U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


  1. Home
  2. topic
  3. What Do I Do With My (Resources for Participants)
  4. What Do I Do With My Oats

What Do I Do With My Oats


Oats are best known as a warm and hearty breakfast staple, but there’s more to oats than oatmeal. Learn about different types of oats and how to include them in snacks, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  

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. 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: 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.

Be sure to review your WIC authorized food list for the oats available in your State WIC Program.    

Tips for Cooking and Using

What liquid should I cook oats in? 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!

What are 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 work best) 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. 

Can oats be cooked in a 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.

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.

Overnight Oats – Cinnamon Apple

Check out this recipe that combines oats, apples, cinnamon, and yogurt for a cozy breakfast!