A slow cooker oatmeal recipe for those cold mornings when you just need something to warm you up. This crock pot oatmeal for those of us who remember the good ole days comes together with just a few simple ingredients, minimal effort, and is a breakfast that you can eat plain or with the different toppings we’ve suggested below – you’ll be full until lunch.
I love pumpkin pie
I would eat pumpkin pie every day if I could. It’s one of the few non-chocolate desserts that I delight in year-round. I may have, with the approval and participation of Mom, consumed pumpkin pie as a post-Thanksgiving breakfast. I wanted to translate that aroma and flavor into a comforting yet more nutritionally sound breakfast food, and this slow cooker pumpkin spice oatmeal recipe is the result.
It’s all about the oat
Before they are processed, all oats start off at groats. After you get over laughing at what sounds like a favored breakfast for the Billy Goats Gruff or a grumpy old man, read on. Groats are chopped with a steel blade to create steel-cut oats. It’s really that simple. Imagine an industrial version of your favorite food processor. Steel-cut oats are what you’ll be using for this recipe. They are best suited to the slow cooker because they require a longer cooking time than the other two, more processed versions of oats. Soaking them beforehand will reduce cooking time, which can be 30 minutes or more on the stovetop, but the use of a slow cooker eliminates the necessity of that step.
If you steam and flatten a steel-cut oat, you get a rolled oat. (FYI- I just had to look up what the plural of a single oat would be; it’s either oats or more commonly just oat, according to Word Hippo!) The typical cooking time for rolled oats is anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes. The texture of these is softer and the flavor more subtle than their steel-cut cousins. Rolled oats are used in everything from breakfast items to cookies and bars to apple crisp topping. The final processing step repeats the steaming and rolling flat, transforming the rolled oats into quick oats. These cook very quickly, are both mild and somewhat mushy, and are also frequently used in baking. Some baked goods recipes allow for either rolled or quick oats, but others specify one or the other, so I try to keep both on hand.
A serving of oats is not necessarily low in carbs, but it has other benefits to make up for that singular deficit: 7-9 grams of protein, for example; 4-5 grams of fiber to just 3 grams of fat, and more than 15% of the RDA of phosphorus, manganese, and selenium. The steel-cut oats are a little more fiber than their counterparts, but more importantly they have a lower glycemic index, which simply means that you will digest them more slowly. Frequent consumption of oats also can lower “bad” cholesterol. That’s what raises your blood sugar more slowly and keeps you feeling full longer. And that’s just the oats without the butternut squash or pumpkin added in!
You’ll notice that the recipe allowed for either butternut squash or pumpkin puree. “What?!” you’re asking. A well-kept secret in the pumpkin canning industry is that the orange puree in the can is actually made of squash, or more accurately, a combination of winter squashes that often includes butternut squash. Don’t fret; there’s usually some pumpkin mixed in there as well, but it’s a pumpkin that more closely resembles a butternut squash than the one you carved a face into a few months ago.
“How can that be? What about regulations?” you’re asking now. The FDA is actually pretty lenient about what goes into a pumpkin puree mixture. They state that it is a “canned product prepared from clean, sound, properly matured, golden-fleshed, firm-shelled, sweet varieties of either pumpkins and squashes by washing, stemming, cutting, steaming, and reducing to a pulp.”
Libby’s brand claims to be 100% actual pumpkin, made from their specially-developed Dickinson pumpkin. But rest assured that this pumpkin oatmeal will taste great no matter which version you use, and no one will be the wiser.
Hidden nutrients for kids
Now did you know that hiding nutrients in things is a thing for toddlers and kids? I never really thought about that hurdle parents have to jump through. Well then it dawned on me, this pumpkin spice oatmeal is just the thing to sneak some extra nutrients into the breakfast routine. You know what made me think of it? When I stumbled upon these delicious looking Zucchini Vanilla Muffins for Toddlers from Mommy Wonders. Another recipe that sneaks in nutrients in an inventive way, if I’m allowed to pat myself on the back over here!
For the slow cooker in this recipe I used my Instant Pot Ultra on the low setting. It cooked up in exactly 3 hours and then I left it on the keep warm setting while we were grazing and making our bowls from the toppings I had put out. I went with dried cranberries, maple syrup, and chopped pecans. I was fortunate enough to have those on hand, but even more fortunate that they turned out to be a hit!
Please let us know in the comments how you make out with this recipe, and definitely include what you served as toppings!
Slow Cooker Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree or butternut squash
- 1 cup dairy-free milk plain or vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- Optional toppings: additional maple syrup raisins, dried cranberries, nuts, coconut cream, non-dairy coffee creamer
- In your slow cooker, combine the first six ingredients: oats, pumpkin, milk, salt, pumpkin pie spice, milk, and vanilla extract. Add 1 1/2 cups of water. Stir to combine.
- Cook on low for 3 hours, stirring every hour.
- Stir in maple syrup and serve; add optional toppings and enjoy!
- This refrigerates and reheats well; you may need to add a little extra liquid such as dairy-free milk when reheating. It does not freeze well, as the texture changes dramatically.
- If you don’t have any pumpkin pie spice, you can make your own. In a small jar, combine 4 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg.