Home Recipes Ingredients Oatmeal
Lisa KaminskiUpdated: Feb. 17, 2022
Need breakfast in an instant? Check out the best oatmeal options for starting your day, according to our Test Kitchen pros.
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Finding the Best Instant Oatmeal
There are two types of people in this world. There’s the type that preps for work the night before: packing lunch, laying out clothes and prepping overnight oats for a satisfying breakfast. Then there’s the type that can’t fathom the thought. They rely on a coffee at the drive-thru and some instant oatmeal to get going each morning.
If you find yourself in the latter camp, that’s OK! Your favorite local coffee shop thanks you. And that bowl of instant oats is still a healthy way to start the morning; most instant oats pack at least four grams of protein and several grams of fiber to keep you full.
But you know that not all instant oats taste the same or have the texture that you’re looking for. Instead of warily grabbing a new brand at the store hoping it won’t be pasty, rely on our Test Kitchen’s expertise. Our team of culinary pros put the most popular brands to the test.
Taste of Home
How We Tested Instant Oatmeals
Like all our taste tests, our team of experts collected the most in-demand products on the market. For this instant oatmeal test, our shoppers grabbed maple and brown sugar oatmeal—the standard in most pantries.
For this test, our team prepped the oatmeal exactly as specified on the box and sampled each blindly with these criteria in mind.
- Appearance:We know that oatmeal isn’t the most glamourous dish, but it should still look like a breakfast you want to dig into.
- Texture:Getting the right texture in a bowl of oatmeal can be a real challenge. Too watery and the oats are downright unpleasant. Too thick and you feel like you’re dipping into a dish of wallpaper paste. A good instant oatmeal should have a hearty, spoonable consistency.
- Flavor:As always, flavor reigns supreme. Test Kitchen-Preferred instant oatmeal should be a taste worth getting out of bed for. The brown sugar and maple flavors should be present but not overpowering.
Best Hearty Oatmeal
Bob’s Red Mill Brown Sugar & Maple Instant Oatmeal
This review tells you everything you need to know aboutBob’s Red Mill Instant Oatmeal. Per the Test Kitchen’s Sarah Farmer, “This is a more grown-up version of instant oatmeal.”
Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal is a touch more sophisticated than most instant oats because it includes flaxseed which really takes the texture to the next level. It adds a bit of crunch while still maintaining the tenderness of the oats. The flavor is also relatively mild and not overly sweet. You’ll get just a whisper of brown sugar and a touch of maple syrup going on here.
It’s worth noting that these are not your typical 90-second oats. You’ll want to let them sit for about five minutes for the oats to really absorb the water and give you a nice consistency. In the end, you’ll end up with a consistency that’s closer to traditional stovetop oats.
What our Test Kitchen liked about Bob’s Red Mill instant oatmeal:
- Great texture thanks to oats and flaxseed
- Not overly sweet
Consider these factors before you buy:
- Takes longer to make than most instant oats (about five minutes)
Best Instant Oatmeal for Kids
Quaker Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal
Spooning up bites ofQuaker Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal, our Test Kitchen’s Shannon Norris remarked, “This reminds me of my childhood.”
It’s those nostalgic flavors that make Quaker instant oatmeal a favorite atTaste of Home. This quick breakfast is jam-packed with maple and brown sugar flavor which has this oatmeal veering more towards sweet than hearty—perfect for kiddos.
And while this hot cereal does have that brown sugar flavor kids of all ages love, you can still feel good about this oatmeal; it has no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors.
One thing our Test Kitchen team did note during this test was that the amount of water called for on the box made the oatmeal a bit loose. For a thicker morning bowlful, use a bit less than directed and let stand for 90 seconds.
What our Test Kitchen liked about Quaker instant oatmeal:
- Great maple and brown sugar flavor
- Easy to find; Quaker is at nearly every grocery and big box store
Consider these factors before you buy:
- Add less water than the packet instructs for best results
Best High Protein Oatmeal
Kodiak Cakes Maple & Brown Sugar Protein-Packed Oatmeal
Supercharge your breakfast withKodiak Cakes Protein-Packed Oatmeal. A single serving packs 12 grams of protein—that’s three times the amount of your average packet of instant oats and enough to keep you fueled up all morning.
These powerhouse oats have a hearty consistency thanks to a slightly thicker cut of instant oat. In fact, even when completely cooked, they have a “nice, crunchy little bite,” according to Sarah. For a filling breakfast, this is just the texture you want.
