The Difference Between Steel-Cut, Rolled & Instant Oats

All aboard the overnight oats train
Rolled Oats vs. Instant & Steel-Cut Oats
Photo: lisaaMC/Getty Images

For such a simple grain, there are lots of oat varieties out there. Instant, rolled and steel-cut oats all start as groats—whole, unbroken grains—and contain the same amount of fiber and protein. The difference between them is a result of how much they've been processed, causing variation in taste, texture and cooking time. So which kind should you be putting in your overnight oats, and which should you be using to sneak nutrition into cookies? Here's how we break it down.

①  Instant Oats

These are also known as quick oats, and they're processed the most out of the three varieties—which is why they cook so, well, quickly. Quick oats are precooked, dried, rolled and pressed, creating thin flakes that are there for you when you need breakfast in a pinch. Just add liquid, zap them in the microwave and you're good to go.

②  Rolled Oats

These are similar to instant oats, but they're processed slightly less. Rolled oats—also called old-fashioned oats—are steamed and pressed, but not precooked. The lighter processing means they take slightly longer to cook than instant oats and have a thicker texture. If you're on a quest to perfect your overnight oats, these are the ones to go for.

③  Steel-Cut Oats

Steel-cut oats are formed by cutting the whole groat into smaller pieces that look like miniature corn kernels and have a chewy texture. Save these for your Instant Pot: They're neither steamed nor flattened, and this minimal processing means they take the longest to cook.

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