Oatmeal is really good for you, but on weekdays when you’re getting ready for work or the kids for school, it can be hard to take out the time to spend 10 or 15 minutes standing at the stove, cooking and stirring it. Don’t turn to instant oatmeal, which is often loaded with salt, sugar and preservatives. Pressure cooker oatmeal is the answer! For basic oatmeal, you can throw the ingredients into your electric pressure cooker, let it do all the cooking and the built-in timer will let you know when they’re ready. You can have a good, healthy hot meal with next to no work involved. I’ve also included alternate suggestions if you want to reduce the calories and sugar involved, as well as suggestions for other hot oatmeal variations. For a special weekend treat, there are instructions for preparing caramelized apples to serve on top of your oatmeal.
Steel Cut Oats vs. Old Fashioned Oats vs. Instant Oats. It can get very confusing, but there are differences between each of these. Steel cut oats are oats which have been chopped into pieces, and they take the longest to cook. Old fashioned oats (also known as “rolled oats”) include the germ, which is rich in vitamins and minerals; they have been rolled out, sliced and take several minutes to cook. Instant oats have been cut into even smaller pieces and take the least amount of time to cook. There is an issue with instant oats being “pre-cooked”, but the reality is, all forms of oats have been partially cooked by steaming which takes place during the milling process. There are differences in texture amongst the different kinds of oats, but for many people, that’s not an issue either. Because instant oats have been cut so small, they are reportedly digested more quickly than either of the other kinds of oats. They purportedly raise your blood glucose (blood sugar) level more quickly than other forms of oats, prompting your body to release insulin, so they aren’t classified as a low glycemic food.
The only remaining differences that I’m aware of between old fashioned oats and instant oats is the increased amount of salt, sugar, and preservatives often found in the latter, and because of the processing, packaging and convenience factor, instant oats are generally more expensive. If you buy little packets of instant oats with flavoring, that’s where the salt, sugar and fat resides. Because I’m always in favor of paying the least amount of money for the same thing, and since old fashioned oats are more versatile (they are used in baking, too), that’s what I’ll use here. (And while I do add a small amount of salt, some fat, and some sugar to this recipe, I’ll give you multiple options for cutting back on the sugar and fat, as well as the full recipe, and leave it up to you how, or if, you cut back on the calories.)
Health Benefits of Oats and Oatmeal. Oats are good for you for a number of reasons. Old fashioned oats are classified as whole grains. Oats are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber (the former may reduce your chances of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease) and low in saturated fat. Oats contain beta glucan, which is associated with a reduction in the bad kind of cholesterol, and may help reduce your chances of coronary disease. If you’d like more details regarding the nutritional benefits of oats, see this Detailed Chart of the Nutritional Content of Oats.
Gluten Free and Organic Oats. Oats are generally considered to be gluten free (although a small number of those with gluten intolerance can still react) – most of the problem with oats apparently lies in cross-contamination. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats claims on its packaging that its oats are grown in dedicated, oats only fields, that its oats undergo R5 Elisa testing in the field and at their facility, which is 100% gluten free (please note, the label also says they do process tree nuts and soy in that location). I’ve checked the customer reviews, and there are many positive reviews from those who have gluten sensitivities or celiac disease who have used the product without problems. If you have nut allergies and don’t want to risk contamination, GF Harvest Gluten Free Old Fashioned Oats is also certified gluten free. For organic oats, see Bob’s Red Mill Organic Rolled Oats (please note, its packaged in a different facility that also processes tree nuts, soy, wheat and milk products). For further details, you can click on any of those links in this paragraph and read all sides of the packaging for any of these products.
Torani Syrup for the Sauteed Apples. I really like Torani syrups. You can use them in almost everything. They can be used in drinks (like hot chocolate), in baking (brownies, for example), to add flavor and sweetness to fruit salads, and with ice cream. (Everything in moderation.) For the sautéed apples pictured below, I used French Vanilla flavor, but there is an apple flavor as well as a caramel apple flavor, any of the nut flavors (almond, amaretto, butter pecan, hazelnut), caramel, or peach would work well with apples. I like to use the syrup in this particular recipe because it adds a subtle, additional flavor and sweetness, it adds liquid to help keep the fruit moist during cooking, and a tablespoon of the French Vanilla syrup, for example, contains a few calories less than a tablespoon of brown sugar, and a whole lot less calories than a tablespoon of butter. Plus they also have a line of Sugar Free Syrups. You can get some of the flavors at Smart & Final and Cost Plus Imports, and a greater number are available through Amazon.
PRESSURE COOKING TIP: Foods that tend to foam while cooking could block your pressure release valve. In some cases (split peas) the manufacturer recommends that you not cook them under pressure. You should also never fill your pressure cooker more than half full with foods that foam. Additionally, adding a tablespoon of oil to some (beans, for example) or butter in others (jam, oatmeal, rice, etc.) can help reduce the foaming and the risk of blocking the pressure release.
INGREDIENTS (Per Serving):
½ cup of old fashioned (rolled) oats
¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
¾ cup of cold water
¾ cup of milk
1 tablespoon butter
Apple slices (optional)
1 tablespoon Torani Syrup of your choice (optional)
Pinch of brown sugar (optional)
Pat of butter (optional)
Electric pressure cooker
12″ silicone tipped tongs
Long handled spatula
2 potholders or oven mitts
- Peel, core and slice up one or more apples for the oatmeal topping. If you are feeding adults, you can slice the apples thinly, if you are feeding small children, I would dice them up into bite size chunks. You can use any kind of apples, baking apples or regular eating apples (allow at least one apple per person). This is a good way to use up apples that are getting older and have already gotten a little soft. If you don’t want the apple topping, skip to Step 2.
