Before cereal grains are processed into their more recognizable forms, they are considered Groats. In this post, I’ll give you an overview of groats, take a look at the different varieties, and provide you with helpful information to purchase, prepare, and enjoy these delicious gluten-free whole grains.
Groats are the whole-grain kernels of various cereal grains including barley, wheat, rye, and oat. As a whole grain, groats retain the germ, bran, and endosperm after being hulled, a process that removes its outer covering, called the husk or hull. The discarded husks and hulls are sometimes referred to as chaff.
The word groat was originally a Scottish word that referred specifically to whole oat groats. However, it’s now used to refer to any unprocessed grain, from oat kernels to brown rice. Given that they’re not processed, groats retain the complete nutritional value of the grain and have a hearty, chewy texture even after cooking.
Parts of a Grain
The three main parts of a groat are the bran, germ, and endosperm.
The bran is the outer layer of the grain and the most nutritious part of the grain because it is incredibly high in dietary fiber. The germ is the core of the grain where other vitamins and minerals are stored, and the endosperm is the starchy kernel of the grain that’s usually used for milling.
Given that all the parts of a grain contain vital nutrients, groats are incredibly healthy. I’ll take a closer look at the nutritional breakdown of groats later in this post.
What Do Groats Taste Like?
While all three parts of the grain make groats nutritious, they also give them a harder, more chewy texture than most grains. For this reason, groats cannot be eaten without first being steamed or soaked, although the cooking time will vary based on the grain.
Just as with other types of grains, groats have a subtle nutty flavor on their own and absorb the flavor of the dish into which they’re added.
If you want to really draw out the natural flavor of your groats, you can toast or roast them slightly before adding them to your dish, but that’s not a necessary step in the preparation process for every home cook.
Varieties of Groats
There are three main types of groats: oat groats, wheat groats, and barley groats. Buckwheat, although not technically a grain, can also come in the form of buckwheat groats. Let’s take a closer look at each specific type of groat!
If you’ve ever had steel-cut or Irish oats, then you’ve basically had oat groats. Steel-cut oats are simply oat groats that have been sliced two or three times so that they cook faster, especially over the stovetop. Similarly, Scottish oats are finely ground oat groats.
Oat groats are really chewy and make the perfect addition to pilafs, hot cereals, and stews, like my Instant Pot beef stew. Not to mention, whole grain oat groats are gluten-free, so they’re a great staple for anyone with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Wheat groats are also known as wheat berries and bulgur. Wheat groats can be used as a substitute for other grains such as quinoa in recipes like my vegetarian stuffed acorn squash.
Barley groats are also known as hulled barley and have a similar nutty flavor to oat and wheat groats. They are slightly thicker than oat and wheat groats, so they are more often used in savory dishes like beef barley stew and chicken barley soup.
Sometimes the word groat is used to describe buckwheat in its whole kernel form. Although buckwheat isn’t technically a grain, it is a seed with very grain-like qualities and is cooked similarly to grains.
Are Groats Healthy?
Groats of all kinds are the healthiest form of the grain because they contain all three parts of the grain and have undergone no form of processing, such as rolling or pressing.
Aside from being packed with fiber, the bran also contains antioxidants and B vitamins. We need B vitamins because they improve our cell health, energy level, and brain functioning.
The germ of the grain contains more B vitamins along with protein, healthy fats, and other minerals like calcium and magnesium. Specifically, the grain germ contains polysaccharide fats, which the body cannot produce on its own, meaning that you must get it from food. I know it sounds crazy to call them “healthy” fats, but polysaccharide fats can help lower bad cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
The final part of the grain, the endosperm, is the starchy center, which means that it’s high in carbohydrates. It’s estimated that starchy foods should make up just over a third of your diet, and eating whole grain starches is a great way to get those carbohydrates and fiber in one meal.
How to Cook Groats
The usual preparation process for groats involves first soaking the groats to soften them and then simmering the groats to cook them through.
As with all grains, the process differs slightly for each groat variety, so it’s a good idea to check out the specific package instructions to make sure you’re soaking and simmering your groats for the right amount of time.
How to Cook Oat Groats
In order to cook oat groats, you can soak them overnight before you boil them to make the cooking process quicker and make them a little less chewy. This, of course, is totally optional and not always necessary.
- Bring two quarts of water to a boil in a pot with one teaspoon of salt. The salt is there purely to add a little flavor, so if you’re trying to eat a low sodium diet, you can hold off.
- Add one cup of rinsed oat groats to the water and allow the water to return to a boil. Once the water is boiling again, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot.
- Let them cook for about 30 minutes, or until they reach the desired consistency, then drain off any remaining cooking liquid.
Slow Cooker Method:
- Add one cup of rinsed oat groats, one teaspoon of salt, and four cups water to a slow cooker.
- Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours, or on low for 5-6 hours. Stir occasionally.
- Drain any remaining cooking liquid and serve.
Pressure Cooker/Instant Pot Method:
- Place one cup of rinsed oat groats, one teaspoon of salt, and three cups of water in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Seal lid and set valve to the sealing position.
- Cook on manual, high pressure for 14 minutes. Quick-release.
- Drain any remaining cooking liquid and serve.