Home » Best Oats for Long-term Storage: Survival Pantry

Best Oats for Long-term Storage: Survival Pantry

When choosing the best oats for long-term storage it is important to point out that all types of oats are not equal but they are an awesome addition to your emergency pantry because they are a cornerstone survival food, excellent for food shortages and fighting famine.

Rolled Oats are the best oats for long-term storage because they have the longest shelf life. Rolled oats, also known as old-fashioned oats will store for 30 years if packaged in a sealed oxygen-free container such as a #10 can or a Mylar bag.

Oats were a staple of Roman legions and Scottish Highlanders. A proven high-protein staple that is flexible and easy to prepare. Next, lest examine the different types of oats and how long they last in storage.

Chart #1 Best Oats For Long-term Storage

Oat Type
Store Bought Packaging
In Sealed Oxygen-free Container, #10 Can, Mylar, or Food-grade buckets
Oat Groats/Oat grain/ KernelThe whole Oat kernel with the husk removed9 to 12 months, 2 years unopened10-15
Steel- Cut Oats/Irish/Pinhead/Coarse OatsGroats cut into pieces with a steel blade9 to 12 months,
2 years unopened
10 to 30
(This is controversial and depends on the moisture and oil content of grain)
Rolled Oats/Old Fashioned/Whole Groats are steamed, rolled, flattened, and dried into flakes9 to 12 months, 2 Years unopened30 years if stabilized with steam and toasted
Instant/Quick OatsProcessed like rolled oats but for a longer period 9 to 12 months, 2 years unopened30 Years (if repackaged) Doesn’t include prepackaged instant oatmeal with flavoring(s)
Scottish Oats/ Scottish Porridge Oats/ Oat FlourGroats milled or ground into flour3 months5 Years
Flavored Instant/
Pre-packaged with spices and flavoring(s)
Prepackaged oats like Quaker cinnamon and Spice6 to 9 Months6 to 9 Months inside store packaging
What differentiates the different types of oats is the amount of processing.

Next up, stabilized rolled oats are the best for long-term storage.

rolled oats

Stabilized Rolled Oats Have the Longest Shelf-life

For maximum shelf-life store rolled oats stabilized with steam because steam processing stabilizes lipase fats that naturally occur in oats and increases shelf-life.

Natural unstabilized oats don’t have a longer shelf-life if stored in an oxygen-free container, the fats still go rancid, and the oats will only last about 3 months. Compare that to stabilized oats that will keep for 30 years.

Most commercially sold oats come stabilized. However, if you purchase oats in bulk, the spec sheet should tell you how the oats are processed. If in doubt, contact the seller.

Below is a description of a 50lb bag of oats for sale on the internet

Production: the raw groat is separated from its out hull by centrifugal acceleration and winnowing. It is then steamed in preparation for rolling into flakes of various thicknesses, and finally, kiln-dried…to reduce moisture levels to assure long shelf life.

Information compliments of Essential Organics

6 Forms of Oat With Pictures: Long-term Storage

Oats in the field
Oats take approximately 60 days before they are mature enough to harvest.
Oat Groats
Oat Groats are the entire kernel of the grain with the husk removed. When cooked, they are less mushy and are the consistency of cooked rice.
Steel Cut Oats
Steel-cut oats are groats cut into several pieces with steel blades. This is my favorite way to eat oats.
Rolled Oats
Groats are steamed, rolled, flattened, and dried into flakes. This type of oat has the most extended shelf-life if stored in O2-free containers.
Quick Oats
This is the same process used to make rolled oats, but quick oats are processed longer. To process, groats are steamed, rolled, flattened, and dried into flakes.
Scottish Oats
Oats are milled or ground into flour. When cooked, it eats like porridge. This is the least favorable method for long-term storage. Avoid storing any grains, pre-milled or ground, as flour. It drastically reduces shelf-life.

Why Do Rolled Oats Store Longer?

Rolled and unflavored instant oats last the longest because of how they are processed. Steaming, rolling, and toasting remove the oils and moisture that lead to early spoilage.

When oats are stabilized (steamed and toasted) and stored in oxygen-free containers with oxygen absorbers, they have a 30+ year shelf-life. Also, bugs in all life stages, egg, pupae, and adult, will be killed within 2 weeks.

How long will Oat Groats Store in Long-term storage?

Oat groats are a great choice for long-term storage. I prefer eating the whole oat groat or steel-cut oats to rolled oats. There is much flavor and texture, but you won’t get the max-shelf life.

Oat Groats will store for 15 years in an oxygen-free container like a Mylar bag, food-grade pale, or a #10 can. The container is made oxygen-free by using an Oxygen absorber and sealing. If oat groats are stored in store-bought packaging, groats will last 9 to 12 months as long as bug eggs are not present.

Shelf Life of Steel-Cut Oats In Long-Term Storage

Steel-cut oats properly stored in an Oxygen-free container will last 10 to 15 years. You won’t get this kind of shelf-life from store-bought packaging, though. You are looking at a maximum of 9 to 12 months stored this way.

Repackaged into a hermetically sealed container like #10 can, Mylar bags, or a food-grade pale with an Oxygen absorber, the shelf-life is 10 to 15 years.

