Overnight oats are a staple breakfast for me and I believe one of the easiest meal preps anyone can pull together! What I love most about them, is that they are completely customizable. To me, being creative and coming up with my own “recipes” for this breakfast is freeing, but I know some of you like things a little more precise and spelled out, at least when you’re getting familiar with a new cooking technique.
For that reason, I’m breaking down the components of overnight oats and sharing my basic recipe for you to adopt as your own!
Let’s start with the main ingredients…
The best oats to use for overnight oats are rolled old fashioned oats. The instant or quick cooking oats will quickly, as you may have guessed, turn into mush during the overnight soak time, so I recommend something a with a bit more structure and thicker. Overnight oats are also not very successful with steel cut oats as they don’t get adequately softened on their own. Some recipes will suggest to quickly “half cook” the steel cut oats first, and then proceed with soaking, but that takes away the ease of the one-jar method and minimal clean up. So, my go-to is always rolled old-fashioned oats. You can make them 1 serving at a time, which would be about a half cup dried oats, or you can double or triple to amount for a batch meal prep.
The liquid is the crucial component that dictates how thick or soupy your overnight oats will ultimately come out to be. I usually use a rough ratio of 1:2 oats to liquid, meaning I’ll use approximately double the amount of liquid as I did oats. This results in a pretty creamy end product and not one that ends up like cement. Feel free to use more or less after some experimentation though! The liquid choice is also up to you. You can certainly use water, but where’s the fun in that? I like to use a dairy-free milk, usually soy or pea as they’re higher in protein, but I’ll also use almond milk from time to time. Oat milk would be a bit…redundant, and also kicks up the carbohydrate content quite a bit, which is something to be mindful of if you’re managing blood sugars.
Before the soak, there might be things that I will add to the base, as opposed to toppings, which come later. Pre-soak add-ins are things like:
Chia seeds- I’ll add 1 tablespoon, and then usually a little more liquid (a few tablespoons) and give it all a good stir so the seeds are covered in liquid.
Flavoring- use flavors like vanilla or peppermint extract; spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, all-spice or turmeric; fun things like unsweetened cocoa powder, unsweetened coconut shreds or flakes; sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, or coconut sugar
Protein- sometimes I will actually add in a scoop of plant-based protein powder or collagen peptides to add some body to the oats and if I’m short on seeds as toppings.
The final step is the toppings, which I like to add after the overnight soak, with a few exceptions. When thinking toppings I always encourage you to think outside of just fruit. Oats are a pretty dense source of complex carbohydrates, and so they need some healthy fat and protein along for the ride to balance out your blood sugar response and keep your energy and hunger levels stable.
My favorite protein and healthy fat toppings are: nut or seed butters (peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower seed, tahini), chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, pistachios), and seeds (pumpkin, flax, hemp). Once I’ve ensured I have a protein topping picked out, then I will add in a small amount of fresh or dried fruit. I keep the portion size small, usually no more than a half a cup. The one exception I’ll make for the fruit is if it’s frozen- I’ll usually add the frozen fruit to the container the night before so that it can thaw and release it’s juices for a naturally sweet mix-in.
So, how do I exactly put this all together? Here’s one sample recipe that I frequently make.
1 cup rolled old fashioned oats
2 cups unsweetened soy milk
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Toppings: 1 cup fresh blueberries, 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
In a medium container mix together the oats, milk, chia seeds, and cinnamon. Stir to combine and make sure that the oats are all well immersed in the liquid. Cover and let sit in the fridge overnight or for at least 6 hours.
In the morning, serve half the soaked oats in a bowl and top with 1/2 cup of berries, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, and 1 tablespoon of hemp seeds. Enjoy cold or warm in the microwave for 45-60 seconds.
The remaining soaked oats can be stored covered in the fridge for up to 3 days and topped the same way, or with new toppings if your taste buds change!