No more soggy mush.
It’s tough to get to work on time and have a healthy breakfast (you’re only human). But overnight oats make both possible—believe it. Even better, overnight oats actually make mornings kind of, well, something to look forward to.
“You can really get creative here,” says Margie Saidel, R.D. “The point is to have fun and experiment.” These meals don’t just taste delicious (pumpkin spice, anyone?), but they pack a nutritional punch, too. “Oats are an excellent choice as a meal or snack because they’re whole grain and contain lots of nutrients and fiber,” she says.
But if you’ve never made overnight oats before, there are a few simple steps you should know for perfecting your a.m. meal.
1. Pick the right oats.
Steel-cut, old-fashioned, rolled or instant oats all make for a solid bowl of oats, according to Saidel. “The only drawback to instant oats is that they can become very mushy when they’re soaked overnight,” she says. Plus, many instant oatmeal packets contain added sugar, so be sure to opt for a plain version if this is your oat of choice.
And if you follow a gluten-free diet, make sure your oats specify so on the label.
2. Choose a fun container.
Whether you’re meal prepping for the week or making a single portion to eat at your cubicle, overnight oats are super simple to store. While any small container or single-serve cup works well, Seidel offers an Instagram-friendly tip: “Small glass Mason jars make for a really nice presentation, especially when layering with fruit to show all the wonderful ingredients, toppings and colors.” She also adds that airtight Mason jars maintain your oats’ temperature and travel well throughout the day.
3. Get choose-y about your milk.
When adding your dairy or alternatives, there are two things to keep in mind: dietary restrictions and the flavor profile you’re going for. (For instance, vegans can reach for non-dairy choices. And coconut milk pairs well with pineapple and mango for a tropical vibe.)
More important than your milk variety is your ratio of liquid to oats. “As a guideline, my colleague, chef Peter Gilhooly, tells me is to use two parts milk to one part oats,” says Saidel.
4. Mix in your toppings.
Toppings are another opportunity to add an extra layer of nutrients. “Fruits and berries pair nicely with oats, and contain antioxidants that boost your brain power, to start your day off right,” says Saidel. If you’re looking for some crunch, overnight oats with chia, pumpkin seeds, toasted almonds and homemade granola offer an extra dose of heart-healthy fats as well.
Go seasonal for optimal freshness and a more budget-friendly bowl. During the summer, choose combos like strawberry and banana, pineapple and coconut, and a mix of other tropical fruits. In the winter, try flavors like apple cinnamon, peach cobbler, and pumpkin. Adding a pinch of nutmeg during the colder months is a great way to feel festive without tacking on calories.
5. Add extra flavor.
In addition to tasting toppings, you can keep your overnight oats from tasting like a bland mess by adding a little extra flavoring. Try mixing vanilla extract into your oat mixture, or spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom. (Check out the recipes below for some more fun spice add-ins.)
6. Put the bowl in the fridge.
Let your oats soak overnight in the refrigerator. Assuming you’ve gotten a full night of sleep, your oats should be ready to eat when you wake up. “A minimum of eight hours will be enough time for the oats to absorb all the flavors,” says Saidel. If you wait longer (or prepare them earlier in the evening the night before), you’ll notice a creamier texture.
7. Mix before eating.
Before you dig in, be sure to give your oats a stir since the ingredients may have settled, according to Saidel. You want the texture to feel even throughout.
8. Place in the microwave.
Before you grimace, hear Saidel out. “Overnight oats taste delicious hot or cold.” If you plan to microwave them, Saidel recommends adding in a bit more liquid of your choice beforehand to maintain consistency. Then, continue to stir a few times while re-heating.
No time to re-heat? No problem. “Overnight oats are just as good cold or room temperature,” says Saidel. “Even if the temperature changes, the nutrition content does not.”
9. Add extra toppings.
If you want to add a few extra blueberries or a spoonful of peanut butter for crunch right before serving, go right ahead!
