The subject of the rawness of steel-cut oats  recently came up on the frugalraw mailing list .  It got me thinking, and I ended up spending a couple of hours roaming the Internet and learning quite a bit about oats, commercial oat production, oat farming, and oat sprouting.

As much of what I learned was eye-opening, I’ve decided to include the results of my research here, in an expanded form of my original post to the mailing list.

Are steel cut oats raw? Good question!  I googled oats and steel cut oats, and found that most sources tend to pussy-foot around the issue.

Wikipedia states that hulled oats ” pass through a heat and moisture treatment to balance moisture, but mainly to stabilize the groat. Oat groats are high in fat (lipids) and once exposed from their protective hull, enzymatic (lipase) activity begins to break down the fat into free fatty acids, ultimately causing an off flavor or rancidity. Oats will begin to show signs of enzymatic rancidity within 4 days of being dehulled and not stabilized. This process is primarily done in food grade plants, not in feed grade plants. An oat groat is not considered a raw oat groat if it has gone through this process: the heat has disrupted the germ, and the oat groat will not sprout.”

Does this mean that oat groats and steel-cut oats which are sold as food products raw or not? says “Just as with all types of prepared oats, steel cut oats are made from oat grains that have been hulled and steamed. Generally the finished oat groats that are destined for preparation as steel cut oats are also roasted, helping to release an enhanced flavor in the oat groats.”

Companies which produce and package oats and steel cut oats do not say that their oats are a raw product.  The closest that any such company comes, per my research, is McCann’s claim that other companies’ oats undergo extensive heat processing, which affects the flavor.  McCann’s does not state, however, that their product is *not heat processed*)

Bob’s Red Mill, which offers both flax seed meal (known to go rancid quickly) and steel-cut oats, cautions consumers to keep the flax meal refrigerated for freshness, but does not offer similar advice for its steel-cut oats (what does this say?) lists “Oat Groats Raw Organic” but says “These are NOT oats for oat grass.”  (and why not?  This statement does beg the question.) lists oats for growing oatgrass “these are the same seeds we sell for Oat Sprouts.  Hulless Oats do not usually grow a great crop of grass.”  Under the listing for sprouting seed, “hulless Nebraska oats” are listed as “Hulless, tender and very quick to sprout. These are a wonderfully tender grain with a mild sweetness. Raw, not cooked, not heated, not hulled.”  The claim is very clear, here, however confusing — if these oats are not hulled, how are they hulless?

The question of how those Nebraska oats got to be hulless is answered, at length, in Katherine Czapp’s article “Naked Oats”, on the Weston A. Price Foundation site , which suggests that “hulless oats” (avena nuda, as opposed to the more common avena sativa) were once commonly grown in America:

“Naked oats, so called because the kernels thresh free of the hulls, have been grown for centuries ….can also be easily used as porridge or other food for humans.

The nutrition profile of naked oats is quite impressive, with contributions rich in minerals and vitamins and a fat content rivaling that of corn, along with high-quality protein similar to that found in soybeans…… Naked oats also supply unsaturated fatty acids that contribute to the production of higher quality eggs, milk and meat products.”

This article also tells us that early colonists  grew “silpee”, also known as “pilcorn” and “peelcorn” (avena nuda), which they sometimes referred to as “corn,” both to feed their livestock and to make the traditional Scottish porridge “sowens.”, an on-line organic seed supplier, says of its avena nuda  (listed as hulless oats) “produces oats without a thick hull, easy process [sic]  for home use. ”

TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT:  If your steel-cut oats have been made from “naked oats”, then they may well be raw.  If the oat groats you buy are from “naked oats”, then they may well be raw.  Pointedly ask your supplier/food market if the oats you are interested in buying can be sprouted.   If your oats are from “avena sativa”, the most commonly available oats in America and Europe, their rawness must be suspect. If this concerns you, you should track down the producer and pin them down to a specific yes/no answer on the question of heat-processing.



