Knowing that not wasting food is one of the best ways to save money, I’m always looking for ways to re-use leftovers.
My family loves oatmeal, and it’s one of the few grains that sits well in our bellies (in moderation) after completing the Whole30. My famous cinnamon blender waffles are always a hit, but my kids also enjoy Instant Pot oatmeal a few days during the week.
No matter how hungry my people are though, we inevitably have leftovers. In the past I’ve made leftover oatmeal chocolate cake and maple oatmeal bread, but after one of my readers, Elaine, suggested I freeze and slice and cook slices of leftover oatmeal in butter – i.e. oatmeal cakes – I couldn’t help but give it a whirl!
Leftover Oatmeal Cakes
Let’s break down the concept of leftover oatmeal cakes.
1. We’re using leftover oatmeal.
The primary goal here is to waste less food. We want to avoid the trash can at all costs. Even those 2 Tbsp of oatmeal stuck on the bottom of the pan are worthy of keeping!
Also, we don’t want to have to make breakfast from scratch every day. I mean, as much as my kids love peanut butter chocolate muffins and whole30 compliant sweet potato apple bake, sometimes *I* don’t want to make breakfast. Sometimes we moms need an easy morning, you know what I mean?!
2. You can’t make fresh oatmeal.
Literally, the recipe requires that the oatmeal sit in the freezer/fridge at least overnight, which means it does you no good to make fresh oatmeal right now for this recipe.
Do yourself a favor – put Instant Pot oatmeal or marathon training high protein oatmeal or slow cooker oatmeal or perfect overnight steel cut oats on your breakfast meal plan, intentionally make too much AND THEN put these leftover oatmeal cakes on your meal plan a day or two later.
3. Dress it up with toppings.
I’ve found that the best oatmeal for leftover oatmeal cakes isn’t all dolled up with mix-ins. Sure, you CAN make leftover oatmeal cakes with apples mixed in, or flavored with bananas or even chocolate chips, but it’s just not quite as easy.
So here’s what I recommend: make your oatmeal (see #2 above) and let everyone top their oatmeal directly in the bowl, rather than making a big batch of cinnamon raisin (or whatever flavor you were going to make).
Then when you make the oatmeal cakes, you won’t have a hard time slicing through random chunks of fruit, your chocolate chips won’t burn and everyone can still top their oatmeal cakes however they want!
What I think is super funny about this recipe, is how much the kids LOVED it!
I mean, what’s not to love about a cake that’s cooked in butter until it’s crispy on the outside yet still slightly soft and a bit gooey on the inside, flavored however YOU want, super healthy and super filling?
The first time I made this, the kids immediately asked if I could make it again. Something came up in our schedule and I had to post-pone it (which is part of the AWESOMENESS of this recipe – the oatmeal can just stay in the freeze until you’re ready to use it!!) and they were legitimately disappointed. Sad faces and “aw’s” and all!
Then the second time I intentionally made leftover oatmeal, Mr. Crumbs came along and ate it for breakfast!
We did eventually make this again (and again!), but heads up for you and the kids – they’re gonna love it, so be prepared to make it often!
Which is totally okay with me since it’s packed with nutrients and super frugal!
The recipe is really as easy as 1-2-3-4:
- Make oatmeal
- Freeze oatmeal
- Slice oatmeal
- Cook oatmeal slices in butter
But I’ve made this a few times and I have a few tricks for you that make the whole process easier.
Freeze oatmeal overnight.
Cooked oatmeal as a whole isn’t a cohesive unit. Those little pieces of oats like to leave their friends and do their own thing. Freezing the leftovers, packed together, makes the slicing easier.
Use a loaf pan, or a muffin tin.
I prefer using a loaf pan (this is the one I have) and haven’t had any issues slicing the oatmeal like a loaf of bread (albeit, the oatmeal is FROZEN and slicing needs some arm muscle).
I’ve tried using mini loaf pans, but it felt like the slices weren’t as pretty.
