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Jan 8, 2010 09:31 AM

Overnight oatmeal in a thermos

I am not a morning person ... REALLY not a morning person. I like oatneal for breakfast but sometimes even microwaving a bowl is more than I want to deal with ... so I eat junk instead ... a muffin, a donut, etc.

I found a tip on the web about making oatmeal the night before in a thermos ... it works !!!

Using Quaker rolled oats (not quick), I put 2/3 cups boiling water in a thermos and add 1/3 cup rolled oats. The next morning I open it and ... hot oatmeal.

Sometimes I add dried fruit such as raisins, prunes, apricots. Cinnamon , I forgot cinnamon.

This works best with a really good insulated stainless steel thermos.

The plastic versions give a cooler version in the morning ... still you can toss it into a microwave for 30 seconds to re-heat. It avoids the measuring cups, pulling out the oatmeal, chopping the fruit in the morning. Yes, I know that sounds and is incredibly lazy ... but I'm just not a kitchen person. I despise cooking. This helps start my day in a more healthy way with limited fuss.

And yes I know there is overnight crock pot or rice cooker oatmeal. Don't own those and it would be another thing to clean. All I clean now is the thermos. Did I mention I hate anything to do with the kitchen?

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  1. Cool. ATK recently decided that Quaker Rolled Oats are good enough to be recommended and ATK is seemed to like the flavor:
    "Offering a “slight chew,” and “subtle sweetness,” Quaker’s most well known style of oatmeal “felt and tasted very natural,” with a texture that tasters deemed “good—plump and crunchy,” “hearty,” and “with a tiny bit of snap.” Its flavor had “good oat-y, toasty notes.”

    1. Have you tried it with steel-cut oats? They're a little more work because they're harder to cook. You have to bring the oats and water to a boil together, so there's a pan to wash. And scalding the thermos is a good idea, too. But they're so delicious (IMO far superior to rolled oats) and it's definitely the easiest way to prepare them.

      BTW, the perfect thermos for anything like this is a short one with a wide opening - no need for a bowl! (Does that make up for having an extra pan to wash?)

      25 Replies
      1. re: alanbarnes

        So what's your method of cooking and holding the SCO?

        1. re: bushwickgirl

          Couldn't be simpler. Put oats, water, and whatever additions you like in a pan and bring to a full rolling boil. Dump into a preheated thermos, seal it up, and go to bed. The next morning - oatmeal!

          1. re: alanbarnes

            Wow, I'm sold.

            I have a similar thing I do with cold SCO's in summer (that I learned from Jillian Michaels of the Biggest Loser of all people) and that is that the night before, I layer in into a Tupperware container about 1/4 cup of uncooked SCOs, and 1/3 cup of yogurt, and however many fresh or frozen berries as I feel like, put a lid on it, and stick it in the fridge.

            The yogurt softens the SCOs to the point where they are chewy and delicious. It makes an easy and healthful breakfast "on the go", especially when it's hot in summer. (This time of year, I'm craving HOT oatmeal, but in summer, cold is the way to go!)


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              The Two Hot Tamales, remember them from FN, have a cookbook (City Cuisine) with a somewhat similar recipe, soak the SCO overnight, drain and serve with yogurt, fruit, etc. Nice and chewy.
              The idea of having a nice hot breakfast ready to go out the door with mrbushwick at 6am and me not having to get up at that hour is very intriguing.

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Too ... cool. Thanks for mentioning the cold oatmeal.

                In my search for things congee and porridge I turned up recipes on summer porridge based on Bircher or Pukkola. I'm actually going to give it a try tonight ... though it is winter ... but winter in SF isn't all that anyway.

                This link has a beautiful photo

                Summer Oatmeal

                Another link about cold oatmeal

                Summer porridge

                1. re: rworange

                  If you are into congee take a look at the Instant Pot DUO electric pressure 7-in-1 multi-cooker ( or on Amazon). The IP quickly makes great porridge from oats and other grains, plus it has a congee and 2-stage yogurt program (scalds & incubates, even in individual serving jars if desired).

                  I got an IP DUO in January 2014 and it hasn't left my countertop because I'm using it daily, sometimes 2-4 x day. In addition to pressure cooking (high and low pressure settings), steaming, & cooking rice, the Instant Pot also has a slow cooker function (though honestly, with the time-savings of pressure cooking, I haven't bothered with the slow cook function).

                  I haven't used the congee setting, yet, but Instant Pot's Canadian designers probably had customers who prepare Asian foods in mind when they designed the Instant Pot program settings (half the recipes in the enclosed booklet are for Chinese dishes, also written in Chinese (English translations available online).

                  I donated one of my stock pots because now I'm making bone broth on a weekly or biweekly basis in the IP (1 hour with pressure=24 hours in a slow cooker or stovetop) and veg broth on demand as needed, which saves freezer space, energy, and time, not to mention my house doesn't smell like a broth factory anymore.

