Oatmeal in a Jar: Faster (and Healthier) than McDonald’s

5-Minute oatmeal in a jar: Breakfast on the run!

McDonald’s has added oatmeal to its breakfast menu. Terrific! Who hasn’t been time pinched at breakfast time and looking for a nice healthy option? Not so fast. McDonald’s isn’t doing you (or the environment) any favors with their oatmeal. It’s got chemicals, it’s got disposable packaging. It’s not sustainable by any means, nor is it healthy as they’d have you believe.

Mark Bittman took McDonald’s to task the other day, saying that:

A more accurate description than “100% natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples” would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”

The kicker?

(McDonald’s oatmeal) contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger…

So much for oatmeal being healthy!


Making oatmeal is not hard. It is, in fact, very easy. But let me make it even easier. With this oatmeal hack, all you need to do is boil water. No recipe, no measuring. It’s healthier than Mickey D’s and less wasteful than the little packets of instant oatmeal, and you can tuck it into your purse for a breakfast on the run.

Dry ingredients with a dollop of yummy honey from http://bigislandbees.com.

Oatmeal in a Jar

  • Pour dry rolled oats (not instant) into a canning jar to the halfway point. I don’t care what size canning jar you use. A half-pint jar will make one serving; a pint jar will make two servings; and a quart will make four servings. You choose what will work best for your situation.
  • Add a handful of extras if you’d like: chopped nuts, flax seeds, dried fruit…whatever suits your fancy.
  • Add a bit of honey or maple syrup or brown sugar. Top it off with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Pour boiling water into the jar to the bottom of the threads. Screw on lid and invert the jar a couple of times to mix the water with the dry ingredients. Let the jar sit on your counter while you finish getting ready for work or school. Or tuck it into your bag and take it with you for breakfast at your desk. Wherever you let it rest, in 15 minutes it will be ready to eat. Add a little butter or milk if you like.

Dry ingredients

I’m not using creek water, I promise! It’s brown from the cinnamon.

My husband takes it just like this for breakfast on the go.

  • Take the jar with you for breakfast on the go or eat it at home.
oatmeal, fast food, breakfast,

Ready for breakfast!

The texture of oats prepared in this manner is slightly different than oats prepared on the stove top, but the time and energy savings is a fair trade, I think.

If you have a Thermos-type container you can use the same method, though it will be a little harder to gauge your ingredients without measuring. Oats will achieve a texture closer to oatmeal cooked on the stove top, plus, they’ll stay hotter longer.

Note: I buy rolled oats in bulk (25 lbs at a time) from my health food store. That quantity lasts my family of four about 4-5 months. We use it primarily for making granola and granola bars but also for oatmeal and other baking.

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This article has 101 comments

  1. Awesome, gonna give this a try. :) The McD’s facts frighten me!!!

  2. Oooh, I WILL be trying this. For some reason, cooking it on the stove top often results in a big FAIL for me (the SHAME) and I’ve sidelined the microwave due to suspicions of food nutrient loss. Canning jars and boiling water I can handle though. I’m thinking this may be what I have for breakfast. THANKS!

  3. Melanie, I’m another no-microwave household. I just don’t trust them to provide the most nutritious food.

  4. I must be a throw-back to a previous generation, because I absolutely LOVE oatmeal. And my husband has the cooking time down pat – just the right amount of texture and chewability. He adds a drop of vanilla, dried cherries and wheat germ on the top. Yowza.

  5. I love this idea–particular for on-the-go breakfast. So fantastic. My husband makes the everyday kind of oatmeal, but I go in for lots of fancy add-ins. (Wondering how Starbucks oatmeal stacks up to McDonalds?)
    P.S. Notice what’s in my Com-luv below. Guess who wrote it??

  6. Interesting way to cook oatmeal! I must admit we eat it a lot. So healthy! I get it from the health food store, too, in large bags. Organic, always. Who wants sugar and chemicals? Certainly not me.

  7. Yum! This is such a great idea. We make oatmeal ALL THE TIME but never in a jar. I love Bittman. Love him. I want to try this but without so much sugar…

    • Jennifer, the whole idea is that yes, you can customize it to suit your needs. Skip the sugar altogether if you like.

