I am addicted to Overnight Oats and all of its meal-prep goodness! Making these hits all the items on my checklist: easy, fast, and delicious. Most of the recipes take less than five minutes to prepare and you’ll have a hearty, healthy breakfast for your family. Best of all, several days worth are made at once! Talk about a time saver!
Read on for Everything You Wanted to Know About Overnight Oats (but were afraid to ask!)
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🍋 What is the Basic Recipe?
The basic overnight oats recipe is probably the single easiest breakfast recipe. At its core, there are two ingredients: a one to one ratio of oats and a liquid. Combine them and the oats will slowly absorb the liquid and form a delicious oatmeal. As simple as that sounds, there are thousands of alternatives to customize these to your liking.
🍽️ What Type of Oats to Use?
Old Fashioned Oats is the best oatmeal to use. Fortunately, these are very easy to find in the grocery store.
I don’t recommend using Instant Oats. These are chopped so small they will turn to mush when absorbing the liquid overnight. Blech!
Steel Cut Oats will work in a pinch, but you will find that they will be more chewy and won’t absorb the liquid as well.
🍽️ What Type of Liquid to Use?
There are several dairy and dairy-free liquid options to use in your oats. A few folks in my family are lactose sensitive, so I try to steer away from cow’s milk. I have been loving almond milk recently, and can’t tell a difference in my breakfast. It tastes great, is pretty good for you, and is a win-win!
🐄 Dairy Milk
This is the classic. Use whole or 2% milk for the best results.
🥛 Almond Milk
Ok. So many folks have some degree of lactose intolerance, or just feel better when they reduce dairy from their diet. I bought some almond milk from the grocery store and LOVED it in overnight oats. If you haven’t tried it, give it a shot. I thought it tasted better than cow’s milk.
After I bought it a few times, I started to cringe when I saw the price at the register. This stuff isn’t cheap! I made my own homemade almond milk and used that instead. Easy Peasy, and a lot cheaper!
🥥 Coconut Milk
Another fun non-dairy option is coconut milk. I had to drive to an out-of-the-way grocery store to find it, and paid out-of-this-world prices for it. That sure wasn’t sustainable. I tried my hand and making it my Vitamix and it was a rousing success. Learn how to make homemade coconut milk.
I made one mistake when I tried this the first time and bought sweetened coconut flakes. While the end product was DELISH, I should have used the unsweetened variety. Oops!
🌾 Oat Milk
Oat milk is made by soaking oats, blending them thoroughly and straining through a fine cheesecloth. If you aren’t up to making your own at home, most grocery stores offer varieties next to the dairy milk. It is lactose, nut and soy free. Oat milk tends to have more calories than other types of milk, and has a lot of the nutrients and minerals you need.
🍴 Soy Milk
Soy milk has fewer calories than whole dairy milk, but does pack a protein punch. It is much lower in carbs than cow’s milk.
Here is a great chart that shows the nutrient and calorie comparisons for various types of milks.
This is the classic ingredient and you sure can’t go wrong with it. I do find that adding one of the milk varieties adds a bit more fun to this breakfast, though.
📌 What is the best ratio of liquid to oats?
Most recipes call for a 1:1 ratio of milk (or water) to oats. But, that might be a bit misleading. Definitely start with that and see if the consistency the next day is what you expected. I like to add greek yogurt to my oats and tend to only add ¾ milk to 1 oats.
For a porridge-like consistency, use a 2:1 ratio of liquid to oats.
I do like my oats a bit thicker in the morning. Don’t be fooled by the consistency when you first make it. The oats will absorb the liquid overnight and it will thicken.
Here are a series of images for different ratios of milk to oats.
🥘 Meal Prep Breakfast
This is the ultimate meal prep breakfast. It is filled with fiber and fruits and can be made in less than five minutes. I make about three days worth on Sunday evening for my husband to take with him to work.
Don’t tell him, but I usually throw in whatever fruits I have left on hand after the end of the week.
‼️Do Overnight Oats have to be refrigerated?
I have read both answers to this. Personally, I refrigerate them. I make several days worth at a time, and add fruit or sweets to them, so refrigerating keeps it all fresh. If you were just going to make overnight oats with water, you would most likely be safe keeping it on the counter for serving the next day, but why risk it?
🥄 Using a Jar
My husband takes these to work for his breakfast, and I found that pint sized mason jars are the best way for him to tote them back and forth. He doesn’t have to worry about them spilling, and I keep extras around the house.
I also like to keep them in a jar because it helps with portion control. He can be a bit of a snacker, and likes to super-size his breakfasts. Keeping the overnight oats in a jar takes that temptation away.
🥣 What are the Containers?
I am cheap. Really cheap! So the snippy answer to this is “Any container that is free.”
I always keep jars when I empty them and run them through the dishwasher to reuse. Small, empty pickle jars, recycled peanut butter jars…well, you get the idea. I stay away from plastic jars, but anything glass is easy to clean and use.
