.

  13. Sounds lovely! I love steel cut oats in the mornings and have been fairly satisfied with other overnight recipes. But my daughters want more flavour. I think this will please them! I’m going to give it a try with coconut milk, since my youngest has a dairy allergy and I’ve been finding that coconut substitutes very well – and has the benefit of being ‘real food’!

    • I love that idea. I’m crazy about coconut milk and like the idea of tropical flavors. Topped with sliced banana and toasted coconut? Yum.

  14. (I should have said that coconut milk “has the benefit of being ‘real food’ as opposed to many other dairy-replacement options!”) :)

  15. I’d love to try this sometime! Sounds absolutely delicious.

  16. I definitely want to try this! A hot, healthy breakfast that’s ready for me in the morning? I’m all over that!

  17. What a great idea! I love the idea of not having to rush around making breakfast – completely serve and go.

  18. Would you believe I broke the handle off my Pyrex cup after decades of use? What lousy timing! I’ll try it with a small casserole dish soon.

  19. What a great way to start the morning I love oatmeal for breakfast and not to have to wait for it while rushing around getting lunches ready and every one up is perfect… I came across a recipe for “Chai” flavor by adding 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ginger and cardamon, a pinch of salt, cloves and pepper. topped off with blueberries and almonds… Delicious…. It is a favorite of ours…. thanks for the great tip…

  20. I’m not a huge oatmeal lover (yikes!) but my husband is. I just know he’d go crazy for this!!

  21. I love stick to the ribs kinda breakfast and oatmeal is what we usually have in the morning! Love steel cut oats, thanks for the tips to save time and enjoy creamy and delicious oats :)

  22. I love this! I’ve wanted to try overnight oats for some time but our slow cooker is the giant sized version and I thought that I’d be stuck with all these leftovers that wouldn’t reheat well. I love that I can just make what we’ll eat that day and there’s no big slow cooker mess to clean up.

    Going to the store to buy oats this weekend!

  23. You take the cake on the best breakfast recipes. I’ve did the Baked Apple Soaked Oatmeal last weekend and the Pumpkin Baked French Toast for Christmas morning. Now I get to try this one, thanks!

    I’m excited that the clean up will be a lot easier than when I cook my steel cut oats overnight in the slow cooker. I finally bought slow cooker bags because I hated how congealed the oats were to the sides of the cooker.

  24. I tried this recipe using oat groats/berries (I think?) I put them bit by bit in the coffee grinder and pulsed a couple of times. I repeated until I had about 3/4 cup. The consistency seemed to be more like Scottish oats instead of steel cut, resulting in a slightly mooshier texture than I would have liked. I did love that it was ready when I woke up! The flavor was pretty good too, although my husband apparently does not like coffee creamer and gagged. More leftovers for me!

  25. I love oatmeal, but hate waiting for it cook, just like everyone else. This looks like a great option to give my hubby a hot breakfast without having to get up almost an hour before him!

  26. I have been wanting to make overnight steel cut oats forever, but I always seem to forget about them. This water bath method is really intriguing and your apple pie flavors sound absolutely perfect for a cold, January morning.

  27. Do you think this would work with rolled oats? I would love to try this recipe but I have TONS of rolled oats/old fashioned oats that I need to use up.

  28. I have this ready to go in to cook tonight. Mixed up the dry ingredients durung dinner clean up, then mixed the wet ingredients and stuck it in the fridge. Will be ready to turn it in at bedtime. Thank you !

  29. These came out so good! Thank you for posting the recipe. I used two pint jars. The only trick is to stir well before serving.

  30. Where I live in Canada, “coffee cream” is actually 18% milk fat, half and half is only 10%. I am from the US originally and am not sure if there is an equivalent readily sold there. I may be wrong, as I am not sure where the author of the recipe is from (I stumbled upon this from pinterest) :-)

  31. Jessica J. says:

    Yum, just made these overnight and am thoroughly enjoying them for breakfast! Thanks for the recipe and method!!

  32. Hi Aimee!

    I made this last night and it turned out great! I subbed 1% milk for coffee cream because I forgot to buy it. I did let this cook almost 9 hours (no judging– I was tired.) Consistency was excellent. Thank you so much for the great idea.

    • Thanks for stopping by and letting me know how you liked the recipe, Alexis. I’m happy to hear it can go for 9 hours and not be complete mush. :)

      • We did eight hours and then it switched to warm for about 45 minutes. Worked great!

        Have you tried other flavor combination of them? It was a tad on the sweet side for us early in the morning. We thought about making plain maple steel cut and then adding toppings to everyone’s preference.

  33. I’m trying this with our dried apples.

  34. So glad I stumbled onto this today. My family loves oatmeal. Will be making this for tomorrow morning with almond milk instead of cream. Can’t wait to try. Thanks so much!


  35. Now I have a plan for all the oats from BSP!

  36. My daughter made this last night and added handful of fresh cranberries, which added a little tang this morning! We love steel-cut oats made with a water bath in the crockpot! It’s nice or a fuss-free morning!

  37. What about using coffee creamer? Would that work?

  38. Made this a few days ago, gets better each day of reheating! Added dried cranberries towards the end of cooking and sprinkled pecans just before eating. Great recipe and easy cleanup. Thank you!!!!!!!!!

  39. Yum! We made this last night and had it this morning – thank you for this fabulous recipe, Aimee! We all loved it – and that’s saying something around here! :)

  40. This was so tasty! I forgot the salt and think that it really did need that. I used whole milk instead of half and half. Based on when I went to bed and when we wanted to eat, I decided to set the slow cooker for 7 1/2 hours, ours then automatically goes to warm, and it was on that setting for about an hour after the cook time. It looked just like the pictures posted above. can’t wait to make it again!

  41. Just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing this fabulous recipe. I’ve made it twice so far and will make more tonight. I used my homemade apple sauce and skipped the nutmeg because I don’t have it on hand. Drizzled it with good quality maple syrup…it was amazing! Thanks again :)

  42. Not a good recipe. First, all of the ingredients don’t fit in a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup (which I bought especially for this recipe, and I hate buying new equipment for recipes!). Second, I took a chance and let it cook for 8 1/2 hours…complete mush. Finally, there was no flavor at all and I was generous with ALL of the ingredients and cleanup was a pain as the sides of my dish were crusted with oatmeal. Very disappointing.

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