As for flavor, Kodiak Cakes oatmeal has definite maple and brown sugar notes with a hint of vanilla. Despite the brown sugar, this instant oatmeal isn’t very sweet which makes it feel a bit more adult.
What our Test Kitchen liked about Kodiak Cakes oatmeal:
- 12 grams of protein per bowl
- Good balance of maple and brown sugar
Consider these factors before you buy:
- Added pea and whey protein gives this oatmeal a starchier consistency
Best Steel-Cut Oatmeal
McCann’s Maple & Brown Sugar Irish Oatmeal
Steel-cut or Irish oats have a different texture than flat, flaky oatmeal. This different grind can make a big difference to particular oatmeal eaters. If you prefer the texture of steel-cut oatmeal, grab a box of McCann’s Irish Oatmeal.
Unlike many other instant oatmeals, McCann’s stirs up to just the right consistency veering on the thicker side if you let it stand. Prefer looser oatmeal? Mark Neufang in our Test Kitchen suggests a splash of milk or cream.
When it comes to the flavor, McCann’s delivers. The maple and brown sugar are very pronounced here, so there’s no need to doctor up your oatmeal with an additional splash of maple syrup or a sprinkle of sugar.
What our Test Kitchen liked about McCann’s oatmeal:
- Great brown sugar and maple flavors
- Thicker consistency
Consider these factors before you buy:
- Steel-cut oats have a polarizing texture; be sure you enjoy Irish oats before purchasing
Best No-Fail Oatmeal
KIND Maple Almond Protein Oatmeal
For instant oatmeal with a little something extra, try KIND Maple Almond Protein Oatmeal. This brand popped to the top in the blind test thanks to the unexpected addition of almonds.
As we all know, achieving the right texture for oatmeal can be hard to do. But you don’t need to fret with KIND’s oatmeal, per Maggie Knoebel in our Test Kitchen: “Even if you overcook the oats, the almonds save it.
That’s right, even when our testers let their samples sit too long or added too much water, every bowlful had “a nice chewy crunch,” according to Shannon.
But this oatmeal was so much more than crunch. Testers got nice notes of mapleand vanilla. If you prefer a sweeter breakfast, you may want to stir in a little extra syrup, but overall, this instant oatmeal is much beloved.
What our Test Kitchen liked about KIND oatmeal:
- Homemade appearance
- Hearty texture
- 10 grams of protein
Consider these factors before you buy:
- Not very sweet (not great for kids)
Taste of Home
Check Out More Test Kitchen-Preferred Products
Our Test Kitchen is constantly testing kitchen gadgets, cleaning gear and food looking for brands that deserve the right to be called Test-Kitchen Preferred.
If you’re looking to fill your pantry and fridge with the best products, check out these tests:
- The best oat milk
- The best peanut butter
- The best coffee creamer
Want more fun product picks and money-saving deals from our shopping experts and Test Kitchen? Sign up for the Stuff We Love newsletter.
Originally Published: February 17, 2022
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.
- Bob's Red Mill Classic Oatmeal Cup.
- Purely Elizabeth Raspberry Pitaya Vibrant Oat Cup.
- Right Foods Dr. McDougall's Stay Full Organic Apple Flax.
- Trader Joe's Oatmeal Cups.
- Quaker Organic Instant Oatmeal Packets.
Whether it's steel-cut or rolled, quick-cooking or instant, oatmeal is good for you, experts say—with a few caveats. Oatmeal is rich in fiber, which promotes fullness, eases the insulin response, and benefits gut health. It's also a source of vitamins B and E, and minerals such as magnesium.Is Quaker instant oatmeal as good as regular oatmeal? ›
There aren't any major differences in the nutrition benefits of the three types of oats. All forms of oats are 100% whole grain, a good source of fiber and have the same nutritional information – same calories, fiber and protein per serving.Is plain Quaker instant oatmeal good for you? ›
One of the healthiest instant oatmeals out there with no added sugars, colors, or artificial flavors, preservatives or sweeteners. At only 100 calories and loaded with heart healthy whole oats and fiber, it's great to eat a few times a week to make weight loss goals.What happens when you eat instant oatmeal daily? ›
Oatmeal's high fiber content and prebiotic qualities may benefit your body in more ways than one. Making oatmeal a regular part of your menu can potentially lower your disease risk, help your gut health thrive, make bowel movements easier and keep you feeling fuller for longer.What would happen if I ate oatmeal for breakfast everyday? ›
Consuming oats everyday will help in stabilizing blood sugar and reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. Beta-glucans in oats are also found to reduce blood sugar spikes and keep your blood sugar level stable.Is instant oatmeal better with milk or water? ›
Simple tip #1: Make oatmeal with milk (or a non-dairy alternative) versus water. Not only does oatmeal made with water taste way less delicious, but you're also missing out on the extra protein staying power that milk will add to the breakfast. Water will also make the oats more gummy instead of creamy.Which is better quick cook or instant oatmeal? ›
Overall, quick-cooking rolled oats and instant rolled oats really don't make a difference when it comes to taste and nutrition. Their chewy texture is slightly smaller and thinner than rolled oats, but they still can be used the same way and don't lose any of their benefits.Is instant oatmeal as good as regular oatmeal for cholesterol? ›
Instant Oatmeal Also Lowers Cholesterol
If you are looking for the cholesterol-lowering effects, instant oatmeal or quick-cooking oats do the job as well as steel-cut oats or rolled oats. They are still considered to be a whole grain.
