Porridge Oats vs Rolled Oats: Are They Different?

If you’re from North America or Europe, you have probably used the term “porridge” interchangeably with “oatmeal”. Although there is no crime against this, both are made with different recipes and particular ingredients.

There is one thing both have in common and that is that they make for an excellent breakfast. Both can be very nutritious and healthy for you but this can sometimes depend on the types of oats you are using when eating rolled oats.

Therefore, it is important you consider the differences between these popular breakfast dishes so you can know which one is the healthier option for you.

The main difference between porridge and rolled oats is their ingredients. Porridge is typically made of boiled grains that are mixed in water or milk and sometimes both. Porridge oats are usually crushed into a medium-sized granule resulting in a creamy or chewy dish. This recipe is easy to digest and considered healthy for humans. 

Rolled oats are steamed oat groats. These are flattened into familiar flakes with heavy rollers which expose more of their surface so that liquid can be absorbed quickly. Therefore, they can be cooked in less than 5 minutes.

The following article will go into detail about the key differences between porridge oats and rolled oats and provide you with all the answers you need when it comes to these popular dishes.

Porridge oats: What are they?

The Whole Grains Council doesn’t define porridge oats specifically. Instead, the council classifies porridge oats as “any grain of oat that is made into porridge.” Let’s try and make more sense of this definition.

Porridge oats are generally referred to as Irish or Scottish oats. In both countries, they are simply known as porridge oats. Irish oats are also referred to as steel-cut oats because the oat groats are cut into a few pieces using a very sharp steel blade.

Irish oats tend to cook much quicker than whole oat groats due to a larger surface area in which water and milk can be absorbed into the oat.

In comparison, Scottish oats are stone-ground. As the name suggests, oat groats are crushed using a stone to create a messier, more scattered result.

You will usually discover that you are left with similar amounts of finely grounded oat flour as small pieces of oats.

As the oats are very finely ground, Scottish oats typically cook very quickly becoming creamy with a smoother texture than rolled oats and the steel-cut variety.

Rolled oats: What are they?

Rolled oats are oats that have been crushed or husked (removal of outer protective sheathing).

Rolled oats are found in two different forms. You can find thick and thin versions. The thick versions have larger whole flakes that are regularly used for preparing traditional oatmeal. This is often an ingredient in many sweets such as granola. 

Thinner rolled oats are smaller flakes that are broken down. These are perfect for baby food and instant oatmeal. This thinner variety can also be ground up into a powder to be used as a stew thickener or in the preparation of thick broths.

Rolled oats are just oat groats with the hull taken out. The oats then get steamed and flattened by an extremely heavy roller. Rolled oats generally cook a lot quicker than whole grain oat groats because they are steamed before being dried and packaged which increases their surface area.

Oat groats cook faster if you steam them for longer and make them as thin as possible. When oat groats are extremely thin, they are known as quick oats or instant oats and are regularly used in instant oatmeal cereals that have been pre-packaged.

Porridge vs Oatmeal

It is quite simple to sum up the difference between porridge and oatmeal. Overall, oatmeal is porridge but not all types of porridge is oatmeal. Confused? Don’t worry, most people are!

In simple terms, porridge can be made from any grain as long as it is mixed with milk, water, or broth. It is then usually renamed depending on the type of grain that the porridge was made from such as oatmeal.

Oatmeal is closely associated with oat based porridge while rice, wheat, and corn can be turned into porridges too. However, these porridges are made from the ingredients that are grown in specific regions of the world so are only made in these areas.

Rolled oats vs Old fashioned oats

If you think that rolled oats and old-fashioned oats are the same, you are correct according to the Quaker Oats Company (who know all things about oats).

They stated that both can be regarded as the same oats but can be referred to by either name.

Health benefits of porridge oats and rolled oats

When it comes to their nutritional value, porridge oats and rolled oats have very similar quantities of macro and micronutrients. These are in the same serving sizes and this is all because both have the same source which is oat groats.

Your body can break down processed oats into glucose far quicker than non-processed oats. Therefore, Scottish oats are thought to have a higher glycemic load than rolled oats, therefore having more of an effect on your blood sugar levels.

Next time you eat Scottish oats, you may experience a fast insulin rush just after consuming them.

Rolled oats are considered a very good choice as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Oatmeal made from rolled oats typically helps to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in your body.

This is a fantastic choice for those who suffer from Type 2 diabetes or if they are in a pre-diabetic condition and it’s a far better option compared to processed cereals.

