Okay, confession time. Even though I’ve been sharing tons of back-to-school recipes- we kinda sorta haven’t started school here. I’m just old-school in my thinking. School shouldn’t start until after Labor Day, in my opinion. And, since we homeschool, I can begin whenever the heck I want to. So, I wait until after the September holiday to get going. That doesn’t mean I’m not strategizing my school day meals, though. When I developed this Overnight Apple Pie Oatmeal, my distaste for mornings was the catalyst for my creativity. I don’t like waking up before sunrise to make meals, period.
This slow cooker recipe simmers overnight and allows the big guy and the twins to wake up to a warm bowl of Mama’s love.
Slow Cookers for Convenience
My slow cooker is the unsung hero of the kitchen. It bails me out on days where I have to split myself into more than one person. Because slow cookers are so inexpensive, there’s no reason to not have one in your kitchen. Really! I often gift college students and newlyweds with their first slow cooker because it just makes sense. Plug it in and cook a meal overnight, while you’re in class, or at work; and you’ll have warm food greeting you with minimal effort. For less than fifty bucks, you can have a piece of equipment that is a kitchen must-have. Buy one. Then pick up some apples, spices, sugar, vanilla, and steel cut oats. You already have water, I’m assuming, and these are all you need for this recipe.
A Word of Caution
When it comes to using any piece of equipment- anywhere in your home- be vigilant. Since this recipe will cook overnight (while you’re asleep), you’ll need to be aware of the condition of your slow cooker. Anytime you have a piece of equipment that’s showing its age, it’s best not to leave it operating without supervision. Even better still- replace it. Frayed cords, faulty heating elements, or even malfunctioning outlets can spell disaster for you. I’m sure you remember what happened to Jack in This is Us. Hold on…I need a minute…hrmmnnn. Okay…I’m good. I’M GOOD. Slow cookers are designed to cook safely without supervision. But, if you’re prone to paranoia, like a certain food blogger named Marta, you can cook it the day before, store it and serve it after reheating in the microwave.
Cut Your Apples
I’ve named this recipe the Overnight Apple Pie Oatmeal because I’m giving it the same flavor I give my apple pie. I’m also using the same type of apples, as well as prepping them the same way. Granny smith apples are among the tartest of apples and, as a result, they’re the best ones to use for apple pies, as far as I’m concerned. They balance the sweet brown sugar and the spices without making the final dish cloyingly sweet. If you’re a fan of super-sweet, switch them out for Gala, Fuji, Honey Crisp (if you’re a baller), or Red Delicious. You can also use a combination of apples.
To peel the apples, I use my paring knife to lop off the top and bottom of the apple. After that, I peel the outer skin of the apples off. You can also use a vegetable peeler, but I’m a fan of using the least amount of dishes possible.
Disclaimer: if you’re accident-prone, or not proficient with knives, cut and peel your apples on a cutting board.
After I peel the apples, I quarter them. I usually have a small bowl on hand for trash (great for composting), and another bowl for holding my chopped apples.
Once you’ve quartered the apples, remove the stem area, the core and seeds, and the bottom calyx area.
Again, using a cutting board is actually recommended- I’m just a lazy bum.
Once all of those undesirable portions are removed, cut the apple quarters into half-inch chunks. Then, set the apples to the side.
What Type of Oats?
For any overnight oatmeal, you need to use steel cut oats. These oats are the only variety of oatmeal- besides the groat, itself- that will stand up to the longer cooking period without becoming the gruel of Oliver Twist fame. What’s the difference? Well, only the amount of processing that goes into them. The oat groat is the pure form- the OG- the original grain. Steel cut oats are the product of the roughly chopped groat. Rolled oats are flattened groats. Instant (or quick-cooking) rolled oats are cooked oats that have been rolled after drying.