You could try using a muffin tin, if you don’t have either a loaf pan or a mini loaf pan. If you go that route, take each leftover oatmeal muffin and slice it through the middle so you have two round pieces.
Line the pan or tin with something (optional).
If you’re the type of person who can’t get things out of a loaf pan to save your life, use silicone muffin cups if you’re using a muffin tin, or use parchment paper if you’re using a loaf pan. I know scraping leftover oatmeal out of the loaf pan is NOT fun nor easy!
When the oatmeal is frozen solid, you can run the loaf pan under hot tap water (on the side of the pan, so the oatmeal doesn’t get wet) and the loaf will pop right out!
Cut average size pieces.
Thinner pieces sound like they’d be easier, but they’re harder to flip and even harder to cut. Thick slices stay frozen and/or cold in the middle, so you want good “average” size pieces here. I aim for just shy of ½” thick pieces and it has worked well.
I’ve mentioned already to save the toppings for after you’re done cooking, but here are some of my favorite topping ideas:
- Butter + maple syrup
- Chocolate chips + peanut butter drizzle
- Peanut butter + almond butter drizzle
- Peanut butter + jelly scoops
- Banana + berries + flax seed
- Thinly sliced apples or pears + cinnamon
Leftover Oatmeal Cakes
My kids LOVE leftover oatmeal cakes for breakfast, even better than muffins, bread and cookies. We’ve made raisin, apple, coffee in this super easy recipe!
- Prep Time: 3 mins
- Cook Time: 10 mins
- Total Time: 13 mins
- Yield: 4–8 slices 1x
- Category: Breakfast
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: American
- 2+ cups leftover oatmeal, frozen into a bread loaf pan (lined with parchment paper)
- 2–4 Tbsp butter or ghee (or coconut oil)
- Toppings as desired
- Preheat a heavy bottomed skillet (I use my 12″ cast iron skillet) to medium low heat.
- Meanwhile, slices the leftover oatmeal into approximately 1/2″ thick slices.
- Melt the butter (or ghee, or coconut oil) in the skillet and turn to coat the pan.
- Add the slices the slices of oatmeal, filling the pan yet leaving enough room to be able to turn the slices over. If you have any slices that didn’t fit in the pan, put them in the fridge until the first batch is done.
- Cook until the oatmeal is evenly browned, about 3-5 minutes. Using a flipper, very carefully scoop up each pancake and turn them over. You might need to use your hand to guide the cake as it flips.
- Let the oatmeal slice cook on the second side until evenly browned, another 3-5 minutes.
- When they’re ready, remove to a plate using the flipper. Top as desired and serve warm.
I had a ton of oats left overs and they were pretty cooled by the time I found this recipe. 1 loaf pan wasn’t enough so I decided to just line a sheet pan, add a thick layer of oats, and score them before putting them in the freezer. They cooked up great and I transferred them to a freezer bag for when I need a thoughtless breakfast.
Karen @ Team Crumbs
What a great idea! Thank you so much for sharing with us. 🙂
I was looking for a recipe my husbands German grandmother made him as a child, it’s called ponozzle, which was fried oatmeal, I made this for him, he said it was close, but not the same.
For those who don’t want to freeze it or find it too hard to cut—- Add a well mixed egg to your oatmeal when cooking it. This not only makes your oatmeal a bit more nutritious, but when you refrigerate it, it holds its shape nicely. It won’t crumble. You can cut it easily without freezing it. Just be sure to stir your oatmeal frequently when cooking it to keep the egg from getting lumpy.
My boyfriend’s Mother made what he called sugar babes. She would sweeten the left over oats with sugar and put them up. She would then add an egg and mix it well. Then she fried them. He talks about them to this day! I’m going to try them!!
Karen @ Team Crumbs
That sounds amazing, Jane! Hope you enjoy!
I made these on a Sunday morning for my husband and my 8 and 9 year old. I had been saving up frozen oatmeal (Wich I “smooshed” flat before freezing to make for easy slicing) I sprinkled with cinnamon & sugar after frying on the griddle with spray butter…(the zero calorie kind in yellow&blue bottle 😉) It got great reviews and we’ll be having this again! Thanks!
