Can I use steel cut oats without cooking?

Steel cut oats, also known as Irish oatmeal, are a less processed form of oats that take longer to cook than rolled or instant oats. The oats are cut into pieces rather than rolled flat. This results in a chewier, heartier texture when cooked. However, many people wonder if it’s possible to eat steel cut oats without cooking them first.

Quick Answers

Here are some quick answers to common questions about eating steel cut oats uncooked:

  • Yes, you can eat steel cut oats without cooking them first, but they will be harder and take more effort to chew.
  • Soaking steel cut oats in liquid or yogurt overnight can soften them and make them easier to eat uncooked.
  • Cold steel cut oat porridge can be made by soaking oats in milk or non-dairy milk overnight in the fridge.
  • Overnight oats with steel cut oats will have a pleasantly chewy texture, but may not soften fully like cooked oatmeal.
  • Uncooked steel cut oats can be used in recipes like energy bites, granola bars, and raw oatmeal cookies.
  • Steel cut oats have a lower glycemic index than rolled oats, so they may provide more steady energy over time.

Can You Eat Steel Cut Oats Without Cooking?

Yes, it is possible to eat steel cut oats without cooking them first. However, steel cut oats have an extremely hard, chewy texture when completely uncooked and dry. This can make them challenging to eat and properly digest when not cooked.

Steel cut oats contain layers of bran that are difficult to break down without the heat and moisture of cooking. The bran gives steel cut oats their characteristic chewy texture.

Unlike rolled or instant oats which are flattened or pre-cooked, steel cut oats retain their whole, groat-like shape. This makes them much harder and toothier to chew when completely raw and unsoaked.

Methods for Eating Uncooked Steel Cut Oats

While eating completely dry, uncooked steel cut oats is possible, there are methods for softening them to make them easier to enjoy without cooking:

  • Soaking overnight: Soaking the oats in liquid overnight can partially hydrate and soften them.
  • Cold oat porridge: Mixing steel cut oats with milk or non-dairy milk and chilling overnight results in a pleasantly chewy cold cereal.
  • Baking: Steel cut oats can be used uncooked in recipes like energy balls that are bound with wet ingredients and baked to set.
  • Blending: Quickly blending partially soaked steel cut oats can break them down while still retaining some texture.

Benefits of Eating Uncooked Steel Cut Oats

There are some potential benefits associated with eating steel cut oats uncooked:

  • Higher fiber content – Cooking can slightly reduce the soluble fiber content of oats.
  • Lower glycemic index – Uncooked oats may release energy more slowly due to increased chewing.
  • More textures – The chewy texture provides sensory appeal.
  • Preservation of nutrients – Less breakdown of sensitive vitamins and antioxidants from heat.

However, uncooked and soaked steel cut oats may not be as easily digestible or provide the same thick, creamy texture as cooked steel cut oatmeal. The nutritional benefits when soaked are likely comparable to cooked oats.

Best Methods for Preparing Uncooked Steel Cut Oats

If you want to prepare steel cut oats without cooking them, here are some of the best methods:

Overnight Oats

One of the most popular ways to enjoy uncooked steel cut oats is to make overnight oats. This involves soaking the oats in a liquid like milk or non-dairy milk overnight in the refrigerator so they soften and absorb fluid.

Mix 1/4 cup of steel cut oats with 1/2 to 3/4 cups of milk, yogurt, or milk alternative. Allow to soak in the fridge for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. The oats will soften significantly but still retain a pleasant chew.

You can add mix-ins like fruit, nuts, seeds, nut butter, or sweeteners to customize overnight steel cut oats. Some popular flavors are:

  • Blueberry, almond & cinnamon
  • Strawberry, chia seeds & vanilla
  • Banana, peanut butter & cocoa
  • Mango, coconut & lime

Cold Steel Cut Oat Porridge

For cold steel cut oat porridge, combine oats with your milk of choice just as with overnight oats. But instead of eating the oats chilled and wet, continue to let the mixture thicken and set in the fridge until it reaches a pudding-like consistency.

Stir and check the steel cut oat porridge every few hours as it thickens. This can take 8-24 hours. The oats will soften but still have a chewy bite. Top porridge bowls with fruit, nuts, seeds, or anything you crave!

Steel Cut Oat Energy Bites or Granola Bars

One way to enjoy the hearty texture of steel cut oats without cooking them is by incorporating them into homemade energy balls or granola bars. These are bound with sticky ingredients like nut butter and dried fruit.

