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As many other things, oats seem to come in and out of fashion and we are now living one of the ‘in’ periods. Every social media platform is inundated with ugly porridge bowls hidden by carefully arranged pretty toppings and overnight oats (bircher muesli for us non-trendy people).
The great benefit of ingredients becoming popular is that they usually become more easily available and more varieties pop-up. The negative side is that prices tend to go up. Luckily oats seem to have mostly avoided the price hike and only benefited from the larger variety.
The 7 different kinds of oats you can buy
After harvesting, oats usually go through 3 basic processes before they reach shops:
- de-hulling: the hull (the hard protective part of the grain) is removed.
- steaming: the de-hulled oats are steamed (but not cooked). This is done to prevent oats from going bad, or rancid, too fast.
- milling: the oats are processed to their final form from whole groats to flour.
Even with all this processing all different varieties of oats, except for oat bran, are considered whole grains.
These are basically whole oats without the hull, but with no other process applied to them. They are not easy to find other than in health stores and online. Usually they are pricier than other options.
Groats are chewy and take a long time to cook (they are similar to wheat berries or barley). If you want to avoid the 45 to 60 minutes of cook time, a pressure cooker or a slow cooker are good options.
Steel cut oats, Irish oats, coarse oats, or pinhead oats
These are all different names for the same product: groats that have been chopped. They are quite hard to find in the UK, but relatively common in the US.
They are chewy and take a long time to cook, but less than whole groats. Depending on size they can take anywhere between 30 to 50 minutes.
Scottish oats are similar to steel cut oats, but instead of being cut they are crushed. Traditionally, they were crushed with stones, but now it is done with machines.
They are chewy and cooking times are similar to steel cut oats, but they are slightly creamier.
Rolled oats, regular oats, old-fashioned oats, porridge oats, or oat flakes
Another collection of names that all refer to the same product. This is probably the most common variety of oats available, and the cheapest. They are made while the groats are being steamed by rolling them into flakes.
Rolled oats can be cooked somewhat fast either on the stove or by using a microwave, and they have a creamy texture.
Instant oats or quick oats
Instant or quick oats are rolled oats that have been steamed for a longer period of time, have been cut into small pieces, or both.
All kinds of oats can be instant or quick due to longer steaming periods. However, most available ones are made instant by further rolling or crushing, making them more powdery than the other kinds. Also, most instant oats come in individual packets and flavoured, but unflavoured ones are available (if hard to find).
Instant oats cook in minutes with only boiling water needed (much like instant noodles).
Oats that are milled into flour. As oat flour has no gluten, chemical raising agents need to be used when baking with it, and bakes usually require a lot of liquid compared to those that use wheat flour.
Baked products made with oat flour tend to have a chewier and denser texture than those made with wheat flour and they often take a longer time to fully cook.
If you want to get started with oat flour, check my roundup of recipes that use oat flour only.
Bran is the hull that gets removed from the groats. We can’t get many nutrients from bran, but we can make use of the fiber. Usually it is mixed with other cereals or added back to oats.
Most bran is currently used as animal feed.
Storing oats and food made with oat
Against common belief, oats can go bad. When they do, their colour will change and they will develop either an acidic flavour and musky smell. As with everything, when in doubt just get rid of it.
Storing before using
Stored properly oats can last for up to 2 years when unopened and up to 3 months after being open. Once open, oats should be kept in an airtight container in a cool and dark cupboard. Alternatively, they can be kept in the fridge to extend their life from 3 to 6 months.
Oat bran is very high in oils and will only last for up to 6 months unopened and should be refrigerated once open. Some brands of rolled oats have bran added back, these should be kept in the fridge as well.
Storing porridge and overnight oats
Once oats have been cooked into porridge, refrigeration is a must. Cooked porridge should be cooled as fast as possible and put away quickly to prevent bacterial growth. The best way to do this is to either spread the porridge on a thin layer or to put it away in individual servings. Overnight oats (or bircher muesli) should always be kept refrigerated.
