Jar of oats with dried fruits

Homemade Instant Oatmeal is cheaper and more nutritious than store-bought packets and is so easy to customize with your favorite fruits, seeds and nuts.

I’m a big fan of oatmeal for breakfast — especially when the weather turns cooler. How about you?

Today we’re going to prepare a big batch of dry ingredients ahead of time so that our mornings can go oh-so-smoothly. I’m not sure I’d call this a recipe — it’s more of a breakfast prep idea. Once the prep is done, it’s a quick and easy microwave recipe.

Why Bother Making Your Own Instant Oatmeal?

I’ve already mentioned it’s cheaper to make your own oatmeal mix vs. buying those little packets or cups.

It can also be healthier to make your own instant oatmeal because you control how much sugar is added. And there are no preservatives.

Still another plus? You have a lot more fruit and nut options available than what you’ll find pre-packaged at the grocery store. I don’t know about you, but I’m way more likely to eat oatmeal if I have more flavor combos.

Finally, you can add chia seeds, flax seeds, wheat germ — or any number of other “superfoods” to raise your oatmeal to a whole new nutritional level. Go light on these options and your kids probably won’t even notice!

Health Benefits of Eating Oatmeal

Oats are among the most nutrient-dense foods we can eat. They are loaded with important vitamins, minerals and antioxidant plant compounds. Plus they are a good source of carbs and fiber, including the powerful fiber beta-glucan. Beta-glucan has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels; reduce blood sugar; increase the feeling of fullness (so we eat less) and increase the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract. [Source: Healthline].

Here’s What You Need for Homemade Instant Oatmeal

  • Oats: You can choose Old Fashioned; Rolled or Quick-cooking Instant oats. Old Fashioned and Rolled oats are the same thing and will take the same amount of liquid and time to cook. Quick-cooking oats or instant are smaller and will take a little less time to cook. [See more notes below.]
  • Spices: Cinnamon is a standard one, but get creative with this. If you want savory vs. sweet oatmeal, check out the mango and coconut blend below which uses crushed fennel seeds.
  • Sweetener (optional): Choose light or dark brown sugar; a sugar substitute like stevia; honey or maple syrup — or omit a sweetener altogether. A sweetener can be added to the big batch mix ahead of time or added to individual servings.
  • Dried, Freeze-Dried or Fresh Fruit: For starters, freeze-dried fruit has had all of its water removed and retains more of the original fruit flavor; it tends to be pricier than dried fruit.

    Dried fruit still has some moisture and usually requires a preservative to keep it shelf-stable. You can always top your cooked oatmeal with fresh fruit, of course.
  • Nuts (optional): Add your choice of chopped nuts after cooking the oatmeal. Toasting the nuts beforehand will take your oatmeal up a notch. To toast nuts, put them on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. This releases the natural oils and gives you a warm, nutty, toasted flavor.
  • Seeds (optional): I used chia seeds. You could also use flax seeds or a combination.
  • Milk or Water. Use water only; water with a splash of milk OR milk only to make oatmeal. Any type of milk will work (almond, oat, or cow’s milk, etc.). I use water with a splash of milk added once it’s cooked.

More Notes on Ingredients

Oats: Old-Fashioned or Rolled Oats are less processed and will give you more of a chewy bite. If you use instant oats, instead, your end result will be creamier with less chew. You choose!

I’ve found that I like something in the middle. To achieve that little bit of chew and little bit of creamy texture — I simply mix the two types of oats together in roughly equal parts.

Don’t want to buy two types of oats? An easy way around this is to put some of the old-fashioned or rolled oats in a food processor, and pulse them until they are about half their original size (not to a fine powder). This will add some creaminess to your instant oatmeal.

Chia Seeds: Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are highly nutritious. They’re packed with fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and various micronutrients.  A little bit can go a long way here! If you have digestive issues, you may want to go easy on the chia seeds. [Healthline]

scoop of freeze-dried cherries

Add-In Options for Instant Oatmeal

This recipe is all about what you like! But here are some ideas to get you started. Be sure to read below for ways to combine add-ins.

