The Real Difference Between Porridge And Oatmeal

Oatmeal and porridge are both popular breakfast foods, but it can be easy to mix them up. Both are grains cooked with water to make a soft, hearty meal. At first glance, you may notice that oatmeal is usually served with cinnamon or fruits, or some added topping for flavoring, while porridge sounds like something eaten by folks in a Dickens novel or a nursery rhyme. However, there are some definite similarities, as well as important differences.

Porridge is any grain, cereal, or legume boiled in milk, water, or even broth, and served hot (via Tastessence). The grains can be any combination of oats, rice, corn, maize, barley, and wheat (via Foods For Better Health).

Oatmeal is, interestingly, a type of porridge — so while all oatmeal is porridge, all porridge is decidedly not oatmeal. Oatmeal is made from rolled, ground, or flattened oats. It can be purchased as old-fashioned or steel cut, rolled oats, or quick oats in the grocery store. 

Porridge is native to the Scandinavian area of Northern Europe that includes Norway, Sweden, and Finland, while oatmeal is a Scottish dish.

Porridge around the world

Another difference is in the grain used to make oatmeal and porridge. For oatmeal, the bran is removed from ground oats, while porridge, in the form of a dish or recipe, is named after the type of grain used to make it. An example of this is cornmeal, which is porridge made from corn. In this same way, porridge made from oats is called oatmeal.

Porridge is not unique to western culture. In Asia, there is a rice porridge called congee, which is made with rice and water or animal broth. In South Africa and Papua New Guinea, there is porridge made from sorghum, a type of grain. Finland has a porridge made with rye and water called ruispuuro. The examples don't end there, either. In Russia and Eastern Europe, there is a porridge called kasha, made from buckwheat. In East African countries, they make porridge from barley flour, and in Southern India, porridge is made from semolina, another type of grain (via My Recipes).

Furthermore, there are many nutritional benefits to eating porridge. It's easy to digest and contains many important nutrients. It also can lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

Oatmeal and other types of porridge make a great breakfast. Add cinnamon, raisins, sugar, and fruit to make it a versatile, healthy morning staple or make oatmeal cookies for a healthy snack or dessert.