Jun 18, 2021 (Last updated Mar 14, 2022) by Hannah Sunderani
Are you wondering the difference between certain types of oats? Perhaps you’re standing in the grocery store aisle wondering which oats to buy for a recipe? Well, this blog post is for you.
There are so many different types of oats, and sometimes it can be confusing to know which variety you need. Which is why I have created this blog post. I’ll be answering all your questions about the different types of oats that are most popularly found at the grocery store. Learn how these oat types are processed, taste, cook times, and when to use them.
It’s no surprise that I’m a big oats lover!! Oats are comforting, nutritious, wholesome, budget friendly and versatile.
You can enjoy oats for breakfast in oatmeal or overnight oats. Add oats to baked goods like cookies, or to make no-bake snack bites, and use them in savoury dishes as a flour substitute.
Gone are the days of standing at the grocery store wondering which type of oats you should be buying! Here’s the DL on the different types of oats. Plus some recipes to help inspire you to use them.
There are 4 popular types of oats that you’ll typically find at the grocery store.
Note, I’ve left whole oat groats off this list, because I absolutely never use them and I don’t know anyone who does.
Whole oat groats are the whole oat kernel and looks a bit like rice. Some people use whole oat groats to make oat milk, but in my opinion the old-fashioned rolled oats are tastier and simpler to use. I only ever see them available at specialty grocery stores.
So, let’s focus on these popular 4 types of oats, listed above, that you’ll be using most often.
Old-fashioned rolled oats are very popular and versatile. I use these style oats most often in my recipes on this blog. Which is why I have listed it first.
They are the flat looking oats (i.e. rolled), made by rolling the oat groat flat between steel rollers. Old-fashioned rolled oats are less processed than other oat types, making them a popular choice.
Old-fashioned rolled oats have a chewy soft texture, and a creamy consistency when cooked. Enjoy cooking them in oatmeal, use them to make overnight oats, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal cookies, granola, and smoothies. (As you can see, they’re very versatile!)
It usually take 5-10 minutes of cooking for best consistency when using old-fashioned rolled oats to make oatmeal.
If you love oatmeal, here’s my list of 7 easy and delicious oatmeal recipes using old-fashioned rolled oats.
Instant oats (also sold as “Quick Cooking Oats”) are exactly as they sound, instant! Essentially, you can add boiling water to these type of oats and they’re ready to eat. Or, cook them on the stove top for 1 to 3 minutes in almond milk or oat milk.
Instant oats are the most processed of all the types of oats. After steaming and rolling the oat groat, they are pre-cooked and dried, and then chopped into small pieces. This makes them easy to absorb liquids for very quick cooking.
Instant oats offer a creamy consistency when cooked, but the result is more mushy and gummy than rolled oats.
Be sure to check the ingredient list when buying instant oats, since they often add refined sugars and additives. For the purest form, the ingredient list should only read “oats.”
I don’t usually buy instant oats, except when I’m on vacation and want quick breakfasts that require minimal effort to make. Instant oats can usually replace old-fashioned rolled oats in recipes. Feel free substitute with instant oats in my oatmeal recipes, pancakes, waffles and smoothies.
Steel cut oats (also known as “Irish Oats” or “Scottish Oats”) are the least processed type of oats, which has resulted in their growing popularity.
Again, they’re exactly as they sound: steel cut. A steel blade chops the oat groat into pieces. You can see that they look a bit like cut up grains of brown rice.
Steel cut oats have a nuttier taste than the other oat types. The texture is pleasantly chewy and its creamy when cooked. Try steel cut oats in my Fried Banana and Almond Butter Porridge for a dreamy oatmeal bowl or use it to make my whole grain pancakes.
The downside of steel cut oats is that they take longer to cook; 20 to 30 minutes on the stove top. However, I do have a recipe for Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats that takes just 4 minutes to cook!
Contrary to popular belief, however, steel cut oats CAN be used to make overnight oats with my special method for Overnight Steel Cut Oats!
Oat flour is simply rolled oats that’s been ground into a flour-like consistency. You can buy oat flour at the grocery store, but I encourage you to do it at home! It’s so easy and you’ll say money. (You’re paying a premium to buy oat flour at the grocery store)
All you need is a blender or a food processor to make oat flour at home. Pulse the old-fashioned rolled oats a few times until the consistency is finely ground and flour-like. Then transfer to an air-tight container until ready to use.
I often use oat flour in baked goods, or as a flour substitute to thicken recipes. You’ll find my use of oat flour in my Cookie Dough Bites recipe and my Ultimate Baked Falafel recipe. I also use it to make the many healthy baked treats in my upcoming Two Spoons Cookbook (launching Spring 2022).
If you’re still confused on how to make oat flour, Cookie and Kate has a great article with detailed instructions.
Yes! Oats ARE naturally gluten-free!
However, oats are often processed in the same facility as other gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Which often means there is risk of contamination with gluten. This poses a problem if you are celiac.
If you have a gluten-intolerance, it’s possible that you can eat oats without little concern about this (depending on your gluten sensitivity). However, if you’re celiac then check the package labels to ensure they are “certified gluten-free.” This means the manufacturer has taken extra precaution to ensure their oats are manufactured in a facility with no risk of cross contamination with other gluten containing ingredients.
It’s not always as easy to find certified gluten-free oats, but I do find them at specialty grocery stores like Wholefoods and Nature’s Emporium. Only Oats and Bob’s Red Mill are two manufacturers that ensure certified gluten-free oats.
So, I hope you have a better understanding about the different types of oats, how they’re processed, and when to use them! I absolutely love to cook with oats because they’re healthy, nutritious, versatile and budget-friendly.
I’d love to know which type of oats are your favourite to cook with, and what you like to make! Let me know in the comments below, it’s always fun to share our knowledge and learn from each other. 🙂