Steel Cut Oats Substitutes

Steel cut oats are a popular choice for a hearty, nutritious breakfast, known for their chewy texture and nutty flavor. Unlike rolled oats, steel cut oats are oat kernels that have been chopped into pieces rather than flattened. They are minimally processed, which contributes to their longer cooking time and coarser texture. While steel cut oats are favored by many for their health benefits and unique texture, sometimes you may need to find a substitute either due to dietary restrictions, personal preference, or simply because your pantry is missing this particular ingredient.

If you’re looking for an alternative to steel cut oats, a variety of options are available. Rolled oats are commonly used as they are more readily available and can be used cup for cup in recipes calling for steel cut oats. However, the cooking time and liquid ratios may need adjustment, considering rolled oats cook faster and have a softer texture when prepared. Additionally, other grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, or even instant oats can serve as substitutes in various recipes, from porridge to baking. It is crucial to consider the differences in texture and cooking times when substituting steel cut oats to achieve the desired result in your dish.

Understanding Steel-Cut Oats

Steel-cut oats are a distinctive variety of whole oat grains that you may consider a nutritious option for your breakfast or meal plans. Unlike rolled oats, which are steamed and flattened, steel-cut oats are produced by chopping whole oat groats into smaller pieces with a steel blade. This process results in a coarser, chewier texture and a richer, nuttier flavor.

In terms of nutritional value, steel-cut oats boast a high fiber content, contributing to a healthy digestive system. They are also a good source of protein, supporting muscle maintenance and growth. The fiber and protein duo in steel-cut oats helps in providing a feeling of fullness, potentially aiding in weight management.

Glycemic Index: Steel-cut oats have a lower glycemic index compared to other more processed oat varieties. This means they have a slower impact on your blood sugar levels, making them suitable for those managing diabetes and looking to maintain stable energy levels throughout the day.

Health Benefits:

  • High in soluble fiber, which can aid in lowering cholesterol levels.
  • Contains beta-glucans, known to boost heart health.
  • Provides essential nutrients, including iron, magnesium, and B vitamins, fostering overall well-being.

You’ll find that incorporating steel-cut oats into your diet not only enhances meal variety but also brings a multitude of health benefits attributable to their rich nutritional profile. Enjoy them as a warm, comforting cereal, or add them to savory dishes for added texture and nutrition.

Why Substitute Steel-Cut Oats?

Steel-cut oats offer a unique nutty flavor and chewy texture that distinguishes them from other types of oats. However, there are practical reasons you might need to find a substitute, ranging from cooking time to dietary needs.

Cooking Time Requirements

Steel-cut oats have a longer cooking time compared to other oats due to their minimal processing. If you’re short on time, substitutes like rolled oats or instant oats can offer a similar nutritional profile with significantly reduced cooking times.

  • Steel-cut oats: 15-30 minutes
  • Rolled oats: 2-5 minutes
  • Instant oats: 1-2 minutes

Dietary Restrictions

If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivities, ensuring your oats are gluten-free is crucial. While oats themselves are naturally gluten-free, cross-contamination is common. Look for substitutes that are certified gluten-free to avoid any health complications.

  • Certified gluten-free oats: Safe for celiac disease
  • Non-certified oats: Risk of gluten cross-contamination

Texture Preferences

The chewy texture of steel-cut oats doesn’t suit everyone’s palate or certain recipes. Substitutes like quick oats or rolled oats offer a softer texture which might better align with your texture preferences or the dish’s requirements.

  • Steel-cut oats: Chewy, coarse texture
  • Rolled oats: Softer, less chewy texture
  • Quick oats: Fine, mushy texture when cooked

Flavor Variations

Substitutes can offer different flavor profiles. While steel-cut oats have a robust, nutty flavor, other forms of oats can be milder, which might be preferable in some recipes where the oat flavor should not dominate.

  • Steel-cut oats: Nutty, pronounced flavor
  • Rolled oats: Milder flavor
  • Instant oats: Least pronounced flavor, more processed

Grain Substitutes for Steel-Cut Oats

In your culinary ventures, if you find yourself out of steel-cut oats, various grains serve as suitable substitutes. Each alternative brings its unique flavor, texture, and nutritional profile that can cater to your recipes and dietary preferences.