Both cooked porridge and overnight oats can be warmed up using a microwave or in a pan. And they will last up to 5 days from the day they were prepared.
They can both also be frozen if they’re not going to be consumed within 5 days. To thaw, they can be left inside the fridge overnight and warmed up or quickly thawed in the microwave.
Storing other oat products
When oats are used in baking, the baked products should be treated as usual. If it’s dry (such as bannock or oat muffins) it can be left outside, if it’s moist (such as cooked oats or those popular banana oat cookies) then it’s better kept in the fridge.
Homemade oat milk or horchata will only last for 3 or 4 days (always in the fridge) but the texture will become somewhat slimy after 2 days. If the mouthfeel puts you off, you can use it for baking.
50+ oat recipes
There are hundreds of fantastic recipes online. These are just some of my favourite ones that feature oats as one of the main ingredients.
Most recipes come from big-name websites because I hate having to scroll for 5 minutes through 25 ‘aesthetic’ photos on a blog to get to a recipe. The only blogs linked, are easy to read and use.
- 3-minute no-bake cookies, by Quaker
- Anzac biscuits, by Jamie Oliver
- Apple crumble with walnuts, by BBC (Mary Berry)
- Banana oat muffins, by Quaker
- Black forest cranachan, by BBC
- Breakfast bars, by BBC
- Carrot cake bread, by Quaker
- Chocolate and ginger oat biscuit, by BBC
- Chocolate chip oat energy bites, by Quaker
- Diggers, by BBC
- Easy oat cake, by allrecipes
- Flapjacks, by BBC
- Ginger oat crunch biscuits, by BBC
- Hob Nob biscuits, by allrecipes
- Honey oat roasted pears, by Food network
- How to make porridge, by BBC
- How to make overnight oats, by woman & home
- No-bake oat and chocolate macaroons, by allrecipes
- Not-so-sinful brownies, by Quaker
- Oat cinnamon rolls, by Passion kneaded
- Oaty rhubarb and ginger streusel cake, by Delicious magazine
- Oaty shortbread recipe, by Delicious magazine
- One-bowl triple chocolate oatmeal jumbles, by Quaker
- Original granola, by Deliciously Ella
- Parkin, by Delicious magazine
- Plain oatmeal cookies, by allrecipes
- Sweet potato baked oats, by allrecipes
- Baked peppers with oaty nut stuffing recipe, by Good to know
- Beetroot veggie burgers, by BBC
- Caramelised onion, mushroom and gruyere quiche with oat crust, by Food network
- Chilli cheese flapjacks, by allrecipes
- Cuban-style black beans & plantains over oatmeal, by Quaker
- Everything bagel crackers, by Chatelaine
- Haggis bon bons, by Scotland now
- Herb-goat cheese gluten free oat scones, by Quaker
- Kid’s soda bread, by BBC
- Meatzza, by BBC
- Mediterranean Deviled chicken salad, by Quaker
- Oat-crusted pork medallions with spicy mushroom sauce, by allrecipes
- Oaty pork in cider, by allrecipes
- Pan di ramerino (Tuscan rosemary bread), by allrecipes
- Pumpkin seed crackers, by allrecipes
- Roasted cauliflower & oat soup with turmeric, by Quaker
- Rye, ale and oat bread, by BBC
- Savory baked breakfast oatmeal cups, by Sondi Bruner
- Savoury oat risotto, by allrecipes
- Savoury oatmeal with mushrooms spinach and thyme, by Quaker
- Simple spinach, cottage cheese and oat pancakes, by Mostly Eating
- Simon Rimmer’s mackerel rolled in oats, by Good to know
- Skirlie, by Great British Chefs
- Staffordshire oatcakes, by allrecipes
- The life-changing loaf of bread, by SBS
- Veggie crumble, by BBC