Is Oatmeal a Good Substitute for Rice? | What You Should Know


Oatmeal is traditionally a breakfast food. However, in more recent years, many people have been exploring how to use them differently. Even though oats are usually in a sweet dish, like breakfast or dessert, it is possible to use them in savory dishes. But can they really be used in place of rice?

Oatmeal can be a good substitute for rice when used appropriately. Try swapping it into traditionally rice-based dishes like soups, casseroles, curries, or in Mexican/Asian “bowl” meals. Just be sure to avoid prepackaged instant oats since it has added ingredients that detract from its health benefits.

The rest of this article will cover how to correctly swap out rice for oats, what type of oats to use, and which dishes are best to try the substitution.

Can Oatmeal Be a Substitute for Rice?

Rice is a common grain found in many savory dishes like risottos, pilafs, casseroles, etc. However, it is known for being carb-heavy which isn’t very good for diabetics or those who want to go on a keto diet. While oatmeal still has carbs, people on restricted diets can use low-carb oatmeals.

When used to replace rice in certain dishes, Oats can still add that “fluff” or “fullness” that rice brings to those dishes. This is because oats puff out when they are cooked, and because they are usually pretty bland in flavor (just like rice), they can be altered with spices and other ingredients to really create something remarkable.

Substituting Oats for Rice in a Recipe

While oats make an unconventional swap for rice, how exactly is it done

Because oats can gain a sticker texture than rice when too much water is added, it is important to ensure that the ratio of liquid to oats is well-rounded. This will help with having a dish that isn’t overly soup or overly thick.

Pro Tip: A good rule of thumb is to use around 3/4 cups of oats to about 3 cups of water. Like rice, oats puff up and fill out when water is added, and as it sits in liquid, it absorbs the liquid.

Depending on the desired thickness of the oats, the water level of oats can be adjusted. However, this should be done with caution as oats can get really thick when sitting around.

Like rice, oats are considered a type of grain processed to become the flakes of oats that people associate with “oats.” Because it is also a grain, it can serve a purpose in more savory type dishes.

Best Type of Oatmeal to Substitute for Rice

As expressed before, using instant oats are never a good idea since they usually are packed with added sugar and other strange ingredients to preserve them.

However, steel-cut or rolled oats can be used in place of rice. In fact, they are what I recommend as a substitute due to its thickness. Moreover, it is considered one of the healthier cuts of oats.

What Is the Healthiest Oatmeal for You?

Oats are processed in a few different ways. Generally, you will see steel-cut, rolled, or instant oatmeal on the grocery store shelf.

Steel-cut oats are considered to be the healthiest type of oatmeal. They are chopped into pieces and are thicker and bigger than rolled oats or instant oats. Because of this, they are less processed, more wholesome, and considered better for you.

This stretches specifically to being heart-healthy and in the management of diabetes. While they will have a chewier texture, they still have an oaty taste to them and can be used in place of rice in recipes.

Best Dishes to Try Swapping Oats for Rice

Using oats in other meals besides breakfast might seem weird. However, in doing so, you could be adding some nutrients to your dishes. Below are some great ideas for what recipes to consider using oats over rice!

5 Recipes to Try Swapping Oats for Rice

1. Rice-based soups

Rice-based soups like gumbos, chicken and rice, or wild rice can totally benefit from having oats in them instead of rice. The oats can also act as a thickener for a more hearty type of soup.

The great thing is that oats don’t need as long to cook either, so the soup can be done more quickly.

2. Rice-based bowl meals

Eating stuff out of a bowl isn’t a new trend. However, more and more people are making the switch to bowls over carb-heavy tortilla shells or bread.

Because oats are plain in taste, they can be spiced up to represent rice in bowl meals. The great thing about using oats in this type of recipe is that the direction that the spices go is totally up to you. It could be an Asian-inspired miso dish or a spicy Mexican dish. Additionally, the topping options are endless; from veggies to chicken.

There’s a lot to choose from!

3. Rice-based Currie

Curries are known for their heavy, hot spices. Swapping out oats for rice here can really make a curry dish have an over-the-top flavor profile.

There are so many curry recipes out there that use rice as a base for the sauce. The melding of flavors that are created when preparing a curry sauce is a great way to use thickened, plain oats as a meal vessel.

4. Congee

Congee is a type of dish that uses rice and is like a really thick soup-like texture.

Generally, congee is served with various spices alongside meat or fish. It resembles porridge. However, porridge is known for being a sweet dish. In fact, congee could be considered the savory cousin of porridge.

Much like other rice dishes, the oats can be dressed up nicely to build on lots of flavors within this type of dish.

5. Rice-based casseroles

Casseroles are comfort food that has been around for ages. They are a quick way to toss together some tasty ingredients and cook up a large portion for lots of people.

The great thing about casseroles is that they can take on literally any shape or form. The list of ingredients to make a casserole is totally up to you or what’s in your pantry.

When thinking about swapping oats for rice in a casserole, consider a vegetable casserole. These will taste better with oats. Moreover, spices like garlic or onion can be added to the oats as well for flavor.

Casseroles also usually have cheese which can still be added to the casserole towards the end of the cooking time.

Health Benefits of Substituting Oats for Rice

Oats are well-known for their health benefits, so deciding to swap them in rice dishes can help people take advantage of the health perks! They are heart-healthy and can even reduce the risk of heart disease. Other benefits of oats include:

  • Maintaining blood sugar levels in diabetics
  • They are high in fiber and vitamins
  • They can aid in keeping a healthy weight
  • They are gluten-free and good for digestive health
  • They have antioxidants and minerals

All of these health benefits are the perfect reason to add more oats to a meal.

Final Bite

Using oats in place of rice might seem like a strange idea. However, it can be done and is definitely something worth trying out.

From the various health benefits to simply trying something new, savory oats can really add some flexibility and variety to your diet!

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss Is Oatmeal a Good Survival Food? How Should It Be Stored?

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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