Healthy Living on January 20, 2011 by

Steel Cut, Rolled, Instant, Scottish?

When we think of oatmeal, we typically picture good old-fashioned rolled oats (or maybe quick oats). When you visit the store, especially our store, you find many varieties that may make you wonder what the difference is between them. What makes steel cut different from rolled? What makes instant different than quick? What makes Scottish different than Irish? Here’s a handy little explanation that will *hopefully* clear up any confusion.

Oat Groats:

I just love that groat rhymes with oat! The groat is the de-hulled oat grain. Some grains are called berries, but oats are known as groats. Quite simply, the most intact form of the grain available in the market. Use this version of oats as you would other whole grains. Oat groats are a bit softer than wheat berries and make a wonderful addition to pilafs and soups. We have some wonderful recipes using oat groats, such as this Creamy Mushroom and Grains Soup– a favorite at my house!

The oat groat is the whole oat kernel with the hull removed. Photo borrowed from

Rolled Oats:

The most common form of oats, rolled oats are made from oat groats that have been steamed to allow them to pass through the roller mills without cracking and breaking. Rolled oats are available in many different varieties, each of which refers to the thickness of the flake and cooking time required. The smallest and thinnest oat product is Instant, followed by Quick Cooking, Regular (Old Fashioned) and Extra Thick.

Instant oats have also been pre-cooked to make them truly instant. Just add hot water and you’ll have oatmeal. Most brands add sweeteners to their instant oats, but ours are simple, plain oats.

Most recipes calling for rolled oats are referring to quick cooking or regular, but using extra thick will add an extra chewiness that some find quite appealing.

The most common oat product, rolled oats are flat flakes.

Steel Cut Oats:

Steel Cut= Pinhead= Irish Oats. Steel cut oats are made from whole oat groats that have been chopped into two or three pieces, making for a much chewier cereal. They are almost exclusively used for breakfast, as they do not soften very well in baking applications. These are the oats used in the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship and you will find that they are cooked prior to being used in any recipes. You can find many wonderful recipes on the Golden Spurtle website, as well as our own, using steel cut oats.

What makes steel cut oats particularly attractive for breakfast, and the reason we tout them as the perfect fuel for your day, is how the body breaks them down. Because of their size and shape, the body breaks them down more slowly than rolled oats, preventing spikes in blood sugar and keeping you full longer.

Steel Cut Oats are much larger pieces than Scottish Oats

Scottish Oats:

The true oatmeal, Scottish oats are ground on our stone mills from whole oat groats. They are not rolled, they are not cut, they are ground. The texture of Scottish oatmeal is fairly fine, though more coarsely ground than flour. In the United Kingdom, this is what they imagine when you say oatmeal. In the United States, this is what we imagine when we use the term porridge. It’s creamy, thick and almost instant when combined with boiling water. This is what people would have made hundreds of years ago, before modern roller mills were invented.

Scottish oats are wonderful for baking, as they are truly a more coarsely ground flour- like cornmeal. Oatmeal, cornmeal, flaxseed meal– get it? Meal is the next grind up from flour and below farina. We have some great recipes on our site using Scottish oatmeal, including one of our favorites- Scottish Oatcakes.

Scottish Oatmeal is very finely ground. Photo borrowed from

I hope this has helped answer the question of what makes each variety different. If you’ve still got a question or two, please leave it in the comments and I’ll find you an answer.


I loved this explanation! Honestly, I have had all, but the Scottish and I had no idea they were finely ground like that. I am a true lover of oats and sneak it in to almost everything I can. I used to be more of a quick oat person, but since I have been buying your gluten free varieties for my husband, I have changed my opinion. I love the chewiness of steel cut and rolled oats now. I need to get more oat groats so I can make oatgurt again. Thanks for sharing the specifics on this Cassidy!

Sandra S. says:

If Bob’s steelcut oats have 170 calories per 1/4 cup of uncooked oats does that mean if I eat a 1 cup serving of cooked oats that’s 340 calories?

Hi Sandra,

Yes, it would be around 340 calories. If you want to get really scientific about it, you can make the whole batch and measure into four parts- with each part being about 170 calories.

Sandra S. says:

Thanks Cassidy!

