Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets

By Ann Fulton

Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets  ~  Mix and match an extensive list of options to create healthy and economical alternatives to the store-bought packets.  Kid- and adult-friendly!
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Mix and match an extensive list of options to create a healthy, economical alternative to store-bought flavored instant oatmeal packets. Perfect for busy mornings, college dorm rooms, camping, traveling (all you need is hot water) and a fun project with kids!


Apparently America’s relationship with boxed cereals is in a slump.  Amidst a recent morning news report detailing the decline of the cereal industry (which we listened to over muffins – go figure), the anchors offered their personal insight on the shift.

They said that while lots of us still stash boxes of Cheerios, Lucky Charms, and Chex in our cupboards, many are seeking out less processed, lower carb options.  Additionally, the proliferation of cafes and fast casual restaurants makes it so easy to pick up breakfast on the go with a travel cup of joe.

One of the anchors postulated that millennials could be shunning cereal because they can’t eat it in transit or they don’t like to wash dishes.  His fellow anchor assured him that rinsing a bowl is hardly “doing dishes.”

Funny and perhaps accurate as the banter was, the start of another school year means that many of us are rushing out the door a little earlier these days.  Given the tradeoff between extra sleep and sitting down to breakfast, the former often wins.

As my niece was getting ready for first grade last year, I asked her what she likes to eat for breakfast and what she might be able to make herself.  After some thought, she decided that strawberries-and-cream-flavored instant oatmeal packets would be a fabulous way to start her day.

Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets  ~  Mix and match an extensive list of options to create healthy and economical alternatives to the store-bought packets.  Kid- and adult-friendly!
Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets  ~  Mix and match an extensive list of options to customize healthy and economical alternatives to store-bought flavored instant oatmeal packets. Perfect for busy mornings, college dorm rooms, traveling (all you need is hot water), and a fun project with kids!

Figuring that oatmeal would, in fact, be a quick and easy breakfast she could prepare independently, I did some homework in order to create her desired flavor.  I wanted to use healthier ingredients than those that are sometimes used in the store-bought instant oatmeal packets marketed to children, but I also wanted my niece and her younger sister to like them.

It took some trial and error on my part to replicate my niece’s favorite flavor and that of several other popular varieties.  Throughout the process, I delivered plastic baggies of various flavors to quite a few willing testers.  My mom, who has long enjoyed the occasional convenience and flavors of Quaker’s instant oatmeal variety pack, offered the most helpful analysis.

Sure, we could have purchased the packets, but the project was fun — and it’s economical, too.  What my nieces enjoyed the most, however, was when I taught them how to transform a simple packet of oatmeal (store-bought or our homemade version) into a protein-rich muffin.

Click here for the easy muffin how-to. ⇩⇩

Oatmeal Packet Mug Muffin - You choose the flavor in these healthy, protein-rich, single-serve muffins that can be made with just four easy ingredients!

The great thing about these packets is that you control what goes into them—or what doesn’t.  Chia seeds and flax meal add texture, a hint of nutty flavor, and staying power—not to mention added nutrients.  (And kids don’t even know they’re there – even the chia seeds blend in.)

The sugar level can be adjusted to taste.  It can also be omitted and/or added as a topping to the prepared oatmeal. This works especially well for those who enjoy honey or maple syrup—which don’t work so well in the dry packets!  For those looking to closely mimic the sweetened store-bought packets, 3 teaspoons of packed brown sugar will create similar flavor.

Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets  ~  Mix and match an extensive list of options to create healthy and economical alternatives to the store-bought packets.  Kid- and adult-friendly!

Even my big kids like these!

Perfect for:

  • Meal prep
  • Grab-and-go convenience
  • Dorm rooms
  • Traveling (can get hot water easily)
  • Healthy fast food
  • Camping
  • Getting kids involved in the meal planning and making process
Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets  ~  Mix and match an extensive list of options to create healthy and economical alternatives to the store-bought packets.  Kid- and adult-friendly!

Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets
Yield: 1 serving per packet (young children may be satisfied with a half packet)
Mix and match the options to create a healthy and economical alternative to the store-bought packets.
  • 1/3 cup (30 grams) quick or instant oats (old fashioned oats may be used for microwave and refrigerator oatmeal)
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds (optional but adds nutrients and bulk)
  • 1 teaspoon ground flaxseed (optional)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons brown sugar (adjust to taste and feel free to use granular sweetener of choice or add honey or maple syrup to prepared oatmeal)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch (1/16 teaspoon) sea or kosher salt
  • OPTIONAL ADD-INS (see our favorite flavor combinations below):
  • Dried or freeze dried fruit, chopped
  • Chopped nuts or seeds (pecans, walnuts, almond pumpkin seeds, etc.)
  • Powdered peanut butter* (like PB2)
  • Vanilla powder or additional spices like pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg
  • Cocoa powder
To make the oatmeal
  • 2/3 cup or 3/4 cup water, depending on method (may substitute milk of choice; amount may vary depending on chosen add-ins)
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (for refrigerator oats only)

Combine the basic recipe ingredients in individual zip-top bags or storage containers of choice.  If desired, add additional ingredients for customized flavors. (See ideas below.)  Mason jars are a great option to the bags and can be used for storage as well as eating.  If using, choose a jar with at least a 12-ounce capacity to ensure room for stirring.