Rolled Oats

Rolled oats are steamed and then flattened, which allows them to cook quicker than steel-cut oats. They are a suitable substitute in most recipes due to their similar nutrient content, offering high levels of fiber and protein.

Quick Oats

Quick oats are processed even further than rolled oats, enabling them to cook faster. Although they have a softer texture, they can replace steel-cut oats, especially when a less chewy texture is desired.

Oat Groats

Oat groats are the whole oat kernel with just the hull removed. They’re dense and chewy, like steel-cut oats, and retain most oat nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals.


Quinoa is a gluten-free seed that behaves like a grain in cooking. It is a complete protein source, containing all nine essential amino acids, and its subtle nutty taste makes for a nutritious substitute.


Although unrelated to wheat, buckwheat is another gluten-free option. It’s rich in minerals and antioxidants, with a robust flavor that’s particularly good for adding a hearty quality to dishes.


Barley can mimic the chewy texture of steel-cut oats, though it takes longer to cook. It’s an excellent source of fiber and can add a pleasant nutty flavor to your meals.


Rice, particularly brown rice, is a versatile alternative to steel-cut oats with a different but equally satisfying texture. It’s less rich in protein, but it can provide nutrients like B vitamins and minerals.

Non-Grain Substitutes

When looking to substitute steel-cut oats in your recipes, non-grain alternatives such as chia seeds, amaranth, and millet can offer unique flavors and nutritional benefits. These substitutes can mimic the thickening quality of oats and provide a range of textures from creamy to crunchy.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are highly absorbent and develop a gel-like consistency when soaked in liquid. This property makes them an excellent thickening agent for puddings and smoothies. Their flavor profile is subtle, allowing them to blend well with various ingredients without overpowering the dish.

  • Flavor Profile: Neutral
  • Consistency: Gel-like when soaked
  • Nutrition: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein


Amaranth is a tiny seed that, when cooked, offers a porridge-like texture with a mildly nutty flavor. It’s a nutritious alternative that can add density to your meals while enhancing their nutritional profile.

  • Flavor Profile: Mildly nutty
  • Consistency: Porridge-like
  • Nutrition: High in protein, fiber, and micronutrients like magnesium and iron


Millet is a versatile seed that can be used in place of steel-cut oats to introduce a different consistency to your recipes. It provides a soft yet hearty bite and a subtle sweetness. Millet absorbs flavors and liquids well, making it suitable for both sweet and savory dishes.

  • Flavor Profile: Slightly sweet
  • Consistency: Soft with a slight crunch
  • Nutrition: Contains vitamins, minerals, and is a good source of fiber

Additional Substitute Considerations

When choosing substitutes for steel-cut oats, it’s important to consider how these alternatives will interact with other ingredients in your recipe. Texture and cooking time can vary greatly, so making the right adjustment is crucial for the success of your dish.

Savory Recipes

For savory dishes such as pilafs or stuffing, buckwheat groats are a good substitute. They emulate the nutty flavor and chewy texture of steel-cut oats, especially when toasted prior to simmering. Use a liquid-to-groat ratio of 2:1 and cook for about 15-20 minutes or until tender.

Sweet Recipes

In sweet applications like oatmeal or cookies, rolled oats can replace steel-cut oats despite their softer texture. Reduce cooking time by about 5-10 minutes for recipes that are stove-cooked. When baking, adjust the recipe by adding 10 to 15 extra minutes of baking time but keep an eye on your oven to prevent burning.

Baked Goods

For bread, muffins, and other baked goods, if you’re substituting steel-cut oats with rolled oats, remember they absorb liquid more quickly and create a softer texture. Measure the substitute on a one-to-one basis but start checking doneness a bit earlier than the original recipe calls for to avoid overly dry results.

Breakfast Bowls

Buckwheat can also be a delightful base for breakfast bowls. Its naturally gluten-free property and robust flavor make it an excellent replacement for steel-cut oats. Prepare buckwheat using the 2:1 liquid-to-groat ratio and serve with your favorite toppings, imitating the hearty meal typically achieved with steel-cut oats.