Patti says:

Help, I need the basic cooking instructions for Bob’s THICK CUT ROLLED OATS. I repackaged them into an airtight container, cut the label off to attach it to the container but didn’t get the directions for cooking. I’m unable to find the basic cooking directions here on your site.
Thanks in advance.

Dale Watson says:

I have been eating redmill oats for breakfast for years and never get sick of them. Each morning my wife chuckles as I eat my oatmeal… I easily eat 340 calories worth (probably more) yet I remain fairly thin; I think the oats keep my hunger away far longer than other breakfasts.


Jessica says:

Dear Sandra S. :

If you are measuring out 1 cup of the oats beforehand, that will be equal to about 3 cups cooked, which will equal 680 calories. If you measured out 1/4 cup beforehand, it’ll make 3/4-1 cup cooked and will be 170 calories (if using water of course).

Barbara says:

I am trying to a make a higher protein instant or with only a few minutes cooking time oatmeal… I was going to try adding some additional Whey Protein Concentrate or Soy Protein Powder
maybe some finally ground/navy beans-organic soy beans or adeuki beans…anything to up the protein content…I wanted to end up with 9 grams or more of protein per serving and be able to make it in large batches to store it for daily use…Has anyone tried anything like this…Any thoughts…

AmandaCarter says:

Hi Barbara,
Have you tried chia seeds? They are very nutrient dense, with 3 grams of protein per tablespoon, plus fiber, calcium and iron. They are a great addition to oatmeal and, unlike flax seed, you do not need to grind chia seeds before eating in order to get the nutritional benefits.

You can find more information about chia seeds here:

We are currently out of stock but should have chia seeds available again soon.

Amanda C.
Bob’s Red Mill

Laurie C. says:

OK, I am flummoxed. I have a recipe for individual baked oat cups which calls for “quick” steel cut oats. What does that mean, and do Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut oats qualify as “quick”?

Laurie C.

AmandaCarter says:

Hi Laurie,
You will want to use our Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats (available in organic and regular versions):

Hope this helps!

Amanda C.
Bob’s Red Mill

Laurie C. says:

Thanks Amanda!
I will look for them at our Fresh Market, or maybe I’ll make the trek to Whole Foods. I’ll let you know how the recipe works out.


Kristina says:

How will the Scottish oats work if I am making granola?

AmandaCarter says:

Hi Kristina,
We haven’t tried this, but I think the outcome would be rather different from granola made with rolled oats, because the oats in Scottish Oatmeal have been ground to a meal. You could probably expect a much finer texture than a traditional granola. If you’re using a recipe calling for rolled oats, you may need to make some adjustments to the cooking time as well, since the Scottish Oatmeal may bake more quickly than rolled oats. If you try it, we’d love to hear how it turns out!
Amanda C.
Bob’s Red Mill

Miguel says:

I am confused by various sources that seem to imply different reasons for steel cut oats having a better health value. Do steel cut oats have more soluble and insoluble fiber than rolled? Is there more d-beta glycan in steel cut oats, and does this help to slow stomach emptying and cause a slower carb load in digestion? Are rolled and steel cut oats entirely nutritionally equivalent? Thanks.

AmandaCarter says:

Hi Miguel,

Steel cut oats and rolled oats are made from the same thing, whole oat groats, and the nutritional values are very similar. Rolled oats are more processed since the groats get steamed to soften before rolled, whereas for steel cut oats the groats are just cut into pieces.

Amanda C.
Bob’s Red Mill

Jodi says:

Hi Everyone at Bob’s! I have to tell you how much I love your philosophy and approach! I may be asking the same question as Miguel, but I wanted to know if Steel Cut Oats are more nutritious than Scottish Oats? I ask bc I recall comparing the 2 bags and thinking the Scottish oats had more nutritional value noted on the package, but have always been told Steel cut have the most nutritional value?? Thanks so much!