  8. I really want to love oatmeal–I use the old-fashioned type–but for some reason it just doesn’t fill me up in the morning. Isn’t that strange? I pack it with nuts and dried fruit and still it just doesn’t do the trick. Yogurt on the the other hand, does. I’ve been wanting to try making yogurt at home. But I do love the idea of the oatmeal in a jar.

    • That IS strange. Oatmeal is one of the breakfasts we can be assured will stick with us.

    • Sounds like you need more protein. Try adding some powdered milk to your oatmeal. That might do the trick.

    • Funny, I typically eat my yogurt with oatmeal in the morning. I take 1 cup of yogurt (vanilla lowfat) and top it with 1/2 cup of dried steel cut oats. the yogurt flavors the oats, and the oats acts as a granola-esque topping. Plus, if you use the yogurt with fruit already in it, you don’t need and other toppings! Healthy!

    • Do try making crock pot yogurt..so simple

  9. what a terrific idea…got to try this. I love oatmeal and this is so easy!

  10. Nice hack! Although I’m sort of addicted to making oatmeal with almond milk on the stove, this will totally work in a pinch.

  11. I know the oatmeal isn’t instant, but is it quick-cooking or old-fashioned? And does it matter? I have both in my house.

    • I use rolled oats, which are probably closer to the old fashioned kind you have. I suspect quick cooking oats would work just fine, though.

  12. Late to the table but finally found you over here Kris, via your travel post for Vera Marie. Anyhoo, huge oatmeal fan over here (we call it porridge) and there are endless combos one can try to make it your own. We’re partial to banana with roasted nutmeg or apple slivers with roasted cinnamon, slivered almonds and brown sugar.

  13. This is now my standard winter breakfast. I LOVE IT. No mess, no fuss. I eat it right out of the jar, let the jar soak in the sink for a bit when I’m done, then swish it out and it is ready for the next morning.

    I’m getting in my morning fibre and healthy spices like cinnamon and ginger plus I have total control over the sugar/honey content. Such a super win process!

  14. [...] Result: One of our favorite breakfasts. [...]

  15. I love your method as I have been microwaving, even though I know I shouldn’t, but didn’t have time for a stove top method. This seems to be the perfect solution. According to the Nourishing Traditions cookbook (Sally Fallon) you should also soak the oats in yoghurt or whey overnight to make them easier to digest. I have tried it and it also helps to cook them quicker, that might improve the texture as well. We only eat oats when the chickens aren’t laying, and with the days warming up in Aus we finally have eggs again, so I’ll be trying this recipe next winter.

    • I’ve been reading more and more about soaking nuts and grains! It’s a step I’ve yet to incorporate, though. (Still waiting for my hens to start laying!)

  16. great tip!.. how do you safely store 25lbs of dry oatmeals?

    • I’ve used a variety of methods. If you’ve got an extra freezer you can keep it in there in it’s original packing. Or divide it up into gallon or 2-gallon sized jars. Or pick up a recycled food grade bucket from the deli or bakery (these generally have nice seals) and use that.

  17. My variation on this theme involves no clean up. Every day I go for a small cup of Starbucks (the “short” cup). They don’t have a sleeve for that cup size so they double-cup it. I keep the extra clean cup and make oatmeal in it like this post.

    I put in the ingredients, fill up with hot water from the machine, put a lid on it for a few minutes then enjoy. When I’m done I just throw the cup away, super easy.

  18. Similar, cold version from Jamie Oliver:

    http://www.jamieoliver.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=264907#p264907

    Cold oatmeal, *sounds* terrible, but trust me, this one’s excellent!

  19. I’ve got a different method for making oatmeal. Buy Oats (Not the instant kind). Find a tuppeware or jar. Pour in Oats. As many as you want. Pour in milk. Whatever type you’d like. How much milk? I like to put in enough so that the milk sits JUST over the oats. Pour a sweetener (I like Maple Syrup, but if you like sugar, I’d tell you to stir it into the milk first). Put it any dried fruits you’d like (or not). Stir ingredients lightly. Pop it in the refrigerator overnight. Wake up in the morning and find your oats have absorbed most of the milk. Taste? Delicious and addicting. Definitely different from hot oatmeal and the texture does not have that “gummy” feel so it may appeal to others who dislike hot oatmeal.

