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Humans have been digging into breakfast cereals for centuries. Indigenous peoples of the past ate what we now call grits or hominy, and various types of porridge have long been eaten throughout Africa and Europe (via Verival).
But, it wasn’t until 1856, when Ferdinand Schumacher began chopping and packaging oats in a more consumable way for his fellow Ohioans to eat, that the demand for oatmeal started rapidly growing in the United States, writes Ohio History Central. After several mergers, Schumacher’s company would eventually become Quaker Oats, an enterprise known for turning oatmeal into a breakfast staple.
Per The Daily Beast, instant oatmeal can be an unexpected source of sugar — but it can also still be a nutritious option for those who need a quick, warm meal. The good news is most brands now make a wide range of oatmeal styles. These include pre-sweetened and flavored instant oatmeal packets as well as plain, old-fashioned oats in a canister. But not all packaged oats are created equal! When it comes to this grain, the texture is key. Good oats should have some chew and bounce. You shouldn’t be left with a pile of mush.
We’ve ranked the top ready-to-cook oatmeal brands from worst to best so that you don’t have to sort through every oatmeal offering on the market. As you’ll see, some choices are a cut above the rest.
16. Better Oats
Better Oats is owned by the consumer brand Post, which also owns such cereals as Raisin Bran and Honeycomb. With more than 18 types of Better Oats, it’s clear the brand is focused on making a warm porridge that everyone will love. There is the Thick & Hearty line, which includes Apple Cinnamon, Maple & Brown Sugar, and Blueberry Muffin flavors. And the brand also offers a lower-calorie line, an Organic Bare product, steel-cut oats with added protein, and classic instant oats.
Their variety is appreciated, but the quality is inconsistent across the entire range. The Steel Cut Maple & Brown Sugar with Protein, for example, have an odd texture. One Better Oats reviewer even described the taste of the added protein pellets as having a thick, wet-paper texture. The Bare version also seems to have some issues clumping up, leaving another Better Oats reviewer to report the style as soup-like. However, it may be worth a taste as the Bare line is a multigrain cereal featuring barley, quinoa, and rye in addition to your oats.
A redeeming quality is that there’s likely to be one decent flavor with a product range so extensive. It just depends on the what you try.
15. Bear Naked
Oatmeal is one of the simple pleasures in life. Many common flavor combinations shine in oatmeal — like apples and cinnamon, for example. Plus, there is a general cooking rule that if you’ve prepared one oatmeal, you’ve prepared them all. Unfortunately, Bear Naked may be the exception. The brand has managed to make oatmeal preparation downright confusing. Better known as a granola brand, there are only two flavors of Bear Naked Steel Cut Oatmeal + Granola line, so it is at least simple to decide if you want to try Maple Pecan or Fruit & Nut. But, once you’ve narrowed that down, you’ll have to identify the fill line, which is easier said than done, as it is on the outside of the cup and difficult to decipher. This results in a different consistency every time you cook.
Bear Naked reviewers recount that some oats have repelling qualities, like the odor of chemicals in place of the earthy saccharine of maple syrup. It’s also not a portion that is filling enough to be considered breakfast, with one Amazon reviewer referring to it as downright "tiny." Between the taste, the quantity, and the fill line, this is an instant oatmeal that needs some tweaking before it can be recommended.
14. One Degree
As a family-run business, One Degree Organic Foods values transparency and clean ingredients. Their website even contains a product tracer for consumers to enter a source code and find more information about the contents’ origins. The company’s oatmeal line includes instant varieties of Cacao Nib, Coconut Sugar and Spice, and even a Quinoa Hemp oatmeal, along with different cuts like quick oats, rolled oats, and steel-cut.
A few customers have reported the bag smelling and tasting stale upon opening, even with an expiration date far in the future. Some Thrive Market customers have even associated the smell with a sour odor. This could be a quality control issue, or it may be because One Degree oatmeal is sprouted.
Sprouted grains are created by soaking a seed or grain, then letting it crack open to start the germination process (via The Kitchn). And according to a Penn State University Extension, there does seem to be a handful of benefits of eating sprouted grains, such as they’re easier to digest and lower in calories, sodium, and fat. So, if you’re looking to sample the benefits of sprouted oatmeal, this is a good risk to take. But be prepared to adjust for the scent.
