Traditional Scottish-Style Oatmeal With Butter Recipe

This recipe works whether you want to pre-soak the oats for quicker-cooking overnight oats or just want to cook them up from scratch. The result proves what the Scottish have known for centuries: You don't have to do anything fancy to make an amazing pot of porridge.

Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • Optionally toasting the oats deepens their flavor.
  • An optional overnight soak speeds up cooking the next day.
  • Gentle, frequent stirring releases just enough starch to thicken the oatmeal without making it stodgy.

These traditional Scottish oats are made from steel-cut (also known as pinhead or Irish) oats, cooked in lightly salted water until creamy but still flowing, and topping with little more than butter and maybe a sprinkling of good sea salt. It's a hearty way to start your day. For something a bit richer and sweeter, try our creamy Irish-style oatmeal with brown sugar.

Recipe Facts

Active: 25 mins
Total: 10 mins
Serves: 2 to 4 servings

Rate & Comment


  • 1 cup (6 1/3 ounces; 180g) steel-cut oats (also sold as pinhead or Irish oats; see note), such as Bob's Red Mill

  • 3 cups (700ml) cold water, plus more if needed

  • Kosher or sea salt

  • Unsalted butter or cream, for serving (optional

  • Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)


  1. If you prefer a deeper, more complex flavor, dry-toast the oats in the cooking pot over high eat, stirring and tossing constantly, until lightly roasted and fragrant, then remove from heat and proceed with below.

  2. If making overnight oats, combine oats and water in a medium saucepan or 3-quart saucier and let stand, covered, overnight. If not making overnight oats, combine oats and water in the saucepan and proceed with cooking immediately.

  3. Bring oats and water to a simmer over medium-high heat, seasoning lightly with a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook uncovered, stirring frequently but slowly, until porridge is well thickened but still flows slightly, about 5 minutes for overnight oats and 20 minutes for un-soaked oats.

  4. If oats are still too firm to your taste, stir in additional water 1/4 cup (60ml) at a time, and continue cooking, until desired texture of oats is reached.

  5. Scoop porridge into warmed bowls and top with a pat of butter and/or a splash of cream. Sprinkle flaky salt on top, if desired. Serve.

Special equipment

Three-quart saucer


Most steel-cut oats work best with the overnight method as described here, but we have found some artisan brands that have a slightly more powdery texture; those do better if you pour off the soaking water, rinse the grains lightly, then add fresh water to cook them. If your overnight oatmeal is overly thick and starchy, you may want to try that soaking method instead.

Active time is only 10 minutes if using pre-soaked oats.

This Recipe Appears In

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
171 Calories
3g Fat
30g Carbs
6g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 171
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 4%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 45mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 5g 16%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 6g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 29mg 2%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 163mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)