What’s the Difference Between Quick Cooking Rolled Oats and Instant Rolled Oats
Healthy Living on on March 7 2018 by Bob's Red Mill

What’s the Difference Between Quick Cooking Rolled Oats and Instant Rolled Oats

Oatmeal is a classic breakfast—and for a good reason. It’s nutritious, inexpensive and can be prepared a number of different ways. It’s easy to make, is full of texture and flavor and can be soothing to the soul and body. Plus, oats offer endless versatility and can be turned into oatmeal, muesli or even granola for a healthy and hearty breakfast. But one of the best parts about making oats in the morning is that it’s quick and tasty. Whether topped with dried fruit and nut butter or maple syrup and chia seeds, there are so many creative ways to make oats for breakfast. For those who are looking to get their dose of protein and fiber in the morning without slaving away in the kitchen, oats are the ultimate option—especially on those busy mornings when everyone is running around trying to get out the door.

Although most oatmeal is pretty similar, different types of oatmeal take different amounts of time to prepare. Whether you go for the classic old fashioned rolled oats or the chewier steel cut variety, all types of oats will require different cooking times. Buying the right type of oats can help ensure that you not only get the taste and texture you want, but that your breakfast is ready in time so you don’t feel stressed or rushed. With so much on the market, it can be confusing knowing what to purchase, but armed with the right knowledge, your mornings will be filled with oatmeal made just the way you like it, in just the right amount of time.

If you’ve ever shopped for a cereal grain that can be made into a quick and healthy breakfast, you’ve likely opted for options such as quick-cooking rolled oats or instant rolled oats. In fact, you may have even thought they were the same thing, and you may not have even been paying attention to which type you usually buy. Instant oats are often referred to as quick oats. Although quick-cooking rolled oats and instant rolled oats both cook more quickly than regular rolled oats, they are actually different.

What Are Rolled Oats: the Basics

Before we get into how the two compare, let’s first go over the basics of what oats are. Your usual oatmeal is made of oat groats that have been removed from their outer hull. These oats are then lightly steamed and sent through a roller mill, where they are flattened to various thicknesses. Rolled oats can be rolled differently depending on how they are intended to be cooked. There are regular rolled oats, extra thick rolled oats, rolled quick oats and instant rolled oats. These tend to differ mainly in thickness.

rolled oats vs quick oats

Quick Cooking Rolled Oats vs. Instant Rolled Oats

Although quick-cooking rolled oats and instant rolled oats are both designed to provide a shorter cook time, there are some differences between the two types of oats. Quick-cooking rolled oats are quick, but instant oatmeals are intended to be quicker. This means that they are rolled extra thin and milled finer than quick-cooking rolled oats for faster preparation. Another way instant oats are generally created for shorter prep time is that they are pre-cooked. Please note that neither Bob Red Mill’s Quick Cooking Rolled Oats nor Bob Red Mill’s Instant Rolled Oats are precooked, which means you can enjoy fresh oatmeal no matter how much time you have in the morning, and you don’t have to sacrifice time.

Besides from being rolled and milled a specific way, quick-cooking rolled oats and instant rolled oats differ a bit in how they’re prepared, how long they take to make and their taste and texture. It might seem overwhelming at first, but their differences are actually quite simple. To help you make sure you’re picking the right variety, here’s everything you need to know about the difference between quick cooking rolled oats and instant oats.

Rolled Quick Oats vs. Instant Oats Preparation

Quick-cooking oats are usually designed to be cooked like regular oats on the stove top, just in less time. Since most instant oats are precooked, they are made to be cooked more quickly in the microwave. In fact, most instant oats come in little pre-packaged, smaller containers rather than the usual larger tin. However, Bob’s Red Mill Instant Rolled Oats are different because they’re not pre-cooked, and they come in a large bag just like regular rolled oats. This means you can portion out how much you want, and you don’t have to worry about any added ingredients you don’t want, like preservatives and sugar. These instant oats are designed to cook in the microwave in just a few minutes. Quick cooking oats, on the other hand, can be cooked on the stove or in the microwave.