AmandaCarter says:

Hi Jodi,
They are both made from the whole Oat Groat, the Scottish Oats are ground groats and the Steel Cut Oats are groats that have been cut into pieces. They are nutritionally very similar.
Bob’s Red Mill

jennifer says:

Can anyone advise as to which is the most nutritionally beneficial one? I don’t have 20min-1/2 hour in the morning to boil groats or even the steel cut ones. I like all types of oatmeal, but I need to know which ones of the quicker cooking varieties are the healthiest. I’ve seen quick cook Steel Cut and this morning I tried Scottish and found them good as well. Can anyone help out on this one? Thanks

AmandaCarter says:

Scottish Oatmeal or Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats are nutritionally very close to each other, and to regular Steel Cut Oats. They all both made from the whole Oat Groat, but the processing is different: Steel Cut Oats are groats cut into pieces, Scottish Oats are ground groats and the Quick Oats are Oat groats that have been steamed and rolled thinner than regular oats for quicker cooking times.
Hope this helps!
Amanda C., Bob’s Red Mill

Debbie Byman says:

Good morning!
If you dont have time to cook steel cut oats in the morning, soak them over night! Just put the oats in a pot cover with water and a little more so wTer is maybe an inch above the oats. Then in the morning, strain out the water, add more fresh water, then it cooks fast, almost as fast as quick cooking oats – and it’s better for you! ( I think that’s what they call sprouted)
I can’t give exact amounts of water because I make enough for 8 people, but I’m guessing half as much water to cook it. You can also make extra and keep the extra in the fridge and just warm up the next day, it tastes just as good as the day you made it!

Marisa says:

As far as which is “best nutritionally” seems the answer from the article is: “What makes steel cut oats particularly attractive for breakfast, and the reason we tout them as the perfect fuel for your day, is how the body breaks them down. Because of their size and shape, the body breaks them down more slowly than rolled oats, preventing spikes in blood sugar and keeping you full longer.”

@Jennifer, I agree, time is short in the morning! At home, we actually get the oats going the night before by bringing them to boil for a few minutes in the pot and leaving them to soak, covered, overnight. Then they finish cooking in 5 minutes the next day!

Darryl Moffitt says:

I’ve been eating steel cut oats for 12 years and I prepare them the night before. I boil my water, add oats, stir, turn off, go to bed. In the morning just warm them up.

AJ says:

Hello! I am looking at an oatmeal cookie recipe from Fannie Farmer from 1896. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of fine oatmeal. Do you think the Bob’s Red Mill Scottish Oatmeal would be the proper choice? Something in the back of my mind is telling me that buzzing rolled oats in the food processor is not the same thing. Thanks!


AmandaCarter says:

AJ, you could use Scottish Oatmeal, but running rolled oats through a food processor would work, too. Whichever you do, we’d love to know how it works out. Thanks! – Amanda

Carl H says:

Just thought I mention here that your steel cut (or pinhead) oats are just the ticket for making Goetta – a meat-and-oats product somewhat like ‘scrapple’ that’s popular in the Cincinnati area. It may sound odd to folks who’ve never tried it but my friends from that area swear by it. This crockpot version looks easy to make. They swear it’s one of the best breakfast foods you can imagine!

Jonny says:

As a Scot, this is so untrue. When we hear Oatmeal we think of the American style porridge (ie Quaker Oats style – very smooth, no texture).

Mary Whitehouse says:

do your oats have any wheat in them?

Our conventional oats may have some contact with wheat, but we do have an entire line of gluten free oats (wheat free) that are tested to be sure they are wheat free. You can view them here:

bill beshears says:

I cook quick oats with milk in the microwave for two min. is it the same nutritionally as old fashioned.?

Yes, the nutritional information is the same for quick cooking and regular rolled oats. The oats are the same, just one is rolled thinner. As long as you compare the same weights, all of our oats have the same nutritional information.

Jimmy D says:

How are steel cut oats made to be quick cooking?

Jimmy Davis says:

how do you make steel cut oats to be quick cooking?


Our quick cooking steel cut oats are cut into slightly smaller, flatter pieces than conventional steel cut oats. This allows them to cook faster. They are not precooked.

Ruth D says:

Your honey oatmeal bread recipe calls for Scottish Oatmeal. Is it ok to substitute quick cooking steel oats?

You could substitute them, but we’d recommend pulsing them a bit in your food processor if you can. Scottish Oats are very fine.

Ruth D says:

Oops………I mean quick cooking steel CUT oats. : )

Matthew Stark says:

Which style of oat production can one eat raw, and still benefit nutritionally?

AmandaCarter says:

Any of our rolled oats, oat bran or muesli cereals can be eaten uncooked. Try letting the oats soak for a few minutes in yogurt or milk before eating, to soften.