- For each serving, add ½ cup of old fashioned (rolled) oats, ¼ teaspoon of coarse kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon of sugar to the pressure cooker pot.
- For each serving, add ¾ cup of water, ¾ cup of milk (lowfat or nonfat milk, if you prefer) and 1 tablespoon of butter (optional). (If you have a jiggle top pressure cooker, you may want to add additional water. They release more liquid than units like mine.) You can leave out the butter if you wish, however, it not only adds flavor, it helps reduce foaming and helps keep the oats from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Do not fill the pressure cooker more than half full. Stir the ingredients to help hydrate the oats before pressure cooking at HIGH PRESSURE for 2 minutes using QUICK PRESSURE RELEASE. If you want to use steel cut oats, increase the length of pressure cooking by several minutes, and add additional water. For those with standard stovetop pressure cookers, you will cook the same amount of time, but run your cooker under cold water to speed pressure release. If you want plain oatmeal, skip to Step 7.
- While the oatmeal is cooking in the pressure cooker, place the apples in a non-stick skillet over low to medium heat. Sauté until soft. You can add a little butter or a tablespoon of Torani syrup for several apples, or if you’re trying to keep calories to a minimum, just add small amounts of water periodically to keep the apples slightly moist.
- If you only want your apples warmed and softened, remove them from the skillet and place on top of the oatmeal. If you want your apples caramelized, proceed to the next step.
- Once apples have softened, sprinkle some brown sugar on top of the apples, stir, sprinkle a little more. Turn heat up to medium high, add a pat of butter, and cook the apples until they have turned a darker golden brown and caramelized. Once they have caramelized, turn off the heat.
- Once pressure has been released, turn the unit off, remove the pressure cooker lid, holding the back edge tilted up and the lid over the pot so any hot water drips back into the pot. Remove the pot from the pressure cooker. Stir the oatmeal briefly to mix and make sure nothing has stuck to the bottom of the pan. The oatmeal can be served plain, or you can top it with raisins, a pinch of brown sugar or a few drops of maple syrup (the former is the healthiest, lowest calorie choice, the latter two obviously add sugar and calories).
- Stir the oatmeal once more immediately before using you spatula or a long handled spoon to spoon the oatmeal into bowls.
- Spoon the apples over the oatmeal. Serve as quickly as possible.
OATMEAL TIP: If you want to use steel cut oats instead of old fashioned ones, increase the time cooking under pressure by several minutes and add additional water. Cook per the instructions, then when pressure is released, stir the oatmeal and test for doneness. You may need to change the setting to “simmer” and cook for a few additional minutes, or alternatively, you can turn the power off and put the lid back on, sealed, and allow residual heat in the pot to complete the cooking process.
- ½ cup of old fashioned (rolled) oats
- ¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- ¾ cup of cold water
- ¾ cup of milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Apple slices (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Torani Syrup of your choice (optional)
- Pinch of brown sugar (optional)
- Pat of butter (optional)
- Peel and core and slice one or more apples for the topping. If you are serving small children, I recommend you dice the apples into bite size pieces. If you don’t want the apple topping, skip to Step 2.
- For each serving, add ½ cup of rolled oats and ¼ teaspoon each of sugar and coarse kosher salt to the pressure cooker.
- For each serving, add ¾ cup each of milk and water and 1 tablespoon of butter. You can omit the butter, but it not only adds flavor, it helps reduce foaming and helps keep the oats from sticking to the bottom of the pot. If you have a jiggle top, you may want to add more water, since they release more liquid than my model does. Stir the oats briefly to moisten them. Don’t fill the pot more than half full. Cook at HIGH PRESSURE for 2 minutes using QUICK PRESSURE RELEASE. (For steel cut oats, increase the cooking time by several minutes and add more water.) For those with standard, stovetop pressure cookers, you’ll want to run cold water over the cooker to hasten the release of pressure. If you want plain oatmeal, skip to Step 7.
- While the oatmeal is cooking, heat the apples in a skillet over a low to medium flame. Sauté until the apples are soft. Add a little butter, a tablespoon of Torani syrup, or plain water to keep the apples moist while they cook.
- If you don’t want caramelized apples, turn the heat off and skip to Step 7.
- Once apples are soft, add a few pinches of brown sugar, a pat of butter, and increase heat to medium high. Cook, stirring frequently, until apples have taken on a darker golden shade and there are a few streaks of brown.
- When the pressure cooker timer goes off, use the tongs to force pressure release. When the unit unlocks the lid, remove it, holding the back edge up at an angle so any hot water there drops back into the pot. Turn the pressure cooker off, and remove the inner pot from the unit. Oatmeal can be served plain, with raisins mixed it, or a sprinkling of brown sugar or maple syrup on top. (The former two are the least caloric options, the latter two obviously add sugar and calories.)
- Stir the oatmeal again immediately before service and spoon it into bowls.
- Add the caramelized apples to the top of the oatmeal. Serve as soon as possible.