Difference in Cook Time

One of the main differences between quick cooking rolled oats and instant rolled oats is the cook time: instant rolled oats can be prepared faster than quick-cooking rolled oats, although they both cook faster than regular rolled oats. For comparison, regular rolled oats take about 10-20 minutes on the stove top, while quick-cooking rolled oats can be cooked on the stove in 1-5 minutes, depending on the consistency you desire. You can also add hot water to a bowl of these quick-cooking oats and let sit for 5 minutes, or zap them in the microwave for 20 seconds. For an even faster breakfast, instant oats can be ready in 1-2 minutes—just add hot water and microwave for 1-2 minutes.

  • Regular Rolled Oats: 10-20 minutes
  • Quick Cooking Rolled Oats: 1-5 minutes
  • Instant Rolled Oats: 2-3 minutes

Rolled Oats vs. Instant Oats Texture

Getting your oats prepared in the right amount of time is important, but you also want to make sure you’re buying the right type of oats for your taste buds. Because people prepare their oatmeal bowls in different ways, you want to pick the type of oats that give you your desired texture. Regular rolled oats tend to be thicker than quick-cooking rolled oats and instant rolled oats, as the thicker the oat is, the longer it takes to cook. That means quick cooking rolled oats will be thinner than regular rolled oats, but instant rolled oats will be the smallest and thinnest.

Rolled Oats vs. Instant Oats Taste

Thankfully, quick-cooking rolled oats and instant rolled oats don’t differ much in taste than regular rolled oats. They still retain that naturally sweet but nutty flavor, and they can be prepared with your usual oatmeal toppings. Their chewy texture and high dietary fiber make these oats an excellent grain to add to your breakfast routine. There’s no need to add extra brown sugar, maple syrup or other ingredients to make these premium oats taste better!

Rolled Oats vs. Instant Oats Nutritional Value

Oats are famous for being full of nutrients. They're a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which can help improve your digestive system, help you feel full longer, and even assist with weight loss. They are high in protein and healthy fats, and they even have the best amino acid balance of all the cereal grain varieties. Eating oats can also have a positive effect on your cholesterol, your blood sugar, and your blood pressure.

Thankfully, you can rest easy knowing that both quick cooking rolled oats and instant rolled oats still retain their nutrients. Unlike many other instant oat brands, Bob’s Red Mill Instant Rolled Oats are made from whole grain oats, including all of the wholesome germ, bran and endosperm from the oat groat—none of the nutritious bran has been removed. Additionally, because Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal is just oats, you don’t have to worry about any added chemicals, preservatives, sugar, dyes or artificial sweeteners that come in many pre-portioned packages.

When to Use Rolled Oats vs. Instant Oats

Now that you know all the major differences between these types of oats, the last thing is figuring out when to use each type. All types of rolled oats—regular rolled oats, quick cooking rolled oats, and instant rolled oats—can, of course, be used to prepare oatmeal the regular way. However, you might want to be more particular when using your oats in items like baked goods. You can use quick cooking rolled oats in a baking recipe, but the texture will be a bit finer, which means if you’re looking for something thicker or chewier, you’re better off using regular rolled oats. However, if you’re looking to make something a little finer, then you’re good to go using quick-cooking rolled oats—the difference isn’t massive. Because instant rolled oats are significantly thinner and smaller than regular rolled oats, proceed with caution when using them in baking, and make sure you’re making the right substitutions with the rest of the ingredients.

Overall, quick-cooking rolled oats and instant rolled oats really don’t make a difference when it comes to taste and nutrition. Their chewy texture is slightly smaller and thinner than rolled oats, but they still can be used the same way and don’t lose any of their benefits. The main difference with these oats is that they’re made smaller so they can be prepared faster. Quick-cooking rolled oats are great for when you want to cut down on time, but if you’re really pressed, instant rolled oats are even better. Choosing what oat is right for you depends on your needs, how you like to prepare your oats, and how much time you have in the morning. But no matter which type of rolled oats you choose, you can rest assured knowing you’re eating a high quality, nutritious, and delicious breakfast.