Heather says:

I really consider this particular blog , “Steel Cut,
Rolled, Instant, Scottish? | Bob’s Red Mill Blog”, incredibly entertaining plus the blog post ended up being a remarkable read. Thanks,Leoma

Rachel says:

Help! I’m very confused! How many calories is in 1/4 cup of cooked steel cut oats?

One cup of cooked steel cut oats contains 170 calories. 1/4 cup would contain about 43 calories.

Rachel says:

Holy crap cassidy thanks so much for replying! Thought I’d go crazy trying to find it. Thank you!! 🙂

Sure thing! That’s what I’m here for. 🙂

Fiona says:

I love the Scottish oatmeal! But I’m stuck with a bunch of steel cut oats and am wondering if I can make them into ‘Scottish oatmeal’ by putting them in a blender for a bit so they’re ground up more like the true Scottish oatmeal. This would sort of grind them, no? Any help is appreciated in helping me turn steel cut oats into proper oatmeal.


You could certainly try that. I don’t know if it would work, but it might. A food processor might work well too.

Carm says:

I love steel cut oats, but your comment that they are exclusively used for breakfast is very wrong. Steel cut oats make a wonderful, delicious savory “risotto.” And it much easier, because you don’t have to stir, and stir, and then stir some more as you do in actual risotto. There are endless possibilities for flavoring.

Thank you for pointing that out! We definitely agree that steel cut oats are incredibly versatile. This article probably needs to be updated.

This is an absolutely wonderful article. I am on a quest to eat more healthy, trying new recipes using oats. This article has given me first hand insight into the use of the different varieties and applications for different recipes. I will definitely share this information.

michael says:

OK, I learned just about everything one needs to know right here. What’s missing is this: if steel cut oats are so much less processed, why do they cost twice that of rolled oats? Thanks.

I’m not sure which brands you are comparing, but our steel cut oats and our rolled oats are pretty comparable- pretty much the same price per pound. If you’re comparing organic to regular, there may be a larger discrepancy, but ours are pretty much the same price per pound. Alternately, if there is a large discrepancy, I would speculate that anything that falls out of the ordinary is more expensive. There are simply far more rolled oats produced in this country than steel cut oats.


interested in buying fine rolled oats a container a month
please advise accordingly


Amanda says:

Do you offer baby rolled oats in your lineup? What is a good alternative? Thank you.

No, but we do offer instant oats. They’re slightly larger than baby oats. You could try Scottish Oats, which are very fine and enjoyed by babies, but they’re not as fine as baby oats.

melissa slisz says:

I usually purchase steel cut oats– and make a slow cooker overnight oatmeal recipe and I got the quick steel cut oats and I am not sure if I can still use for that amount of time/ recipe? Please advise


It should work just fine with the same proportions and cooking time. They may be just a bit more creamy.

Brenda says:

If a recipe called for Old-Fashioned/Quick Oats (for a crust), could I use the scottish oatmeal instead?

Yes, you could use Scottish oatmeal instead, but it will be a little different.

Deb Goossen says:

I was curious what process do the steel cut oats go through to become quick…I have bought the regular and the quick steel cut and notice a huge difference….also very curious if there is any nutrition lost in the process.

Quick steel cut oats have been partially rolled prior to cutting to allow them a faster cooking time. There is no significant nutritional difference.

Isabella says:

For breakfast I have 1 cup with half quinoa and organic rolled oats. I first pour almond and coconut milk in a saucepan together with half a banana and pear (other times I use an apple or kiwi fruit) and bring to nearly boil then add the quinoa and organic rolled oats mixture and add a tsp of cinnamon. I let it cook for a few minutes. What a great breakfast. It keeps me full for hours.

Devon says:

I’ve been reading more and more about soaking your grains, nuts/seeds, and legumes before consumption. Could you elaborate on your view of soaking grains as it relates to your products?

We don’t think it’s necessary, but it can cut down on cooking times and make beans more digestible.

maryjane says:

Do steel cut oats have the same nutritional benefits as rolled oats (which are steamed and rolled) or scottish oats (which are ground up)? Thank You.

Yes, in fact Steel Cut Oats actually are slightly better for you because they take the body longer to digest, raising blood sugar more slowly. We use the same oats for all of the types of oatmeal we offer, so they will be equally nutritious.

Beth says:

I need to use non instant oatmeal to make Lactation cookies. Every recipe is different from extra thick to steel cut. Which of your non instant oatmeal would be most effective to assist with Lactation?


