This cooks while you sleep, so you can wake up to the aroma of a delicious, ready-to-eat breakfast. The oats & chia seeds will give you the fuel to keep going all morning. The eggnog and cranberries are a delicious combination of flavors for the holiday season. This recipe can be made gluten-free too.
I've previously shared four recipes for Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats: apple-cinnamon , cherry-almond, banana-coconut, and pumpkin pie. They are healthy, hearty breakfasts that have been very popular with readers. I've had requests for new flavors, so I'm adding this eggnog cranberry version to the collection. Like the others, it's totally yummy, filling, and good for you. The eggnog gives this an amazingly rich flavor, yet the calorie count of this recipe is the same as the previous 4 flavors. This turns out to be my personal favorite of all of the oatmeals I've posted so far. It's another healthy way to have dessert for breakfast!
Eggnog is a flavor multi-tasker. I wasn't sure how eggnog would work in this oatmeal, but it turned out to be a home run. The ingredient list for this recipe is shorter than my other oatmeals, because the eggnog has so many flavors going on that there's no need to add more sweetener, spices, butter, or milk--the eggnog has it covered. So, although eggnog is richer and higher in calories than the milk I normally use, because I didn't need to add as many other ingredients, it kept the calorie count of the final oatmeal down. When you taste it's richness, you won't believe it can be good for you.
I used a good quality eggnog from a local dairy. Grocery stores here have a variety of options during the holiday season, including lactose-free and non-dairy options. If you'd prefer to make your own, Christie at PepperLynn.com has a great homemade eggnog recipe.
Cranberries are an optional flavor and nutrition boost. You can leave them out if you prefer, but I think they add another layer of flavor that puts this oatmeal over the top. I used dried cranberries that plump up as they cook. Cranberries are loaded with antioxidants and high in vitamin C, vitamin A, betacarotene, lutein, zea-xanthin, and folate and minerals like potassium, and manganese. You can read more about their health benefits here.
Step 2. Coat the slow cooker with cooking spray. Don't skip this step, or you will really regret it. You'll need a hammer and chisel to get the slow cooker clean if it's not sprayed with oil first. (I speak from experience here.)
Step 3. Throw everything in the slow cooker. I have a 6-1/2 quart slow cooker, but 3-1/2 quarts is big enough for this recipe. I can double the recipe in my slow cooker when I'm feeding more than 4 or 5 people.
Step 4. Give everything a quick stir and put on the lid. Set it to cook on low for 5 hours. That's how long it takes in my slow cooker, anyway. The cooking time can vary greatly from one slow cooker to another, so read my tips below for How To Avoid Overcooking Your Oatmeal. My slow cooker automatically switches to a "keep warm" setting after the cooking is complete; so I can start this before I go to bed, and it's still warm when I get up in the morning. If you don't have a programmable slow cooker like mine, read my tips below for an easy way to make yours programmable.
Not so pretty. Here's how mine looked after 5 hours of cooking plus 2 hours of warming time. You want to cook it until it's browned around the edges, but not burnt. I know that it looks seriously unappealing at this point. But just wait...
...dig out a spoonful from the bottom to reveal the gooey, goodness of the finished oatmeal. The crusty edges are my favorite part, adding delicious caramelized flavor and texture to the oatmeal. The cranberries plump up while they cook and are moist and tender.
The finished dish tastes more like dessert than a healthy breakfast. Those brown bits mixed in are so yummy. You can top it with a drizzle of additional eggnog and nuts or more dried cranberries, if you like. I didn't add more sweetener to mine; it was plenty sweet enough from the eggnog. Although this finished recipe looks very similar to my cherry-almond oatmeal, the flavor is completely different.
How to Avoid Overcooking Your Oatmeal. My overnight oatmeal was perfect after 5 hours of cooking and 2 more hours of warming, and I was lucky that it turned out perfectly with the first try. However, I've had feedback from a number of people reporting a wide range of cooking times for cooking oatmeal in their slow cookers. There can be some trial-and-error in figuring out exactly how long to cook this in your slow cooker--they can vary a lot in temperature and cooking time. Here are some tips to try:
The first time you try this recipe, make it sometime during the day when you are at home and can keep an eye on it and determine when it is done. (A tip from Kate at Our Best Bites when she made the apple-cinnamon version of this recipe.) You want the edges slightly browned, but not burnt. Start checking it after 4 hours of cook time. Assuming your lid is clear, eyeball the oats through the lid without lifting it. Every time you lift the lid, it adds 30 more minutes to the cooking time.
Plug your slow cooker into an on-off light timer, if you normally sleep longer than the time required for your oats to cook and you don't have a programmable slow cooker. You can assemble the ingredients in the slow cooker before you go to bed and set the timer to turn on later. That way your oats won't overcook and you don't have to get up in the wee hours to turn off your slow cooker. (A tip from my clever friend Sheri of The Loopy Ewe)
Or, set up a double boiler in your slower cooker. (see my Pumpkin Pie Slow Cooker Oatmeal for photos of this method) This allows you to extend the cooking time in your slow cooker without burning the edges of the oatmeal. Insert a heat-proof bowl inside the slow cooker that is large enough to hold the oatmeal ingredients. Spray or grease the bowl. Add the oatmeal ingredients. Add water to the slow cooker, pouring it between the outside of the bowl and the inside of the slow cooker until the water is approx. half way up the sides of the bowl. Put the lid on the slow cooker, turn it on low, and let it cook for up to 8 hours (maybe longer). You won't have the flavor and texture from browned edges, but they don't burn either. Another bonus--clean up is a breeze!
Make it ahead and reheat leftovers. I make a batch of this, refrigerate leftovers in 1 cup containers, and reheat individual servings in the microwave. Heat it in a microwave proof bowl with 1/3 cup milk, cook on high for 1 minute. Stir and microwave approx. 1 more minute until hot. Breakfast is ready! It's easy to grab one of these to take along to heat up at work. Freezes well, too.
As much as I've enjoyed my previous slow cooker oatmeal recipes, this flavor combination is my personal favorite. I honestly think you could serve it for dessert--it kind of reminds me of bread pudding and is especially desserty with more eggnog drizzled on top.
Make it a Yummy day! Monica (keep scrolling for the printable recipe)
You might also be interested in these. Same idea, different flavors:
1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats (gluten-free, if desired)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (craisins)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chia seeds or ground flax seeds
Optional toppings: chopped nuts, additional dried cranberries, additional eggnog, sprinkled with nutmeg or cinnamon
Coat inside of 3-1/2 quart (or larger) slow cooker with cooking spray. Add all ingredients (except optional toppings) to slow cooker. Stir, cover, and cook on low for approx. 5 hours, or until oats are cooked & softened, and edges have browned. (Slow cooker times may vary.) Spoon oatmeal into bowls; add optional toppings, if desired. Store leftovers in refrigerator. Freezes well.
Alternative slow cooker method for extended cooking time without burning the edges: Insert a heat-tolerant bowl inside the slow cooker; coat inside of bowl with cooking spray. Add all ingredients (except optional toppings) to the bowl; stir to combine. Pour water into the slow cooker on the outside of the bowl so that the water fills approx. halfway up the sides of the bowl. Put the cover on the slow cooker, and cook on low for up to 7 hours.
To reheat single servings: Put 1-cup cooked oatmeal in microwave proof bowl. Add 1/3 cup milk. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir. Continue cooking for another minute, or until hot. (If frozen, microwave longer at half power.)
Recipe may be doubled in 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Increase cooking time 1 hour.
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