Kyare - Team Crumbs
Yay so happy to hear you and your family enjoyed this recipe!
I did this with leftover mac and cheese casserole..really good!
My grandmother made fried oatmeal throughout my whole childhood. She would egg it and also bread it and fry in butter. Maple syrup topped it off. It was a family favorite. She never froze it, just refrigerated it over night in a bread pan.
What did she dip it in after she egged it? Sounds delish!
Found this because I was searching for an old Scottish recipe that basically makes thick oatcakes (pancakes) out of steel cut oats and sautéing them. What came up in a search for “Scottish oatcakes” is a modern version that is more like a cracker. Your recipe was the closest to what I remembered, from so many years ago, that I could find so far. I was searching because this morning I was interrupted making my oatmeal and it sat a long time after I turned off the heat under it. I mixed it with a little half and half and was planning chopped strawberries on it, but I realized it was cold. Being frustrated not finding the recipe I was looking for, but inspired by your’s, I simply added two teaspoons of gluten free pancake mix (hoping to make it stick)….had to add more liquid, so next time no pancake mix. Threw some scoops in the frying pan. I learned that smaller is better, it was a bit too wet. Patience, waiting to turn it, medium heat and longer cooking time (probably to dry it out a bit). The results were a soft pancake with a slightly crispy outside. Likely if I hadn’t been in a hurry to actually eat it I could have made them a bit drier, by either cooking in the oven, or sautéing for a longer time. However, the results were divine! Following your advice I added the chopped strawberries to the top afterwards. Nothing else was needed. I’m definitely trying your version next. Thank you!
You’re very welcome Eliza! I’ve had mornings like yours as well, lol! 😉 Letting the oatmeal sit longer will make it less wet, as the oats continue to absorb the liquid overtime. But I love how you jumped in and made it work for what you needed!
I would imagine this could be a gradual process if you don’t cook enough extra, but you have some leftover. Keep adding it to your loaf pan until you have a full one and then make oatmeal cakes. I do this with french toast egg batter. I keep a jar in my freezer and every time I have too much I pour the leftovers in my jar. Then when it is full, I thaw it out and use that for my egg batter!
I also do this with leftover rice. I throw it in a quart freezer bag until its full.
What an awesome idea! Thanks for sharing!
This sounds amazing. I made steel cut oats in my instant pot for the first time yesterday. Being a novice at the instant pot I’m not sure if I did it properly.i expected them to be chewy but it was a little more so than I expected. Nevertheless they were yummy. I don’t have enough leftovers for a loaf pan (though next time I will!)
I had an idea that might be helpful for those without a lot of freezer space. I don’t know if it will work but I’m going to try it. I’m thinking you could spread the oats thickly on a flat pan, maybe a cookie sheet with high sides or a low square cake pan, partially freeze them and then score them in desired size with a knife and finish freezing. This might make for easier cutting for some folks.
Not sure how thick they should be. I’ll experiment.
I think that’s a great idea Diana! Thank you for sharing!
We’ve been baking left over oatmeal since the kids were small. Easy and quick to grab.we put left over oatmeal in a buttered 9×9 pan after i add in 3 T flaxseed(to about 4c of oatmeal) 1/2 i top with unsweetened coconut and sugar free chocolate chips, the other half in dried blueberries and crushee walnuts. As adults they hit the spot as have added nutritional value.
I love the additions you suggest to the oatmeal cakes Laura!
I froze my plain steel cut oats but there was too much liquid to begin with so my sticks just dissolved into a massive pancake. I decided to keep cooking it anyways and it turned into an amazing pancake! No added ingredients. I basically just dehydrated my steel cut oats on the pan and a skin formed that kept it together. A touch more oil for the other side and I had an awesome pancake that I topped with avocado, kimchi, fried tofu, and cucumber kimchi. Obviously you can go with seeet toppings too. Really good and healthy!
