Ah, oatmeal. It's the hearty grain that has recently undergone a transformation from grey mush to the ultimate carb-y base for any meal. When buying oats themselves, there are several kinds to choose from that each have their own distinct qualities.

Needless to say, making a decision can get pretty frustrating. Here's everything you need to know about the three types of oats so that you can choose the best for any recipe. 

Steel-Cut Oats

cereal, wheat, bread, sweet, flour
Celeste Robertson

These are the least processed of all the types of oats. The groat itself is simply cut into small pieces so that it almost resembles coarse sand. Because of this limited processing, steel-cut oats take longer to cook than normal... like, a lot longer. When prepared properly, these oats have a very dense and chewy texture. 

Steel-cut oats work best in soups, slow-cooker oatmeal recipes, or as a mock risotto to add a little more nutrition to your favorite meals. 

Rolled Oats 

cereal, wheat
Celeste Robertson

Rolled, or "old fashioned," oats are the most common and versatile variety. These are your OG oats. Your ride-or-die oats. They're more processed than steel-cut varieties, since the groats are steamed, rolled flat, and very lightly toasted. This allows them to cook up in only 5-10 minutes depending on the ratio of oats to liquid. 

Rolled oats are what most recipes are going to call for, so make sure to always have some on hand. They're perfect in cookies, breads, and as a breadcrumb substitute. Also, be sure to use rolled oats in any overnight oatmeal recipe for the best texture. 

Quick Oats

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Celeste Robertson

Known as quick, or "instant," oats, this variety cooks up in just a couple minutes because of its more extensive preparation process. The groat is precooked, dried, and rolled into what looks like smaller pieces of rolled oats. So watch out—quick oats are more susceptible to becoming the mushy mess everyone knows and hates. 

This is going to be the best option for when you have no time but still want a healthy breakfast, which is a struggle we all know too well. Try using them in recipes with oats to create a finer texture or grind them to make your own oat flour.

#SpoonTip: Ditch the sugary instant oatmeal packets and make them yourself for healthy and painless breakfast. 

Since the difference between the types of oats is determined by their degree of processing, all three varieties have the same nutritional benefits. Forty grams (1/2 cup of rolled and instant oats or 1/4 cup steel-cut oats) contains 5 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and only 150 calories. No matter what type you choose, oats are the king of nutritious and versatile pantry staples.