    • Wow, that’s the second recommendation for COLD oats today. I’ll have to try it!

    • Thank you for this suggestion! I know oatmeal would be a good breakfast but I cannot deal with the texture of hot oatmeal! With this, I could have my oatmeal and eat it, too! :-) Will definitely be trying this – plus, what a time saver in the morning as I tend to rush around to get ready to go to work – making breakfast – Check!!

  20. I absolutely love this idea. And the Mason Jars, pure genius. Wish I had thought of this one. With back to school here for us I can’t wait to do this with the kids. Everyone can have what they want. They can set it up the night before even.

    • Yes! That’s the beauty of it. My son packs my husband’s lunch at night and makes a jar for him. All my husband has to do in the wee hours is boil water and go. Just know that the jars will be hot, so use caution with the kiddos.

      • My grand-doggy eats dehydrated food that we reconstitute. We take a bag of food, jar it up, a jar per serving, ready for water.

        I was thinking we could do the same with this oatmeal: get a case of the right sized jars, add oatmeal, dried fruit, seeds and nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric, add lids, and put it in the pantry. When someone wants one for breakfast, pour in hot water. Sweetener, optional, can be added when making up the jars, or when eating, depending on type and taste. When you are running late, in a hurry, and need something to go, you can have healthy fast food! You could make different variations according to your family’s tastes.

  21. How do you manage it from exploding on you? Anytime I’ve shaken a sealed container with hot water and shook it, disaster happened?

    • Doing this in a plastic Tupperware-type container would definitely make for a mess. But canning jars are meant to withstand hot water, and as long as the lid is on tightly, I’ve never had a problem. Leave a little head space and you should be fine.

  22. cant wait to try this recipe!

  23. [...] Oatmeal: Homemade Faster (and Healthier) than McDonald’s [Attainable Sustainable] Tagged:cookingfood [...]

  24. Sounds yummy and I will try for sure. The method is great and perfect for when I make breakfast at work!

    That said, the calorie comparison to McD cheeseburger seems misplaced. I don’t know how big your canning jar is, but my guess is that you’ve got more than 1/2c of rolled oats in there, so you’re probably at /more/ calories than a McD cheeseburger (300).

    Not that yours isn’t healthier, better and more awesome. Just probably not lower in calories.

  25. I tried this out this morning, and it was pretty good. I wasn’t sure how creamy it would get, but the creaminess was rather remarkable. I may try adding less water because I do prefer my oatmeal to be a bit thicker. Thanks for this recipe!

  26. Super fantastic idea. Even used some Hodgson Mill multi-grain hot cereal and it worked out great. Thank you so much!

  27. Definitely need to use a Mason jar – need to have the wide mouth to get the oatmeal out after it’s cooked.

  28. Breaking away from the mass of Sheeple that worship at the feet of the Great corporate whore’s well tuned propaganda machines, turning away from “New” and “fast” and “convenient” and “freshly prepared” and seeking out the way we were, before this pox destroyed our very nature, stained the fabric of America and robbed us of our original creative and frugal nature – a tall order for the “fatted calves’ that now stand before the Chinese sacrificial alters of high debt, and enslavement to this debt. Still seeking to borrow even more, Obama and a very sick government seek to pay one more term of their fine “estate” as rulers over us, by selling out even our children’s children to these little yellow goyim, who have rightly calculated our weak spots, and are raping our great nation as we speak. Careful, frugal, and healthful eating practices are the first step, away from the monster corpocracy that has sold out our noble democracy, perverting our fine people, even to the invasive Asian fact. In the Phoenix that rises from the smoldering wreck we are, there will be sane diets, careful life habits, and a people cautious this time, of the multi-national “incorporation” laws that support this barracuda capitalism that has destroyed what we were.

