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What Do I Do With Oats?

Oats are best known as a warm and hearty breakfast staple, but your participants will appreciate knowing about different types of oats and how to include them in snacks, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Read on for more information or jump right to the recipes.

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Oats are a whole grain, which makes them full of fiber and well-known for being heart-healthy! Oats are also a source of iron and magnesium. Visit the Eye on Nutrition series to learn more about these and other nutrients and checkout the Meals of the Month series to find nutrient-specific recipes.

Tips & Ideas to Share

A variety of types of oats are available that each have different textures, shapes, sizes, and cooking specifications. Read on to learn about different oats and how to use them. Be sure to review your State agency’s authorized food list for the oats available in your State WIC Program.

Types of Oats

  • Instant: These oats are the quickest to cook since they are cooked, dried, and then rolled thin. They can be quickly cooked in the microwave in liquid (for around 60-75 seconds), or simply add hot milk or boiling water and stir until thickened.
  • Quick cooking: These oats are also on the fast-track for cooking. Quick cooking oats are usually cooked like old fashioned oats, but in less time (around 2 minutes). They can be prepared on the stove-top or in the microwave.
  • Old fashioned: These oats take longer to cook (around 5-10 minutes) and have a heartier and chewier texture than instant and quick cooking varieties. Old fashioned oats are often used in cooking and baking recipes.
  • Rolled: Instant, quick cooking, and old-fashioned oats are all types of rolled oats. Rolled oats are steamed and then rolled flat which reduces their cooking time when compared to unrolled oats. The thinner rolled varieties have faster cooking times. When a recipe calls for rolled oats, it is usually meant to use old fashioned rolled oats.
  • Steel cut: Whole oat groats, which are the whole oat kernel, are cut into two or three pieces to form steel cut oats. This variety is the heartiest and takes longer to cook (around 15-20 minutes) since they are not steamed and rolled. They sometimes are called Irish oats. Steel cut oats aren’t usually used in cooking or baking recipes.


It's important to use the kind of oats a recipe specifies and to follow package directions when cooking! Different kinds of oats have different textures, sizes, shapes, and cooking times, so substituting one for another can affect how the recipe turns out.


Tips for Cooking and Using

Cooking liquid: The type of liquid used to cook oats can make or break oats. They can be cooked in water, milk or even broth or stock for savory recipes. For those who think oatmeal is bland and make it with water, making it with milk may make the difference - it adds flavor, richness, and nutrients!

Overnight oats: These are a great no-cook (or quick cook) way to enjoy oats and perfect for warmer climates and months. Simply soak oats (old fashioned or quick cooking) overnight in low-fat milk and top with your favorite fruit in the morning! These can still be enjoyed warm, and since they've been absorbing liquid overnight, the cooking time is much shorter. Check out the recipes below.

Cook ahead: Steel-cut oats take longer to cook but can be cooked ahead of time. Simply prepare using package directions, refrigerate, and gently reheat, adding additional liquid if needed to get to the desired thickness. Read more about safe food handling and reheating food.

Slow cooker: Since steel-cut oats take longer to cook they are perfect for making in a slow cooker. Mix 4 cups of water per 1 cup of steel cut oats, cover, and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

Versatile: Although oats are a breakfast staple for many, oats are versatile and serve many functions in cooking. They can thicken a smoothie, help bind a meatloaf, and add texture to baked goods.



Microwaved Oats in a Mug

Tropical Oat Smoothie

Overnight Oats - Cinnamon Apple

Overnight Oats for One

Oatmeal Pecan Waffles (or Pancakes)


Savory Recipes

Savory Garlicky Oatmeal with Egg

Arroats Caldo

Savory Steel Cut Oatmeal

Glazed Meatloaf

Shepherd's Pie



Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bites

Apple Oatmeal Muffins

Pumpkin Oat Bars


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