Everything You Should Know About Making Overnight Oats

Right this way to easy breakfast meal-prep.

April 20, 2020
Openers and Cookmark and FN Star Winner and Ayesha Key Lime Pie

Openers and Cookmark and FN Star Winner and Ayesha Key Lime Pie

Photo by: RYAN DAUSCH

RYAN DAUSCH

By Heath Goldman for Food Network Kitchen

Don’t let the name fool you: Overnight oats take just a few minutes to prepare — no cooking necessary. They get their beauty sleep overnight in the refrigerator and are ready and at their best in the morning, just in time for breakfast. Here’s everything you need to know about overnight oats.

Back up, what are overnight oats?

While oatmeal is meant to be eaten hot, overnight oats are cool and creamy. Mix together old-fashioned rolled oats with liquid (milk) and, if you’d like, a sweetener. Overnight, the oats absorb some of the liquid and soften up, becoming delightfully chewy. Part of the fun of overnight oats is that you can customize them with different sorts of toppings — from berries to chocolate chips — so you never get bored.

Can you use steel-cut oats for overnight oats?

Let’s talk about different varieties of oats for a quick sec. Steel-cut oats are simply chopped up pieces of oats. They look granular and take the longest amount of time to cook. Rolled oats cook more quickly than steel-cut oats because they’ve been steamed and rolled out into large flakes. Instant or quick oats are steamed longer and rolled out into even flatter flakes. Typically, overnight oats recipes call for old-fashioned rolled oats. For creamy, non-mushy results, we do recommend using rolled oats. That said, if you’re in a pinch, you could use one of the two other varieties, but bear in mind that your results will be slightly different than the “typical” overnight oats you’re familiar with. Steel-cut oats are tough, so let them soak for at least two nights instead of one — if you're making your overnight oats in advance for later in the week, these are chewier and denser, so ideal for later. Instant oats are wont to dissolve, so you’ll end up with a more pudding-like creation (but hey, it’ll still be tasty and nourishing).

Can you use regular milk in overnight oats?

Many recipes call for plant-based milks, but the truth of the matter is that you can use any sort of milk to make overnight oats — from regular cow’s milk to oat milk, refrigerated or shelf-stable. We also like adding regular yogurt or plant-based yogurt for extra creaminess (see our full overnight oats recipe at the bottom of this page).

What is the best ratio of milk to oats?

You can follow the recipe we have on the site for overnight oats, but a quick ratio to reference is 1:1 oats to milk. If you want to add additional creaminess with yogurt, you can add half as much yogurt as milk, for a ratio of 2:2:1 for oats:milk:yogurt.

How should I serve overnight oats?

You can make and serve overnight oats in any sort of vessel, although we like making them in the container that we plan on eating them in. Typically, we make overnight oats in jars that we can grab and eat on the go or at the kitchen table.

What should I top my overnight oats with, and when should I do it?

It’s totally okay to top your overnight oats with a sprinkling of berries when you’re assembling them. However, heavier fruits could sink down into your oats, so save them for the morning of, when the oats have had time to gel. We also recommend saving crisp toppings like nuts and cereal for topping just before you eat the oats in the morning, lest they get soggy. The sky’s the limit when it comes to toppings, but here are some of our favorites: chopped mango, pomegranate seeds, hazelnuts, chocolate, tahini, banana slices, strawberry slices, orange zest and ground cardamom.

Is it okay to meal prep several days’ worth of overnight oats?

Yes, you can (and should) meal-prep your overnight oats ahead of time. Try making a big batch on Sunday evening and portioning them out into jars. Don’t worry: The oats can sit in your fridge longer than just overnight without compromising their texture.

How long do overnight oats last in the refrigerator?

And if you are meal-prepping a bunch of overnight oats, it’s handy to know how long they’ll last! We recommend storing overnight oats in the refrigerator in airtight containers for up to five days. That means if you're meal-prepping on Sunday, you can make a work week’s worth of overnight oats and not have to think about breakfast again until Saturday. How convenient.

Related Links:

Overnight Oats

A simple Food Network Kitchen-approved recipe with topping ideas galore.

Get the recipe

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