Difference Between Old Fashioned Oats and Quick Oats

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Today, let’s dive into the heart of your morning ritual – the humble oats. Now, if you’re like me, you might have wandered down the grocery store aisle, wondering about the difference between old-fashioned oats and their speedy cousin, quick oats.

They might seem interchangeable, but believe me, there’s more than meets the eye (and the taste buds). As a devoted breakfast aficionado, I’ve spent my fair share of mornings experimenting with both these oat varieties, and I do have some interesting insights to share!


Appearance: Size Does Matter

When it comes to oats, appearances can be deceiving, and it’s not just a matter of aesthetic preference. The variation in appearance between old-fashioned oats and quick oats signifies a difference in texture, taste, and even their applications in the culinary world.

Old-fashioned oats, those sturdy, large, and uniform ovals, are like the seasoned elders of the oat family. They are robust, with a thicker consistency and a deeper hue. 

Their size and thickness make them a culinary powerhouse, retaining their shape and texture even after cooking. These oats are perfect for when you want your morning bowl to have a hearty, chewy bite, akin to savoring a comforting homemade oatmeal cookie.

On the other hand, quick oats, with their smaller and irregularly shaped bits, are like the rebellious teenagers of the oat world. They are thinner, paler, and have a somewhat fragmented appearance.

These oats are all about speed and efficiency. Due to their reduced size, they cook faster and transform into a smoother, creamier texture, making them ideal for those rushed mornings when time is of the essence.


Taste: The Chewy vs. Creamy Battle

Old-fashioned oats, with their chewy texture, bring a satisfying and substantial mouthfeel to your meals. Imagine biting into a warm oatmeal cookie, and you get the idea.

The chewiness of old-fashioned oats remains intact even after cooking, making them a top choice for recipes where you want oats to hold their shape. They add a delightful rustic quality to your baked goods, enhancing the overall texture and flavor.

Quick oats, on the contrary, offer a creamier and smoother experience. When cooked, they tend to break down more, creating a velvety consistency. 

This creaminess makes quick oats exceptionally versatile in various recipes. They blend seamlessly into smoothies, create luscious porridge, and serve as a base for instant oatmeal packets. If you prefer your oatmeal to be less chewy and more on the creamy side, quick oats are your go-to option.

Note: The choice between chewy old-fashioned oats and creamy quick oats depends on the culinary masterpiece you intend to create. If you’re baking cookies or granola bars and desire a distinct oat texture, the hearty chewiness of old-fashioned oats will elevate your creations.

On the flip side, if you’re whipping up a quick breakfast smoothie or a creamy oatmeal bowl that feels like a warm hug in a bowl, quick oats will be your culinary accomplice. 


Nutrition: A Healthy Showdown

Nutrition is where health-conscious folks tend to focus, and rightfully so. The good news is, whether you opt for old-fashioned oats or quick oats, you’re making a healthy choice. Both varieties are low in fat, rich in fiber and protein, and boast a commendable iron content.

They serve as an excellent canvas for your culinary creativity. However, a word of caution – while oatmeal itself is sugar-free, it’s the company it keeps that matters.

Loading your oatmeal with brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, or dried fruits might turn your healthy breakfast into a sugar-laden affair. Also, for the gluten-sensitive souls out there, make sure to look for oats labeled “gluten-free” to avoid any unexpected encounters with gluten.


Cook Time: The Need for Speed

Old-fashioned oats, while not excessively time-consuming, require a bit of patience. They usually take around 7 minutes to cook to perfection on the stovetop. This cooking time is generally consistent whether you’re preparing them on the stove, in the microwave, instant pot, or crockpot.

While not an eternity, those extra minutes can sometimes feel like an inconvenience, especially on busy mornings when every second counts.

Quick oats, however, as their name suggests, cook up incredibly fast, needing only about a minute on the stove. The swift cooking process makes them a popular choice for those rushed mornings or when you’re simply craving a quick and nutritious meal without the fuss.