The texture of the cooked forms correlates to the amount of processing they go through. The steel cut oat creates a thick, porridge-type cereal which is filling, heartier, and has more texture than the others. The rolled oat creates a smoother cereal with more bite- similar to an al dente pasta. The quick-cooking rolled oat will cook faster, but will be more mushy and have less body. Each is beneficial, depending on how much time you have to make it. This recipe assumes you have overnight, so let’s get to it.
Cooking the Overnight Oats
Start by lightly greasing your slow cooker with vegetable oil, or cooking spray. This makes clean-up easier. Even better is using a crock-pot liner. Pour your oats into the greased slow cooker.
Add water and stir to saturate the oats.
Pour the apple chunks into the slow cooker. Measure out your spices. I love to prepare my mise en place using small prep bowls, then line them up next to my slow cooker.
Add the brown sugar to the slow cooker.
Combine the spices in a larger bowl and mix them well. I prefer to do this prior to adding them to the slow cooker because it prevents a blob of cinnamon over here, and a blob of ginger over there. Doing it this way ensures the overnight oatmeal is balanced in flavor.
Add the vanilla bean paste to the mix. I love using vanilla paste because it’s more pungent than vanilla extract. If you only have the extract, double the amount.
Now, add your spice mixture and give everything a stir. Make sure to get the spoon into the crease of the bowl, the oats like to settle in there. Cook the oatmeal on low for seven to eight hours.
Tips for Success
I pre-measure the ingredients right after dinner dishes have been cleared away. Then I set up the crockpot, chop my apples, and mix my spices (you can even toss the sugar into the spice mixture). I take care of TV and story time (yes, I still read bedtime stories to my kids), snuggle time with the Mister, and my beauty regimen (because I’m old in the face). Just before turning into bed, I pop downstairs to set up the overnight oatmeal. Making sure it’s plugged in (always my downfall), and turning on low, I head upstairs to bed.
A Final Stir and Spooning Up a Bowlful
When you wake up in the morning, switch the slow cooker to warm and give the oatmeal a final stir. This will distribute the water that has formed on the surface and smooth out the oatmeal. Grab some bowls and a ladle and serve up the love.
I love to top mine with dried cranberries, the twins like theirs with an extra helping of brown sugar, and the Soldier takes his as-is. Blueberries, cherries, raisins, or granola are all great stir-in ideas for this oatmeal, as well.
When you’re finished eating, transfer any leftovers to a mason jar or a food storage container, and store it in the fridge for up to two days. The Soldier loves taking the cold leftovers to work the following days and eating them with dried fruits and nuts.
Pin and share this recipe for all the busy worker bees in your life. This is also a great recipe for the kiddos to make on their own!
**This post contains affiliate links. To find out what that means to you, please read my disclosure page**
Overnight Apple Pie Oatmeal
- 4 granny smith apples, peeled
Sugar & Spice Mixture
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- pinch kosher salt (optional)
- neutral cooking oil or non-stick cooking spray
- 2 cups steel cut oats
- 7 cups water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
- dried cranberries
- dried blueberries
- brown sugar
Cut Your Apples
- Cut each apple into quarters.
- Use your knife to remove the stem area, the core and seeds, and the bottom calyx area, then cut the apple quarters into half-inch chunks.
- Set the apples to the side.
Make the Sugar & Spice Mixture
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.
- Set aside.
Prep the Overnight Oats
- Lightly grease your slow cooker with the vegetable oil or cooking spray.
- Pour the steel cut oats into the greased slow cooker.
- Add the water and stir to saturate the oats.
- Pour the apple chunks into the slow cooker.
- Stir in the vanilla bean paste.
- Add the sugar and spice mixture and stir well. Make sure to get in the crease in the bowl, the oats like to settle in there.
- Turn the slow cooker to low and cook for 7-8 hours.
- When you're ready to serve, give the oatmeal a final stir. This distributes the water that has formed on the surface and smooths out the oatmeal.
Serve and Enjoy
- Ladle up the oatmeal and top as desired.
Overnight Apple Pie Oatmeal isn’t the only busy morning recipe I have.
Check out these other morning-friendly meals: