Why can’t you use quick oats in cookies?

Cookies are a classic baking recipe that is easy to make and enjoyed by many. The key ingredients in most cookie recipes include butter, sugar, flour, eggs, and sometimes extras like chocolate chips or nuts. One ingredient that does not belong in most cookie recipes is quick oats or instant oats.

The Difference Between Quick Oats and Old-Fashioned Oats

To understand why quick oats don’t work well in cookies, it helps to understand the difference between quick oats and old-fashioned oats. Quick oats, also sometimes called instant oats, have been pre-cooked and then rolled very thin. This process allows them to cook more rapidly when boiling water is added. Old-fashioned oats are made by steaming the whole oat groat and then rolling it to flatten it into an oat flake. Old-fashioned oats take longer to cook because they have not been pre-cooked.

The pre-cooking process for quick oats also partially gelatinizes the starch in the oats. This starch gelatinization allows the oats to absorb liquid and soften more quickly. However, it also changes the texture of quick oats so that they tend to be mushier than old-fashioned oats.

Texture Differences Between Quick Oats and Old-Fashioned Oats

The differences in processing methods impact the texture of quick oats vs. old-fashioned oats. Old-fashioned oats have a heartier, chewier texture, while quick oats are softer and mushier. This texture difference is why quick oats make sense for oatmeal, where you want the oats to soften and blend with liquid. But for baking, the hearty texture of old-fashioned oats is usually preferable.

In baked goods like cookies, retaining some texture from the oats is important. Cookies with old-fashioned oats will have a nice chewiness and a subtle crunch from the oats. If you substitute quick oats, you lose that hearty oat texture. Your cookies are more likely to turn out mushy instead of pleasantly chewy.

Absorption Differences Impact Moisture Levels

The pre-cooking process for quick oats also impacts how the oats interact with moisture compared to old-fashioned oats. Since quick oats are partially gelatinized, they absorb moisture more readily. So if you add them to a cookie dough, they will absorb more liquid than old-fashioned oats would. This can throw off the moisture balance in your cookie dough, resulting in a batter that is too wet.

Old-fashioned oats absorb less moisture, so they won’t throw off the moisture balance in quite the same way. This means your cookies are less likely to spread too much and become flat or tough. So for the right texture in baked goods like cookies, old-fashioned oats are the better choice.

Quick Oats May Lead to Excess Spreading

The high absorption capacity of quick oats doesn’t just change cookie texture – it can also change cookie shape. The extra moisture absorption can make your cookie dough much more fluid. As a result, your cookies are likely to spread out of shape while baking.

If you use a comparable volume of old-fashioned oats instead, your dough will retain a thicker, more moldable consistency. Your scooped dough will hold its shape better during baking rather than spreading all over your baking sheet.

Old-Fashioned Oats Give Better Cookie Shape

Controlling cookie spread helps ensure you get the classic cookie shape you expect. Round mounds of dough baked into disks, or log shapes of dough baked into bar cookies. Using old-fashioned oats helps lock in that dough shape for neater, more uniform cookies.

Quick oats may cause your cookies to spread out too thin and wide. And edges may spread unevenly, so you get misshapen cookies without the classic shape you want. For best results, opt for old-fashioned oats to achieve better cookie shapes.

Quick Oats Impact Cookie Texture

We’ve explored how quick oats can lead to issues with moisture levels and cookie spread. But even if you manage to get evenly shaped cookies from a quick oat dough, the texture still may be off.

The soft and mushy quality of quick oats carries over into the finished baked good. Cookies made with quick oats tend to have a pasty, gummy texture. They lack the pleasant, subtle crunch of old-fashioned oats.

For a nice balance of chewiness and crunch, choose old-fashioned oats. Their heartier texture stands up to baking and creates a nicer overall mouthfeel.

Flavor Differences Between Oat Types

Beyond texture differences, old-fashioned and quick oats can also impact cookie flavor. Quick oats tend to have a blander flavor because of how they are processed and pre-cooked.

Many cookie bakers specifically seek out that hearty, nutty oat flavor in their oatmeal cookies. Using old-fashioned oats helps bring out the classic oat taste people expect and enjoy.