Pulse the oats in a food processor to break them down slightly. Then combine with nut butter, honey or maple syrup, coconut flakes, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Shape into balls, bars, or squares and refrigerate until set.

Blended Steel Cut Oat Smoothies

You can make smoothies with uncooked steel cut oats too. First soak the oats for at least 30 minutes to soften them slightly. Then add the oats and soaking liquid to your blender along with fruit, yogurt, milk, juice, nut butter, or other smoothie ingredients.

Blending will help break down the steel cut oats while retaining some chewy texture. Add a dash of cinnamon for extra flavor. Smoothies are a great on-the-go breakfast option.

Tips for Eating Uncooked Steel Cut Oats

If you want to try having steel cut oats without cooking them, here are some helpful tips:

  • Always soak the oats in liquid or mix-ins to soften them before eating.
  • Give them plenty of time to soak – a minimum of 8 hours is best for full softening.
  • Mix in soft fruits or purees to make them easier to chew and digest.
  • Drink plenty of liquid to help wash them down and prevent choking hazards.
  • Chew very thoroughly to break down the oats before swallowing.
  • Stick to a small serving size if trying completely dry steel cut oats.
  • Add nut butters, oils or other fats to help lubricate the oats.

While results may not be exactly the same as cooked steel cut oatmeal, uncooked steel cut oats can provide a satisfying chewy breakfast when prepared properly.

Potential Downsides of Eating Uncooked Steel Cut Oats

Although eating steel cut oats without cooking has some benefits, there are also some potential downsides to keep in mind:

  • Difficult to chew and digest – can cause choking or discomfort if not sufficiently softened
  • Less palatable texture – cooking improves creaminess
  • Reduced nutrient absorption – especially minerals and phytochemicals
  • Higher glycemic response – more like whole oat groats than steel cut oatmeal
  • Grainy, dry mouthfeel if prepared without enough liquid
  • May cause or worsen digestive issues in some people
  • Harder to standardize serving sizes and calorie counts

As with any food, pay attention to how your body responds to uncooked steel cut oats. They may not suitable for some people, especially those with gastrointestinal conditions or difficulty chewing and swallowing.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, steel cut oats don’t necessarily need to be cooked to be edible. But soaking or preparing them properly makes them far more palatable and digestible when eaten uncooked.

While results vary by individual, soaking steel cut oats overnight, blending them into smoothies, or baking them into energy balls are easier ways to enjoy their pleasant chew without cooking them. Cold steel cut oat porridge also provides a unique textural experience.

Be sure to drink plenty of fluids and chew thoroughly when snacking on uncooked steel cut oats. Pay attention to your personal tolerance and aim for the preparation method that provides the optimal nutrition, enjoyment, and digestive comfort.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do steel cut oats take so long to cook?

Steel cut oats take longer to cook than rolled or instant oats because they are minimally processed. The oats are simply chopped into pieces rather than steamed and rolled thin. This means the starch granules and fiber in steel cut oats retain their rigid structure, requiring prolonged heat and moisture to fully hydrate and soften.

Do you have to cook steel cut oats?

No, you do not have to cook steel cut oats. However, cooking them makes them easier to chew and digest. Soaking steel cut oats overnight or preparing them in recipes that don’t require cooking are other ways to enjoy their texture without cooking.

Can I make overnight oats with steel cut oats?

Yes, you can use steel cut oats to make overnight oats. Simply combine the oats with your preferred liquid and refrigerate overnight. The steel cut oats will soften but still retain more chew than rolled oats overnight. Soak for at least 8 hours for best results.

Are steel cut oats considered raw?

Yes, steel cut oats can be considered raw if they are simply chopped but not exposed to any heating higher than 118°F, the definition of a raw food. Any form of cooking or baking will cause them to lose their raw status.

Can you eat steel cut oats before working out?

It’s best to avoid eating steel cut oats right before a workout. Uncooked steel cut oats should be soaked at least 2 hours to partially soften and become easier to digest. Cooked steel cut oatmeal is a better pre-workout choice for energy and nutritional value.


While steel cut oats really shine when prepared as a creamy, hearty hot cereal, they can also be enjoyed uncooked in ways like overnight oats, energy bites, and more. Soaking or blending helps reduce their intensely chewy texture.

Keep proper preparation techniques, chewing, and hydration in mind when eating raw steel cut oats. Pay attention to your personal tolerance, as some people handle them better than others. Ultimately it comes down to your own preferences for texture and convenience.

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