13. Great Value
As Walmart’s house brand, Great Value produces a budget-friendly version of our favorite foods and essential commodities. Being affordable is a great thing, but there are other factors to having successful oats. Great Value is available in canister form or instant oatmeal packets and comes in basic styles like old-fashioned or steel-cut oats.
The flavors, which aren’t exceptionally creative — Strawberries and Cream, Apples & Cinnamon — don’t pop as they should. One Walmart customer described Great Value oats as lacking flavor entirely. In our opinion, the tastes are too subtle and the texture is oddly dry. As the brand name suggests, Great Value offers enough of a bargain to make it a better choice than other oatmeal companies, but a good deal often requires compromises.
These certainly aren’t the worst oats you’ll ever taste, but they also won’t be the best. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly oat, you can rely on Great Value. We recommend preparing plain oatmeal with your own favorite additions to make the best taste.
Mush Ready to Eat Oatmeal is the breakfast for cool kids. It’s got slick branding and some unique flavors. But does that alone make it the perfect oatmeal?
Mush makes readily consumable oatmeal that comes in dessert tastes like vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and a few berry flavors. There’s no need to add water or heat any of them. Think of Mush as overnight oats served at room temperature or colder. The cups are plant-based, high in protein, full of fiber, and free of dairy, preservatives, gluten, and artificial ingredients. Mush cold-soaks their grains, which Health Digest reports will help you absorb many naturally-occurring minerals in oats. That isn’t the only nutritious aspect of Mush. The company uses less than eight ingredients per flavor.
That all sounds promising, but how does Mush taste? Spy tried the oats and noted that some flavors were hit or miss. The strawberry, for example, was classic but underwhelming. At $5 per cup, Mush is more expensive than any other oatmeal on our list. So, while it’s not a product that will wow your tastebuds or helps you save money, the value of this oatmeal is that it’s suitable for those who want something quick and healthy on the go.
11. Bakery On Main
Bakery on Main got its start in 1992 as a gluten-free breakfast and snack food producer. Since then, gluten-free has been the backbone of their range.
The instant oatmeal cups are available in flavors like Walnut Banana and Cranberry Apple Almond. Eaters can find the instant oatmeal packets in the flavors of Apple Pie, Maple Multigrain Muffin, Strawberry Shortcake, and Blueberry Scone (along with an unsweetened pouch). There are also two high-protein flavors — one in blueberry and another with maple and brown sugar notes.
It’s impressive that the assortment offers a variety of flavors in different formats, with no overlap between the cups and the instant oatmeal packets. As for taste, Baker on Main uses ancient grains like amaranth, chia, and flax in their oats. This gives a nice texture, but ultimately it feels like they oversell the intended flavor and quality of their product since the grains are paired with a lot of added sugar.
Bakery on Main tries to offer more natural tasting oatmeal, but the sweetness levels are off — they’re either too low or too high, depending on the flavor. One Bakery on Main reviewer summed it up by saying that the benefits and taste are essentially the middle of the road; This oatmeal brand isn’t bad, but reviewers aren’t delighted with it either. If Bakery on Main can standardize and balance its flavors, it may quickly become a more nutritious breakfast go-to.
10. Purely Elizabeth
Purely Elizabeth‘s oatmeal comes in many forms. You can purchase them in individual oatmeal cups with granola toppers, separate 5 Grain + Seed Oatmeal packets, or multi-serving pouches. Many Purely Elizabeth varieties have additions like collagen, extra protein, or superfoods.
According to the company site, Purely Elizabeth was founded out of the desire to offer consumers healthier versions of their favorite foods. With one look at their ingredient list, pronounceable items like pea protein and organic quinoa flakes clearly show that they are following this mission.
Some reviewers have described the original flavor as bland. That’s probably for the better, so it can serve as a blank canvas to doctor up however you wish. However, the other flavors are delicious, and they’re also filling.
One Amazon reviewer described the oatmeal consistency as both gelatinous and dry like cardboard. That seems to be an isolated perspective, though the addition of other grains like quinoa can create a slightly unfamiliar mouthfeel from standard oatmeal. Overall, Purely Elizabeth is favorable. A wide range of flavors and formats make it a convenient and delightful addition to most diets.
9. Bob’s Red Mill
As a popular gluten-free flour producer, Bob’s Red Mill has a reputation for taking ordinary foods and making them compatible with all types of diet sensitivities. Bob Moore founded the California mill in 1978 with his wife, Charlee. The gluten-free oatmeal they have produced since then is available in many forms, such as an instant cup, family-sized pouch, or instant oatmeal packets.