Measuring and Cooking with Substitutes

When you’re substituting steel-cut oats in your recipes, measuring the right quantity and adjusting cooking time are crucial for desired consistency and flavor. Here’s a concise guide to help you navigate this process.

Rolled Oats:

  • Measurement: Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing steel-cut oats with rolled oats.
  • Cooking Time: Reduce cooking time since rolled oats cook faster. For example, if steel-cut oats take 30 minutes, rolled oats will take about 5-10 minutes.


  • Measurement: Substitute quinoa 1:1 for steel-cut oats.
  • Cooking Time: Cook for about 15 minutes until the quinoa has absorbed the liquid and is tender.
  • Liquid: Increase the amount of liquid by roughly 25% as quinoa absorbs more liquid than oats.


  • Measurement: Use buckwheat groats in a 1:1 ratio to steel-cut oats.
  • Cooking Time: Cook for 10-15 minutes; buckwheat cooks relatively quickly.

When preparing overnight oats, these substitutes are also excellent. Simply mix your substitute with your preferred liquid and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. The ratio of liquid to oats/substitute should be 2:1 to ensure proper absorption.

For slow cooker recipes, it’s essential to use pre-cooked or quicker cooking alternatives like rolled oats, as they will maintain their texture better.

SubstituteMeasurementCooking TimeAdditional Liquid Needed?
Rolled Oats1:15-10 minsNo
Quinoa1:1~15 minsYes (25% more)
Buckwheat1:110-15 minsNo

Always consider the liquid specified in your original recipe and adjust as needed based on the substitute. Each alternative behaves differently; therefore, the end result may also have a varied texture and taste. Experiment with these substitutes to find your preferred option for various dishes.

Customizing Substitutes to Diet Needs

When searching for substitutes for steel-cut oats, it’s important to consider your specific dietary needs. Whether you’re adhering to a vegan lifestyle, seeking high-protein alternatives, or requiring gluten-free options, there are steel-cut oat substitutes that can cater to your preferences.

Vegan-Friendly Options

For a vegan diet, you can replace steel-cut oats with quinoa or buckwheat groats. Both are excellent choices as they are whole grains that mimic the nutty flavor and hearty texture of steel-cut oats. To prepare:

  • Quinoa: Rinse thoroughly and cook with a 2:1 water-to-quinoa ratio for about 15-20 minutes or until tender.
  • Buckwheat Groats: Toast lightly and simmer with a 2:1 liquid-to-groat ratio for about 15-20 minutes.

High-Protein Alternatives

If you’re looking for high-protein substitutes, consider steel-cut oats alternatives like quinoa or amaranth. Both grains pack a robust protein content compared to traditional oats, supporting muscle repair and growth. For preparation:

  • Quinoa: A pseudocereal with approximately 8 grams of protein per cup, cooked.
  • Amaranth: Similar to quinoa, with about 9 grams of protein per cup, cooked.

Gluten-Free Choices

Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities must avoid oats that aren’t certified gluten-free due to cross-contamination risks. Gluten-free substitutes for steel-cut oats include:

  • Certified Gluten-Free Old-Fashioned Oats: Provides similar nutritional benefits and can be used as a 1:1 substitute in recipes.
  • Certified Gluten-Free Steel-Cut Oats: Ensure they are labeled as such to avoid cross-contamination.

Use these substitutes in your recipes to match your dietary needs without compromising on nutrition or taste.

Enhancing Nutrition and Flavor

When substituting steel cut oats in your diet, you have the opportunity to not only match but also enhance the nutrition and flavor profile of your meals. By selecting the right ingredients, you can infuse your dishes with a diverse range of vitamins, minerals, and textures while maintaining or boosting their health benefits.

Nutritional Benefits: Opt for ingredients like quinoa or buckwheat to increase your intake of magnesium and B vitamins, which are vital for energy production and brain health. Adding nuts contributes healthy fats and vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant. Don’t forget to toss in some bananas or berries for a natural sweetener that also provides fiber to help regulate blood sugar.