Whether you make an overnight oat recipe or satisfying oat breakfast bars, there are endless ways to enjoy Bob's Red Mill oats. Do you have a favorite oatmeal recipe? Let us know in the comments below! 


  1. Gillian Didier Serre
    Gillian Didier Serre
    Thanks Bob a big mystery resolved for me keep up the great OAT HARVEST
  2. Tiffany
    Thank you for such an extensive explanation! I've got the old fashioned rolled oats to make overnight oats and have been thinking whether if I should switch to quick cooking or instant. I love how both of these are not pre-cooked and are just made thinner to keep the GI low
  3. Steve Bergstrom
    Steve Bergstrom
    Did you change the formula of the instant rolled oats? The last time I purchased the four pack at the Bob’s Redmill store the packaging had changed, but more importantly the texture changed. The new oats were much mushier and had far less texture. I really preferred the old formula as it had a much nuttier natural oat texture vs. a smooth mushy texture. The new resealable package is nice but please go back to the old formula.
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Steve, no we haven't changed the way we mill our Instant Oats - I apologize if you had a less than great experience with them! If you have more questions please feel free to reach out to Customer Service at 1-800-349-2173 or [email protected]
  4. Michelle Oayda
    Enjoying the quick cooking rolled oats, I’d like to know the GI of these compared to the old fashioned rolled oats.


    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Michelle - you can find the nutritional information (calories, fat, carbohydrates, fiber and protein) on the product pages but we do not test for the glycemic index of our products.
  5. Linda
    To add to the discussion a bit, I’ve discovered that instant oatmeal works well in smoothies for body and texture without being gritty. I’ve been using Trader Joe’s unsweetened (also contains flax, amaranth and millet) because I didn’t know until now that Bob’s Redmill (my preference for cooked oatmeal) made instant oats. Although I like TJs for the added seeds, I don’t like all the packaging and will seek out Bob’s instant on my next resupply.
  6. Curt
    Very informative article! Love Bob's. But brown sugar and maple syrup are not "unhealthy ingredients" as one of the sentences implies.
  7. Barbara
    Thank you for this detailed and clear explanation! Because you included how instant and quick oats behave in baking, I now know which to order (quick, because I'm mostly baking rather than fixing breakfast oatmeal).
  8. Ken Greenberg
    It would be helpful if you made the packaging a bit more distinctive between the "Old Fashioned" and the "Quick Cooking" oats. I didn't realize you made more than one kind, and I grabbed the quick cooking type by mistake. I'm happy to hear that there's no difference other than the smaller cut, but we prefer the texture of the old fashioned better. Now we have a whole bag of the quick cooking to get through.
  9. Lucia Swanson
    I am confused. I have a bag of your gluten free old fashioned rolled oats. The directions say to either cook on the stove for 10 minutes or microwave for 2 minutes. Are they old style, quick or instant? One cookie recipe does not specify which oats to use and the scone recipe says use regular oats, not instant.
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Lucia - "Old fashioned" is the same as our "regular rolled" oats. If a recipe calls for "oats" or "rolled oats" it is referring to the ones you have on hand.
  10. Sigrid Rogers
    Just a quick question - can I substitute Quick oats for instant oats? This is for a Florentine cookie recipe I want to make.
    I never have any instant oats on hand. Thanks.
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Sigrid - Yes, that would work!
  11. Angie
    I love all your products and eat your oatmeal’s every night for dinner. I love the Scottish oatmeal as well as your quick oats!
    Thank you for your quality products!
  12. Nikki Brousseau
    Nikki Brousseau
    Is it normal to have several hull pcs in the oats? I have the Gluten Free old fashioned oats right now and for some reason this batch seems to have a lot in there. I don't recall that in previous batches.
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Nikki - No, that's something we'd like to hear more about. Please contact our Customer Service team at 1-800-349-2173 or [email protected]
  13. av
    this is a helpful article thank you

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