Some of Bob’s oatmeal styles come with delectable additions. In particular, the types with flaxseed add a nice chewy texture. Overall, this is pretty standard oatmeal. The Oatmeal Cups have good, authentic flavors on their own. There’s no need to add anything, like additional fruit or sweetener (unless your palate is craving it). There are, however, some consistency issues. A common oatmeal complaint is that the food is either too sugary or bland, but here, reviewers report tasting excessive salt.
Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal is a reliable breakfast option for nearly 3.2 million Americans who live with Celiac disease. Though, if you don’t need to avoid gluten, this oatmeal isn’t flavorful or memorable enough to knock your socks off. For these reasons, it lands firmly in the middle of our list.
8. Modern Oats
Texture is where most oatmeal brands get tripped up. It’s challenging to get it just right, and too often, oatmeals are either too runny or way too goopy. That’s what makes Modern Oats better than average. Their single-serving instant oatmeal cups come in flavors of goji and blueberry, as well as coconut with almond — and they’re all gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, and packed with superfoods.
There’s plenty to love about the instant oat brands, but one of the most important things is maintaining a decent texture (read: not gluey) across all of their flavors. Modern Oats has been perfecting their oats since 2013, when the brand was founded in California. As one of the newer brands on the list, it’s impressive what they’ve accomplished with texture in that short amount of time. One Modern Oats reviewer called the consistency perfect, and we have to agree that the creamy mouthfeel is pretty close to that.
With only four flavors (and not one on the plainer side), there may be some limitations for customers with more particular tastes. For that reason, Modern Oats doesn’t receive a higher ranking. Still, if you want an instant breakfast that delivers uniformity every time, consider this company.
7. Earnest Eats
Andrew Aussie founded San Diego-based Earnest Eats as a way to reflect the colorful array of superfoods. Sure enough, the company sells things like freeze-dried avocado as well as baked snack bars. Even so, their product assortment is mainly made up of various types of oatmeal. There are instant oatmeal packets, individuals cups, and bags infused with superfoods, protein, and probiotics.
A unique aspect of Earnest Eats is that the bags of oatmeal come completely unsweetened so that the diner can adjust it to their preference. For example, if you’re someone who likes the tanginess of a cranberry, you’ll likely need to add more to find this enjoyable. Nevertheless, that may well be the best solution to ensure everyone can have their oatmeal at their desired sweetness level. It’s a simple decision that catapults this oatmeal brand high on our list.
Additionally, Earnest Eats works well as a muesli/granola snack, giving it extra points for versatility. While the superfood combination so proudly boasted on the package lacks originality (quinoa, amaranth, and flax seeds are common ingredients for many companies), Earnest Eats packages are mainly oats, so dress them how you like.
You may be more familiar with KIND bars than KIND oatmeal, but the snack brand has a pretty complete range of hot cereals. Daniel Lubetzky founded the brand in 2004. It was indeed a clean food, fruit-and-nut focused company, which is how it got its reputation as being one of the more nutritious granola bars around (via Time Magazine). According to KIND, the goal was to make the brand into a "socially impactful" business. They have so far succeeded, with Lubetsky creating the namesake KIND Foundation to encourage more empathy and long-standing positive impact in the world.
Considering KIND aims to make an impact, it’s excellent news for the company that its oatmeal leaves a successful impression. It’s not overly sweet, and the extra ingredients (apples, chocolates, salted caramel) are included in ideal ratios to the oats. That means you get some of the good stuff in each spoonful instead of fishing around for your favorite morsels. One KIND reviewer eats it especially on days when they want to feel a little more full in the mornings, and it works just as well as an everyday breakfast (or snack)!
It might come as no surprise to see Quaker Oats on this list. They’re easily one of the most recognizable brands in the oat category. Quaker’s high-profile and commercial farming methods have resulted in the brand taking heat for containing low levels of the weed-killer ingredient glyphosate (via The New York Times). However, according to reporting by Health, Quaker Oats claims that levels of glyphosate in their products are trace amounts allowable under EPA limits.
