If you like porridge or muesli for breakfast, based on rolled oats, you should love 'overnight oats'. These dishes have all the texture, taste and goodness of plain rolled oats, but the overnight soaking softens the oats making them easier to digest and quicker to prepare than porridge. Bircher muesli is closely related, but the oats are traditionally soaked in apple juice, orange juice or water for 20-60 minutes rather than overnight, and milk is not used. Many people do not like the tart acidity of fruit juice soaked oats.
Soaking old-fashioned rolled oats or steel cut oats overnight, means that you don't have to cook the oats to get the soft and creamy texture of porridge. You can warm them, if you like after soaking, but overnight oats are generally eaten cold like muesli with cold milk. Simple raw rolled oats, while healthy, can be an eating challenge especially as the first meal of the day.
You can add all sorts of fruit and other goodies such as yogurt, to add flavor and nutrients to overnight oats. Soaking the dried fruit also 'plumps' the raisins and softens other dried fruit. The oats absorb flavors from the milk, juice and other ingredients. See below for the top 10 tips for preparing overnight oats and a great collection of the best ever overnight oat recipes to try.
The best container for soaking your oats overnight is a pint (500 ml) size glass jar, or similar glass container with a tight-fitting lid. The glass container should be large enough for one or two serving of oats, the added liquid, and any fruit or other additions. You can also use ceramic bowls, sealed with cling wrap, or plastic containers with suitable lids. Avoid using any metal containers as they can taint and contaminate the oats. Glass containers are the best option.
Use old fashioned, simple rolled oats or steel cut oats, both of which have minimal processing and retain all the nutrients in the oats. Do not use instant oats which have extra processing applied and have been milled into finer particles or have been pre-cooked. The instant oats become soggy and mushy when soaked overnight. Genuine steel cut oats have a crunchy texture even after soaking overnight. Many people prefer this. Rolled oats are softer. Organic oats are preferred. You can add other grains to the oats. The liquid and other ingredients will soak into the oats, boosting the flavor and adding character to the dish. See the recipes below for various grain options.
Once again this depends on your personal preference. You can use plain water, coconut water, dairy milk, almond milk, rice milk or even fruit juice. You can also use various smoothies or yogurt mixed into the milk, but these ingredients tend to thicken the mixture. The liquid tends to soak into the rolled oats softening them and transferring flavors to the oats. You can also vary the amount of liquid to cater for your preferences. Remember that the oats will soak up a lot of moisture and so you may need to make the mixture more 'runny' at the start. For various liquids, a good starting mix is an equal volume of oats and liquid - say 1 cup of oats to 1 cup of milk. After adding the oats and extra ingredients to your glass jar, there should be a relatively thick layer of liquid over the oats. Add some extra liquid on top if needed. Much of this extra liquid will be absorbed by the oats overnight. Most people prefer overnight oats that are not too thick, resembling muesli with milk. You can easily add extra liquid just before serving if the mixture is too thick.
For purists, overnight oats are meant to be consumed cold like muesli with cold milk, rather than hot or warm like porridge. The oats soften and become more digestible via the soaking process, so they don’t need to be cooked. Some people like to heat and cook the oats a little just before serving to overcome the raw taste. You can use a microwave to heat and cook the oats a little, or on the stove top. Others prefer to warm the oats and milk slightly by placing the oats in a microwave oven for 30-90 seconds. Others remove the jars from the fridge about 30 minutes prior to serving, to allow the oats to come to room temperature. The ingredients to be added to the oats before serving, can also be brought to room temperature.
While adding other seeds and grains is not necessary, it can help thicken the dish and help add creaminess, taste and nutrients. Chia and flax seeds (whole or ground) are the most common grains and these additions benefit from the overnight soaking. Buckwheat groats, quinoa, amaranth, millet, spelt wheat and rye are other suitable grains can be added to the rolled oats before soaking. Sesame, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, caraway and poppy seeds and other similar seeds are also popular, but it is best to add them just before serving rather than before soaking. See the recipes below for various options you may like.
Many people choose not to use sweeteners for health reasons. However, they add dried fruit and fruit juice, which are rich in natural sugars. Nuts and other additions are rich in calories and fat. So their decision not to add sugar may be meaningless in terms of overall sugar content and calories. Other people add one or more teaspoons of sugar, honey or maple syrup to make the dish more palatable for them, enhancing the flavor and taste. Rolled oats are high nutritious with a 60 g (1/2 cup) serving containing 246 Calories; 6.6 g protein; 6.4 g fat; 35 g of carbohydrate; 2 g sugar and 6 g of fiber. Obviously, adding extra ingredients can boost nutrients, but can also increase the calories and fat. So it pays to be sparing with the added ingredients such as fruit (especially dried fruit), nuts and seeds. Choose your recipe with a target level of sugar, calories and nutrients in mind.
As with muesli, there is a wide range of toppings and extras that can be added to overnight oats. The trick is to know what to add before and after soaking. Some ingredients can impart flavor to the oats, others such as dried fruit benefit from the soaking. But many ingredients such as nuts and many fruits become soggy and mushy after soaking, losing their texture. Some extra ingredient ideas include: plain yogurt, Greek yogurt, almond slivers, coconut flakes, nut butters, kiwi fruit, apples or pears, cherries, dates, banana, all kinds of berries, pitted prunes, dried apple, dried apricot, sultanas, raisins, chia seeds, flax seeds, cashew nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, grapes, chocolate chips and almonds.
You can boost the flavor of overnight oats by adding various spices. Generally, choose spices which pair well with the fruit or other flavors and ingredients added to the mix. For example, cinnamon pairs with apple; ginger and vanilla extract pairs with many types of dried fruit.; added salt may pair well with nuts. Common spices include: cardamom, cinnamon, ground ginger and nutmeg. Many recipes have specific spices and key ingredients to add spiciness to the taste.
