Hands off, pot-in-pot Instant Pot steel cut oats

Hands off, pot-in-pot Instant Pot steel cut oats

Steel cut oatmeal is the best kind of oatmeal. I’ll fight you on it. I like regular rolled oats just fine, but the nubby little grains making up a bowl of warm, milky steel cut oats make a morning special. I didn’t grow up eating oatmeal, but my kids sure are. The trouble, of course, is that steel cut oats take forever – a good 30-40 minutes on the stovetop after you get the liquid to a rolling boil. When we need to get the older kiddo out the door by 7:30, it’s hard to fathom a path towards regular steel cut delight on weekday mornings.

Until, of course, you figure out how to get them going in the Instant Pot. To be clear: making steel cut oats in the pressure cooker is not a huge time saver. It may shave off five minutes, tops. But – and this is the but that makes steel cut oats a staple in our weekday mornings now – it’s totally hands off. I don’t know about you, but I am inherently incapable of bringing a pot of milk to boil on the stovetop without it boiling over and making a mess of the stovetop and the ratios for my recipe. Every. Single. Time. Especially in the morning, when I am distracted, making lunches, emptying the dishwasher, and making sure little kiddo is not tormenting his sister. I check the milk – nothing is happening. I turn to another task. I check it again – oooo, little bubbles are starting to form. I turn to….gah suddenly the whole thing is frothing over, the gas flame is flickering and cracking, and it’s an enormous mess. I am not exaggerating when I say this happens every single time.

Glory to the Instant Pot! You pop in all the ingredients, seal it up, and half an hour later, you open it. You can go about your lunch-preparation, outfit-choosing, laundry-switching, backpack-packing, all-the-things morning and then have a bowl of deliciousness awaiting you. I get up around 6:30, toss this together even before I’ve had my coffee, and we can sit down to porridge by 7am.

The trick is to use the pot-in-pot method, because if you try to make steel cut oats in the big pot, you have a problem. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not really worth eating porridge that has been cooked in water (unless you’re going savoury, but that’s for another post), but if you try to cook it in milk, you’ll likely end up with a pot of scalded milk. Instead, you put some water in the bottom of the big pot, add the rack, and then put your (pressure-cooker safe!) bowl of oat ingredients on the rack. The oats cook, the milk does not scald, and you get a totally hands-off, nutritious breakfast that you get to doctor up with your toppings of choice.

Stainless steel pot-in-pot bowl

I picked up the above 8-inch stainless steel Blanda Blank bowl from Ikea, and it is the hardest working bowl in my kitchen. It’s wide and shallow, but small enough to fit easily in the Instant Pot. It is also, incidentally, the perfect size for my Everyday Big Lunch Salad. Because it is stainless steel, it can withstand the pressure of the Instant Pot without threat of cracking, exploding, or otherwise wreaking havoc. Also, because it is from Ikea, I think it cost something like three dollars – but I don’t remember, because I bought it on a whim years ago, not knowing it would become so integral to my kitchen.


Instant pot steel cut oatmeal with toppings

Instant pot pot-in-pot steel cut oatmeal

Hands off, pot-in-pot Instant Pot steel cut oats

Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4


  • 1 cup steel cut oats I buy these by the pound in the bulk section at the grocery store
  • 2 cups 2% milk This makes for a very milky porridge, and you may want to adjust to personal taste.
  • 1 cup water
  • A pinch sea salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Put 1 cup of water in the large Instant Pot lining. Place the rack into the pot as well. Set the Instant Pot to Manual, 14 minutes. Don't seal it yet, this will just start it heating up while you assemble the ingredients.

  2. Put all ingredients into your pressure-cooker safe bowl. I recommend stainless steel. Mix gently.

  3. Put the bowl onto the rack and seal the Instant Pot. Remember, it will take a few minutes to come to pressure, and then will 

  4. Once the Instant Pot signals it is finished, allow the pressure to come down naturally for at least 10 minutes. If I am really in a rush, I will sometimes gently nudge the pressure valve very slightly open to allow a tiny stream of the pressure to release, but it doesn't really speed things up that much. Do not just flip open the release - it will spray oatmeal all over your house and clog your valve. 

  5. Open and serve! The ratios provided make a very milky porridge, so you may want to adjust. The good thing is that whatever you don't eat keeps marvelously in the fridge, and the extra liquid is almost entirely absorbed within a few hours.

  6. Add toppings! Favorites in our house include: chia seeds, cacao nibs, unsweetened shredded coconut, yogurt, frozen blueberries or raspberries, and raisins. The more the merrier. I find this sweet enough with the vanilla extract, but you could always add a drizzle of maple syrup or honey if you want more. 


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