Instant oats have an almost identical nutritional profile to regular oats, except for one main difference: sugar. One package of flavoured instant oats contains approximately 12 grams of sugar, compared to 1 gram found in the same amount of old-fashioned oats. They are also lower in protein due to the extra processing.
Eggs = More Protein
According to USDA, a breakfast with 2 medium eggs will yield approximately 13g Protein and 1.1g Carbs whereas a bowl of oatmeal will give you 2.4 g Protein and 12g Carbs. So if Protein is your priority for breakfast then the clear choice is Eggs.
Oats are among the healthiest grains on earth. They're a gluten-free whole grain and a great source of important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Studies show that oats and oatmeal have many health benefits. These include weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, and a reduced risk of heart disease.What is healthier than oatmeal for breakfast? ›
Quinoa is a great oatmeal alternative as it has rich protein and fiber contents, which help keep you satiated and slow the rise of your blood sugar post-meal. One cup of cooked quinoa packs about 40 grams of carbs, 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of dietary fiber and 3 grams of healthy fats.How do you make instant oatmeal better? ›
Cook the oats in something other than water.
Abby Langer, R.D., highly recommends using dairy milk, if you aren't avoiding dairy for whatever reason. "It adds calories, protein, and fat to make the oats more satisfying," she explains, "plus with milk they're 100 percent creamier."
Many people with celiac disease are told to avoid eating oats because they might be contaminated with wheat, rye, or barley, which contain gluten. But in people who haven't had any symptoms for at least 6 months, eating moderate amounts of pure, non-contaminated oats seems to be safe.What are the disadvantages of eating oatmeal? ›
- You could significantly increase your sugar intake.
- You're limiting your nutritional palate.
- It can lead to malnutrition and muscle mass shedding.
- It can cause bloating.
- It can lead to weight gain.
No More Worrying about Calories
Now the scale looked a lot less menacing. A cup of oats delivered 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber to help lower body weight, improve cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. It also provided health-building minerals such as phosphorus and magnesium.
Background: Oat and its compounds have been found to have anti-inflammatory effects.How much oats should I have for breakfast? ›
When making your oatmeal, the recommended serving size is 1/2 cup. For breakfast and lunch, oatmeal is your main entrée. It does allow for a small amount of skim milk and some fruit to be added or eaten on the side, as well as low-fat yogurt. Cinnamon is also a great addition for flavor.Can you live on oatmeal? ›
Oatmeal is a good option for breakfast because it can help a person to feel full for a long time. However, it does not provide the nutrients that a person needs on a daily basis.
The key to getting a creamy, not-gluey bowl of oatmeal is using enough water. Notice we said water—cooking oatmeal in milk tends to make a stickier, thicker oatmeal. Follow the directions on the canister using H2O, then add a splash of milk or almond milk in the bowl.Is instant oatmeal better than rice? ›
Oats are a better option than rice for weight loss and fitness aims. Oats is a better choice for people suffering from Iron Deficiency Anemia. Oats are rich in antioxidants including avenanthramides. Avenanthramides helps in lowering the blood pressure levels.How do you sweeten oatmeal without sugar? ›
- Unsweetened Applesauce.
- Mango Chunks.
- Chopped Dates.
- Fresh and Dried Coconut.
- Nut Butters.
- Seed Butters.
