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1Aug, 19
Clean Food Love

If you’re new to CleanFoodCrush, you’ll soon notice that we LOVE meal prepping around here. Overnight oats happen to be one of the easiest, most versatile ways to meal prep for mornings.

My team and I get a lot of questions about what kind of oats to buy, and which types of oats are best.

In this article, I’m going to break down the questions we get on a day to day basis. Here’s EVERYTHING you need to know about oats!


What are all the different kinds of oats I can buy?

Whole oats: These oat groats have not been cut, flaked or rolled. Cook time is about an hour. 

Steel-cut oats: The whole oat groat is cut into pieces. Cook time is about 10-20 minutes. 

Rolled oats: The whole oat groat is steamed and rolled creating a softened texture. Cook time is about 5 minutes.

Old fashioned oats: Another name for rolled oats.

Instant oats/quick oats: The whole oat groat is pressed thinner and steamed for longer than rolled oats. Cook time is 1-3 minutes. 

Porridge oats: Whole oat groats are ground instead of rolled, resulting in a less textured oatmeal or porridge. Cook time is about 5 minutes. 

Oat flour: Whole oat groats are steamed, and rolled, then ground completely into powder. Oat flour is a suitable alternative to regular flour but is not recommended as an oatmeal or porridge base. 

Oat milk:  A dairy-free milk alternative made from soaked, blended and strained rolled oats. 

What kind of oats should I buy? 

When you are baking, then oat flour or rolled oats are suitable, but generally speaking, we suggest using steel-cut or rolled oats, depending on the purpose.

Both take a bit longer to cook, but they’re also less processed, and higher in protein and fiber than the others. This means they’ll provide a more sustainable source of energy rather than spiking your blood sugar and leaving you hungry too soon after you’ve eaten.

Unless you have the time to hang out in the kitchen for 40 minutes in the morning, prepping overnight oats is the way to go. Later on in this article, I’m going to share some amazing overnight oat recipes with you.

What should I know before buying oats?

Some products have added ingredients. Although, whole, steel-cut, and rolled oats should all be sugar and additive-free it’s always a good idea to double-check the label. 

Instant or quick oats, on the other hand, often have added sugar and other artificial flavoring added to them. Store-bought oat milk will also contain some additives, many of which are harmless, but it’s wise to make it a habit and check the ingredients! 

How can I tell the difference between the different types of oats?

If you are buying oats in bulk, you won’t be able to rely on the label to tell you what type they are. Here’s a visual for you so you can learn the difference!

All types of oats look a little bit different. Whole oats slightly resemble brown rice, steel-cut look like small, coarse nubs, and rolled and instant oats are flattened and light beige in color.

Instant oats are much lighter and look more powdery, and these work well for baking, but most of the time, I prefer rolled oats.

I used quick oats in muffins like these Yummy Flourless Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins.

Are oats gluten-free?

In their pure, uncontainable form, yes oats are considered gluten-free! However, there are two important things to consider when choosing your oats. 

  • Oats are often cross-contaminated with gluten-containing grains during processing. If you are sensitive to gluten then it’s best to buy certified gluten-free oats.
  • The next thing to consider is the severity of your allergy. Although oats are considered gluten-free, they contain a protein that some people with celiac disease or other gluten allergies react to. This protein is called avenin, and it has a very similar structure to the protein found in gluten that causes allergic reactions. 

Do I need to buy gluten-free oats?

If you have a gluten allergy, yes! Buy certified gluten-free oats if you have celiac disease or a gluten allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance. 

What type of oats work best:

  • Overnight oats? Rolled oats are best! Rolled oats are the most popular choice, however quick oats can also be used. Steel-cut oats are a bit too hard, and even left overnight usually don’t perform well.
  • Protein balls? Rolled oats will provide the most texture, however, if you just need to absorb some extra moisture or improve consistency you can add quick oats or oat flour.
  • Muffins? Rolled oats, quick oats or oat flour. For texture add rolled oats! Oat flour can be used as a complete or partial replacement for other flours in your recipes.

Why should I include oats?

  • What are the health benefits of eating oats? 
  • Healthy source of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein.
  • Packed full of macro and micronutrients.
  • Help lower bad cholesterol.
  • They keep hunger at bay.
  • Promote weight loss.
  • Give us energy.
  • Support heart health.
  • Help balance hormones, especially in women.
  • Tons of fiber to support a healthy gut.
  • Their slow release of carbohydrates helps us balance blood sugar.
  • They contain antioxidants.
  • They taste great and have endless flavor combinations.
  • They are versatile and can be eaten hot, cold, savory, and sweet!

Aren’t oats high in carbs? So how can they be healthy?

Carbohydrates are not bad for us! However, not all carbs are the same. Oats are the carbs we want. They are complex carbohydrates, and provide a slow release of glucose into our body which gives us sustained energy, supported weight loss, balanced hormones, restful sleep, and are a great source of fiber!

What are other uses for oats?

Oats have been used in herbal medicine for centuries. They have a grounding, calming effect on the body, internally and externally. Having been known to help relieve pain and itching from burns and eczema, oats can be used in baths or mixed in with creams. Oats are phytoestrogens and can be used to regulate hormones, and they also act on the nervous system in times of stress to calm anxiety and reduce insomnia.

How does baking with oat flour affect my recipe?

The result is usually a bit denser and moister. You may need to adjust your liquids and add more leaveners, such as eggs, yeast or baking powder. A standard rule for most recipes is to add 1 1/3 cup of oat flour for every 1 cup of regular flour. 

Can I add fruit to hot oats?

Yes! Most fruit stands up well to cooked oats. Fruits that can be warmed up along with the oats include berries, bananas, and apples. You can cook them ahead of time, or add them to your oats as they cook. Otherwise, most fruit, including berries, bananas, and apples taste great added cold to warm oats.

Can I use oats in savory recipes?

Absolutely!  You can make “rice” dishes with whole oat groats, or savory oatmeal with rolled or steel-cut oats. You can crust fish with oats or oat flour, bake savory muffins and scones, and use oats in stuffing as a bread substitute. The use of oats is only limited by your imagination!

Here are some oat recipes for you to try!

Apple Pie Overnight Oats 

PB & J Overnight Oats

Blender Banana Oatmeal Muffins 

Triple Berry Oatmeal Muffins

Double Pumpkin Dark Chocolate Energy Balls

No-Bake Raspberry Chocolate Protein Balls 


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