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. Even though they all have the same ingredient in common, some are too mushy, others are too sweet, some are in packets, and others are in cups. But 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, and many of them can be used in a number of ways to satisfy every sweet or savory craving.
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 you add, if any—oatmeal can be savory if you want!
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.
Price at time of publish: $5
Size: 2 pounds | Type of Oats: Whole grain | Cook Time: 5 minutes
It's called instant oatmeal for a reason—making a warm bowl is super quick! But these oats can also be used to make no-cook overnight oats. Just combine them with your choice of milk and other ingredients like fresh fruit, honey, maple syrup, nuts, seeds, protein powder, chocolate chips, and more. Cover it, and then place it in the refrigerator before you go to bed. In the morning, you'll have a delicious breakfast!
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.
If you prefer flavored oatmeal, Nature’s Path also offers apple cinnamon, maple brown sugar, and dark chocolate cinnamon pecan cups, to name a few.
Price at time of publish: $5
Size: 400 grams per packet | Type of Oats: Whole grain rolled | Cook Time: 75 seconds
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.
Price at time of publish: $4
Size: 15.1 ounces | Type of Oats: Whole grain steel cut | Cook Time: 2 minutes, 15 seconds
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.
Price at time of publish: $13
Size: 34 grams per packet | Type of Oats: Whole grain | Cook Time: 60 seconds
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.
Price at time of publish: $5
Size: 1.76 ounces per packet | Type of Oats: Whole grain rolled | Cook Time: 3 minutes total
MUSH ready-to-eat oats
While a bowl of oatmeal straight from the microwave or right off of the stove is quite the warming breakfast, it can also be served cold and still be delicious. Overnight oats are taking over the most important meal of the day, but you don’t have to remember to make some before bed to enjoy it.
Mush’s Overnight Oatmeal comes in 5-ounce cups, perfect for a creamy, filling, oatmeal breakfast on the go or at home—and you don’t have to remember the toppings, either. The Blueberry flavored rolled oats are soaked in coconut milk, along with apples, blueberries, and a hint of sea salt, making them vegan and dairy-free, too. Other flavors include Apple Cinnamon, Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Strawberry, Peach, and more.
Price at time of publish: $2
Size: 5 ounces per cup | Type of Oats: Rolled | Cook Time: Not applicable
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 9 grams of protein per serving.
Price at time of publish: $4
Size: 58 grams per cup | Type of Oats: Certified gluten-free | Cook Time: 5 minutes total
Change up the texture of instant oatmeal by blending it to make a smooth, thick batter you can then bake. Add an egg, milk, mashed banana, and other desired ingredients to a blender or use an immersion blender. Pour it into an oven-safe ramekin, mug, or dish and cook. This recipe can be customized to your liking, but makes a cake-like, smooth oatmeal you can't get the regular way.
The Gluten Free Brothers Protein Oatmeal Cups
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 Protein Oatmeal Cups from The Gluten Free Brothers. Not only does the Fruit, Nuts and Seeds flavor have 10 grams of protein per serving, it also has 5 grams of fiber and only 3 grams of added sugar. Other options include Maple Raisin and Apple Cinnamon, but with this one, you can customize it with any additional sweeteners or toppings.
You won't have to wait long for these to cook, either—just add 0.5 cups of water to the packet and microwave for 60 to 90 seconds and let it sit for 3 minutes, or add 0.5 cups of hot water to the packet and let it sit for 3 minutes.
Price at time of publish: $18
Size: 60 grams per cup | Type of Oats: Certified gluten-free oats | Cook Time: 3 minutes
The Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quick Cooking Rolled Oats 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 GFB Protein Fruit, Nuts and Seeds Gluten-Free Oatmeal or the Purely Elizabeth Collagen Protein Blueberry Walnut Oatmeal Cups.
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.
How We Researched
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best instant oatmeals on the market, evaluating their key features—like the type of oats, ingredients, or cook time—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
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.
Amanda McDonald is an editor at The Spruce Eats and has over seven years of experience researching, writing, and editing about all things food — from what new products are at the grocery store to chef-approved hacks that keep tricky leftovers fresh for days. She updated this story to include the most up-to-date information.
Shivani, Thakur BK, Mallikarjun CP, et al. Introduction, adaptation and characterization of monk fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii): a non-caloric new natural sweetener. Sci Rep. 2021;11(1):6205. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-85689-2
Gilissen LJWJ, van der Meer IM, Smulders MJM. Why oats are safe and healthy for celiac disease patients. Med Sci (Basel). 2016;4(4):21. doi:10.3390/medsci4040021