Steel Cut Oats VS Rolled Oats

You may be wondering what the difference between steel cut oats vs rolled oats is. Both are billed as healthy breakfast choices, but what does that mean for you? Let's look at the differences between the two. Though they have a very different appearance and cooking time, there are some similarities as well. Let's compare.

2 spoons filled with rolled oats and steel-cut oats on wooden background.

Steel Cut Oats and Rolled Oats Comparison

A bowl of steel cut oats with a spoon in it.
  • Small, cylinder-like shape
  • Derive from oat groats
  • Minimally processed by slicing oat groats
  • Takes longer to absorb liquid and therefore has a longer cooking time
  • Most of the fiber remains intact in the manufacturing process
  • Also referred to as 'Irish Oats'
  • Typical single serving is 1/4 cup
A spoon in a blue bowl of rolled oats.
  • Flat, round shape
  • Derive from oat groats
  • Slightly more processed - flattened with large disks
  • Absorbs liquid very readily, cooks faster
  • Loses some of the fiber in the manufacturing process
  • Also refered to as 'Old-Fashioned Oats'
  • Typical single serving is 1/2 cup

Benefits of Oats

Oats, a gluten-free whole grain, are filled with nutritional benefits such as protein, fiber, anti-oxidants and numerous vitamins and minerals such as: manganese, copper, iron, zinc, vitamin B, folate, calcium, phosphorous etc.

Oats specifically contain Beta-Glucan fiber, which can help to reduce cholesterol levels and give you a feeling of fullness as well as increase the growth of good gut bacteria.

Steel-Cut Oats

A pink bowl filled with steel cut oats.

Appearance

Steel-cut oats look like the whole form oat groat (similar to the shape of rice) but cut into pieces.

Manufacturing Process

Oat groats are picked and minimally-processed after pieces of them are lightly toasted and chopped into a few pieces using steel, giving you 'steel cut oats'. Steel-cut oats don't go through as much processing as rolled oats do.

Flavor Profile

A spoon full of steel cut oats.

You will find that steel-cut oats are thicker and more difficult to chew than rolled oats are. They also give off a nutty flavor that rolled oats do not. They are heavier, and therefore, make for a more filling breakfast than rolled oats.

Nutritional Value

Steel-cut oats have nearly the same nutritional value as other oats, however the fiber content can sometimes be double compared to rolled. Less processing allows them to retain more of the bran that provides the fiber content. They also have a lower glycemic index due to a slower rate of digestion.

Cooking Time & Preparation

Steel-cut oats can take 20 to 30 minutes to cook as they absorb liquid at a slower rate. Soaking the oats ahead of time can help reduce the cooking time. A single serving size is 1/4 cup. They are typically used for oatmeal.

You often have to shop at specialized health food or grocery stores in order to find steel-cut oats. They are also commonly found for sale at farmers markets. You may even want to consider buying them in bulk if you can.

Rolled Oats

Rolled oats in a blue bowl, and a spoon of oats on a wooden board.

Appearance

Rolled oats have a flattened circular shape.

Manufacturing Process

Rolled oats are steamed and flattened, which means they are slightly more processed than steel-cut oats.

Flavor Profile

A spoon of rolled oats on wooden background.

For a milder oat, you want to eat them rolled. The consistency of rolled oats is much softer than steel-cut are. This is because they are steamed, which prevents them from breaking during the flattening process. Rolled oats can be purchased as 'old fashioned oats'. When you purchase old fashioned rolled oats, you will notice they are thinner and also less textured than steel-cut oats are.

Nutritional Value

Rolled oats have a low glycemic index, only it's not as low as steel-cut oats. The nutritional value of rolled oats is very similar to that of steel cut oats; both are healthy breakfast options.

Cooking Time & Preparation

Rolled oats have a much lower cooking time than steel-cut oats. Due to their overall size, they are quick to finish cooking, about 5 minutes. For this reason, they are often used in baking. They also retain their shape well when cooked.

You will probably find it a lot easier to find rolled oats in grocery stores than steel-cut as they are more common.

'Quick oats' or 'instant oats' are further-processed rolled oats, and are the thinnest of the oat types. They can take as little as 1 minute to cook. Just keep in mind that they also, when used in recipes, may turn out mushy.

Conclusion

When planning a healthy diet, it helps to know about steel cut oats vs rolled oats. Incorporating them into your diet can help provide you with much-needed nutrients. Neither is a bad choice, it's just a question of which one you prefer and for what purpose you will be using them. Rolled oats are preferred for baking but also make a nice oatmeal. Steel-cut oats can provide you with a hearty bowl of oatmeal, but might not work as well in the baking department.

There are arguments for having both steel cut and rolled/instant oats as part of your diet. They can be used in desserts, breakfast and more. Paired with food such as plain yogurt, they can give you an energetic start to any day. With so many ways to use oats, it is easy to incorporate these grains into your diet.

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