They will all be great for lactation. I’d recommend regular or thick-rolled, though, for the best tasting cookies! Good luck!

Chris says:

Hi – Where does your “oat bran cereal” fit into the Irish / Scottish / rolled continuum?
Which is it most similar to? I am guessing the consistency is closest to Scotish? Is there any additional ingredients in the cereal? Is it nutritionally similar to the other products? Thanks

Our oat bran cereal is the most similar to Scottish Oatmeal. It is simply oat bran, with a small amount of oat germ (it’s very hard to separate entirely)- nothing else added. You can view its nutritional profile here:

Aimee says:

I’ve been eating the 10 grain hot cereal in place of rolled oats in my diet. I’m on and they provide a meal plan for diabetics. Unfortunately it called for rolled oats and I can’t stand the slimy texture of rolled oats. I found the 10 grain cereal and decided to give it a try. I’ve also added 2tbsp of chia to my diet daily and it’s best in the 10 grain cereal. I’ve even tried it cooked in fat free milk with no sweetener and nothing but a pat of butter on it afterward. Its savory! I was amazed at how incredibly delicious it was. I’ve always had hot cereal sweet, but being diabetic now I’m not allowed. The cereal/chia combo keeps me very full until well into lunch and another surprising fact…. My blood sugar has dropped from 170 to 144 in 2 days just from adding 2T of chia to my diet. I recommend this combo to everyone. It’s easily modified into sweet with the addition of some fresh berries or bananas. The recipes are truly endless! Thank you for such an awesome product.

Thank you so much, Aimee! What a wonderful testimony to whole grains. Glad you’re doing well!

Christina Ambert says:


I bought your Steel Cut Oats today and I have a recipe that is calling for overnight oats. Are the two interchangeable?



I’m not really sure without knowing more about the recipe. Steel Cut Oats make great overnight oats, though, if that’s what you’re asking.

Jim says:

Hello, I am in Egypt and nobody carries steel-cut oats. They do carry many Bob’s products but they won’t special order me a case of the stuff I used back home in Canada. There is “organic hulled oats” available however and with the useful info here on the site I am wondering if I can buy that and run it for a few pulses through the Vitamix to achieve steel-cut oats? I’m going by a very famous nutritionist’s advice so I kinda want to do steel-cut but if steel-cut comes from hulled (I don’t know if groats is interchangeable with hulled?) then I can’t miss with hulled right? I also use your quinoa too with appreciation for its availability!


Hi Jim,

Groats = hulled oats. You probably won’t get steel cut oats running them through your Vitamix, but you’ll get something closer to our Scottish Oats, which are creamy and delicious. I’m sorry that you’re not able to find the steel cut oats near you. Just keep asking and maybe they’ll hear you.

Lori says:

What is the nutritional difference between steel cut oats that take 20min to make and the Red Mill ones that take 5-7min?

Judith says:

Hi Cassidy,
I have been trying different combinations to make some heart/diabetic healthy *cookies*. My question; If I was to use the Steel Cut Oats instead of the Quick Oats called for in some recipes, would the cooking time extend or would I have to pre-prep the Steel Cut somehow to not dry out the cookie? Or, is it just an easy substitute and there would be no cook time differences in the recipe? Thank you so much.

We recommend at least soaking them first. They are not ideal for baking. It’ll take some experimentation, but it’s doable.

Brenda says:

I love the Scottish Oatmeal. There is only one store in the city I live in that sells it. Other stores have all the other kinds. It is so delicious!

Bathsheba says:

I have a British Baking recipe for fine oatmeal…does that mean finely cut oats or oat flour. Since it is British, I wasn’t sure about the difference. Could I put the oatmeal into a blender to make it fine enough? Thank you, C

I would guess it’s probably more like our Scottish Oats, but you could use blended rolled oats.

Shelby says:

Hello there! I thought some readers would like to hear about my personal experience with Scottish oatmeal! I studied abroad in Scotland in 2012 and fell in LOVE with porridge. Bob’s Scottish Oatmeal is the ONLY oatmeal I have found in the U.S. that even comes close! I love it so much I even blogged about it! You can check it out via this link if interested!

This post by Cassidy was what helped me find Bob’s Scottish Oatmeal so thank you so much for writing it!

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