  29. I have another recipe for you all. Hopefully someone reads it and tries it. My Wife and I make HUGE batches of homemade Yogurt (VERY simple). Yesterday I took Quick Rolled Oats (The least nutritious BUT they absorb the most liquid), about 1 cups worth and mixed it with 2 cups worth of yogurt. 1/4 cup or so of milk, 1 tsp or less of vanilla, about 1/2 of homemade cherry jam, diced strawberries, diced blueberries and cashews. Mix it up well and let it sit overnight. I had it this morning and it was fantastic AND it is VERY filling because of the protein from the yogurt and the fiber from the grains. I barely had any and my appetite has been curbed for 4 hours now. Cheers!

  30. [...] Oatmeal in a Jar | Attainable Sustainable (tags: oatmeal recipes diy sustainable) [...]

  31. I have to report back that we purchased some jars from the grocery store, some rolled oats from Henry’s and gave it a whirl. Diagnosis: LOVE IT! My husband and I, both. Totally hooked. So easy. Thanks, Kris!

  32. Im trying it now as we speak, it opens the doors of creativity to a whole host of ideas. what else can we make in a jar? theres a challenge. I like the idea above from jibberish18

  33. Has anyone tried this with steel cut oats?

    • Marilyn, I’ve not tried it yet. I will at some point, but I suspect it will only be to rule out steel cut oats as a possibility. I really think they’ll need a longer time in hot water. If you decide to attempt it, I’d love to know how it turns out!

      • I do something similar for my steel cut oats, I mix them with 1/2 the water, boiling , the night before in a travel mug, then finish is on the stove in the morning, only takes 5 minutes so I think I’ll try your method with the morning bit of it, doing it in a jar, so we are ready to go

  34. [...] remember! This was the only picture on my camera…no finished product. Suspicious…I tried this ‘magic’ trick for making instant oatmeal.  It involves pouring boiling water over your oats in a mason jar and letting it stand for 15 [...]

  35. Just tried the oatmeal in a mason jar with cinnamon, brown sugar, and a little maple syrup. Yum!

  36. Hey! Your comment wasn’t moved but it went to spam as there was a link in it. I found it and it is now posted.

    Your facebook comment did not show up. I expect it doesn’t allow links.

  37. By the way, a couple of my trials included oats half way in the jar and it did not work for me as well. Not sure why! Maybe it was just the consistency.

    • I hope you’ll be inspired to try it again. I’ve had a whole lot of people have success with it, many of whom have adopted it as a new breakfast favorite – including my husband who really wasn’t much of an oatmeal fan until now.

  38. Yes I will certainly give it another shot! I’ll let you know. :)

  39. Thank you so much for posting this — I added some dehydrated apples, bananas, and a touch of honey to mine. I threw it all together the night before then added my water before heading out to catch my train. When I sat down at my desk 30 minutes later, it had cooled slightly and was perfect!!!

  40. [...] also tried this magic trick for instant oatmeal. You pour boiling water over the oats and leave it in the jar for 15 mins. Sadly, it didn’t work [...]

  41. [...] mystified by the idea of preparing things in mason jars but I am. When I came across the fabulous oatmeal in jar idea I  tried it immediately. I had oatmeal every morning for the next three weeks. Then my hatred of [...]

  42. This is a great idea, I love this! Will definitely give this a try.

  43. I only like old fashioned oats, hate the quick cook texture. This is BRILLIANT. Plus I love anything prepared in a mason jar!

  44. This sounds so great, I’ve been wanting to get more oatmeal into our breakfast routine! Do you think the water from my Keurig would be hot enough to cook the oats? That way I could just stick it under there without coffee and not have to worry about the stove.

  45. I love all things oatmeal!  Oatmeal in a jar is awesome and I really like Baked Oatmeal too.  I can make a batch on the weekend and enjoy it all week as I run out the door each morning with my baked oatmeal in a To-Go cup.  Here’s my recipe and fun To-Go cup option.  http://campwander.blogspot.com/2012/03/running-with-baked-oatmeal.html

  46. Send some of that chill our way — it’s 93 right now, supposed to get to 97! Feelin’ hot-hot-hot…

  47. Does it last long ?

  48. Attainable Sustainable
    Saturday 21 April 2012, 1:57 pm

    Sharon Munyak: The oatmeal? I’ve actually not tried to keep it – I usually just make a batch as I want to eat it – it’s so easy. I expect it would last several days in the fridge, but the texture might get gummy.