Quick oats are particularly suitable for busy individuals, students, or anyone looking to whip up a satisfying breakfast in record time. 

Their speedy preparation also makes them a go-to option for instant oatmeal packets, providing a convenient solution for those on-the-go moments.


Cost: Wallet-Friendly Oats

Oatmeal, in general, is incredibly budget-friendly, making it a staple for many households. The good news is that both quick oats and old-fashioned oats won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

As of 2023, quick oats were slightly cheaper, costing around 9.5 cents per ounce, while old-fashioned oats were priced at 13.8 cents per ounce. So, if you’re a penny-pincher like me, quick oats might offer a tiny saving grace.


Glycemic Index: The Blood Sugar Perspective

This aspect is particularly crucial for individuals closely monitoring their blood sugar levels, such as those with diabetes. The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly carbohydrates in food raise blood sugar levels. Understanding this index is essential, as it impacts your body’s glucose response after a meal.

Old-fashioned oats and quick oats, despite their similarities, exhibit a subtle difference in their glycemic indices. Rolled oats have a GI of 59, falling within the medium glycemic index range. This means they cause a moderate and gradual increase in blood sugar levels.

On the other hand, quick oats have a slightly higher GI of 66, nudging them a bit closer to the high glycemic index category. This higher GI indicates that quick oats can cause a quicker spike in blood glucose levels compared to their old-fashioned counterparts.

What does this mean in practical terms? Let’s consider a diabetic individual crafting a balanced meal plan. Opting for old-fashioned oats over quick oats might be a wiser choice.

The slower, steadier release of glucose from old-fashioned oats helps in maintaining stable blood sugar levels over time. This steadiness is especially crucial for individuals needing to manage their insulin levels effectively.

However, for those who do not face blood sugar regulation concerns, the difference in glycemic indices might not be a significant factor. Both types of oats provide a healthy dose of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and nutrients.

So, the choice between old-fashioned oats and quick oats based on the glycemic index primarily caters to specific dietary needs.


What Are Steel Cut Oats?

Steel cut oats, often hailed as the heartier cousin of old-fashioned oats, boast a distinct appearance and texture. Unlike their flat counterparts, steel-cut oats look more akin to rice or barley, resembling tiny nuggets. Imagine the kind of grains you might find in a hearty soup or a wholesome stew.

These little nuggets are a result of whole oat groats, the inner portion of the oat kernel, being chopped into pieces with a steel blade. This minimal processing gives steel-cut oats their coarse, grain-like appearance.

In terms of taste, steel cut oats share a familiar nutty flavor with old-fashioned oatmeal. However, their unique texture sets them apart.

When cooked, steel cut oats retain a pleasant chewiness, offering a delightful contrast to the creaminess associated with regular oatmeal. This texture is often favored by those who enjoy a heartier, more substantial breakfast experience.

Can You Substitute Steel Cut Oats for Old Fashioned Oats?

The answer is a resounding no. Steel-cut oats are substantially denser than their flat counterparts. Due to their density, they require more liquid and a longer cooking time to soften and achieve that desired creamy consistency.

This means they don’t play well as a direct swap in most recipes calling for old-fashioned oats. Attempting such a substitution might result in an uncooked, tough texture, completely altering the intended outcome of your culinary creation.

So, while steel-cut oats offer a delightful departure from the usual oatmeal experience, they have their unique place in the culinary world.



Personally, I love the earthy taste and chewy texture of steel-cut oats. It’s like a warm hug in a bowl, on a chilly morning. However, I do recognize that they require a bit more time and effort in the kitchen, which might not suit everyone’s busy morning routine.

However, whichever type of oat you choose, remember that oats, in general, are a powerhouse of nutrition. They’re versatile, affordable, and incredibly adaptable to various recipes.

So, whether you’re crafting a cozy bowl of oatmeal on a chilly morning or experimenting with innovative oat-based recipes, understanding the nuances between old-fashioned oats and quick oats will undoubtedly elevate your culinary adventures.


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