What Are Oats?
Oats (Avena sativa) are a species of cereal cultivated for its edible seeds of oat grass. The cereal grain, which is also used to feed livestock, is a hearty breakfast staple commonly used in hot cereals like porridge and cold cereals like muesli and granola.
Oats have numerous purported health benefits: The cereal grain is a strong source of daily dietary fiber, with four to five grams of fiber per serving on average. Though oats are gluten-free, people with celiac disease may want to steer clear, as they are sometimes grown or processed near other grains that contain gluten.
6 Types of Oats
- Oat groats: Oat groats are the whole oat, containing both the oat kernel and its outer hull. As a result, groats are a nutritional powerhouse, delivering five grams of fiber and seven grams of protein per serving. Groats take longer to cook—about an hour—than other whole grains like farro or brown rice, but their full flavor and substantial, chewy texture make it worth the wait.
- Steel-cut oats: Steel-cut oats are oat groats that have been blitzed into smaller pieces. Their smaller size allows the oats to cook a little faster than full groats, delivering a creamier end result with the same beneficial fiber and protein.
- Oat bran: Oat bran is the outer layer of the ground hulls. Oat bran is full of soluble fiber, which can help prevent heart disease and regulate blood sugar for those with type 2 diabetes. Oat bran also gets full marks for satiety—the nutrients in the hull keep you fuller, longer.
- Scottish oats: Scottish oats are whole oat groats that have been stone-ground into meal, creating a texture that lies somewhere between steel-cut oats and oat flour. This combination makes for a creamy, nutty porridge with an interesting texture.
- Rolled oats: Rolled oats are steamed oat groats that have been run through a roller which gives the oats its signature flaky oat shape. Also known as “old-fashioned oats,” rolled oats are also the most commonly used oats in baking and preparations like overnight oats and muesli.
- Quick-rolled oats: This paper-thin version of rolled oats is the basis of instant oatmeal packets, and true to their name, they cook very quickly—even just by steeping in boiled water for a few minutes. Quick oats are the least nutritious of the bunch, but the most convenient by far.
Homemade Oatmeal Recipe
Prep Time20 min
Cook Time20 min
- ½ cup of steel-cut oats
- ½–1 cup of almond milk, whole milk, or water
- ½–2 teaspoons of sweetener (like coconut or brown sugar) or syrup (like maple, date, or agave)
- Assorted garnishes
- Combine oats with your preferred liquid in a small pot over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until thickened, for about 20 minutes.
- Remove from the pot from heat and transfer to a serving bowl. Add sweetener, or an extra dash of milk, as preferred.
- Top with any garnish you like, from fresh fruit like blueberries, banana, or peach, to dried cranberries, slivered nuts and seeds, or a simple compote.
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