Did you get curious about overnight oats? Are you looking for an overnight oats base recipe that you can always refer to? Then keep reading. You'll learn which oats to use to make overnight oats, the best milk to oat ratio, how long you need to soak them, and so much more.
- Which oats to use
- Best oat to milk ratio
- Overnight oats with chia seeds
- Overnight oats with yogurt
- Overnight oats topping ideas
- How long do you soak overnight oats?
- Best overnight oats containers
- How long do overnight oats last?
- Can you warm up overnight oats?
- Frequently asked questions
- More overnight oats recipes
- The recipe
To explain it simply, overnight oats are similar to porridge but they don't need to be cooked because the milk absorbs overnight. They are usually eaten as a sweet breakfast cereal dish that has a thick and gooey texture. Overnight oats are typically made from oats and milk, although many people like to add a sweetener, chia seeds and mix them with yogurt.
The main difference between overnight oats and oatmeal is that the oats are not cooked. Porridge is commonly eaten hot while overnight oats are usually consumed cold (although they can be reheated).
This "no-cook" technique is extremely time-saving because you don't need to wait for the porridge to be cooked. You can simply add all the ingredients to a jar at night and find a ready-to-eat breakfast in the morning. There's no need to say that overnight oats are the perfect make-ahead breakfast for busy mornings.
Which oats to use
The best oats to use for overnight oats are old-fashioned rolled oats. They soften while they absorb the milk without getting too mushy. You could use quick-cooking oats (or instant oats) but they tend to fall apart, especially if soaked for longer than a day. Steel-cut oats can be used but will remain dense and chewy.
Overview of the different types of oats
- Steelcut oats are made from whole oat groats that were cut into two or three pieces. These are not adapted for overnight oats because the large and thick pieces won't absorb the milk easily.
- Rolled oats (also known as old-fashioned oats) are also made from oat groats but processed differently than steel-cut oats. Rather than being cut into pieces, they are steamed and pressed into flakes with steel rollers. The size and thickness of rolled oats can vary.
- Instant oats or quick oats are a type of rolled oats. However, they are steamed and rolled into even thinner flakes than old-fashioned rolled oats and have a shorter cooking time. While they may be adapted to making porridge, they are not the best choice when it comes to overnight oats. Some of the milk might not get absorbed, which will result in a mushy mixture.
Note on gluten-free oats
To make gluten-free overnight oats you can simply use gluten-free certified oats. While oats are naturally free from gluten, they may be contaminated with other gluten-containing cereals during harvest or manufacturing. If you are celiac or have gluten sensitivity, make sure you do not experience adverse reactions when consuming gluten-free certified oats.
Best oat to milk ratio
The best oat to milk ratio is 1 volume of old-fashioned rolled oats + 1 volume of milk + ⅛ volume of chia seeds. For one serving, mix ½ cup rolled oats with ½ cup of milk and 1 tablespoon chia seeds.
You could use a 1:2 oat to milk ratio if you like a thinner texture, if you're using more chia seeds or if your rolled oats are relatively thick. You can test a few different ratios to find out what you like and what works best with the oat brand you have.
Make it vegan
If you want to make vegan overnight oats, simply replace cow's milk with a plant-based alternative. The oat to milk ratio remains 1:1 for vegan milk alternatives. The most common substitutes are almond milk, soy milk and oat milk (chose gluten-free certified oat milk if necessary).
The oat to milk ratio may vary when using full-fat coconut milk (sold in cans) because it is a lot thicker than other milk alternatives. However, it will also provide a richer and creamier texture (and coconut flavor).
Overnight oats with chia seeds
It is not necessary to add chia seeds to overnight oats. You can simply mix oats, milk and yogurt. The overnight oats base recipe below is given with and without chia seeds.
Adding chia seeds (or flax seeds) will give the oats a thick pudding-like texture because the seeds form a gel when in contact with liquids. You can think of it as a mix between oatmeal and chia pudding.
How many chia seeds should I add to overnight oats? Per serving (½ cup oats), you can add about 1 tablespoon of chia seeds before you add in the milk.
Overnight oats with yogurt
For a thicker and creamier texture, it's highly recommended to add yogurt to overnight oats. We like to add yogurt only after the oats were soaked overnight (or at least 4 hours). This allows you to reheat them if you'd like. But you could totally add the yogurt and the milk at the same time.
How much yogurt should you add to overnight oats? Per serving, you can add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of yogurt to the oats.
Which type of yogurt should you use? Any type of yogurt will work. The thickness of the overnight oats will vary depending on the kind of yogurt you chose. It will be thicker with Greek yogurt than with regular yogurt. To make it vegan, chose a plant-based yogurt alternative. You can also choose vanilla-flavored or fruit yogurt.
Overnight oats topping ideas
Once your overnight oats are soaked and ready to eat, it's time to get creative with the toppings! Here are some of our favorite options:
- Granola is a great way to add some crunch to your overnight oats. If time allows, make your own crunchy almond granola (gluten-free).
- Nut butter tastes great in overnight oats and makes it even creamier.
- Jam allows you to vary the flavor of your oats in seconds while slightly sweetening them. We love this 3-ingredient orange tangerine jam recipe.
- Fruit purees or apple sauce. If you're not sure where to find healthy fruit purees, check out the baby food aisle of your grocery store.