What Is The Shelf-life of Oat Flour

Store oat flour in sealed containers used for long-term storage, and you will get a 5-year shelf-life as long as moisture is 10% or less and the oils have been baked out when the groats were processed.

How Long Will Oats Last In Storage?

Oats will last 9 to 12 months if left inside store packaging. Oats are stored in an oxygen-free container for long-term storage as survival food lasts much longer.

In an O2-free environment, rolled oats will store for up to 30 years, steel-cut oats will store for 10 to 15 years, and Scottish oats (really course flour) will store for up to five years.

3 Ideal Long-term storage containers for Oats: Maximum Shelf-life

Mylar bags, #10 cans, food-grade pales or ball jars with Oxygen absorbers.

Top Storage Environment For Oats

For maximum storage life of survival, foods make sure the storage environment is cool, dry, less than 75° F, and keep sunlight off of oats by using opaque packaging, or in the case of ball jars covering or placed in a dark cupboard.

How Long Does it Take to Cook Oats From Long-Term Storage

If you are considering how easy it is to prepare oats to eat, hands down, rolled oats are the quickest to cook. When it comes to flavor that aren’t the winner, steel cut oats are. Let’s examine how long it takes to cook differen’t kinds of oats.

Chart #2 Oat Varieties: Cook Times

Oat TypeWater
Oat Groats/Oat grain/ KernelBoil 8 Cups of Water and 1 tsp of salt. Add 1 cup of oat groats, return to a boil and cook for
30 minutes, drain and serve
Steel- Cut Oats/Irish/Pinhead/Coarse Oats1 cup of steel-cut oats to 2/12 cup water, boil water with 1 tsp salt and steel cuts oats, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes
Rolled Oats/Old Fashioned/Whole 1 cup of rolled oats, 1 3/4 cup water, 1/8 tsp salt, bring water to boil, stir in oats, and simmer 5 minutes
Instant/Quick Oats1 cup of rolled oats, 1 3/4 cup water, 1/8 tsp salt, bring water to boil, stir in oats, and simmer 5 minutes
Scottish Oats/ Scottish Porridge Oats/ Oat Flour1 cup Scottish Oat Flour, 3 cups of water, 1/2 tsp salt, Bring Water to a boil, add oat flour, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 10 minutes
Flavored Instant/
Pre-packaged with spices and flavoring(s)
Empty the packet into a bowl, add 1/2 cup boiling water, let sit for 1 minute, and stir.
What differentiates the different types of oats is the amount of processing.

9 Indications oats are bad

Your oats should look, smell and taste like oats. When in doubt, throw them out.

If you avoid moisture and the oats were processed properly for storage, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. If in doubt, look for these signs that your oats have gone bad.

  1. Discoloration: fresh oats should have a brown or cream-like color
  2. Lumping (a sign of moisture)
  3. Mold (a sign of moisture) mold on oats looks like fluffy white patches, black or gray powder.
  4. Off Odors-caused by moisture or fats going rancid from unstabilized oats.
  5. Black Specks from bug carcasses or feces. You should have this problem if Oxygen absorbers were used in an Oxygen-free container.
  6. Powder/Overly Powdery-Bug feces and carcasses or mold. You should not have this problem if Oxygen absorbers were used in an Oxygen-free container.
  7. Squirming Mass of crawlies. Your oats may be infested with weevils. But how, you might ask? Most grains have bug eggs when you get them. You should not have this problem if Oxygen absorbers were used in an Oxygen-free container.
  8. A hole in the oat bag or container might be from mice. Look for signs of excrement. If it’s just physical damage, moisture and bugs may have entered the bag.
  9. Unstabilized Oats: The oats you stored still have a high-fat content because they weren’t steamed, and the fat has gone rancid, or they weren’t toasted and had a high moisture content.

Warning: Never store Oats or any other dry goods in an oxygen-free container when moisture levels are above 10%. This may lead to botulism. Botulism is rare, but you cannot see, smell, or taste it.

Comparing Steel-cut to Rolled Oats in long term storage

We’ve already covered shelf-life, but just as a reminder, steel-cut will only store 10 to 15 years because they aren’t stabilized like old-fashioned oats, which will store 30+ years if they are stabilized with steam and moisture is toasted out to 10% or less.

You may be wondering about nutrition and usefulness when comparing both types. Regarding nutrition, steel-coat and old-fashioned oats are pretty much the same. In a survival scenario, there are other considerations.

CharacteristicSteel-Cut OatsRolled/Old Fashioned
Steamed and Toasted for Stabilization
Fiber ContentX
Shelf LifeX
Cooking TimeX
Water Usage For PreparationX
Whole Grain For Sustained EnergyX
Overall Nutritional ValueX Similar but not quite as good as steel-cut

If you are shooting for shelf-life, rolled oats are the clear winner. That said, I prefer eating Irish steel-cut oats. They taste so much better. You can tell you are eating a whole grain.

If you are choosing between the two, go with rolled oats. If the shorter shelf-life is acceptable, I would also store the steel-cut oats and rotate them.

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