The bottom line is that overnight oats are better than regular oats nutritionally and even otherwise. But what about taste? Some people say that soaking oats overnight gives them a chewy texture which makes breakfast more fun versus regular oats which taste more like porridge.What is the most popular flavor of instant oatmeal? ›
|#1||Instant Oatmeal, Maple & Brown Sugar Quaker||1 packet|
|#2||Instant Oatmeal, Maple & Brown Sugar, Lower Sugar Quaker||1 packet|
|#3||Instant Oatmeal, Maple & Brown Sugar Quaker||1 package|
|#4||Instant Oatmeal, Apples & Cinnamon Quaker||1 packet|
"They are all actually identical in terms of their nutrition. The difference is how they are rolled and cut." However, Price added that since instant oats are the most processed option, they generally have salt and added sugars. "This puts them on the lower end of the healthy spectrum, but they're still healthy."Which type of oatmeal is best for lowering cholesterol? ›
Whole-grain oats: Best bet for lowering cholesterol.What can I put in oatmeal to lower cholesterol? ›
Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which attaches to LDL cholesterol in your digestive tract and helps remove it from your body. Opt for an unsweetened variety where you can add your own toppings. Topping your oatmeal with a sliced apple, pear, or some raspberries or strawberries can add a boost of fiber.What kind of oatmeal is good for high blood pressure? ›
Soluble fiber-rich whole oats may be an effective dietary therapy in the prevention and adjunct treatment of hypertension.Are Cheerios as good as oatmeal? ›
A bowl of Cheerios has more fiber (4 grams) than a packet of instant oatmeal (3 g), though both are made of whole oats. Just like oatmeal, whole-oat cold cereals whittle down your LDL cholesterol because they contain beta-glucans--soluble dietary fiber that traps cholesterol-laden bile in your intestines.
To sweeten oatmeal without going overboard on refined sugar, try these additions: Fresh fruit: berries, bananas, apples, peaches, mango, or pears. Spices: cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, or nutmeg. Natural sweeteners: a dash of maple syrup or honey.
But in general, stick to a half-cup of dry rolled oats as one serving size. The number of calories in a cup of oatmeal this size comes out to 150 calories, leaving about another 150 for your toppings for a filling breakfast that doesn't turn into a calorie bomb.Is Brown Sugar oatmeal healthy? ›
Oatmeal's long-time compadre is a no-go if you're trying to clean up your diet. Brown sugar adds zero nutritional value—just lots of empty calories that will ratchet up your blood sugar.Which is healthier instant oats or rolled oats? ›
"They are all actually identical in terms of their nutrition. The difference is how they are rolled and cut." However, Price added that since instant oats are the most processed option, they generally have salt and added sugars. "This puts them on the lower end of the healthy spectrum, but they're still healthy."Is there anything healthier than oatmeal? ›
Millet. Naturally gluten-free and rich in vitamins and minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, and folate, millet may be the most nutritious substitute for oatmeal ( 2 ).Why instant oatmeal is healthy? ›
Oats are among the healthiest grains on earth. They're a gluten-free whole grain and a great source of important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Studies show that oats and oatmeal have many health benefits. These include weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, and a reduced risk of heart disease.Which is better instant oatmeal or quick oats? ›
Quick-cooking rolled oats are great for when you want to cut down on time, but if you're really pressed, instant rolled oats are even better. Choosing what oat is right for you depends on your needs, how you like to prepare your oats, and how much time you have in the morning.Are Cheerios as healthy as oatmeal? ›
A bowl of Cheerios has more fiber (4 grams) than a packet of instant oatmeal (3 g), though both are made of whole oats. Just like oatmeal, whole-oat cold cereals whittle down your LDL cholesterol because they contain beta-glucans--soluble dietary fiber that traps cholesterol-laden bile in your intestines.Is there a downside to eating oatmeal? ›
Oats can cause gas and bloating. To minimize side effects, start with a low dose and increase slowly to the desired amount. Your body will get used to oat bran and the side effects will likely go away.What are the cons of eating oatmeal everyday? ›
Oats are high in soluble fiber, which is good for digestion, but it may also cause bloating, increased gas, and abdominal cramps for some people. As with other fiber-rich foods, this is more likely to happen if you aren't used to consuming a high-fiber diet.
Vitamins. Starting your day with a bowl of instant oatmeal boosts your intake of B-complex vitamins. Each cooked cup provides half of your recommended daily intake for vitamin B-6, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, nutrients that help your body metabolize the carbohydrates, protein and fat in food.What happens if you oatmeal everyday? ›
Consuming oats everyday will help in stabilizing blood sugar and reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. Beta-glucans in oats are also found to reduce blood sugar spikes and keep your blood sugar level stable.