This blog is updated in 2020
These DIY instant oatmeal packets are so easy to assemble. Make a bunch in advance to keep on hand for those busy mornings when you don’t have time to make breakfast. You can mix these oatmeal packets with hot water and enjoy a healthy hot breakfast in a jiffy. They’re also great to take along to work or on trips. It’s easy to make these gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan.
Refrigerator oatmeal, too! If you’re a fan of the oh-so-popular refrigerator oatmeal explained in my post, Overnight, No-Cook Refrigerator Oatmeal, you can also use these pre-assembled packets to quickly mix a batch of fridge oats the night before. Simply combine a packet with yogurt and water, refrigerate overnight, and creamy cold oats are ready the next morning. Many are already enjoying the convenience of making refrigerator oatmeal a few days ahead for quick grab-and-go breakfasts. These pre-assembled packets take that convenience to a whole new level. You can make up a bunch of the packets weeks or months ahead to make it even easier to quickly throw together a few batches of fridge oats whenever you like.
Why make your own packets? Because they are so much healthier and tastier! I decided to experiment with making my own instant oat packets when I was helping King-Man prepare for a backpacking trip. He’s always taken the store-bought instant oat packets for an easy breakfast on the trail. When I read the ingredient list on the packaging with all it’s mystery ingredients, high sodium, and artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives, I decided to figure out how to make a healthier version at home.
Turns out that it’s easy to make your own oatmeal packets. They can be plain, unflavored oatmeal, or you can add an endless variety of fruits, nuts, and other fun flavors. I’ll share 12 of my favorite combos. Every ingredient is dry and has a shelf life of at least a few months, so these packets can be made well in advance.
How my packets are healthier and better (in my humble opinion). My basic plain instant oat mix has:
- whole grain rolled oats (so do the store-bought packets; this is the only thing mine has in common with theirs)
- chia seeds — these tiny seeds have big health benefits yet a neutral taste so they disappear into the mix.
- oat bran — to boost the mix with more heart-healthy fiber (read about the special health benefits of oat bran here)
- sweetener customized to your personal preference — I reduce the amount of sweetener considerably in mine and prefer to use a touch of a natural sweetener over the artificial stuff
- non-fat powdered milk — adds protein & calcium along with creaminess to the texture and taste. In case you’re wondering if it’s better to use fresh whole milk….well, yes. But these are DRY instant oatmeal packets, so fresh milk isn’t an option. The health concerns about oxidized cholesterol in powdered milk aren’t an issue if you use the non-fat kind. source. If you prefer, you can omit the powdered milk altogether.
Below, is a more detailed photo tutorial that shows these oatmeal varieties assembled in plastic bags for taking them on-the-go.
Here’s how to make
Healthy Instant Oatmeal Packet in 12 Flavors
Choose from 3 kinds of rolled oats. They are all surprisingly similar in nutrients. The quick and instant oats are digested more quickly, so they don’t do quite as good a job as the old fashioned oats at keeping you feeling full and stabilizing blood sugars. However, my healthy ingredient additions to the mix more than compensate, making use of quick and instant oats very healthy. Quick and instant oats are normally preferred in these oatmeal packets, because they are ready to eat simply by adding boiling water to them. Old fashioned oats, on the other hand, need to be cooked in the microwave or on the stove top; so the choice is yours as to just how “instant” you want your oatmeal packets to be.
Choose your preferred dry sweetener. Below are a few options that I think taste especially good in oatmeal: coconut sugar, sucanat (dried sugar cane juice), pure maple sugar (dried maple syrup), or brown sugar. I won’t get into the nutritional benefits of one over the other, as that’s a debate that could go on for pages. My bottom line advice is to use a moderate amount of whatever sweetener you like, or omit the sweetener altogether. How much is enough is a matter of personal preference. King-Man (aka Mr. Sweet Tooth) likes a full tablespoon of brown sugar–that is so sweet that it makes me want to gag and tastes about as sweet as the store-bought packets. I like around 1 teaspoon of sweetener in my oatmeal. Maple sugar is my personal favorite.
Here are the basic ingredients for a plain instant oatmeal packet: rolled oats, chia seeds, oat bran, powdered milk, and salt. I also add a bit of cinnamon to mine for it’s flavor and health benefits.
Nutritional data for the basic oatmeal packets (without fruit or nuts). I included 1-1/2 teaspoons of brown sugar for the sweetener in these calculations. For one plain oatmeal packet: 160 calories, 2.8g fat, 53mg sodium, 28.6g carbs, 3.9g fiber, 7.6g sugars, 6.5g protein. Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 4.
Add fruit, if you like. To the basic oatmeal mix, you can add any kind of fruit that you like. There are 2 categories of dried fruit that I’ve used in my oatmeal packets:
- Freeze-dried fruit — I’ve just recently discovered this healthy alternative to fresh fruit. It is nothing but fruit–no additives at all. It can be eaten as is for a crunchy, healthy snack. It’s perfect in these oatmeal packets, because it rehydrates instantly when mixed with water. I prefer this over regular dried fruit, although it is pricier. I’ve found it at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and on Amazon. The volume measures the same as the fresh fruit equivalent. In other words, fruit stays the same size when it is freeze-dried.
- Dried or dehydrated fruit — This is the more widely available option. It also works well in these oatmeal packets. However, read the packaging labels; often dried fruits have undesirable additives. When dried, this shrivels and is more dense than fresh fruit, so use less of it than fresh or freeze-dried fruit.
Add nuts, if you like. Any favorite nut can be added to these oatmeal packets for a flavor and nutrition boost, although they’re completely optional.