Sweetening the Deal: If you’re aiming for a hint of sweetness, a drizzle of maple syrup can serve as a natural sweetener, offering a more nuanced taste than refined sugars. Maple syrup contains trace minerals like manganese, crucial for bone health and nutrient absorption.

NutrientsFood SourcesBenefits
FiberBananas, BerriesRegulates blood sugar
MagnesiumQuinoa, BuckwheatSupports muscle and nerve function
B VitaminsNuts, Whole GrainsEssential for energy production
Vitamin ENuts, SeedsAntioxidant; supports skin health
AntioxidantsBerries, NutsProtects cells from damage
ManganeseMaple Syrup, NutsImportant for bone health

Flavoring Your Choice: To enhance the nuttiness and texture that steel cut oats normally provide, consider flavoring your substitutes with a sprinkle of cinnamon or vanilla extract. These flavorings add depth and complexity to your meal without overwhelming the palate.

For a creamy texture, blend your oat substitute with a non-dairy milk until smooth. This technique works particularly well with substitutes like rolled oats, which are already similar in nutrition but can benefit from an improved texture and richness in your recipes. This method allows for the incorporation of a creamy consistency without compromising on health.

Remember that the goal is to enrich your meals, balancing taste with nutritional content. Each ingredient you add should contribute to your overall well-being while pleasing your taste buds.

Preservation and Storage Tips

When you invest in steel-cut oats, proper storage is crucial for maintaining their freshness and extending their shelf life. Typically, oats can last for 25+ years when stored correctly, making them an ideal staple for long-term sustenance.

In a Cool, Dry Place: Always store your steel-cut oats in a cool, dry area of your pantry. Extreme temperatures can degrade the quality, so look for a spot away from direct sunlight and heat sources.

Airtight Containers: Transfer your oats from their original packaging to airtight containers. This will impede the entry of moisture and odors, two components that can adversely affect your oats.

  • Glass jars with sealed lids
  • Metal containers with tight-fitting lids
  • High-quality plastic containers with snap-on lids

Oxygen Absorbers: Consider using oxygen absorbers in the containers. These small packets effectively remove oxygen from the air, significantly reducing the potential for spoilage and insect infestation.

Refrigerating or Freezing: If you anticipate not using your oats for an extended period, refrigerating or freezing can preserve their quality. To freeze:

  1. Distribute oats into portions suitable for single use.
  2. Place these portions into freezer bags.
  3. Remove as much air as possible before sealing.
  4. Label each bag with the current date.

By following these steps, you solidify the oats’ nutrients and taste for when you’re ready to enjoy them. Remember that anytime you intend to use your steel-cut oats, having them stored correctly will always result in a better, fresher final dish.

Frequently Asked Questions

When substituting for steel cut oats, you have different options depending on your dietary needs and the dish you are preparing. Below are specific answers to commonly asked questions on how to make these substitutions effectively.

What can I use as a low-carb substitute for steel cut oats in a keto diet?

For a low-carb, keto-friendly substitute, consider using seeds like chia or flax. They offer a similar texture when soaked and are rich in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

How can I replace steel cut oats in baking recipes?

In most baking recipes, you can replace steel cut oats with rolled oats. Keep in mind that rolled oats may cook faster and offer a softer texture, so you might need to adjust cooking times slightly.

Is it possible to use rolled oats instead of steel cut oats in making apple crisp?

Yes, you can use rolled oats as a substitute for steel cut oats in apple crisp. Rolled oats will result in a topping that’s less chewy and softer after baking.

What adjustments should I make when substituting rolled oats for steel cut oats in overnight oats?

When using rolled oats instead of steel cut oats for overnight oats, reduce the soaking time as rolled oats absorb liquid more quickly and will soften faster than steel cut oats.

How can I substitute rolled oats for steel cut oats when making cookies?

Substitute rolled oats for steel cut oats in a 1:1 ratio in cookie recipes for a softer bite. You may want to pulse the rolled oats in a food processor for a texture that’s closer to the original recipe with steel cut oats.

What are some alternative grains to oatmeal for those seeking variety in their diet?

Quinoa, barley, and buckwheat are great alternative grains that provide different flavors and textures as well as a variety of nutrients. They can be prepared similarly to oatmeal for a wholesome breakfast.

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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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