The oat brand makes canisters of old-fashioned and quick oats, instant oatmeal, steel-cut oats, oatmeal cuts, gluten-free oatmeal, and organic oatmeal. The flavor of the oats supports the brand’s prominent reputation. The steel-cut oats, for example, are organic and have a nice chewy texture that comes out the same no matter how you cook them. For example, some reviewers suggest that you can prepare them effortlessly in the pressure cooker. Additionally, Quaker Oats are as easy on the wallet as they are to cook. With concerns about trace contaminants, it is understandable to be skeptical of big-brand products. That said, Quaker Oats delivers on the promise of great-tasting grains if you’re willing to give them a try.
Flahavan’s proves each product in a range can be spot on. It makes sense when you realize Flahavan’s is an Irish Oats company that dates back to 1785. They have cultivated an overwhelming selection of oats in this long history, modernizing to include individual cups along with family-sized bulk bags, gluten-free offerings, oatmeal with added fruit, overnight oats, and quick oats.
Flahavan’s is incredibly consistent. Their most uncomplicated products, such as the Irish Porridge Oats, show how well the mill is regarded and ranked in Ireland. For a country that has a storied history with oatmeal (as told by The Atlantic), the lasting existence of Flahavan’s in Ireland says a lot about the quality. Unfortunately for United States customers, it can be hard to find something other than Flavahan’s traditional styled Irish rolled, steel-cut, or porridge oats. Even plain, the creamy texture of Irish oats is incomparable.
A few Amazon reviewers claiming to have tasted Flavahan’s in Ireland report that you can successfully recreate the unique flavor and texture when at home in the United States. But for those who have never tasted the oats abroad, this is a uniquely smooth and satisfying bowl of oats. Plus, because you can modify the plain oats how you want, they can become something for everyone in the household.
3. Nature’s Path
Nature’s Path Organic Foods is yet another family-owned oatmeal company to make the list. The brand was founded in 1985 in Vancouver, Canada (a place where hardy, warm breakfasts are needed). According to the company story, co-founder Arran Stephens opened the first vegetarian restaurant in Canada in 1981, so it’s clear he has a passion for encouraging others to live a life filled with nourishing food.
The oatmeal is sold as instant oatmeal packets, superfood oatmeal cups, steel-cut, grain-free, and old-fashioned styles. It makes our list for a few reasons; It’s got a great consistency, easy preparation, and pleasant flavors. It’s hard to be wowed by oatmeal, but we can say that you might feel this way after trying Nature’s Path. Their product is full of straightforward flavors and the bonus that it has tasted this way for years. Gluten-free reviewer, The Celiathlete, reports a love for the reliability of Nature’s Path oatmeal between their several different flavors. Some reviewers have lamented that there aren’t enough add-ins in each pack, so bits like nuts or freeze-dried berries are lacking. Those complaints are few and far between.
2. Mom’s Best
As cereal mega-company Post’s other alternative brand, Mom’s Best aims to reassure consumers that they can count on parent-approved, high-quality breakfast cereals with transparent ingredients and an affordable price point. Mom’s Best makes a variety of cereals but only offers two types of oatmeal — old-fashioned oats, and quick oats. The latter style cooks in one minute, making them a rather attractive breakfast option for busy parents but also non-parents who want a simple meal.
The oats are just 100% oats, with no added ingredients or flavoring, so it’s a product you know you can rely on to be a nice backdrop for whatever flavor profile you want to add to your breakfast. One Influenster reviewer specifically keyed in on the inexpensive cost of these low-processed oats, which is an important point. Not everyone can spend the extra money on a premium product, so the ability to buy a 16-ounce container of oats for pocket change is impactful for many households.
Leave it to an Irish oatmeal brand to make it to the top of the list. As we’ve mentioned, the country has a long history with oats, which McCann’s Imported Irish Oats credits to the unique climate conditions of the region. Plenty of coastal rain has left the isle with fertile soil primed for grain growing. According to McCann’s, this enables Ireland to produce some of the world’s best oatmeal, which the country has been doing since 438 A.D.
McCann’s Imported Irish Oatmeal is a brand with more than 150 years of history. To this day, the brand uses oats that are grown in Ireland. The range of products is vast — from flavored microwaveable oatmeal cups to instant cook packets and steel-cut oatmeal.
The entire range of products delivers quality and flavor, but the brand’s flagship Steel Cut Oats are full of taste and bouncy texture. No mushy, watery oats here, only firm flakes by the spoonful. We are fans of how unique the texture is from regular instant oats. McCann’s is the best option for those who want a nutty and interesting breakfast bowl.