The key is to make sure it is close to the right size and has a lid. Nothing stinks more than taking your oats to work only to open your bag and see that they spilled out of their container. What a mess to clean up!
🥄 Reasons to Try Overnight Oats
There’s a reason that a big box of oatmeal and ramen noodles are the staple of most college kids’ pantry! A 42 ounce container of oats is around $4. The cost of the oats are less than $0.20 per serving.
The costs will definitely increase depending on the ingredients you add to the oats, but this is significantly less expensive that a breakfast sandwich from a store!
Oats are filled with fiber and keep you feeling full throughout the morning. In fact, one cup of oats contains approximately 5 grams of fiber. To add some extra protein to breakfast, consider adding a tablespoon of nut butter, protein powder or use soy milk instead of another nut milk.
I used to have a bowl of cereal in the morning and made the mistake one day of reading the recommended serving size and could have cried when the amount in my morning bowl was more than twice the amount suggested on the packaging. 🙁
Portioning overnight oats in small jars definitely helped overcome that calorie creep. Plus, it lasted me a lot longer than cereal. Win win!
😀 How Healthy Are They?
⚠️ Calories in Overnight Oats
Be careful here. Yes, there are many health benefits to oats. And 1/2 cup of oats is only 150 calories. Sounds great, right? Be careful with the amount of hidden calories that can add up when you start including in other ingredients. Adding whole milk, nutella, brown sugar, and other sweeteners can be problematic if you aren’t paying attention.
Again, I go back to the philosophy of “Everything in moderation.” Just be aware of what you are adding.
‼️ Are There Carbs in Overnight Oats
Yes. There can be a lot. Depending on your diet and nutritional needs, this may or may not be a good option for you. If you are worried about the carbohydrate intake, aim for a N’Oats option that are popular in the Keto diets. I love the version from Big Man’s World. To reduce the carbs, this recipe replaces the oats with chia seeds, flaxseed and coconut flakes. Not a bad alternative!
🍽️ Weight Watchers Points
Weight Watchers has a few overnight oats recipes. They range from five to seven smartpoints. Best of all, these recipes fill you up and will last you all morning without feeling the need to snack. Their freestyle program is awesome, and allows you to mix and match ingredients to achieve your WW goals.
🍌 Is it Good for Diabetics
First and foremost, talk with your doctor! Oats are documented to reduce cholesterol and have higher carbohydrates and fiber. Where you might need to be especially careful is in what additives you include with the oats. Many of the recipes are very sweet, and include either natural sugars from fruit, or processed sugars in chocolate or brown sugar.
🍎 Can it be Keto
Oats, by themselves are not low-carb and aren’t suitable for a keto-friendly diet. But there are alternatives. Noatmeal (yes, that is how it is spelled) is a mock-oatmeal made from hemp seeds, flax seed, chia seeds, collagen and coconut milk. The folks at Wholesome Yum wrote a step by step guide to make a keto friendly Noatmeal that can be substituted with some creativity in these recipes.
🍍 Can it be Vegan
Most oatmeal is vegan friendly. Certainly, the rolled, old-fashioned or steel cut oats used for overnight oats are vegan friendly. The only thing I would watch for are the “instant” variety that add in a powdered dairy product for the “…and cream” varieties.
🍐 Can it be Vegetarian
You bet! Overnight oats are vegetarian friendly. Obviously, you won’t want to add some of the savory ingredients, like bacon, but the vast majority of ingredients are perfect for a vegetarian diet.
😐 Can it be Paleo
Unfortunately, oats are a grain. The paleo diet eliminates all grains from the diet. The paleo diet can be beneficial for losing weight, medical reasons, or simply eating healthy. One of the most common concerns with a paleo diet is the lack of both fiber and certain nutrients commonly found in grains.
I believe that “everything in moderation” is a good philosophy when it comes to specialized diets, and if my body is craving some oatmeal, then I will make a batch. If you are concerned about it, make sure you talk with your doctor first.
🤔 Can it be Gluten Free
The answer is a big MAYBE. While pure, clean oats are gluten free, many of them are processed using the same machinery as other products that do contain gluten. At first, I thought this wasn’t that big of a deal. How much gluten could really be transferred? Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to impact for folks that are gluten intolerant.
The good news is that gluten sensitivities are fairly common and most manufacturers offer gluten free options that won’t break the bank. Try out a couple of varieties.
🍈 Using Fruits
Adding fruits is the most popular way to serve overnight oats. It is healthy, with the natural sugars and delicious. It is a great way to sneak extra fruits into your kids’ breakfasts without them complaining.
🍉 Fresh Fruits
Virtually any fresh fruit will work for overnight oats. I can’t think of any that would be an issue. I usually find the fruits that are fresh and in season to include in the oats.