  49. Was thinking if You could put ingrediants in individual jars to take camping then just add the boiling water.

  50. Attainable Sustainable
    Saturday 21 April 2012, 1:57 pm

    Nancy Rawson: Yes! My friend Kate (author of Walt Disney World Extreme Vacation Guide for Kids) mentioned the same thing awhile back. Great for camping!

  51. [...] Make oatmeal on-the-go! Put it in a jar, top up with hot water, and it’s ready to eat when you get to where you’re going. Too neat! (just be sure to use certified gluten-free oats) [...]

  52. Betsy Lancefield Lane
    Thursday 10 May 2012, 1:33 pm

    What a great idea! I’m going to try it this weekend.

  53. I love this cuz my hubby can grab it & it cooks on his way to work, and is ready when he gets there! It’s a grab & go breakfast that I don’t feel bad about :)

  54. Brooke Blight Amash
    Thursday 10 May 2012, 1:33 pm

    Shoulda taken her up on that offer when the baby was awake at 2am…coulda gotten a lot more sleep:) Very cute.

  55. Awesome!

  56. i love this idea, will try this next week!!

  57. I make the “cold oatmeal’ lately–it is SO DARN GOOD! I make it the night before, and we can eat it at home in the morning, or on the go. :)

  58. Here in the South too! Great day to make my laundry soap and shampoo. Been reading Foxfire books on growing and preserving. Reading and rain-a new age law I could live with!

  59. Betsy Lancefield Lane
    Saturday 12 May 2012, 9:04 pm

    I made this the first morning after I saw the post of FB. The only thing I’d add is how much FUN it is! It felt like I was camping, eating breakfast out of a jar. It was easy and delicious, and the texture was actually far better (IMO) than when you cook it on a stovetop. I shared the recipe with a friend who has twin 4-year-olds; she said they might actually eat their oatmeal if they got to help prepare it this way, then eat it right out of their very own jars. Thanks!

  60. [...] found power hack, Oatmeal in a Jar, during my Pinterest gorge this summer (had to delete my account to control myself).  I’m [...]

  61. I just made this for the hubby and me this morning. Very easy and tasty! I assembled the jars while I waited for the water to boil. We are going to use this idea for camping trips and days when we are out of our regular breakfaat eats.

  62. I make mines something like that for my children. I prepare all the ingredients the night before and in the morning I put the toppings in the jar and the booked water and when they get out of the roomsfully dressed their breakfast is waiting for them

  63. I am in love with this idea. “5 minute oatmeal in a jar” is definitely coming to my kitchen!
    I will probably add blueberries, chopped apple, walnuts, flaxseeds, cinammon, and maple syrup. I may add some almond milk to it after the oatmeal is set.

  64. I see something goey and creamy on top of the dry oats…mashed banana maybe?

  65. […] for those really last-minute mornings, make 5-minute oatmeal in a jar from Attainable […]

  66. […] the other end of the spectrum, if you are in a hurry, here is a great method for oatmeal on the go. With just the time to boil water and a mason jar, you have a nice, transportable breakfast! Oh, […]

  67. I cook it in a pot on the stove, and always have. No instant. No quick cooking. I use the regular old fashioned. Now THAT’S a good breakfast. This is an interesting concept though, but I’m rarely in any grab-n-go mode.

  68. […] Oatmeal in a Jar: Faster (and Healthier) than McDonald’s by Attainable Sustainable […]

  69. […] the other end of the spectrum, if you are in a hurry, here is a great method for oatmeal on the go. With just the time to boil water and a mason jar, you have a nice, transportable breakfast! Oh, […]

  70. […] oatmeal in a jar. (This is on my list of things to […]

  71. A thought about buying large amounts of rolled oats. When I trained horses we only ever rolled 3-4 days worth of oats at a time as the oats lose most of their nutritional value after that. Yet we buy rolled oats from the shop which are how old?

  72. What does ‘bottom of the threads’ mean? I don’t know how to measure how much water. Cover the oats? 

    • The “threads” are at the top of the jar, what the lid/ring tightens onto. Fill the jar with water to the bottom of those, within (roughly) 3/4″ of the top of the jar.

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