Seattle is getting colder, and predictably, my breakfasts are getting warmer. The days of raw fruit & chilled muesli have come and gone, and now my oats are getting the hot & hearty porridge treatment.
A breakfast like this can help you stay strong through the stresses of the seasonal shift. With the growing season coming to a close and colorful summer crops disappearing from the local food system, pumpkins and other winter squash persevere as a shelf-stable source of vibrantly orange vitamin power. And as the weather chills, spices become magical; we love them, and they love us back with their stimulating, grounding and warming qualities. (Don’t forget: spices are powerful plants that humans have selected, valued, and carried along with us through the history of eating. They interface with our physiology in ways that science is only beginning to understand).
If you’re on board for this kind of seasonal nourishment, this simple recipe can get you there in an instant. Using a pressure cooker for steel-cut oats is significantly faster than simmering on a stove-top, and Instant Pot’s talent for set-it-and-forget-it cooking makes this especially weekday-friendly.
Before locking down for pressure cooking, the oats and spices are enhanced by a quick toasting on Saute Mode to bring out more flavor and aroma. The spice blend I’ve listed is the go-to impromptu pumpkin pie formula in my pantry, but feel free to tweak it as you like (if you’re into cardamom, it would be a nice extra) or swap in your favorite pre-blended pie spice to simplify. I think ginger is essential, and prefer to use fresh grated root instead of powder. I like it best added together with the liquid ingredients so the flavors can marry while cooking, but if you really like a sharp ginger bite, you can mix it into the finished oats right before serving.
I keep the porridge itself unsweetened, with the option to add a drizzle of maple syrup as a topping. I like to top my bowl off with an extra splash of almond milk, and a handful of pumpkin seeds – which add textural contrast along with nourishing fats, protein, magnesium and iron. And if you really want to get celebratory about ringing in the new season: get thee to Trader Joe’s, and double down with a bag of their pumpkin-spiced pumpkin seeds.
Updated 2021: I still make this recipe regularly, and I’ve discovered a new favorite way to enjoy it… what luck that pumpkin season and blackberry season come around at the same time!
Make a big batch, reheat each morning, and don’t forget to save a cup for my dearly beloved recipe for steel-cut oat pancakes!
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[Instant Pot] Pumpkin Spice Steel-Cut Oats
- 1 cup steel-cut oats
- 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger or 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger powder
- 3/4 cup pumpkin puree half of one 14 oz can (unsweetened, unseasoned)
- 2 1/2 cups almond milk or another non-dairy milk, or water – note: dairy milk can scorch in the pressure cooker
- 1 pinch salt about 1/16 teaspoon
- Begin by toasting the oats and spices: heat the pressure cooker to medium saute heat (with Instant Pot, press the ‘Saute’ button and keep the default temperature setting). Add the dry oats and cook for a few more minutes, until they begin to smell toasty. Then stir in the dry spices and continue to saute for about 1 minute more, until the spices are fragrant.
- Add fresh ginger (if desired) along with the pumpkin puree, almond milk and salt. Stir to combine, then cook under high pressure for 2 minutes (with Instant Pot, press ‘Cancel’ to stop saute mode, then close the lid and press ‘Manual’ to select 2 minutes with the valve set to “sealing” position).
- When the cooking time is complete, allow 10 minutes for a natural pressure release before opening the valve and lid. Serve warm, and if desired, top with a drizzle of maple syrup, a handful of pumpkin seeds, or any of your other favorite toppings.