Using Oatmeal in Cookie Dough

When it comes to using oatmeal in cookie dough, your grocery aisle offers at least four different kinds: rolled oats (also called regular oatmeal or old-fashioned oats), quick oats (may be labeled quick-cooking oatmeal or quick oatmeal), instant oatmeal, and steel-cut groats (occasionally dubbed Irish oatmeal or simply groats.)

Sometimes the recipe specifies which type to use, as in “3 cups of quick oats.” But other times the recipe simply says, “3 cups of oatmeal” and you’re left to your own devices.

Which should you use in your cookie recipes?

Here is where it pays to know a little bit about the different types of oatmeal at your disposal.

Best Kinds of Oatmeal in Cookie Dough

Two kinds of oatmeal are the best in cookie dough recipes and can be used interchangeably.

  1. Rolled oats (also called old-fashioned oats) are oats that are dried, toasted, hulled, steamed, and flattened. Rolled oats give cookie dough a bumpier texture.
  2. Quick oats (or quick-cooking oats) are rolled oats that are further chopped and flattened. Quick oats give cookie dough a smoother texture than rolled oats.
Cookie Baking Tip: oatmeal in cookie dough with The Cookie Elf

On the other hand, you’ll want to steer clear of using instant oatmeal and steel-cut groats in cookie recipes.

Instant oatmeal has the same core ingredient as rolled oats and quick oats, but it is ground to a finer, even powdery texture. Sweeteners and flavors are also added to different instant oatmeal varieties. If you use instant oatmeal in cookie dough, you’ll change the texture (and even the flavor, if you use instant oatmeal other than plain.) Best tip: don’t use it unless a recipe specifies to do so.

Steel-cut groats are whole oats that have not been rolled or steamed. They are too coarse to use in cookies, but are best served as a breakfast cereal.

Oatmeal in Cookies: an Identity Crisis?

Oatmeal in cookie dough has a dual personality. It sits in two worlds, sometimes considered to be a dry ingredient (particularly if it is part of a bar cookie’s bottom layer or if the recipe calls for several cups of oats) – or an “add-in” ingredient to cookie dough, in the same league with chocolate chips or raisins.

Regardless, usually oatmeal is added near the end or even last because it’s got a lot of bulk. It thickens the cookie dough, making it harder to handle. 

Some recipes even tell you to add the oatmeal with a wooden spoon rather than with the electric mixer. Try both and see what works best for you.

What's Great about Oatmeal?

  • Oatmeal has more soluble fiber than most other whole grains.
  • The soluble fiber in oatmeal has been shown to lower cholesterol.
  • Oatmeal is higher in protein than most other grains, but it does not contain gluten.

Some Fun Oatmeal Trivia!

  • Oatmeal thrives in short growing seasons.
  • It has been a basic food in northern Europe for centuries.
  • In the U.S., oatmeal was considered to be horse feed until the mid-1800s. We have German immigrant Ferdinand Schumacher to thank for introducing oatmeal to the U.S. He began grinding it and selling it in his Akron, Ohio store in 1854 using a hand mill. Today, oatmeal is no longer simply considered horse feed, but is touted for its many health benefits.
  • January is National Oatmeal Month in the U.S.


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