🍒 Frozen Fruits
When fresh fruit is hard to find, is too expensive, or out of season, I head to the fruits in the freezer section of the grocery store. The variety is great. Sometimes, when the fruit defrosts, it changes texture. When you know that will happen, smash them together to make a jam-like consistency. It is fun to work your way through the oatmeal to the next layer of fruit. It is a sweet treat!
There are times when I like a bit of extra protein in my breakfast. It just seems to help me get through the morning without snacking. Listed below are several options to add a bit of extra protein to the oats and still be healthy.
🍽️ Protein Powder
This is almost cheating, but it is very effective. In fact, I used peanut powder in my peanut butter overnight oats recipe. There are a lot of different protein powders you can add to the oats.
🍲 Chia Seeds
I have recently started using chia seeds as a natural way to add protein to the oats. These come from the Salvia Hispanica plant and contain almost five grams of protein per ounce. You’ll want to make sure that these soak in the overnight oat mix as the seeds will absorb the milk and soften.
🥜 Nut Butters
I am a sucker for a good nut butter. Nutella isn’t a pure nut butter, but it is definitely my favorite. I like to add a tablespoon (or two…or three) to some recipes. It definitely helps to “stick” and gets me through the morning. My favorite recipe for this is the Raspberry Nutella Overnight Oats.
I made some homemade almond butter which was a resounding success. It was a lot cheaper than store bought ones! It will be perfect in oats!
🥄 Greek Yogurt
Not only does greek yogurt pack around 17 grams of protein per container, it makes the overnight oats very smooth and creamy! Seriously, this is to-die-for! We use greek yogurt in most overnight oats as it fills you up!
Quinoa is another excellent, natural source of protein that can be added. It has around 14 grams of protein in each 100 gram serving. It is easy to combine with the oats and soak in your milk of choice.
All natural nuts are a great source of protein to add in the oats. I recommend keeping a small ziplock back of them next to your jar and mix them in when you are ready to eat. Some of the nuts will absorb the milk overnight and become soggy – which isn’t very fun! Having that crunchy texture is great with the oats.
I have used nuts in layers before and they do get a bit soft but can work. The small slivers don’t work as well but can be done! Again, if you are concerned and really want that crunch, add in as you are ready to eat!
🥄 Overnight Oats Add-Ins
In addition to fruits, there are a lot of extra add-ins that will take your oats to a whole new level. Here are my favorite.
Ok. You can buy store-bought granola to add a bit of crunchiness to the oats. Just make sure you add it in when you are ready to serve it, otherwise it will turn soggy. Or, you can make your own! I made a gingerbread granola that was so good on my oats! It stores really well and I didn’t have to worry about any preservatives or chemicals that are added to the ones from the store.
Another option is this cranberry peanut butter granola. The extra protein from the peanuts is a big plus!
Muesli is another great option for topping the oats. It is very similar to granola, but it isn’t baked. Instead, it is made from seeds, nuts and grains and doesn’t have any sugar or binding agent. It is a nice, clean and healthy mix.
The same rule applies, though. Don’t add it into the oats the night before unless you are ok with it being soggy.
If you’ve never made muesli before, make sure to check out How to Make Muesli here and you can start adding it into your overnight oats or use it as an alternative meal prep breakfast option.
🍽️ Flax Meal
Flax meal is another great natural ingredient to add to oats. It is loaded in dietary fiber, omega-3 fats and lignans. A tablespoon mixed in with the oatmeal is all you really need!
🍲 Sweet Overnight Oats
Once a week or so, it is fun to add in a sweet mixture into the oats. I am not talking fruit-sweet. Nope, it’s time for hard core chocolate sweet! It is as simple as adding a handful (or two — or three) of chocolate chips to the overnight oats, or some brown sugar.
Here are some of my favorites:
🌡️ How long will these last in the Refrigerator?
I try not to make more than three days at a time. Given how easy it is to make, it isn’t a big deal to make a second round mid-week.
🍽️ Can you Heat Overnight Oats
Sure. We used to always eat oatmeal heated, and the overnight oats can be warmed up too. That said, it is most common to eat these cold. I grab a jar from the fridge, head to work and eat it while it is still cool.
‼️ Mistakes to Avoid
Let’s just say that I learn from experience! Here are the most common mistakes to avoid when making these.
- Adding Ingredients that are unpleasant when soggy. If you don’t like the texture of something when it absorbs milk, don’t put it in the oats the night before. I made the mistake of adding chopped nuts to the oats, and the next morning they had the consistency of wet cardboard. Blech! Keep a small ziplock with the ingredients that should be added when you get ready to serve these.
- Guess the Liquid to Oats ratio. Who has time to measure? Well, I found out that I better make the time! You’ll find the consistency you like and should measure that amount of milk each and every time. If not, you’ll either end up with soup, or a brick. Neither of those options are fun!
- Not stirring before you eat. The milk will settle at the bottom of the jar and the oats down there will have a different consistency than the oats at the top of the jar. Stir them up before you take a bite.
I would love to hear about your favorite overnight oats recipes! Please drop a note below!