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The Best Instant Oatmeal to Kickstart Your Morning

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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Tkp Instant Oatmeal TestTMB Studio

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.

Oh So Good Oatmeal Exps Ft20 41286 F 1029 1 4Taste 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.

Bobs Red Mill OatmealVia Target.com

Best Hearty Oatmeal

Bob’s Red Mill Brown Sugar & Maple Instant Oatmeal

This review tells you everything you need to know about Bob’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.

Pros

What our Test Kitchen liked about Bob’s Red Mill instant oatmeal:

  • Great texture thanks to oats and flaxseed
  • Not overly sweet

Cons

Consider these factors before you buy:

  • Takes longer to make than most instant oats (about five minutes)

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Quaker Instant OatmealVia Walmart.com

Best Instant Oatmeal for Kids

Quaker Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal

Spooning up bites of Quaker 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 at Taste 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.

Pros

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

Cons

Consider these factors before you buy:

  • Add less water than the packet instructs for best results

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Kodiak Cakes Instant OatmealVia Walmart.com

Best High Protein Oatmeal

Kodiak Cakes Maple & Brown Sugar Protein-Packed Oatmeal

Supercharge your breakfast with Kodiak 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.

Pros

What our Test Kitchen liked about Kodiak Cakes oatmeal:

  • 12 grams of protein per bowl
  • Good balance of maple and brown sugar

Cons

Consider these factors before you buy:

  • Added pea and whey protein gives this oatmeal a starchier consistency

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Mccanns Irish OatmealVia Amazon.com

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.

Pros

What our Test Kitchen liked about McCann’s oatmeal:

  • Great brown sugar and maple flavors
  • Thicker consistency

Cons

Consider these factors before you buy:

  • Steel-cut oats have a polarizing texture; be sure you enjoy Irish oats before purchasing

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Kind Instant OatmealVia Walmart.com

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 maple and 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.

Pros

What our Test Kitchen liked about KIND oatmeal:

  • Homemade appearance
  • Hearty texture
  • 10 grams of protein

Cons

Consider these factors before you buy:

  • Not very sweet (not great for kids)

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Lisa Kaminski
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.