Old-Fashioned Oats Have Better Oat Flavor

So if you want the pleasant graininess and oat flavor that makes oatmeal cookies so comforting, reach for old-fashioned oats instead of quick oats. With a less processed product that better retains oat flavor, you get a cookie with more complex, nuttier taste.

While quick oats can seem convenient, they don’t work as well for bringing out real oat flavor. Sticking with old-fashioned oats makes a noticeable difference in the final cookie flavor.

How to Substitute Quick Oats

If you don’t have old-fashioned oats on hand, you may be tempted to substitute with quick oats. However, as we’ve covered, this can significantly alter the moisture, texture, shape, and taste of your cookies.

To modify a cookie recipe that calls for old-fashioned oats, you can try reducing the liquid ingredients slightly. This may help account for the higher absorption capacity of quick oats. Start by reducing liquids like milk or water by a few tablespoons.

You can also add a bit more flour to account for the added moisture. Try adding 1-2 tablespoons of flour at a time until your dough reaches the right consistency. The adjustments needed will vary based on your specific recipe.

Better to Wait and Use Old-Fashioned Oats

However, even with tweaks to balance moisture, the texture and shape issues may persist when using quick oats. Your cookies may still spread too much or have a gluey texture.

Rather than try to adapt a recipe and potentially end up with subpar cookies, it’s better to wait until you have old-fashioned oats. A little patience will reward you with ideal oatmeal cookies that look and taste their very best.


While quick oats and old-fashioned oats come from the same grains, how they are processed makes them suited for different uses. Quick oats become soft and mushy which works well for oatmeal but negatively impacts baked goods like cookies. Using quick oats can lead to issues with moisture, shape, texture, and flavor.

For the best results when baking oatmeal cookies, old-fashioned oats are a must. They retain the hearty oat texture that gives cookies a nice chew. The oat flavor also comes through better compared to quick oats. Though they take a few minutes longer to cook, old-fashioned oats are worth the wait for delicious homemade cookies with great flavor and texture.

Rather than compromise with quick oats, seek out old-fashioned oats for your next cookie recipe. Have patience for the best outcome of perfectly chewy oatmeal cookies that you’ll be proud to serve and enjoy.

Oat Type Texture Moisture Absorption Flavor
Quick Oats Soft, mushy High absorption Bland
Old-Fashioned Oats Chewy, hearty Lower absorption Nutty, rich oat flavor

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are quick oats bad for baking?

Quick oats lead to a mushier texture in baked goods like cookies. Their thin flakes and pre-gelatinized starch absorb more moisture, resulting in excessive spread and a gluey mouthfeel. The flavor of quick oats also comes across as less pronounced.

Can you use quick oats in cookie recipes?

It’s not recommended to swap quick oats for old-fashioned oats in cookie recipes. The changes in moisture, shape, and texture will negatively impact the final results. Cookies made with quick oats often spread too much and lack the chewy texture of old-fashioned oats.

Do you have to use thick rolled oats for baking?

Yes, thick rolled oats, also called old-fashioned oats, are best for baking. Their heartier, less processed texture lends itself well to recipes like oatmeal cookies and other baked goods. The thickness helps retain the cookie shape while baking.

Can I substitute quick oats for old fashioned?

You can try substituting quick oats for old-fashioned oats in baking recipes, but the results may be less than ideal. To compensate for the extra moisture absorption, you can try reducing the liquid ingredients slightly. Adding a little more flour may also help achieve the right dough consistency.

Should oatmeal cookies be chewy or crispy?

Oatmeal cookies are generally best when they are chewy but have a slight crispness from the oats. Using old-fashioned oats helps achieve this texture. Too much moisture or overbaking will lead to a crispy cookie rather than the ideal chewy oatmeal texture.

Key Takeaways

  • Quick oats become mushy when baked, unlike the chewy texture old-fashioned oats provide.
  • Quick oats absorb more moisture, leading to issues with excessive cookie spread.
  • Old-fashioned oats hold their shape better for nicely shaped cookies.
  • Old-fashioned oats have a hearty, nutty flavor compared to bland quick oats.
  • It’s best to use old-fashioned oats rather than trying to adapt a recipe for quick oats.

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