Yum!! I love how you salvaged a near-ruined breakfast into something delicious!
Thank you so much! I always add stuff to the leftover oatmeal to make pancakes and they always turn out horrible!! Sliced up the leftovers and they fried beautifully! Seriously grateful; I am really psyched to use up these leftovers and have them be a hit <3
You’re most welcome Adrianne!
Laura A Lafontsee
Forgot. We do this with brown rice & lentils(cooked) makes a great serving piece for ahi or cod. Great lunches.
Ooh – I like the idea of brown rice with lentils Laura!
Ive been making baked oatmeal cakes forever. 35 years. Hate wasting! Tried this, 6 grand kids, spouse. Gone in 2 hours. Glad I made 2 extea2 bread pans In thr freezer. Really Good with a Touch of cranberries and honey. Thanks for sharing Your recipe. Its one of our Go Toos now.
I’m excited to try these for the kids. I’m always looking for more breakfast options. My tribe is spoiled to bacon and eggs, etc. Like you said, some mornings you just want to make something a little easier. Did you find that you had a difficult time slicing the frozen oatmeal? Did you use a specific knife like a bread knife?
Hi Melissa! I let the frozen oatmeal sit at room temp while I did other things, and used a large chef’s knife ran under hot water to cut. A serrated knife was actually worse, so I don’t recommend that!
My husband has made this for years, only he adds cooked sausage or ground pork to the oats and water. It is called ghetta and is an old German dish. There is even a ghetta festival in the U.S. Like lots of other waste not/want not dishes in every culture, it was a poor people’s dish.
Yes, also similar to scrapple, a cooked meal cake popular among the Pennsylvania Dutch. It mixes cornmeal with seasonings, whatever is handy, in a loaf, and is fried as a side dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Growing up I didn’t know that when we had fried mush (grits or polenta to people who don’t know mush) that was because grocery money was tight. This is almost the same only with oatmeal. Fried mush doesn’t have to be frozen, just refrigerated overnight. Can’t wait to try this. By the way, if you leave in a state that has a Bob Evans Restaurant (northern Florida, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky that I know of) you can try fried cornmeal mush. Most folks serve it with butter and syrup Growing up we ate it with butter and strawberry jam. We could make and can strawberry jam — you had to buy syrup.
I know myself. I won’t do this ahead, and my freezer space is always limited. So I’m thinking, wonder if I could roll chunks in a ball, flatten them and fry? That I’d be likely to try. Thanks for the idea. Oatmeal is pretty much always good!
You probably could Judy! I’d do this with the freshly cooked and cooled oatmeal, but putting in the fridge before cooking otherwise they won’t stay together very well!
Yes, good plan.
First of all thank you for this recipe!! I make steel cut oats every morning and this morning used a brand I was unfamiliar with that ended up making double the already large batch I usually make and I panicked for a minute haha. Love that you specified a vegan option as well with coconut oil. You could also definitely use a vegan butter like Earth Balance in place of the coconut oil or traditional butter!
I found it very difficult to slice the frozen oatmeal and then they wouldn’t brown up. Good experiment but if I were to try again I would put brown sugar in the warm leftover oatmeal to help with browning and maybe chill it and then shape it into individual cakes to freeze.
What a great idea! I’m going to try this! This has my mind racing with other things to freeze and fry.
Thanks Kim! I hope you enjoy them, and definitely share your other ideas with us!
lol I’m thinking leftover mashed potatoes or rice. Not really, whole30 though!
I’ve had the fried leftover mashed potatoes – YUM!!
Great idea! I used a hamburger press and deli wax to make them pre-portioned. Will fry some in the morning
Kyare - Team Crumbs
Great job, Mary! I would love to hear how your frying went.
I’m always looking for good dog treats. I now make a large batch of oatmeal in my Instant Pot without salt, I add different fruits or shredded veggies. ( my dogs eat strangely to most.) One favorite is with blueberries. Now I will try the oatmeal cakes, slice and dry for later. Thanks