Let's talk about Porridge vs. Oatmeal. Are they the same thing? Oatmeal and porridge are versatile and nutritious foods that have been a staple in various cultures for centuries. But what are they made of? And how to serve them? Here are all the answers to your questions.
Consider this your ultimate guide to this popular hot breakfast cereal enjoyed all over the world.
What is porridge?
Porridge refers to a dish made from grains, cereals, or legumes, including oats, wheat, rice, or barley. Scientists estimate that porridge was first made 32,000 years ago! Porridge is usually a healthy breakfast dish, but people eat porridge at other times of the day, too. It is full of fiber and nutrients like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Boil porridge in a liquid (usually water or milk) and serve it hot, stirring through toppings like nuts, fruit, and honey.
You can also cook porridge with a pinch of salt and top it with savory items like cheese, mushrooms, eggs, or beans.
What is oatmeal?
Oatmeal is a breakfast dish made from oats (or Avena sativa), which is a gluten-free whole grain. Oatmeal is a type of porridge made from rolled, ground, or flattened oats. So oatmeal is always porridge, but porridge is not always oatmeal.
People often enjoy oatmeal for breakfast. Instant mixes are prepared in minutes in the microwave and ready to eat instantaneously. It's a healthy fast food! Top oatmeal with nut butter, berries, and other items like chia seeds for a tasty and wholesome start to the day. Alternatively, boil oats in a liquid such as water or milk until oatmeal reaches your desired texture, and enjoy warm.
Overnight oatmeal is another way to enjoy oats. What's more, the oats actually retain more nutrition when prepared this way. Overnight oats are easier to digest and do not lose nutrients through boiling.
Porridge vs. Oatmeal - Similarities
So oatmeal is always porridge, but porridge is not always oatmeal.
Oatmeal and porridge both have their origins in Northern Europe but are now enjoyed all over the world. They have the same cooking method and a relatively similar texture, which is halfway liquid and solid.
The health benefits of porridge and oatmeal are also similar. They are both high in fiber and carbohydrates and come with other gains like minerals and vitamins. Eat porridge or oatmeal for breakfast, and you will feel fuller for longer and enjoy better gut health and energy levels.
It is common to add flavors like mashed banana, honey, nuts, and fruit to both oatmeal and porridge as their natural flavor is quite plain. Stir these toppings and flavors into your porridge or oatmeal before serving.
But be cautious, as over-stirring both oatmeal and porridge can cause an overproduction of starch, which results in a sticky, stodgy dish.
Porridge vs. Oatmeal - Differences
As I have stated earlier, oatmeal is a type of porridge, but oatmeal is only made using oats. Oatmeal differs from porridge as it only contains this one ingredient plus the cooking liquid and flavorings. You can use many grains, cereals, or legumes to make porridge. But you can only use oats to make oatmeal.
Seeds, grains, cereals, and legumes can all be flattened into flakes to make porridge. Therefore, porridge will taste different depending on the ingredients used. Porridge often contains gluten, so is not always safe for those with dietary restrictions to eat.
By contrast, oatmeal porridge is always gluten-free, and the taste is more consistent. Oats have a mild, subtle flavor and nutty undertones. There are different types of oats that you prepare differently, which can alter the texture. For example, if you use larger oats, you will achieve a chewier, chunkier texture.
Porridge vs. Oatmeal - Regional differences
A common breakfast in the UK and other parts of Northern Europe will certainly involve porridge, made with milk and topped with brown sugar. In Canada and North America, breakfast is likely to involve oatmeal. In fact, one in five Americans eat oatmeal.
Furthermore, many places worldwide enjoy porridge regularly. Arguably, the other most well-known porridge is congee or Chinese rice porridge. Congee is a hugely popular Asian rice porridge that is more often served savory. People cook congee by simmering rice in a significantly larger amount of water than what's used for regular rice preparation. The rice disintegrates, thickening the water to a pudding-like consistency. Because it's easily digestible and often contains soothing ginger, caregivers often give it to people when they're ill.
Then the Egyptians make Belila, a porridge crafted from pearl wheat, by cooking it in a light syrup with anise seed and golden raisins. They serve it with chopped toasted nuts and a splash of milk.
Moving to Scandinavia, Norwegians prepare Bygggrøt by boiling barley, milk or water, salt, and butter together. After a few minutes of cooking, the mixture is poured onto a plate. Sugar and cinnamon are sprinkled on top, and a piece of butter is added in the center. Then, Kasha is a Russian porridge made from buckwheat, often served with apples, cinnamon, and other toppings.
Then there's Helmipuuro, made from potato starch in Finland, and asaro, made from yams in Nigeria; the list of porridges goes on and on.
Certainly, one could say that porridge is a truly global dish! Its gift is its versatility and the fact it is a low-cost food item that is healthy and easy to prepare.
Types of Porridges
Oatmeal is just one type of porridge. Sometimes, the name of the type of porridge refers to its ingredients, like cornmeal. Cornmeal is a type of porridge made from corn instead of oats. It is called polenta in Italy; you may have tried it!
You may have heard of grits and gruel, which are two older types of porridge. Gruel is a very thin, watery porridge recipe popularised in Victorian England (ever read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens?). Grits originated with Native Americans in the 16th century and are made from dent corn. You will often find grits served in southern US states like Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia.
Types of Oats
Oat groats are raw oats, and you can process them in different ways. You must cook groats to enjoy them, or they are indigestible. But it takes some time to do so. Groats have a chewy texture and nutty flavor.
If you process groats, you can make other types of oats. The other types of oats are steel-cut oats or Irish oats, Scottish oats, rolled oats or old-fashioned oats, quick-cooking oats, and instant oats.
Different types of oats have different flavor and texture. Baked goods recipes containing oats are more nutritious and have added texture, like my oatmeal craisin cookies. Certainly, the best oats for baking are quick-cooking oats, and they also produce the creamiest oatmeal when making breakfast.
Which is better porridge or oatmeal?
Some people prefer oatmeal, and some prefer porridge. It is purely down to personal preference. However, oatmeal is better for those with gluten intolerance because it is naturally gluten free.
Oatmeal and porridge have similar texture and flavor. Nutritionally, both porridge and oatmeal are packed with health benefits. What's more, you can maximize this by adding fruits, nuts, seeds, and other healthy toppings. Toppings for porridge and oatmeal elevate them to new heights and really make a difference.
Whichever you prefer, porridge and oatmeal are very versatile dishes. Furthermore, there are both sweet and savory porridge dishes to try. Check out some oatmeal recipes and porridge recipes to find your favorite.
Porridge vs. Oatmeal FAQs
Quick-Cooking Oats will give you the creamiest oatmeal from the different types of oats.
Porridge and oatmeal are both inherently healthy food dishes with many nutritional benefits of equal benefit. Many individuals enjoy starting their day with oatmeal because it provides a wholesome and filling meal.
Eating porridge comes with many benefits to your health. Porridge can help manage cholesterol levels, improve gut health and digestive function, and can also help weight management by making you feel full for longer. Oatmeal helps to lower blood sugar levels and also contains fiber, protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Oatmeal also contains many vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B1 and B6, manganese, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Boil oats in water or milk (dairy, nut, or other) until it reaches your desired consistency. Then, top with items including nuts, brown sugar, fruit, honey, and yogurt.