Rolled Oats vs. Quick Oats

Last Update: June 4, 2024

When it comes to easy breakfasts, oatmeal is an impressively simple meal to whip up. A warm bowl is basically a blank canvas when it comes to flavor, so whether you’re embracing all things pumpkin spice or eating your fill of summer berries, this all-season dish is a kitchen staple for a reason. But what’s the difference between rolled oats and quick oats? Keep reading for a fun history lesson and our favorite recipes that go way beyond oatmeal.

What Are Rolled Oats?

Sometimes called old-fashioned oats, rolled oats start out as whole grain groats that are flattened into their signature textured disc shape. They cook faster than steel-cut oats and make a classic breakfast but can also be added to muffins, granola bars, and cookies.

History of Rolled Oats

Rolled oats were invented by two brothers in Bushnell, Illinois who founded Nagel Roller Mills in the early 1900s. Henry Nagel and John Nagel were first to develop a process of making rolled oats without steaming. Prior to that, oats were steamed first to separate the groat from the hull. The Nagels’ patented process became a faster alternative that was eventually sold to the Quaker Company.

Health Benefits of Rolled Oats

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, oats can be part of a healthy diet and are a source of fiber, phosphorus, thiamine, magnesium, and zinc. The primary type of soluble fiber in oats is beta-glucan, which is believed to help slow digestion, increase satiety, and suppress appetite. Whole oats also contain phenolic compounds and phytoestrogens that can “act as antioxidants to reduce the damaging effects of chronic inflammation that is associated with various diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”

Best Rolled Oats Products

Shop for the best assortment of rolled oats that are ready when you are, including some of our member favorites.

Bob’s Red Mill Regular Rolled Oats

This bag of gluten-free old fashioned oats is made using organic whole grains and delivers 6g of dietary fiber per serving. Thrive Market member Patty says “these oats are my favorite and cook up quickly on a workday in the microwave.”

One Degree Organic Foods Sprouted Rolled Oats

Grown on a family farm and sprouted for added nutrition, One Degree’s oats can be used to make your own oat milk for chai and matcha lattes, as member Stephanie does.

Purely Elizabeth Oats Cup

This single-serve oatmeal is made with spirulina, juicy blueberries, gluten-free oats, flax, quinoa, and chia for a nutritious cup you can microwave in a flash.

Recipes for Rolled Oats

There’s more you can do with rolled oats than whip up a hearty breakfast bowl (although we have nothing against those).

Granola Jam Bars

Ready in just 30 minutes, these granola bars rely on pantry staples like flour, spices, and jam—and might just be our new favorite way to eat rolled oats.

Rosemary Granola

Embrace granola’s savory side with ingredients like nuts, seeds, and minced rosemary for a woody flavor. This batch makes two cups so you can enjoy it with yogurt or on its own all week long.

Apple Pie Overnight Oats

Not only can this make-ahead breakfast be prepped the night before, but it tastes like a slice of apple pie thanks to ingredients like pecans, ground cloves, and sliced apples.

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

In this brunch-inspired dish, oats are transformed into a thick and spiced pudding with carrots, apples, and raisins.

Mushroom and Chickpea Veggie Burgers

Here’s a savory way to incorporate oats beyond breakfast or dessert. These veggie burgers are extra hearty thanks to mushrooms and chickpeas, and will satisfy everyone for your next Meatless Monday.

What Are Quick Oats?

Whether you call them quick oats or instant oats, this version is the most processed of the oat varieties. Quick oats are pre-cooked, dried, and then pressed even thinner than their rolled counterparts. The upside? A faster cook time. But watch them closely, as the texture can turn mushy if you’re not careful.

History of Quick Oats

Americans started growing oats with gusto in the 19th century, around the time that Quaker Oats became a registered trademark (1877) and began selling oats in boxes. Quick oats weren’t introduced until 1922, instant oatmeal followed in the 1960s, and flavored oatmeal was a product of the 1970s. Just be thankful you’re not making oats in the Victorian era, when the process took hours. According to Marion Harland, whose cookbook was published in 1903, “Four hours of boiling makes oatmeal good; eight hours makes it better; twenty-four hours makes it best.”

Health Benefits of Quick Oats

Although the nutrition content is similar to rolled oats, quick oats may impact blood sugar differently. Instant oats are quicker to digest and have a higher glycemic index than steel cut oats. Also, be sure to check the labels closely—some brands add sugar or other sweeteners to instant packets.

Best Quick Oats Products

Stocking up on quick oats means you can have breakfast ready in practically an instant.

Nature’s Path Organic Instant Oatmeal

Chunks of dried apple and a hint of cinnamon will warm up your morning. This quick meal offers 5g of protein per serving, and cooks up in less than two minutes in the microwave.

Bob’s Red Mill Classic Oatmeal Cup

Fortified with flax and chia for added nutrition, this classic oatmeal cup is an organic way to start the day—and it takes approximately 3 minutes.

Recipes with Quick Oats

In general, instant oats can be used in place of rolled oats (see recipes above), but the cook time will be shorter, so keep that in mind when you’re planning.

Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Smoothie

While this recipe calls for rolled oats, feel free to toss in quick oats instead. This 5-minute meal is inspired by a cookie but adds protein powder to fuel your a.m. routine.

Homemade Oat Milk

With just a few simple ingredients (like rolled oats and vanilla) you can whip up a creamy, nourishing milk that’s ready for batters, smoothies, or coffee.

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Nicole Gulotta

Nicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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