                  I also donated my small and medium sized Crock Pots. If my large slow cooker wasn't an All-Clad, it would have been donated, too (it'll be good for keeping chili warm at parties). I did not donate my yogurt maker, because I usually steam-scald milk directly in wide mouth half pint jars in the Instant Pot and transfer the jars to my yogurt maker for culturing (I can quickly steam-scald two batches of jars in the IP for a total of 8 jars, then let them cool before adding the culture and incubating in the yogurt maker). I could incubate a larger amount of yogurt directly in the IP, too, but then I couldn't use it for anything else for the next 8-12 hours (if I make yogurt overnight, I leave it in the IP to incubate).

                  I bought Instant Pots for both my college student nieces, and I'm buying one for my SIL in London in August 2014 when the UK version is released. I've even packed my Instant Pot in the car on a few recent road trips, to make one pot dinners and breakfast (soft & hard boiled eggs, oatmeal) in the motel rooms.

                  I frequently use the pot-in-pot pressure cooker method with the steaming trivet accessory and a heat proof dish to steam-cook or reheat foods quickly without having to wash out the pan each time. The high quality tri-ply bottom s/s liner pot cleans up easily and can be used on the stove to start or finish a dish (I bought an additional liner pot and a glass lid for fast changes from one food to another).

                  I already loved to cook, but I can't think of anything I've ever bought for my kitchen that has even come close to being as useful, not even my stand mixer or powerful high speed blender (so that's saying a lot).

                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                  TDQ, I was intrigued by the stel-cut oats and yogurt idea. Last night, I stirred 1/4 cup steel-cut oats in a small, dry non-stick skillet until they smelled toasty, then mixed them with some Greek yogurt (didn't measure, but probably closer to 2/3 cup) and chucked it in the fridge overnight. This AM, I stirred in some flaxseed meal and a few dried cranberries and golden raisins. I'm not a big hot oatmeal eater, but I liked the chewiness of the oats + yogurt. While I am normally partial to the dense, creamy strained Greek yogurt, it was a bit thick in this application, so I might switch to a looser style, but I have just found a new breakfast. Thanks!

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    I'm so glad you like it! I like the chewy texture of it.

                    I probably should have mentioned that you don't want to use the strained yogurt for this application. Regular yogurt works best, I think as you need the extra moisure that the whey provides.

                    When rhubarb is in season, my husband makes this sugary concoction he calls hairy sauce that we freeze in little containers. I love to put the rhubarb sauce in this yogurt/SCO mixture when I put it together. You don't even have to defrost it. Just plop it in there and it will be fine in the morning, just like everything else.


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      I like the chewy texture, too. I've had some imported yogurts with chewy grains mixed in, and liked them, so I was pretty sure I'd like the oatmeal from your description. The oatmeal hydrated fine, but the already-thick yogurt became too solid after giving its moisture. I think I'll get some frozen berries to add until soft and juicy fruits are in season again - I didn't have anything like that, hence the dried fruit, which is my cereal go-to in winter. The rhubarb sauce sounds fantastic for this dish.

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        I wanted to follow up. I've been making this concoction with a regular yogurt and some frozen fruit (mango chunks and wild blueberries), and it's working well for me. Not pretty, but satisfying and healthful, and nice to have something balanced ready to go in the morning that takes three minutes to put together the night before.

                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          And what if you forget to do your prep the night before? It also works with with instant oatmeal. I've been using this brand of oatmeal.

                          As with the overnight version it's best with regular (not Greek) yogurt so there's more whey to soak into the oats.

                          Very satisfying, balanced breakfast on the go, even if you forget to prepare in advance.


                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I am going to have to try this! I love Steel cut oats, but don't always have time to cook them on the stove. Thanks for sharing!

                  3. re: alanbarnes

                    Hmmm...I tried this last night with 1/4 c SCOs, 1 c water, pinch of sea salt, pinch of cinnamon, and a handful of frozen blueberries. Dumped it all in a pan, stirred occasionally until it came to a full rolling boil, then poured it into a thermos. (We had preheated the thermos with some boiling water for about an hour before putting the SCO mixture in.)

                    What I got this morning was blueberry soup, no oats. It's a very tall thermos. The oats are glued to the bottom of the thermos. I'm going to have to dig it out with the handle-end of a long-handled spoon or something (don't have one with me right now.)

                    What did I do wrong?


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Wow. Sorry to hear that. Everything sounds pretty much exactly like what I do, but I've never gotten those results. The only difference I can think of is the thermos.

                      I use a thermos that's wide rather than tall. Some separation occurs, but it's easy enough to stir things together. It's also only 10 ounces, which just holds a single serving. If you're making 10 ounces of oatmeal in a quart bottle, the extra headspace might allow the liquids to cool more quickly (but it's been a long time since I took physics, so that may be completely off base).