Generally, there is no problem with making a bulk batch and using them over 3-7 days. However, it is best to stick to basic ingredients for the soaking, such as oatmeal and other grains. Fruits and other toppings can be added to each jar immediately prior to serving. Obviously the jars should be kept in the refrigerator. The batches may get too thick with long storage, but you can mix extra liquid through before serving. The jars should be sealed with a lid to stop moisture loss. Water, coconut water, and milk are the best liquids for long-term storage. Fruit juice appears to get more acidic the longer it is stored. Yogurt should be added after soaking, not before.
Whether yogurt, cream cheese, creme fraiche or plain cream should be added is a personal choice. Generally these ingredients are best added after soaking the oats, but once again this is a personal preference. These ingredients can boost the calories and fat content of the dish, but you can use low fat varieties and add sparing amounts.
options for the Toppings and Additions (stored in separate jar with lid)
Add the oats, salt and water to a glass jar or ceramic container with a lid. Mix well to ensure all the oats are coated with liquid. Secure the lid and place in the refrigerator. You can prepare batches of the topping mix the day before and store in a separate glass jar for quick assembly at breakfast. Otherwise, the toppings can be added to the overnight oats just before serving. Generally it is unwise to add the toppings to the oats before soaking. Store the pre-mixed topping in jars in the refrigerator. Just before serving for breakfast, empty the soaked oatmeal into a microwave proof container with a lid. Add extra liquid if it is too thick. Stir to combine well. Microwave for about 30 seconds, stir and microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir well to make the mixture creamy. Add a batch of the toppings and stir through. Microwave the mixture for about 15 seconds so that the toppings are not completely cold. How long you microwave the mixture before and after adding the toppings depends on whether you want the dish to be hot, warm or cold. Warming the mixture helps create the creaminess that many people enjoy so much.
for the topping (to be added just before serving)
Place all the ingredient, except for the nuts, banana and yogurt in a glass jar. Stir well, cover and refrigerate overnight. Before serving, transfer the soaked oats to a bowl. Mix well and add extra liquid if required. Microwave the mixture if you want to serve it warm. This also makes the mixture more creamy. Stir through the pecans, bananas, yogurt and cinnamon and serve.
Mix the milk, oats and sweetener in a glass jar with a lid. Close the lid, shake well and store in the refrigerator overnight. Next morning remove the soaked oats from the jar and transfer to a serving bowl. Adjust the thickness by adding extra liquid if required. You can warm the oats in a microwave oven for 1 minute before serving. This tends to make the oats smoother and more creamy. Top the oats with fresh or tinned peaches and cream. Serve immediately.
Toast the coconut by placing 1/2 cup flaked (or desiccated) coconut in a heavy dry pan over over low heat. Roast the coconut while stirring continuously, until it is golden brown in color and fragrant. Set the toasted coconut aside. Mix together the oats, vanilla extract, chia seeds, honey, most of the toasted coconut, yogurt, and coconut milk in a large bowl. Assemble the ingredients in layers in two glass jars tarting with a layer of 2 tablespoons of almond butter. Top with 2 tablespoons of oats mixture. Continue with the layers until the jars and 3/4 full. Then, top with toasted coconut and seal the jars with lids or with plastic wrap. Place the jars in the refrigerator overnight. Just before serving add the pineapple to a skillet over moderate heat. Cook while stirring frequently until the pineapple starts to caramelize and browns a little. Serve the overnight oats in their jars topped the pineapple, sliced kiwi fruit, some more almond butter and extra toasted coconut.
Preheat the oven the 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease or spray a baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Transfer the pitted cherries to the sheet and drizzle with the melted butter. Sprinkle with the salt, mix and then roast for 30 minutes, tossing once or twice, until the cherries are soft and flavorsome. Crush with a fork and transfer to a small bowl. Mix together the oats, chia, vanilla, milk, honey, almond extracts and the salt in a large bowl. Begin assembling the ingredients in two glass jars by adding a few crushed cherries. Then, divide the oat mixture between the two jars. Add the remaining cherries to top the oats and use a spoon to swirl the cherries down into the mixture. Cover the jars and place them in the refrigerator overnight. Serve the next day topped with shredded coconut and crushed nuts.
Mix all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Divide into several glass jars with lids. Refrigerate overnight. Remove from the refrigerator the next morning and place in serving bowls. Add more liquid if required. Heat in the microwave to warm the mixture before serving. Top with nuts and shredded coconut.
Thoroughly mix all the ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Transfer to several glass jars with a tight-fitting lids. Seal the jars and refrigerate overnight. To serve, transfer the contents of each jar to serving bowls. Warm using a microwave if preferred. Add more liquid if needed, and mix well. Serve topped with kiwi slices and almond slivers.
Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl until well combined and the oats are evenly distributed. Spoon into one or more glass jars. Seal each jar with a lid and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, transfer the oat mixture to serving bowls. Warm using a microwave if you prefer. Serve topped with extra strawberries and a dollop of fresh whipped cream of yogurt.
Mix all the ingredients together in a moderate-sized mixing bowl. Transfer to glass jars that have tight-fitting lids. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, transfer the oat mixture to serving bowls. Heat in a microwave if you prefer the oats to be served warm. Close the jars with lids and refrigerate overnight. Add more liquid if required before serving warm of cold topped with extra chopped nuts and fresh fruit.
Mix all the ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl, ensuring that the oats are well incorporated. Transfer to glass jars that have tight fitting lids. Set aside in the refrigerator overnight. You can make several batches and store them for 5-7 days before using them. To serve, remove the jars from the fridge, stir well and add more liquid if required. Serve topped with extra coconut and a sprinkle of chocolate chips.