  1. an observation about Bob’s Red Mill and the refrigeration of flax seed v. steel cut oats.
    Flax is high in oils/fats which, raw and unstabilized, go rancid. Nut and seed oils are delicate this way.
    Oats are very low in fat (present in the germ only and then in very small quantities) so they are less susceptible. Whole wheat has about the same oil/fat content as whole oats and will keep in a dark, cool place for @6 months to a year without issue.
    But they can go rancid if left in too warm a place or for too long. And they don’t taste good then. 😉

    MY NOTE: Yes, raw nuts and seeds are high in fats/oils, but this is a good thing (actually, a recent study on military fighter pilots found that pilots on a high-fat diet remained more alert than those on low-fat diet with a similar calorie count.) The human body needs fats to form healthy cell-walls. Some researchers have suggested that low-fat diets may be responsible, at least in part, for the increase in dis-eases and allergies, such as MS, fibromyalgia, and environmental allergies. Freezer storage of ground flax seeds, and storing whole flax seeds,and other raw nuts and seeds, in a cool dark area help prevent rancidity. Of course, as with any foodstuff, it is advisable to use raw nuts, seeds, and grains as soon as possible, i.e., if you know that you are not going to use 3 lbs of almonds in a month, then, regardless of the sale price, it is advisable to get a smaller amount, and replace it once it is has been used. The way I think of it is the same as how you handle fresh vegetables: get only those you can use or preserve before they go bad. I buy whole flax seeds and grind them as I need them, because the whole seeds store a good bit longer.

    Yes, oats are low in fat, but this does not mean that they are not subject to rancidity any less than are other grains. The problem is in the type of oats, as I mentioned in my post. The only commercial ones which are viable, i.e., really raw, are the “nude oats”, which are not used in common oat preparations, such as rolled and cut oats.
    Wheat berries will store for a good while in a cool, dark, dry environment, but what are you going to be using them for? If you are making wheat sprouts, okay. If you are making rejuvelac, okay. Otherwise, there are very few uses for wheat, regardless of its properties. On the other hand, flax seeds, because of their gelatinous property, are useful in making many popular raw food dishes. There is really no substitute for them, and they do provide massive amounts of Omega 3 fats, to boot.

  2. Cayuga Pure Organics offers raw whole locally grown organic oat groats. We have a variety that, when harvested, does not have a hull. This means that, unlike most whole oats, they can be stored without steaming or roasting. We are at Union Square on Wednesdays and at other Greenmarkets during the week. See our website for all of our locally-grown organic products.

  3. Sorry, forgot to specifically mention that our oat groats are raw

  4. From Bob’s Red Mill Customer Service:
    None of our oat products are raw. They are all stabilized at 200°F for 4-5 hours to stabilize the enzyme. A raw oat will only live for about 72 hours, which is why it’s unlikely that you’ll find raw oats on the market unless you purchase them directly from a farmer.

    Please let me know if you have any further questions.

    Kind regards,


    Customer Service

    Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, Inc.

  5. Check out my post about where to find raw rolled oats. I found that “un-steamed” oats were really hard to find so I put a few links together… Hope it helps!

  6. sells cold rolled oats, which are raw according to them.

  7. Fantastic Post!! Many people have no idea and happily eat the hyper processed oats thinking it to be raw. We order our oat groats from Speerville Flour Mill in NB Canada – if you catch them the end of November beginning Dec. they will ship you the unheated Groats. We buy it in 22 pound bags which seem to keep several months in the fridge.

  8. Pingback: Oatmeal raw | Johnbyk

  9. Quite insightful. I didn’t know hulless oats were also called “naked oats.” I just found some at Jaffe Bros (raw, organic) for an affordable price, so I’m looking forward to trying them out next week!

  10. Check our our website – We currently have whole raw oats and will have raw rolled and steel-cutd oats within a few months – as soon as we are able to rebuild after our May 30 fire. If you would like to contribute to that effort, please visit
    Raw oats will keep for months in a cool environment. The primary reason that oats are steamed or roasted is because corporate agriculture needs to have them shelf-stable for years. Once you taste raw oats in any form, you will never want to go back. It is a myth that roasting improves the flavor

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