  • Dried or fresh berries
  • Dried apples, cut into small pieces
  • Chopped walnuts, pecans or sliced almonds
  • Dried apricots
  • Dried mangos
  • Figs or dates
  • Raisins
  • Shredded coconut
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Peanut Butter powder
  • Almond or vanilla extract
  • Powdered Milk (for added creaminess)

Tips on Preparing Instant Oatmeal + How to Avoid the Spill-Over

It’s probably happened to all of us at one point. We put instant oatmeal and liquid in the microwave, cook for 1-2 minutes and end up with an oatmeal explosion. It doesn’t need to be like this, my friends! Read on for how to avoid this and also how to avoid that overly-starchy, glue-like consistency. Keep in mind that all microwaves are not the same; you might need to experiment.

Avoid the Spill-Over

  • Start by using a large enough bowl. The oatmeal will expand while heating, so plan for it. This is honestly the simplest way to avoid a spill-over of oatmeal in your microwave.
  • Consider reducing your microwave power to 50 percent. Again, microwaves vary, but this does work. I experimented and found I needed more cooking time this way — up to two to three minutes.

Reduce the Starchy, Glue-Like Consistency

  • My own preferred method to cook instant oatmeal is to microwave water (to an almost boil) or carefully steam milk and then just stir the liquid into the dry oatmeal mix until I reach the desired consistency. Allow for it to thicken while it’s setting one to two minutes.
  • If you choose to mix the oatmeal and liquid together before popping it into the microwave — reducing the power to 50 percent also seems to produce a less starchy, glue-like result. For the win!

More Recipes You Might Like

Lemon Chia Oat Muffins

Lemon Zucchini Bread with Almond Flour

Easy London Fog Tea Latte

Homemade Instant Oatmeal

Course: Sips + Bites



This recipe is for a five-cup batch of pre-made instant oatmeal, which makes 10 one-half cup servings. You can store the base mix (oats, chia and cinnamon) in a big air-tight container and then customize your add-ins when you’re ready to eat. OR, you can portion out single servings with add-ins (fruit, nuts, etc.) ahead of time for an easy “grab and go” option. Pint-size Mason jars are perfect for this.


  • 5 cups Oats — Old Fashioned, Rolled or Instant (see previous notes)

  • 3 to 4 TBS. chia seeds, optional

  • 5 to 6 tsp. ground cinnamon, optional

  • A pinch of salt

  • Add-ins of your choice: For a 1/2 cup serving, use about 1 tablespoon each of fruits and nuts; Use 1 to 2 tsp. of flavorings and spices.

  • Sweetener of choice, to taste: You can add this to the big batch of dry oats or add it to individual servings as you go. Options include light or dark brown sugar, a sugar substitute like Stevia; agave, maple syrup or honey.

  • Milk of your choice or water

Directions to Prepare Oatmeal:

  • Measure out 1/2 cup of the oatmeal mix into a large breakfast bowl. If you haven’t assembled individual servings with mix-ins (dried fruit, flavorings and spices) in advance, add them now. Note: Top with fresh fruit and nuts after it’s cooked.
  • Add boiling water or warm milk to desired consistency and stir well. Let sit for 1 to 2 minutes and enjoy!
  • Alternatively, you can mix the oatmeal and water/milk together into a large bowl to start. Pop it in the microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring after one minute. Adjust the cooking time based on the type of oats (slightly longer for old-fashioned or rolled oats) and a shorter cooking time for instant oats. Note: See tips on preparing at 50 percent power instead of high power above.
  • Let sit for 1 to 2 minutes and then enjoy!


  • Note: Store the pre-mixed oats in an airtight container up to two months in your pantry.

Flavor Combos for Instant Oatmeal

Here are a few ideas to get you started. Be sure to leave a comment below and let me know your favorites.

  • Dried Apples, Walnuts and Cinnamon
  • Mixed Dried Berries or Cherries with Almond Extract (about 1/2 tsp.) and Sliced Almonds
  • Dried Mango and Dried Shredded Coconut with 1 tsp. crushed fennel seeds
  • Chocolate + Hazelnut: Unsweetened cocoa powder with chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • Peanut Butter Powder with Cacoa Nibs

I am not a licensed nutritionist, medical professional or cosmetics expert. The information provided on Honest + Simple is for general informational purposes only. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food + Drug Administration and are not intended to treat, prevent or cure any disease. Before making decisions about your health or other concerns, please consult a qualified professional and do not rely on this website for medical advice.

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