More dry, flavorful ingredients. Here are some of the additional flavors I added to my oatmeal packets: dehydrated coconut, PB2 (powdered peanut butter), dried orange peel, crystallized ginger, ground vanilla bean powder, unsweetened cocoa, instant espresso powder.
How to assemble instant oatmeal packets
1. Label the top of the bags you’ll be using. That way, you can store your oatmeal packets upright in a basket or container and easily flip through them to find the flavor you want. It’s much easier to label the bags while they are empty and flat. Ziploc snack size bags work great and are widely available at grocery stores. If you prefer not to use plastic, you can use any airtight container (like jars). Paper bags are not recommended, because they are porous and will result in a drastically reduced shelf life of the ingredients.
2. Add the basic oatmeal mixture ingredients to each bag. Once the oats are added, the bottom of the bags flatten enough for them to stand upright. So, you can line your bags up and use an assembly line method for filling them with each ingredient.
3. Add fruit, nuts, and other flavors. If you’ve pre-labeled the bags, this step goes much more quickly. Seal the bags tightly to keep any humidity out; this extends their shelf life.
As I use my oatmeal packets, I save my labeled bags to reuse and refill.
Substitutions? Go for it! Every ingredient is optional, except the oats. You can omit, reduce, or make substitutions for any of the other ingredients. For example,
- substitute ground flax or hemp seed for the chia seeds
- substitute wheat bran or wheat germ for the oat bran
- substitute protein powder for the powdered milk
- gluten-free option — use gluten-free rolled oats and oat bran
- dairy-free or vegan option — omit the powdered milk
How to make hot oatmeal (2 methods)
1. Hot Water Method. (works with quick or instant oats, but not with old fashioned oats). Pour an oatmeal packet into a heat tolerant mug or bowl, pour in 2/3 c. boiling water, stir, and let stand until thickened. Instant oats are ready in 2-3 minutes. Quick oats are ready in 4-5 minutes.
2. Microwave Method. (works with old fashioned, quick, or instant oats) Pour oatmeal packet into a microwave safe bowl/mug that is big enough for oatmeal to double in volume as it cooks. Add 3/4 cup cold water. Microwave on high, 3 min. for old fashioned oats, 2 min. for quick oats, 1 min. for instant oats. (microwave power and times may vary).
How to make no-cook, refrigerator oatmeal
Works with old fashioned, quick, or instant oats. Add an oatmeal packet to a pint or half-pint jar (or other covered container). I use half-pint jars for mine. Pour in 1/2 cup cold water, add 1/4 cup yogurt, cover, and shake vigorously until well mixed. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, overnight, or up to 3 days. They thicken into a creamy mixture that is intended to be eaten cold; however, you can heat them if you prefer.
12 Instant Oatmeal Packet Flavor Varieties
These are some of my favorites, but you can use the same formula to combine your own favorite ingredients. Get creative…the sky’s the limit! Refer to the printable recipe at the end of this post for exact ingredient amounts.
1. Plain — just the basic recipe with no added flavors
2. Apple Cinnamon Maple — To the basic oatmeal mix, I added chopped dried apples, more cinnamon, and used maple sugar as the sweetener.
3. Blueberry — To the basic oatmeal mix, I added freeze-dried blueberries.
view on Amazon: freeze-dried blueberries
4. Cherry Almond — To the basic oatmeal mix, I added dried cherries and sliced almonds.
5. Apricot Ginger — To the basic oatmeal mix, I added chopped dried apricots and minced crystallized ginger.
6. Cranberry Orange Pecan — To the basic oatmeal mix, I added dried cranberries, chopped pecans, and dried orange peel.
7. Pineapple Coconut (my favorite…YUM!) — To the basic oatmeal mix, I added freeze-dried pineapple, and dehydrated unsweetened coconut.
8. Raspberry Vanilla Bean — To the basic oatmeal mix, I added freeze-dried raspberries and ground vanilla bean powder.
9. Peach (or Mango) Macadamia Nut — To the basic oatmeal mix, I added chopped dried white peaches and chopped macadamia nuts.
10. Cocoa Banana — To the basic oatmeal mix, I added chopped freeze-dried bananas and unsweetened cocoa. (NOTE: Dried banana chips are not recommended. I tried them, and they tasted awful when they were rehydrated. The freeze-dried bananas worked great and are delicious!)
11. Peanut Butter Banana — To the basic oatmeal mix, I added chopped freeze-dried bananas (see my note about bananas in #10 above) and PB2 powdered peanut butter. In case you aren’t familiar with PB2, it is peanut butter with most of the fat removed, but the protein and nutrition left intact. It’s a dry powder that is perfect for adding flavor to these dry oatmeal mixes.
12. Mocha — To the basic oatmeal mix, I added instant espresso powder and unsweetened cocoa.
So many uses! I’m loving having a supply of these packets made up for making myself either hot or refrigerator oatmeal. They have lots of convenient additional uses. You could set out a selection of these for:
- A busy family in the morning. Everyone can choose and make their own oatmeal.
- A workplace meeting or break room. All you need is hot water (often an option with office coffee/tea makers) or a microwave.
- A dorm room. Send a selection of oatmeal packets to a college student for a quick, healthy breakfast before going to class.
- A brunch buffet table. All you need is a pot of hot water and guests can mix their own oatmeal.
- A trip. Most hotel rooms have coffee makers that heat water.
- Camping and backpacking. King-Man gave a big thumbs up to these homemade oatmeal packets after his recent backpacking trip. He had these for breakfast every morning. Blueberry was his favorite.
This is FAST FOOD that is good for you. I’m loving it. Hope you do, too.
Make it a Yummy day!