Can Different Oat Grains Affect Your Overnight Oats?

While fixing yourself a bowl of overnight oats, consider which variety is best for you. Rolled oats and quick oats are relatively similar in their nutritional profiles, providing a good balance of fibre, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals. Steel-cut oats and oat groats, due to their minimal processing, retain slightly higher levels of fibre and nutrients, particularly beta-glucan, which is beneficial for heart health and digestion. 

Although quite a lot depends on your preferences. If you like crunchy oats you probably should go for instant oats since rolled oats usually soften faster when mixed with liquid. Here is how each different kind of oat grain reacts when used as overnight oats.

Rolled Oats

Rolled oats, commonly known as old-fashioned oats, are produced by steaming whole oat groats and then rolling them into flat flakes. This process partially cooks the oats, making them easier to digest and quicker to prepare compared to less processed forms of oats. The resulting flakes are medium-thick and retain a mild, nutty flavour.

When used in overnight oats, rolled oats absorb liquid efficiently, usually requiring about 6-8 hours of soaking to achieve optimal texture. The oats become soft and creamy, offering a smooth consistency that is highly appealing for those who prefer a more porridge-like breakfast. The mild flavour of rolled oats also serves as a versatile base, complementing a wide range of added ingredients such as fruits, nuts, and spices.

Quick/instant Oats

Quick oats, also known as instant oats, are similar to rolled oats but are processed further. They are steamed for longer and rolled thinner, which reduces their cooking time even more. Quick oats have a finer texture and can often be cooked just by adding hot water.

Due to their fine texture and extensive processing, quick oats absorb the liquid much faster than rolled oats, often reaching the desired consistency in as little as 4-6 hours. However, this can lead to a mushier texture, which some people may find less appealing. The rapid absorption also means quick oats may lose some of their structure, creating a less substantial mouthfeel. Despite this, quick oats can be a good choice for those who prefer a softer texture or need to prepare their overnight oats in a shorter time frame.

Steel-Cut Oats

Steel-cut oats, also known as Irish oats, are made by chopping whole oat groats into small pieces with steel blades. This minimal processing preserves the oat's natural texture and flavor, resulting in a coarser, chewier grain that requires longer cooking times compared to rolled or quick oats.

When used for overnight oats, steel-cut oats need a significantly longer soaking period, often 10-12 hours, to soften adequately. Even after extended soaking, they retain a distinct, chewy texture that provides a heartier and more substantial bite. The nutty flavour of steel-cut oats is more pronounced, adding a robust taste to the dish. However, the longer soaking time and firmer texture might not appeal to everyone, especially those who prefer a smoother consistency in their oats.

Oat Groats

Oat groats are the most unprocessed form of oats, consisting of whole, hulled oat kernels. They retain the bran, germ, and endosperm, offering maximum nutritional benefits. However, they also require the longest cooking time and are the toughest in texture.

Using oat groats in overnight oats results in a very different texture and experience compared to other oat types. They require a prolonged soaking period, often up to 24 hours, to become palatable. Even after extensive soaking, oat groats remain chewy and firm, providing a unique, nutty flavour and a dense, substantial texture. This makes them a great choice for those seeking a more varied and hearty breakfast option, although the preparation time and texture may not suit everyone's preferences.