What is the difference between rolled oats and steel cut oats?

Rolled oats vs steel cut oats
Rolled oats vs steel cut oats
This year for Christmas, there were some steel cut oats into my stocking.  I had never seen steel cut oats before and was surprised by what they look like. I had heard great things about steel cut oats but had never seen them. Would they taste good?  They looked an awful lot like horse food.   But sure enough, these golden little nubby bits cooked up into a delightfully creamy bowl of oatmeal.

So what is the difference between steel cut oats and rolled oats?

Steel cut oats are cut up pieces of the inner oat kernel (groat).  Unlike rolled oats, they have not been cooked prior to processing so cooking time is longer for steel cut oats.  Sometimes, in the store, you will find steel cut oats labeled as Irish oats or pin head oats.
Rolled oats are oat groats that have been rolled and steamed.  They take less time to cook and are what we traditionally think of as oatmeal.  Instant oats are rolled oats that have been processed further and are in smaller pieces, making the cooking time faster.

Are steel cut oats better for you than rolled oats?

Steel cut oats are more minimally processed than rolled oats so they retain more of their original fiber than rolled oats. They both contain about the same amount of protein per cup, however, steel cut oats are more dense then rolled oats so more of them fit into that cup.

What are instant oats?

Instant oats are cooked, dried, and then rolled thinner than old fashioned rolled oats. They are intended to cook much quicker and are usually smaller pieces. They have the same basic nutritional content as steel cut oats and old fashioned oats but absorb liquid much quicker and easier.

What kind of oats do you use for baking?

Generally I try and stick with old fashioned oatmeal for baking. I like the texture of the larger oats. Each recipe will indicate which kind of oatmeal you should use, but stick with either old fashioned oats or instant oats for most cookie recipes.

Steel cut oatmeal is not generally used in baking although the oats make a nice addition to granola for added texture and protein.

To make things a little easier in the kitchen, I’ve created a handy printable conversion chart (cause honestly, who can remember how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?). Sign up below and I’ll send it to you!

Looking for some excellent recipes to use your up your oatmeal? You might want to try this tropical homemade granola-perfect for breakfast. For something a little sweeter, these oatmeal scotchies are just the ticket!

Happy Baking!


Bob’s Red Mill