The difference between steel-cut, jumbo and instant oats

The difference between steel-cut, jumbo and instant oats

Oats are a staple in my pantry. They’re delicious, nourishing and oh-so-useful for lots of recipes

I use them to make muesli, granola, muesli bars, muffins, slices, bircher muesli, slices, cookies, pancakes and, of course, good old porridge. As well as being so versatile, they’re cheap and have a good amount of fibre in them (in particular beta-glucan, which can help with lowering cholesterol levels). There are a several different types of oats available, and they are best suited to different uses, however it’s not always easy to know which one to use! So read on to find out what the difference is between the three main types of oats, and how best to use them.

All oats start off as oat groats (whole, unprocessed, unbroken grains), and then they go through a heat and moisture treatment for stabilization. Once stabilized, the groats are processed into the range of oat products we see in shops, such as steel cut, instant and jumbo rolled oats. Each of these varieties is best used for different things, and it helps to know the difference so you can use the best oat for the recipe you’re making.


Jumbo rolled oats

Also known as Wholegrain oats or Old fashioned oats, these are oat groats that have been steamed, then flattened with a large heavy roller (hence the term ‘rolled’ oats!). Jumbo rolled oats have got the perfect bite and texture for making muesli and granola, however they are great in porridge or overnight bircher muesli too, resulting in more texture than what you’d get with instant oats.

Try out this Cherry and coconut granola recipe using Jumbo rolled oats.

Instant rolled oats  

Also known as Quick oats, these oats are cut into smaller pieces then steamed and rolled flatter than jumbo oats to create smaller, finer flakes. Being so fine and able to absorb more liquid makes instant oats great for making porridge quickly, as the name suggests. A porridge with instant oats will only take 2-3 minutes, and these are the oats you’ll find in porridge sachets. The texture of a porridge with instant oats will be softer and creamier than with Jumbo oats, so it’s worth trying both to see which you prefer. Normally Bircher muesli needs to be prepared the night before, but with instant oats you can make it in only a few minutes – check out my recipe for Instant apple, banana and strawberry bircher muesli, one of my favourite breakfasts during Summer. Another benefit of instant oats is that when used in baking such as slices or cookies they’ll stick together more easily and won’t be too crumbly like jumbo oats might be. This is very true in my Apricot, coconut and pumpkin seed muesli bars. Instant oats are also what you’ll want to use if you want to add oats to a smoothie – a great way to boost the nutrition of a smoothie and you won’t notice them! Finally, instant oats are great for a crumble topping – they combine well but still give you that nice crumbly texture that a great crumble needs.


Steel cut oats

Steel cut oats are the least processed of all the oats and therefore have a lower glycaemic index (i.e. they have less effect raising your blood sugar level). They’re basically oat groats that have been coarsely chopped up with a steel blade, and are not rolled. They’re my personal favourite for porridge as they have the nuttiest flavour, as well as a slightly chewy texture. Because they have a lower glycaemic index I find they are more filling and keep me satisfied for longer too (because they release energy more slowly). As they are much less processed, they take longer to cook than instant oats, around 20 minutes or more, so bear this in mind when wanting to make porridge. A good way of getting around the longer cook time if you would like to have steel-cut oat porridge in the morning (but don’t have time to make it), is to prepare a big batch on a Sunday, keep it in the fridge, then just heat some up and add toppings each morning. You can be really creative with porridge toppings, or you can keep it simple and go with brown sugar and a splash of milk (or cream for a treat….mmmm!). My Apple crumble porridge is pretty darn yummy. It might sound a little unconventional, but you can also use steel-cut oats in stews and soups like you would with barley or buckwheat. The flavour of oats goes surprisingly well with red meat!


Hopefully you’ve learnt a few new ways to eat these humble groats and have an easier time knowing when and where to use which type of oat in the future!


Nadia Lim

Nadia Lim

To be doing what I am today is a dream come true. It all started when I was 12 years old. I was watching TV after school one day and Jamie Oliver was cooking up a storm on The Naked Chef.


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