- Fresh fruit is always a go-to. Make sure to chose seasonal varieties.
- Fozen fruit such as frozen berries can be added frozen to the jar. You can also reheat them in the microwave or over the stove to make a fruit coulis.
Elo's tip: make your overnight oats in an (almost) empty nut butter jar.
How long do you soak overnight oats?
As the name reveals, overnight oats are usually soaked overnight. During these 6 to 10 hours, the oats have time to absorb the milk and soften. The minimum amount of time you should soak rolled oats in milk is 4 hours.
Best overnight oats containers
- Glass jars: the easiest way to prepare overnight oats is to make them in a lidded glass jar. Great options are Mason jars and Weck jars as they can be sealed with an air-tight lid. Another great tip is to use empty nut butter jars. All of these are great for on-the-go breakfasts.
- Tupperware: any glass or plastic Tupperware you already have at home can be used to make overnight oats. Preferably choose one that has a lid.
- Bowls: if you don't have a container that is appropriate to make overnight oats, feel free to use a bowl. Simply cover it with plastic film (or a sustainable alternative) before placing it in the fridge overnight.
Best jar size for overnight oats
The best jar size for 1 single portion of overnight oats is 8 oz or 16 oz. This leaves enough space to add yogurt and toppings to the same jar.
How long do overnight oats last?
When refrigerated, overnight oats made with old-fashioned rolled oats can last for up to 5 days. Overnight oats made with quick-cooking oats should be eaten the next day. The best way to store them is in a lidded, air-tight container.
Can you warm up overnight oats?
You can warm up overnight oats. It totally depends on whether you prefer your breakfast hot or cold. If you would like to eat your overnight oats warm, simply reheat them in the microwave for 1-1:30 minutes or in a saucepan on the stove over low-medium heat. Preferably add the yogurt and other toppings after reheating.
Frequently asked questions
It's preferable to use (old-fashioned) rolled oats instead of quick oats to make overnight oats. You can use quick oats but it will result in a mushier breakfast. If using quick oat, you should eat your overnight oats within 24 hours.
You could steel-cut oats for overnight oats but they will stay rather dense and chewy as they don't absorb liquid easily. Rolled oats are the best choice to make overnight oats.
If you don't have milk at hand, you can make overnight oats with water. However, it's recommended to add yogurt to make it creamier and to flavor it with vanilla extract or jam for instance. You can also use a mixture of milk and water. Other options would be to use orange juice instead of milk, or combine water with applesauce or mashed banana.
You can use buckwheat to make overnight buckwheat or mix buckwheat and oats. Both will absorb the liquid and soften overnight.
Overall, oats are rich in protein and soluble fiber. Both nutrients will help keep you satiated for a longer period of time. In addition, soaked oats are easier to digest and do not lose further nutrients during the cooking process.
Rolled oats contain about 11 grams of protein per 100 grams, which is higher than most other grains. One serving of overnight oats (made with ½ cup rolled oats) contains 5 grams of protein. Adding yogurt to your overnight oats also gives it a protein boost (10g protein/100g in Greek yogurt and 3.5g protein/100g in soy yogurt).
You can meal prep overnight oats for up to 5 days in advance. Combine the old-fashioned rolled oats, milk and optionally the sweetener of your choice in an air-tight container. Store them in the fridge. Add yogurt and toppings shortly before eating.
More overnight oats recipes
- Cinnamon overnight oats
- Chocolate raspberry overnight oats
- Overnight oats with vegan protein powder
- Tiramisu overnight oats
- Snickers overnight oats
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Overnight Oats Base Recipe
- Glass jar (Mason jar, Weck jar, empty nut butter jar)
With chia seeds
- ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats gluten-free certified if necessary
- 1 teaspoon chia seeds optional but recommended
- ½ cup milk plant-based alternative to make it vegan
- 1-2 teaspoons maple syrup optional
- 2-3 tablespoons yogurt plant-based alternative to make it vegan
- Add the oats, the chia seeds (if using) and maple syrup (if using) to a jar or bowl. Add in the milk. Close the jar with a lid (or cover the bowl). Place in the fridge to set overnight or at least 4 hours.
- In the morning, or when soaked, add in yogurt and give it a good mix.
- Add the toppings of your choice such as granola, fresh fruit or jam.
- The best oats to use for overnight oats are old-fashioned rolled oats as they will soften without getting too mushy. You could eventually use quick-cooking oats (not instant oats) but they tend to fall apart too quickly.
- If you're using gluten-free certified oats, make sure they are as thick as regular rolled oats or adapt the oat to milk ratio. You might need to add a little less milk if they are relatively thin. You can test a few different ratios to find out what you like and what works best with the oats brand you have.
- You can make overnight oats with water, a mix of milk and water or even orange juice. If using water, it's recommended to add yogurt to make it creamier and to flavor it with vanilla extract or jam.
- The best jar size for 1 single portion of overnight oats is 16 oz. This leaves enough space to add your toppings to the same jar.
- Overnight oats can last in the fridge for up to 5 days, which is great for meal-prepping. Only add yogurt and other toppings right before serving.
- You can eat overnight oats hot or cold. You can reheat them in the microwave for 1-1:30 minutes or on the stove before adding the yogurt and toppings.
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