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Instant oatmeal is a quick breakfast that’s easy to whip up, even on really busy mornings. But not all instant oatmeals are as delicious and filling as they are convenient. Some are too mushy, and others are too sweet. The best instant oatmeals are the ones that taste great and fill you up until lunch. Every single one of the instant oatmeals on this list checks off those boxes and more.
Here are the best instant oatmeals on the market.
Best Overall: Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quick Cooking Rolled Oats
Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quick Cooking Rolled Oats is a no-frills instant oatmeal, but that’s what makes it great. The only ingredient is organic whole grain oats, which are the perfect neutral base for your favorite oatmeal mix-ins and toppings. Unlike flavored oatmeals, plain oatmeal starts with 0 grams of added sugar and so you can control how much (if any) you add.
It has a thick, hearty texture and each serving provides 3 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein and is ready in two to three minutes, depending on how you cook it. And rather than coming in individual packets, this instant oatmeal comes in a 16-ounce bag, so you can choose how much—or how little—you want.
Best Organic: Nature’s Path Organic Instant Oatmeal
The Nature’s Path Organic Instant Oatmeal is another plain oatmeal option that contains a single ingredient: whole grain rolled oats. The organic oats hold up well to hot water or milk, giving you hearty oatmeal with lots of texture. Unlike Bob’s Red Mill oats, this instant oatmeal is pre-portioned into individual packets, so you can easily grab a single serving or take one with you on the go.
Best Gluten-Free: RXBar Gluten Free Oatmeal Cups, Apple Cinnamon
All oats are technically gluten-free, but the majority of them are processed on equipment that’s shared with gluten-containing grains. If you’re after oats that are totally gluten-free, you have to find an option that’s labeled that way, like the RXBar Gluten Free Oatmeal Cups.
Not only are the oats certified gluten-free, but these oatmeal cups are also sweetened only with dates and apples. They also have added protein in the form of egg whites and almonds. In addition to apple cinnamon, RXBar also offers maple, chocolate, and vanilla almond flavors.
Best Steel Cut: Better Oats Instant Steel Cut Oatmeal with Flaxseeds
Traditionally, steel-cut oats take a lot longer to cook than other forms of oatmeal, but this instant version is ready in less than three minutes. It has 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein (from flaxseeds) per serving.
The ingredient list is really great too, with only seven ingredients, including whole grain steel-cut oats, sugar, flaxseeds, salt, and maple syrup.
Best Cups: Umpqua Oats Oatmeal Cups, Maple Pecan
Umpqua Oats takes the convenience of instant oatmeal up a notch by putting everything in a microwave-safe cup that you can easily take with you on the go. Each cup has 9 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Umpqua Oats also uses only large whole grain oats that hold their shape.
You can choose from six flavors—apple cranberry, fruit and nut, maple pecan, triple berry, vanilla almond, and unsweetened blueberry apple—or get a variety pack that includes two flavors of your choice.
Best Flavored: Purely Elizabeth Collagen Protein Oats Cup, Blueberry Walnut
Purely Elizabeth combines freeze-dried blueberries, walnuts, and cinnamon to make one of the best flavored instant oatmeals out there. It's with certified gluten-free oats and whole food ingredients like quinoa flakes and chia seeds. It’s sweetened only with coconut sugar and has only 5 grams of sugar. It also has added collagen protein, which brings this instant oatmeal up to 11 grams of protein per serving.
If that wasn’t enough, each cup includes a NuttZo Nut Butter packet so you can squeeze some extra nutty deliciousness right on top.
Best High-Protein: Kodiak Cakes Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Packets
With 12 grams of protein per serving, the Kodiak Cakes Chocolate Chip Oatmeal was made with the everyday adventurer in mind. It combines several protein sources, like whey protein isolate and pea protein concentrate, with whole grain rolled oats and semisweet chocolate chips to give you thick, hearty oatmeal that’s as filling as it is delicious.
This instant oatmeal is especially great for busy mornings because, when microwaved, it’s ready in less than one minute—and it only takes two to three minutes on the stove.
Best Variety: Quaker Instant Oatmeal Lower Sugar Variety Pack
If you’re having trouble deciding on just one instant oatmeal flavor, the Quaker Instant Oatmeal Lower Sugar Variety Pack has you covered. It contains three of Quaker’s fan-favorite flavors—apples and cinnamon, maple and brown sugar, and cinnamon and spice—that are specially formulated to have 35 percent less sugar than Quaker's regular instant oatmeal packets, according to the brand. Each serving contains only 4 to 5 grams of sugar.
And if you’re worried about artificial sweeteners, don’t be. The sugar is replaced with monk fruit, a natural sweetener that tastes delicious.
The Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quick Cooking Rolled Oats (view at Amazon) make a hearty, plain oatmeal that gives you control over added ingredients, but if you want an instant oatmeal that’s already flavored for you, try the RXBar Gluten Free Oatmeal Cups in Apple Cinnamon (view at Amazon) or the Purely Elizabeth Collagen Protein Oat Cup (view at Amazon).
What to Look for When Buying Instant Oatmeal
As with any food, when buying instant oatmeal, taste is the ultimate factor. Being too sweet or sugary or too mushy or gluey, can be turn-offs. Plain instant oatmeal offers you the option of adding your own fresh fruits or other flavorings, whereas other varieties already have additional flavoring, including cinnamon, apples, vanilla, and more.
Instant oatmeals are not all the same. Some are gluten free, others are organic, and several have added flavors or artificial preservatives and sweeteners. Read the labels and compare ingredients including the amount of sugar added, the fiber level, type of oats used, flavorings, and additives. Make sure you know what's in the box before buying it and taking it home.
Instant oatmeal comes in a variety of packaging and sizes. It is available in individual-sized, microwave-safe cups or packets or large bags for multiple servings. Whether you desire the convenience of single use or want to make breakfast at home for yourself and your family are factors to consider when purchasing instant oatmeal.
Should you use water or milk when making instant oatmeal?
Water just doesn't add the same flavor as milk does. Using milk or non-dairy milk alternatives, like almond milk, can add additional taste and creaminess to your oatmeal. When you're in a rush and grabbing that cup or packet to take with you, water is much more convenient to use.
What toppings can you put on plain instant oatmeal?
Jazz up that bowl of oatmeal with some of your favorite toppings. Throw on some fresh fruit, such as blueberries or strawberries, or sprinkle some chopped pecans, chocolate chips, or raisins on it. Brown sugar and cinnamon are also popular toppings.
Do instant oatmeal packets go bad?
Check the box for the expiration date to ensure you are getting one that is not nearing the date it's expiring or best eaten. Instant oatmeal can last for as long as two years, stored in your pantry or cupboard.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Lindsay Boyers is a certified holistic nutritionist with extensive nutrition knowledge and food and beverage-testing experience. She’s developed over 1,000 original recipes and is constantly on a mission to find the healthiest, best-tasting options and ingredients across all food and drink categories.