More and more people are turning to overnight oats as their breakfast of choice. For good reason too. Overnight oats are an easy and healthy way to start every day, whether you just need something quick and filling before the weekday commute, or fancy a decadent treat for a weekend brunch.
Interested? Then here’s everything you need to know about overnight oats.
What are overnight oats?
Overnight oats are simply oats that are left to soak overnight instead of cooked in the morning, which makes them perfect for a quick, filling and nutritious breakfast.
It’s a bit like making cold-brew coffee instead of the regular cup of hot coffee in the morning. You just let it 'brew' overnight in the fridge to save time in the morning. And just as with coffee, the result of the overnight method is not just colder, but tastes very different too. Some would even say it tastes better – especially on hot summer days.
You see, the oats are actually different, having not had their molecular make-up messed with by the heat. The result is a creamier oatmeal that has slowly and deeply absorbed the flavours of whatever you’ve mixed it with.
Of course, sometimes you just want the comfort of a hot breakfast. But when you know you’ll need something quick and delicious that’s going to get your day off to a great start, it might be time to try soaking some oats.
Ingredients needed for overnight oats
To make overnight oats, all you really need is oats and milk, letting the former soak up the latter overnight.
You can use pretty much any type of oats and milk, including non-dairy alternatives like soy and, of course, oat milk. It’s worth paying attention to the type of oats used, however.
Many overnight oat connoisseurs will tell you that using rolled oats (sometimes called old-fashioned oats) is the only way to go. Rolled oats consist of whole oat groats that are rolled flat. This being the only processing they go through means they’re more nutritious than other types of oats (see ‘Are overnight oats healthy?’ below). Rolled oats maintain a bit of bite and won’t go as mushy or gloopy as other types of oats. That’s what makes them a popular choice, but maybe a softer consistency is exactly what you’re after?
If that’s the case, try regular oats or quick oats. Regular oats have been steamed and grounded, but the processing is still quite minimal, making them a nutritious option that will still be a little chunky in the morning. Quick oats, as the name suggests, are processed to be quite fine and cook quickly. When soaked overnight, they will be very soft and easy to digest.
Note that quick oats are sometimes called instant oats. These shouldn’t be confused with instant oatmeal. Instant oatmeal or instant porridge is a heavily processed product that will produce very soupy (and not very healthy) overnight oats. These are best avoided.
Oats and milk aside, yoghurt is a strongly recommended addition to overnight oats. It will massively enhance the creamy texture. Many overnight oats enthusiasts also swear by chia seeds, which, when soaked overnight with the oats and milk, will make the consistency of your breakfast more gelatinous. They’re healthy too, so worth trying out.
So, to recap:
- Oats (essential)
- Milk (essential)
- Yoghurt (recommended)
- Chia seeds (optional)
- Mix-ins and toppings (optional)
Mix-ins and toppings
Mix-ins are the ingredients you should stir into your oats and milk to let stand overnight. Toppings are the ingredients you should chuck onto your overnight oats right before eating.
Of course, there’s a lot of fun to be had in getting creative here, but if you’re new to overnight oats, here are some ideas for mix-ins and toppings to set you on your way:
- Honey or maple syrup
- Coffee (use instant coffee to avoid gritty tasting oats)
- Pumpkin spice mix
- Chai spice mix
- Poppy seeds
- Chocolate (cocoa powder) and coconut flakes
- Chocolate (cocoa powder) and peanut butter
- Chocolate chips and fresh banana slices
- Fresh berries (blueberries, sliced strawberries, etc)
- Toasted almonds (or other nuts)
- Broken biscuits/cookies
Are overnight oats healthy?
The simple answer is yes. The less simple answer is it depends what else you put in them – including what oats you use.
The most basic form of overnight oats is just oats soaked overnight in milk. Oats are a great source of protein and fibre, as well as assorted vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, manganese, and phosphorus, among other things. However, note that processed oats, such as quick oats, contain considerably less protein and fibre than regular or rolled oats.
As you probably know, there’s plenty of calcium and protein to be found in milk too, including many vegan alternatives, and adding chia seeds means more protein and fibre, as well as omega-3 fats. If you’re looking to cut down on fats, you can technically even use water instead of milk. Just brace yourself for a very bland breakfast in the latter case.
Now, while we’re on the subject of bland, that brings us to the next point. You’ll probably want to jazz up your overnight oats with other ingredients. Even if you like the standard oats and milk version, you’ll probably need to start keeping it interesting after a while.
That could mean adding in anything from blueberries to chocolate and peanut butter. Clearly, one of those flavour options is healthy while the other one very much isn’t.
How do you make overnight oats?
Here’s a step-by-step method for making overnight oats with advice on adding optional mix-ins and toppings.
- 2 cups oats
- 2 cups milk (or non-dairy alternative)
- ¾ cup yoghurt
- 1 tsp chia seeds (optional)
- 1 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional)
- Other mix-ins or toppings of your choice
- In a mixing bowl, stir together oats, milk, yoghurt and, if using, chia seeds and honey or maple syrup. If using other mix-ins, stir them into the mixture also.
- Divide the oat mixture into individual jars.
- Cover the jars and put them in the refrigerator before going to bed.
- Your overnight oats will be ready to eat in the morning. At this point, prepare any toppings you want to add, uncover one of the jars (or more if you’re sharing), and scatter your chosen toppings on the surface.
- Enjoy your easy and nutritious breakfast.