                      Hope a little trial and error will make this work for you. I feel terrible that my advice deprived you of breakfast.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        Interesting! Well, it looks like I need a different kind of thermos. (I know you provided a link to the kind you use, so, I think I'll try one of those.) Not to worry, I'm never too deprived when it comes to food. I have plenty of snacks. :).

                        I'll let you know when I try it again. If it works for you, I'm sure, with a little trial and error as you say, that I can get it to work for me, too!

                        Thanks again,


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          While I think for the steel cut oats you might need the shallower thermos, other variables are the blueberries and the material of your cup.

                          Maybe the blueberries are absorbing the water before it can work down into the oats.

                          The rolled oats I'm using are a lot more forgiving that steel cut oats. If you are using an insulated plastic cup, the cup loses heat quicker than stainless steel and it might not contain enough heat to make this work. Even a stainless steel coffee cup isn't quite as insulated as a thermos meant to keep food warm.

                          1. re: rworange

                            I used a stainless steel thermos...

                            For my next attempt, I've ordered the thermos Alan says he uses for SCO's, so, I'll let you know how that goes... on THURSDAY! You're right, though, it quite possibly could be the blueberries!


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              Maybe dried rather than frozen blueberries would work better.

                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                            You could try laying the thermos down on its side for the night and that would allow more oatmeal to be exposed to more of the water. Be sure to shake it on its side to distribute the oats along the thermos.

                        2. re: The Dairy Queen

                          I've been using this basic technique with steel cut oats for a few years, but I don't add the oats to the water. The basic formula is place 1 serving steel cut oats in a coffee thermos, pour 12 oz. boiling water over, let sit overnight with the lid on. In the morning, I usually have a little too much water, so I drain the extra through the lid (where you would drink coffee from). I'm not eating at home, so I then pour the oats into a pre-filled container of brown sugar and my dried fruit of choice, take it to work and reheat in the microwave.

                          In my experience, the oats just slide right out of the thermos.

                        3. re: alanbarnes

                          Okay, I tried this again, this time in the smaller thermos (the one alanbarnes linked to above cut oats, a pinch of salt, a pinch of cinnamon, and boiling water in a preheated thermos. It worked pretty well. It has a very slight raw taste, but it is super fast and easy, especially if you're on the go.

                          I decided to try it without the frozen blueberries this time, not wanting to introduce any weird variables that might make it hard to figure out what went wrong in case it went awry again, and I'm glad I didn't add the blueberries. The oats this time were pretty lukewarm (this single-serving thermos is not as well insulated as my full sized one), so, the blueberries, especially if I just added them froze, would have been problematic. I think adding fresh fruit in the morning would be fine.

                          Thanks for the tip! This is definitely a good grab and go breakfast. Healthful and easy!


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            Nice follow up

                            I didn't follow the link for the thermos, but if it is microwave-friendly you can zap it for 30 seconds to reheat.

                            Other stuff I've tried with marginal success for less heat-retaining insulated containers ...
                            - Pre-heat thermos with hot water before adding oatmeal
                            - Keep thermos in an insulated hot/cold bag or some sort of insulated carrier

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              Toasting the oats might address the "raw taste" you noticed...

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                I read this thread and thought the tip for making SCO in a thermos jar was awesome. I tried it....followed the process to the "t" and I opened the jar the next morning to find a hard lumpy clump of inedible glue. What have I done wrong? Do you cook the SCO for a certain amount of time prior to putting it in the jar or do you just bring it to a boil and then transfer?

                                1. re: Livingtoeat

                                  Livingtoeat, I had the identical experience that you had my first time around, except that I added frozen blueberries into the equation. My second time around, I omitted the blueberries and used the smaller individual portion-sized thermos. It worked fine for me, but, I haven't tried it again. It is easy if you want to grab and go, but I didn't find it that lifesavingly convenient


                        4. You know, my schedule has just recently changed so that I need to wake up and get out of the house at an ungodly early hour of the morning. And it's cold (not just sub-freezing, but sub-zero) and dark. I have so little time to get up and out.

                          So, your idea to have breakfast ready to go in a thermos couldn't come at a better time. I think I'm going to try it asap!

                          I, too, am curious about how SCO's might fare in the thermos...

                          (P.S. I'm also intrigued by your oatmeal congee.)


                          1 Reply
                          1. OP and Daily Queen, I love all these "hot" and "cold" oatmeal ideas. Thanks!

                            1. This is great! like TDQ, on some mornings I have to leave for work at a horrible hour - dark, cold, a cruel hour. I usually end up pouring a bowl of cereal in my office when I get there (I bring my milk in a thermos). I love this idea - a nice hot breakfast at work (I'm already dragging the thermos along, so it's a no-brainer).