As rolled oats contain large amounts of beta-glucan, they are considered to be the best choice for regulating blood sugar levels and reduces the likelihood of any spikes in someone’s glucose level.

If you take a 40 gram serving of dry oats, the nutritional components are interesting.

You will be consuming 150 to 155 calories with 5 to 6 grams of protein. Your total carbohydrates will add up to 23 to 27 grams with around 1 gram of sugar. You’ll be getting a healthy dose of fiber with 4 to 6 grams and around 2.5 to 3 grams of fat.

There is a minuscule difference between Irish porridge oats, Scottish porridge oats, and rolled oats, hence the very small fluctuations in measurements.

However you eat oats, they are very good for your health. As a plant-based protein, there is no doubt that oats are an excellent source that can help reduce food cravings and fill you up without needing to over-eat. A truly great option if you’re looking to lose a few pounds.

High in a range of vitamins and minerals such as folate, vitamin B-12, and calcium, oats give us many of the nutrients our bodies need. They may not only benefit your physical health. Studies have shown that they may have a positive impact on serotonin levels helping improve our mental health and quality of sleep.

We all need energy in our bodies and carbohydrates are one of the best sources to achieve this. Fortunately, oats are very high in carbs so you may have a burst of energy after eating a bowl.

Many of these carbs are made from both soluble and insoluble fiber which is exceptionally important for your digestive system, gut and helps improve your cardiovascular health.

Porridge: The different types

For this section, we’re going to travel the world and find what porridges are popular in different nations.

There are many different types of porridge such as “grits” which is best known in America. This is a kind of porridge made from corn. In China and the Philippines, popular porridges, known as Congee and Arroz Caldo are made from rice.

In other regions of Asia, such as South India and Sri Lanka, porridge is made from the semolina grain before being flavored with fragrant spices. Sometimes they use a vegetable called Upma as well or instead of the spices.

When traveling to Central and Eastern European countries, Kasha is a popular porridge. This is made with buckwheat and typically served as a side dish.

As we travel to Ethiopia, you will find that porridge is supremely popular. Ethiopians make the porridge from a wide range of grains before being served with different yogurts. This porridge is known as Genfo.

As you can see, porridge is a very popular dish all over the world. It shows that oatmeal porridge can be made with any type of oat. This includes, but doesn’t limit, porridge oats and rolled oats.

How to make porridge oats and rolled oats

There are some basic steps to take when preparing any kind of oats. Here is a guide to get your oats ready for porridge or to be rolled:

  • Simmer water (or milk and broth) in a pot
  • Add oats and cook until the texture is how you desire it. How long this takes depends on the type of oat being cooked (Irish porridge oats take the longest with the largest usually taking around 30 to 40 minutes before they’re soft and edible. Scottish oats and rolled oats take a lot less time and only need to be cooked for about 10 minutes)
  • When preparing oatmeal, you can add oatmeal toppings based on your personal taste. (Seeds, nuts, honey or maple syrup, dried or fresh fruits, or other ingredients which you may like can work well)
  • If desired, add spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and/or ginger to add extra flavors to the dish

Can oats make you put on weight?

Oatmeal is one of the best options for anyone who is trying to lose weight. This whole-grain cereal can curb your hunger for hours and help you slim down over time. However, this doesn’t mean it is completely harmless.

Taking a few factors into consideration, oatmeal can lead to weight gain in some circumstances.

Many people love to add sugar to their oats. Whether it’s brown or white sugar, too much sugar consumption is bad for you. Too many sweeteners can easily spike your blood sugar level leading to possible illnesses such as diabetes. If you crave sugary goodness in your oatmeal breakfast, try adding fresh fruit or cinnamon instead.

Packaged and flavored oatmeal is usually full of sugar and different chemicals. Some packets even contain up to 14 grams of sugar and artificial dyes. Therefore, it’s best to 

purchase unflavored oats before adding your own toppings.

It goes without saying but eating too much of anything can be bad for you. Try and only prepare half a cup of oats for any one time and eat your breakfast in a small bowl. This way, you eat less and won’t feel uncomfortable afterward.

Another reason oatmeal can be bad for your health is if you are using an excessive amount of toppings. Even with small portions of oatmeal, too many toppings will see you pile on the pounds. Even healthy toppings such as raisins or almonds can be unhealthy if you eat too many. Try and stick to 150 calories with very little toppings and a little flavor.

