Overnight oats make for a quick, nutritious, incredibly convenient meal. Just throw a few ingredients together before you head to bed and then your breakfast is ready and waiting when you wake up.
However, while overnight oats are easy, you can still end up with a less-than-desirable dish if you don’t follow a few basic rules: like using the right type of oats. While you can buy a range of oats — steel-cut, quick-cooking, instant, rolled — at the grocery store, there’s only one type that will give you a great texture without turning to mush.
The Best Type of Oats for Overnight Oats
The best type of oats for overnight oats, hands down? Old-fashioned rolled oats.
Quick-cooking and instant oats turn to mush if you leave them in a liquid like milk overnight. Steel-cut oats don’t absorb liquid as quickly, meaning your oatmeal will be a little chewy and less creamy if you use steel-cut oats in overnight oatmeal.
Old-fashioned rolled oats, in comparison, strike a nice balance. They soak up just enough liquid to develop a creamy texture, without completely turning to goop. You still have a little bit of chew, but not so much that the oats still feel a little raw.
What are Rolled Oats?
So why are rolled oats so perfect for overnight oats? It all comes down to the processing. Oats are a grain. You can purchase whole oat grains (hulled), usually branded as “oat groats” and prepared like rice or barley. However, the stuff you eat at breakfast has been somewhat processed.
If you’re eating steel-cut oats, this means that the hulled oat grains have been roughly chopped using a steel-bladed processor.
Rolled oats, meanwhile, are processed further. The whole oat grain has been steamed and then literally processed through a roller that helps break the oat down.
Quick-cooking oats are processed in much the same way, but chopped and broken down even further, for less cooking time needed. Instant oats, though, are not just steamed and processed, but also cooked again, and then dehydrated.
How to Make the Best Overnight Oats Using Rolled Oats
After you’ve chosen your rolled oats, make the best overnight oats possible by combining the rolled oats with just enough liquid. You don’t want to come back to your oatmeal in the morning to find it soupy or dry.
Make overnight oats using a ratio of 1 part rolled oats to 2 parts soaking liquid (like milk or your favorite dairy alternative). If you want to add in yogurt, for extra creaminess and protein, reduce the soaking liquid accordingly.
If you picked the right oats and followed the correct ratios and still you’re finding that your overnight oats aren’t just the right texture, be sure that you’re stirring the oats well both at night, before popping the mixture into the fridge, as well as in the morning, before eating. Otherwise, the settling of the liquid and the oats overnight could make for uneven textures.
Overnight Oats Base Recipe
- 1/2 cup rolled oats these are the best type of oats to use for overnight oats!
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey, agave, etc.
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 pinch salt
- fresh fruits for topping optional; like berries, banana slices, apple chunks, etc.
- nuts, seeds, or nut butter optional
- In a jar or a bowl, combine the rolled oats, almond milk, Greek yogurt (if using), chia seeds, honey or maple syrup, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Stir well to ensure everything is thoroughly mixed.
- Cover the jar or bowl with a lid or plastic wrap. Place it in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 6 hours. This allows the oats to soak up the liquid and flavors, becoming soft and creamy.
- The next morning, give the oats a good stir. If they seem too thick, you can add a little more milk to reach your desired consistency.
- Top your overnight oats with fresh fruits of your choice. Berries, banana slices, and apple chunks are great options. For added texture and nutrition, sprinkle some nuts or seeds on top, or add a dollop of nut butter. Enjoy them cold straight from the fridge or let them sit at room temperature for a bit if you prefer them slightly warmer.
- Feel free to customize the recipe according to your taste preferences and dietary needs. You can experiment with different types of milk, sweeteners, and toppings.
- Overnight oats can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, making them a great option for meal prep.