Steel cut vs rolled oats: what’s the difference? Can you substitute them? Is one healthier? Here’s what you need to know.

Steel cut vs rolled oats

Steel cut vs rolled oats: what’s the difference? These powerhouse whole grains are two ways to process the same ingredient, and both are part of a healthy diet. But is there a clear winner between the two? What are some of the major differences? Here’s a breakdown.

Steel cut vs rolled oats: overview

All types of oats start as oat groats. the kernels that are processed into different types of oats. The differences are all in the processing:

  • What are rolled oats? Rolled oats are groats that are pressed flat with rollers. Pressing them flat makes for a shorter cook time than steel cut oats. There are a few types of rolled oats:
    • Old Fashioned oats: These are the flat, circular oats that feature in classic oatmeal, oatmeal cookies, granola, and more. The cook time is usually 5 to 10 minutes.
    • Quick cooking oats or Instant oats: These types of oats are rolled even thinner and chopped into pieces so they cook faster. The cook time is usually around 1 minute. The texture when cooked is more gooey and runny versus Old Fashioned oats.
  • Steel cut oats: Steel cut oats are oat groats that are cut into nubs: they look like brown rice or barley. The texture is very hard when uncooked. These oats take 25 to 30 minutes to cook, and have a very chewy texture.
Steel cut oats

Can you substitute steel cut oats for rolled oats?

No! We get this question often. Steel cut oats are the texture of a grain like rice or barley, so they require much more cooking than rolled oats. The amount of liquid you use to cook them are also different. Do not substitute rolled oats in a recipe that calls for steel cut oats, and vice versa. These two types of oats can almost be considered two different foods when it comes to substitutions.

Steel cut vs rolled oats: nutrition info

Next, let’s review the nutritional differences between steel cut and rolled oats. Here’s the basic nutrition facts for 1 cup of cooked steel cut oats vs 1 cup rolled oats:

Steel cut oats1665 grams28 grams4 grams3 grams
Rolled oats1485 grams27 grams4 grams3 grams

Data sources: Old Fashioned Oats nutrition, Steel cut oats nutrition

As you can see, there are very minimal differences between the two in terms of overall nutrition facts. A few more things to consider:

  • Steel cut oats may be lower glycemic index than rolled oats. A potential health benefit of steel cut oats is that since they are processed the most minimally, they may have a lower glycemic index (GI) and be digested more slowly. This may allow you to feel fuller and have less of a “spike” of energy after eating. This may make them the best choice for blood sugar control. (Source)
  • Both types of oats have beta glucans, a type of soluble fiber that has potential benefits like lower cholesterol, better heart health, and reduced blood sugar and insulin responses. (Source)

Bottom line: There’s not a clear winner between steel cut vs rolled oats. Both have similar nutrition profiles and are part of a healthy diet!

Old fashioned oats

Oatmeal recipes

Want to cook steel cut or rolled oats? We’ve got recipes! Here are some of our favorite ways to start the day:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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