What you use as a topping can determine your weight too. Just because oatmeal is healthy, don’t start adding a chunk of Nutella on top for extra flavoring. You need to choose the correct toppings if you want to stay fit and healthy.

Consider using a handful of almonds, fresh fruit, or a little bit of cinnamon instead. If you can’t leave the chocolate taste alone, try cacao powder which is much purer than regular chocolate and healthier. This can help reduce inflammation, improve your mood, limit the risk of diabetes, and can lower blood pressure.

Main differences between porridge oats and rolled oats

Now we have discussed porridge oats and rolled oats, let’s sum up the key differences below:

Irish porridge oats 

  • Size and shape – Small, chunks/pieces
  • Texture – Chewy
  • Cooking time – 30 to 40 minutes
  • Made with – Water and a little honey

Scottish porridge oats

  • Size and shape – Very small pieces and powdery
  • Texture – Very creamy
  • Cooking time – 10 minutes
  • Made with – Water and butter

Rolled oats

  • Size and shape – Flattened flakes
  • Texture – Creamy and chewy
  • Cooking time – Around 5 minutes
  • Made with – Milk, fruit, nuts, syrup, honey, and more

Frequently Asked Questions

Which oats are healthiest?

Dieticians agree, the healthiest oats out there for your oatmeal are oat groats, and not the likes of quick oats, rolled oats or steel-cut oats.

Oat groats are basically whole oat kernels that have had their loose hulls removed and have been thoroughly cleaned before being treated with heat and moisture. This gives them more phenolic content and antioxidant properties.

And if all that’s not enough, it also increases the oat groats’ flavor development and its shelf life too.

And in the production of these oat groats, although the loose hulls are removed, the rest remains intact, including the germ, the endosperm, and the bran.

The resulting oat groats are packed with dietary fiber and with all sorts of important and beneficial nutrients. These include the likes of selenium, potassium, B vitamins, magnesium, antioxidants and iron.

Other types of oats are more heavily processed, and this strips them of many of their health benefits.

Oat groats and steel-cut oats are lower on the glycemic index than their more heavily processed counterparts. This means that they will take longer to digest. This in turn means that you will feel satiated and full for a longer period of time afterwards.

Are rolled oats healthier than quick oats?

Regular rolled oats are, on the whole, far healthier for you than quick oats. The difference lies in their different glycemic indices.

Steel-cut oats and regular rolled oats are each relatively low on the glycemic index compared to quick or instant oats, which have a much higher spot on the glycemic index.

This means that eating quick oats can lead to a bigger spike in your body’s blood sugar level compared to when eating rolled oats. And while this is bad news for diabetics in particular, it’s not such good news for everyone else either.

Can you use porridge oats instead of rolled oats in cookies?

We are pleased to report that quick-cooking porridge oats and regular rolled oats can be used interchangeably in most recipes, including those for making cookies. You can substitute them in a straight 1:1 ratio. However, the swap is likely to affect the texture.

We would argue that the best oats for cookies are old fashioned rolled oats, because they provide a chewier, nuttier texture and flavor for your oatmeal cookies. Moreover, they’re also thicker and heartier than quick-cooking porridge oats.

So, in short, you should always choose old fashioned rolled oats for your oat cookies if you have the choice, but if you are in a pinch and don’t have any rolled oats to hand, then you can easily make do with porridge oats instead.

Can I use porridge oats instead of rolled oats for granola?

We are pleased to report that you can indeed replace rolled oats with quick cooking porridge oats in your granola…

But remember porridge oats are semi pre-cooked and as such are pressed thinner than regular rolled oats, and this means that they will cook much faster than their regular rolled oat counterparts…

And this in turn means that you will need to adjust the baking time. The best thing to do is to check on your granola early on, and keep checking on it every few minutes.

The overall texture on your finished granola will also depend on the other ingredients used and their proportions. You can make porridge oats, but it may take a couple of attempts before you get the texture just right.

One thing we do NOT recommend however, is the use of steel-cut oats to replace your regular rolled oats in your granola recipes. This definitely will NOT work out as intended.

In Summary

As you can see, there are some key differences between porridge oats and rolled oats but it can be difficult to distinguish both in some cases. 

The main difference is that rolled oats are flattened under heavy rollers to help them absorb water or milk quickly. Porridge oats are cut or ground which leave an inconsistent mass of oats rather than rolled flakes.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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