Steel Cut vs Old Fashioned Oats – What’s the Difference?

Oats are an amazingly nutritious food packed with complex carbohydrate, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. In recent years, you may have heard more about steel cut oats. Perhaps you’ve wondered how they match up against the more familiar old-fashioned oatmeal. The good news is, both forms of oats are equally nutrient-packed. Deciding which type you’ll keep stocked in your pantry is largely a personal preference. Here is what you need to know about steel cut and old-fashioned oatmeal. 

Old fashioned oats (left) vs Arrowhead Mills Organic Steel Cut Oats (right)

The two oats look and cook different

If you were to pour out these oatmeal varieties side-by-side, you will notice they look quite different. While old-fashioned oats are larger and flatter, steel cut oats are much smaller, angular pieces, and these differences in appearance lead to their own unique textures. When cooked with liquid, old-fashioned oats become much softer, while steel cut oats maintain a firmer texture even when cooked. This difference in texture may also influence how you plan to enjoy your oats. For example, if using raw oats in a recipe, like energy balls or muesli, old-fashioned would be a better bet. They are softer and more digestible when raw. Steel cut oats are less ideal in their raw form as they are quite crunchy. However, both types of oats can be enjoyed after being cooked. 

Consider food volume when choosing oats

Another consideration when comparing steel cut and old-fashioned oats is food volume. One half cup of raw old-fashioned oats is considered to be a serving. One quarter cup raw is the serving for steel cut oats. One serving of each will provide nearly identical amounts of nutrients; however, their serving sizes are quite different. For someone who feels more satiated with a larger volume of food, old fashioned oats may meet your needs better than steel cut. However, if smaller, more compact meals are easier for your daily routine, steel cut oats are the better option for you. 

Steel Cut Oats Granola

They both have similar nutrition per serving

Each variety of oats provides roughly 150 calories, 28 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of fiber per serving, and falls similarly on the glycemic index scale. Both options can easily be cooked in bulk, although steel cut will take longer than old fashioned oats. The versatility of each is expansive. Oatmeal can be enjoyed with savory or sweet toppings, added to a smoothie for a nutrient boost, incorporated into your favorite cookie recipe, or blended into a “milk”, to name just a few ways to add oats into your wellness routine. 

Try these recipes with Arrowhead Mills Organic Steel Cut Oats:

About Melissa Rifkin

Melissa is a Connecticut-based Registered Dietitian with over 16 years of experience in the field. She loves sharing educational nutrition content on her Instagram and with her readers. As a busy mom, Melissa hopes to empower individuals to make health-conscious choices that can be stress-free for the whole family.

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