To prepare a single serving of hot oatmeal: 
BOILING WATER METHOD (better for quick or instant oats rather than the thicker old-fashioned oats): Add one oatmeal packet to a mug or bowl. Pour in 2/3 cups boiling water and stir. Let stand for 2-4 minutes to soften and thicken; stir, adding a little more water or milk to loosen, if needed, and enjoy.
MICROWAVE METHOD: Add 1 oatmeal packet and 2/3 to 3/4 cup cold water or milk of choice to a microwave-safe mug or bowl. (The container needs to be about twice the volume of the dry oat mixture to allow room for expansion; start with the lesser amount of liquid the first time.) Cook on high for 90 seconds, adjusting as needed for individual microwave. Stir, and then allow the oats to thicken for 2-4 minutes.  Stir again, and add an extra drizzle of liquid to loosen or cool the oatmeal, as desired.

To prepare a single serving of easy refrigerator oatmeal:
Add one oatmeal packet to a jar or bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup milk of choice and 1/4 cup yogurt and cover.  Refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours) before eating.  Prepared refrigerator oats will keep for up to 3 days.  When making refrigerator oats, I like to stir in an assortment of chopped bananas, peaches, berries, slivered almonds, a drizzle of maple syrup, and/or other traditional oatmeal mix-ins just before eating.

FLAVOR VARIATIONS (combine the following ingredients with the basic recipe):
  • Plain: follow basic recipe
  • Cinnamon Raisin: 2 tablespoons raisins and 1/4 teaspoon total cinnamon
  • Apples and Cinnamon: 2 tablespoons dried apple bits or 1/4 cup dehydrated apples and 1/4 teaspoon total cinnamon
  • Peanut Butter Banana: 1 tablespoon powdered peanut butter and 1/4 cup dehydrated bananas (not banana chips; may add fresh banana and/or regular peanut butter prior to serving – and a spoonful of jam just before eating makes a great PB&J version)
  • Strawberries and Cream: 1/4 cup freeze-dried strawberries and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder (could add vanilla extract when adding liquid); coconut milk is a nice option to water or regular milk for this flavor, as is a tablespoon or so of toasted coconut flakes
  • Dark Chocolate Raspberry: 1/4 cup freeze-dried raspberries, 1 tablespoon dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like to wrap the chips in a small piece of plastic wrap and reserve them as a topping; may mix with oats if melted chocolate throughout is preferred.)
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup: 1 tablespoon peanut butter powder and 1 tablespoon chocolate chips (wrapped separately or added later if you prefer as a topping; see above) If you don’t have powdered peanut butter, simply stir in regular peanut butter or nut butter of choice when preparing.
  • Blueberry: 2 tablespoons dried or 1/4 cup freeze-dried blueberries and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder (optional)
  • Tropical: 1/4 cup dehydrated mango or pineapple (or a mix of both) and 1 tablespoon toasted coconut flakes (coconut or coconut/almond milk is a tasty option to water for this one)
Notes & Tips

*When using powdered peanut butter, I add 1 tablespoon powdered peanut butter per serving.  I’ve tried protein powder in these packets, although it’s not my favorite way to use it.  If you’d like to try, I’d recommend starting with no more than a half scoop.

Tip for little kids so they can help — mark a cup with a line for the water.

Another option is to add 2 teaspoons of powdered milk to the basic recipe for a little extra creaminess (I recently tested dried coconut milk for a non-dairy/vegan option, and it was quite good).  Alternatively, I sometimes make these packets according to the microwave directions with milk instead of water.  Milk ratchets up the creaminess, flavor, and nutrients.  An in between option is to make with a little less water than needed and, once thickened, loosen with milk of choice.  This is also a great way to cool the oatmeal, especially for kids who are more sensitive to the temperature level.

Make-ahead convenience: these bags may be made, tightly sealed, and stored for several months, depending on the shelf life of the ingredients used. May be stored in freezer to extend their life further.

To make oatmeal packets gluten-free, use certified gluten-free oats.

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Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets  ~  Mix and match an extensive list of options to create healthy and economical alternatives to the store-bought packets.  Kid- and adult-friendly!


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  1. Lynn

    Wow, this tastes exactly like the store-bought stuff, but without the garbage. I used Lakanto brown sweetener to cut out the processed sugar. Great recipe…thank you!

  2. Kim Holbert

    Hi, I am wondering have you tried diy cream of wheat packets, like your oatmeal packets? I may tray and experiment with that also. My husband loves cream of wheat.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Kim, I haven’t but that’s a great idea. My grandmother used to make cream of wheat for me when I was little, and I always loved it. If you try, please report back!

  3. Dennis

    Hello, yes you have a good idea. However, instant regular oatmeal turns into sugar as soon as it hits the blood stream.
    The Quaker Quick Steel Cut Oats may be a better choice. I does take a couple of minutes to actually cook though.
    Thank You

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Dennis, Thank you for your comment. I really like steel cut oats as well. This recipe simply offers a convenient alternative that is quick and satisfying in its own way thanks to the combination of fiber, wholesome fats, and other nutrients. I do have other recipes that use steel cut oats on this blog, if interested.

  4. Kim

    Hi Ann, love your recipes, you are my go to when looking for something to make. Was wondering where to get the powdered vanilla you use in the oatmeal packets.

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Kim, I’m so happy about that! Thanks for letting me know. As for the vanilla powder, I last purchased it at Stauffer’s where it was rather pricey. Then when I was next in Lemon Street, I was curious and looked there, thinking that a smaller specialty market would charge more. Sure enough, it was far less. I haven’t looked recently (and vanilla prices are at a high right now) as it lasts for some time, but I do enjoy using it in place of extract on occasion. Hope that helps!

  5. Mary Post author

    I made the plain peanut butter and the cinnamon option and love the healthy extras as well as the flavors. Thank you!

  6. Thrift at Home

    Excellent ideas! My middle-schooler likes oatmeal and we usually just cook it on the stove – but this sounds much faster for early school mornings. And I know she’d love to assemble them and make flavors. I love your photos on this post, too 🙂