Are you wondering what the difference is between rolled oats vs. quick oats? You’ve come to the right place! As a Registered Dietitian, I’m breaking down how they’re made, the nutritional differences between rolled oats and quick oats, and the best uses for these two types of oats.

bowl of rolled oats and bowl of quick oats

Do you know the difference between your oats?

There are a variety of oats available, and sometimes they even go by different names. There’s rolled oats or old fashioned oats, large flake oats, quick oats, instant oats, and steel cut oats. It’s definitely a challenge to keep them straight and to understand what their differences are.

In this post, we’ll look at the differences between rolled oats vs. quick oats, including:

  • how they’re processed
  • how they taste
  • their nutrition facts, in order to answer the question “which one is healthier?”

Rolled Oats vs Quick Oats

What Are Rolled Oats?

Rolled oats, also known as old fashioned oats, start out whole (as all oats do) with the grain and the husk in tact. The husk is the covering that encases each grain. This gets removed, and the remaining product is called the oat groats.

The groats are steamed and flattened between heavy rollers (hence the name rolled oats) then dried in a kiln. This drying process adds flavour and stabilizes the healthy oils in the oats by deactivating an enzyme that can cause the oats to go rancid.

Old fashioned oats are the most common type of oats found around the world.

bowl of rolled oats

What are Quick Oats?

Quick oats also start out whole with the grain and husk in tact. To produce quick-cooking oats, the same process of removing the husk followed by steaming and flattening the oat groats occurs.

In this case the groats are steamed for a longer period of time before rolling, and when they are rolled, the rollers are closer together creating a thinner oat product. These thin oat pieces are also cut up which creates more surface area for faster cooking.

Because they’re cooked longer and rolled thinner and smaller in the manufacturing process, quick oats cook more quickly (which is why they’re called quick oats) than rolled oats do.

bowl of quick oats

What’s the Difference Between Rolled Oats and Quick Oats?

Rolled oats are steamed for a shorter period of time and rolled into larger, thicker flakes. Quick oats require more processing to produce, as they are steamed for a longer period of time and rolled then cut into thinner, smaller flakes.

Because of their smaller size, quick oats have a greater surface area and can absorb liquid more quickly than rolled oats, thus cooking faster when preparing dishes like oatmeal or porridge. And because rolled oats are larger and thicker, they will take a bit longer to cook and/or absorb liquids.

Rolled Oats vs Quick Oats Nutrition:

Rolled oats vs. quick oats – which is healthier?

Despite the differences in processing, there are marginal nutritional differences between rolled oats and quick oats. Plain rolled oats and plain quick oats contain similar amounts of nutrients like fat and protein, with very slight differences in carbohydrates, fibre, and calories. Quick oats do have a slightly higher glycemic index compared to rolled.

This table provides a nutritional breakdown of rolled oats vs quick oats per 1/2 cup serving:rolled oats vs quick oats comparison table

Rolled Oats vs Quick Oats Glycemic Index

According to the International Glycemic Index Database, rolled oats have a glycemic index score of 59, while quick oats have a glycemic index of 66. Both 59 and 66 fall within the medium glycemic index range.

Because quick oats have a higher GI, they can raise your blood glucose levels slightly quicker compared to rolled oats. This is due to the smaller size of the oats.

What to Keep in Mind:

If you aren’t familiar with glycemic index, it is a scale of 0 to 100 that ranks the effects of carbohydrate-containing foods based on how much they raise your blood sugars. The higher the glycemic index, the higher a food can raise your blood sugars.

Regarding quick cooking oats, remember that individual packets of quick oats may contain added sugars and salt for flavouring, which may alter the nutrition information and glycemic index as well. Read the ingredients list, and know that the table above lists the nutrition facts for plain whole grain oats.

How to Use Rolled Oats and Quick Oats:

Can I Use Quick Oats Instead of Rolled Oats?

Generally you can use rolled oats and quick oats interchangeably in recipes like baked goods and smoothies, though there may be some slight texture differences. Same goes for your morning bowl of oatmeal, although quick oats will of course cook more quickly as they absorb liquid and soften more easily.

When it comes to recipes like overnight oats, rolled oats and quick oats are not interchangeable.

Can I use Rolled Oats for Overnight Oats?

Here at Hannah Magee RD, we share all kinds of simple and nutritious oats recipes, including overnight oats.

Because quick oats absorb more liquid than rolled oats, they are more likely to become soggy in overnight oats where the oats are sitting in liquid like milk and yogurt overnight. I have made overnight oats using quick oats before. The taste is usually good, but they do tend to be more on the soggy side.

Rolled oats are perfect for overnight oats. Due to their larger size and thickness, they tend to absorb just the right amount of liquid for a creamy but still chewy overnight oats texture.

overnight oats in a jar

In Summary:

Both rolled oats and quick oats are versatile, affordable and highly nutritious sources of whole grains. Rolled oats tend to be slightly higher in nutrients like fibre and protein, and have a slightly lower glycemic index compared to quick oats. This is due to the higher amounts of processing that quick oats undergo.

Rolled oats are quick oats are interchangeable in many recipes, but not so much in recipes like overnight oats. Overall, both are healthy choices, but I tend to choose rolled oats more often and save quick oats for those times when I really need something quick!

Connect with Hannah Magee, RD!

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