We Tried 12 Instant Oatmeals And This Was The Best Ranking

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You might think that it doesn't matter which oatmeal packet you buy at the store. After all, they're oats! How different can they be? You're just searching for a simple, store-bought breakfast, and instant oatmeal couldn't be any quicker to make. But when it comes to instant oatmeal packets, there's a lot more variety on the shelves than you might think.

The cuts of the oats differ. Mix-ins may vary from a syrupy concoction of refined sugar to a hearty blend of nuts and natural flavors. Even the price tags differ quite a lot depending on the brand, even if the label implies that the products are exactly the same.

So which packets are worth buying and which will have you gagging at first spoonful? Our editors bravely taste tested 12 store-bought varieties of single-serve instant oatmeal packets — so you don't have to. Armed with plastic spoons and a midmorning appetite, we sampled 12 brands to judge the flavor, texture, and overall experience of the oats. Some packets were a cinnamon-spiced delight. Other samples tasted more like gruel.

To keep things fair, we chose oatmeal packets of the same flavor: maple. Some were maple and brown sugar. Others had additional mix-ins. But the basic flavor profile of each was the same.

To the dismay of our coworkers hoping to heat their actual lunches, we hogged the communal microwave (talk about an office lunch faux-pas) and prepared each packet of oatmeal exactly as the brands intended. We made sure to follow the package instructions to a tee. Then we gave each oatmeal packet a rating on a scale from 1 to 10. Here are the oatmeal packets that came out on top.

#12 Earth's Best

This oatmeal brand, Earth's Best, was marketed as an energizing breakfast for kids. But even our adult tasters had a hard time stomaching it. One person thought it tasted more like cardboard than breakfast, and another compared it to prison food. Everyone generally agreed that it lacked flavor and was mealy in texture. That's all somewhat surprising, because the pouches do have sugar — 8 grams of it! But evidently that wasn't enough to salvage this gruel.

#11 Market Pantry

Target is the place to go for a lot of food products, and their store brand can be pretty great. But it all depends on what you buy; our tasters recommend you steer clear of their brand's instant oatmeal. Market Pantry Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal tasted slightly bitter, like "sugary Elmer's glue." The oats floated in a pool of watery starch flavor and, though the bowl smelled pleasantly like vanilla, there was a lack of taste to make up for the liquid-like consistency. "What was that?" one editor asked after biting into a drippy spoonful.

#10 Nature’s Path

The texture of Nature's Path oatmeal was described as gluey and dry. "Like oat-y mashed potatoes," one taster described. This oatmeal may have needed more water to cook than the package described — but our editors also believed it needed more flavor. "I can taste the water?" one puzzled editor asked the heavens, even though there was hardly any water in the mucilaginous mush. Not ideal.

#9 Better Oats

Better Oats advertises these pouches as being low-calorie — just 100 calories each! That may or may not be enough for you for breakfast, but our editors did enjoy the flavor of these artificially-sweetened oats. Sucralose, an artificial sweetener also found in diet soda, contributed to a "malty sweetness" that some compared to syrup or molasses. The texture was too watery, however; you might want to consider using less water than the package prescribes.

#8 Nature’s Promise

Nature's Promise is one of Stop & Shop's store brands. Their oatmeal packets ranked average in taste and texture, though it was a bit sticky. It wasn't too sweet, wasn't too bland, and wasn't too anything. This oatmeal made what was truly a middle-of-the-road, average-tasting breakfast.

#7 Bob’s Red Mill

This oatmeal was somewhat divisive. "I see seeds!" one editor exclaimed. Yes, you will find chia seeds in this low-sugar oatmeal cup. Unlike the other types of maple instant oatmeal, Bob's Red Mill includes heart-healthy foods such as flaxseed and chia. And yes, we know those things are healthy. We liked that! But a few editors wondered: At what cost? Taste testers described the texture as "pasty" and said it tasted "like dirt." If they could have added in a little sugar, they said, they might reconsider. But the attempt at a hearty breakfast was much appreciated.

#6 McCann’s

"There's something weird in there," an editor said. "It tastes artificial." Others agreed — there was something suspicious-tasting lurking in these creamy oats. The texture was nice, tasters said, but the flavor was just... off somehow. Despite the taste, there are no artificial sweeteners in McCann's packets.

#5 Think Thin

Think Thin's Instant Protein & Probiotics oatmeal was an unexpected favorite for some tasters. "Wait, this was a healthy brand?" one editor asked once the brands were later revealed. Editors agreed that it wasn't too bland or too sweet and noted that the nuts mixed in were a nice touch. The taste was compared to "healthy oatmeal cookie dough," and though some noted an aftertaste that reminded them of artificial sweetener, the resounding vote was positive.

#4 Quaker

Taste testers thought this oatmeal tasted fine — but that was about it. They agreed they would eat Quaker's instant packet, but had to admit they weren't thrilled at the idea. A little extra sugar, spice, or something else nice would help, they said. The texture was fine and the oats were cooked well. They just wanted more.

#3 Dr. McDougall’s

Dr. McDougall's single-serve oatmeal cup tasted alright, according to our panel. The taste was described as a little nutty and a little buttery, with some maple. Nothing to write home about. "I'd eat it if it was there!" one editor said. The texture, tasters said, was quite pleasant.

#2 Trader Joe’s

There are some things you should never buy from Trader Joe's. But this oatmeal is not one of them! It received resounding praise from our carb-loaded crew. The taste was enjoyably cinnamon-spiced and delicious. "I could eat a whole bowl of this!" one person said. The only complaint was of the texture — the oats needed a bit more water to be fully enjoyable.

#1 365 Everyday Value

And the winner is.... Whole Foods 365 brand! Their Maple & Spice instant oatmeal was the favorite of almost every editor who participated. The texture was thick and the spices were at the forefront, creating a pleasant cinnamon-y spiced flavor that editors enjoyed. Though it tasted like it had a ton of sugar, these packets don't have much more added sugars than your typical maple-flavored instant oatmeal. "Tastes like the holidays!" one taster described. Yum! So it has a little sugar. It's still better than skipping breakfast altogether! That's one of the biggest breakfast nutrition mistakes you can make.

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