10. Store in the fridge.
If you have leftovers, skip the bowl covered in plastic wrap and pop them in an airtight container instead (this is where that Mason jar comes in handy). It should then last two to three days, max, according to Saidel. “The fresher the ingredients, especially when it comes to fruit, the longer the shelf life will be,” she says.
Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats with Chia
Dessert in a cup? Yes, please. Thanks to festive flavors like nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger, this hearty breakfast takes you straight to your happy place—even when the weather outside is remarkably frightful.
Per serving: 274 calories, 6.5 g fat (2 g saturated), 42 g carbs, 10 g sugar, 10 g fiber, 14 g protein
Zesty Tropical Overnight Yogurt Muesli Bowls
For a slight deviation from standard oats, muesli—a variation of oat- and seed-filled granola—gets its creamy texture from yogurt. Plus, the blend of mint, lime, and coconut work together to create beach vibes for days.
Per serving: 310 calories, 13 g fat (3 g saturated), 38 g carbs, 10 g sugar, 27 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 14 g protein
Apple Pie Overnight Oats
American as…apple pie overnight oats? Imagine the aroma of walnuts, apples, cinnamon, and honey wafting through your kitchen first thing in the morning. Sold.
Per serving: 305 calories, 11 g fat (2 g saturated), 45 g carbs, 19 g sugar, 52 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 11 g protein
Overnight Steel Cut Oats
What happens when you take all the good stuff from your pantry and dump them into a Mason jar? This beauty of a breakfast, filled with your pick of citrus zest, honey, peanut butter, and more. Bonus: It contains loads of omega-3’s and filling fiber.
Per serving: 223 calories, 7 g fat (1 g saturated), 35 g carbs, 7 g sugar, 245 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 6 g protein
Cranberry Pumpkin Overnight Oats with Cinnamon Cashew Cream
Is this a ‘90s alternative rock band? Because these pumpkins look smashing! Cashew cream and your favorite plant-based milk make this vegan breakfast (and dessert!) a crowd-pleaser.
Per serving: 352 calories, 18 g fat (6 g saturated), 42 g carbs, 10 g sugar, 86 mg sodium, 10 g fiber, 10 g protein
Banana and Peanut Butter Overnight Oats
PB+B is an iconic combination for a reason. This recipe is the a satisfying and comforting way to start your day.
Per serving: 271 calories, 7 g fat (2 g saturated), 46 g carbs, 14 g sugar, 68 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 9 g protein
Eggnog Overnight Oats
Why wait until the holidays to tuck into this creamy goodness? Make every morning a reason to celebrate with a bowl of oats that uses protein powder to help you recover, and chia seeds to expand in your stomach and keep you full for days (well, maybe until lunch).
Per serving: 358 calories, 9 g fat (5 g saturated), 66 g carbs, 26 g sugar, 173 mg sodium, 8 g fiber, 13 g protein
Mocha Overnight Oats
If you don’t have time to brew a pot of coffee in the morning because you snoozed your alarm five times (same), this hearty meal packs tons of fiber, protein, and that ever-necessary caffeine.
Per serving: 407 calories, 13 g fat (5 g saturated), 72 g carbs, 26 g sugar, 5 mg sodium, 19 g fiber, 14 g protein
Sugar Cookie Overnight Protein Oatmeal
Okay, there must be a catch. It sounds too good to be true! But just look at the ingredient list: unsweetened almond milk, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, old-fashioned rolled oats, and a handful of natural flavors. You’ll feel healthier just reading them.
Per serving: 299 calories, 4 g fat (1 g saturated), 41 g carbs, 26 g sugar, 188 mg sodium, 12 g fiber, 26 g protein
Cinnamon and Blueberry Overnight Oats
This flavor-packed overnight oats recipe is low in sugar but tastes delicious and indulgent thanks to ingredients like peanut butter, cinnamon, and blueberries.
Per serving: 389 cal, 24 g fat (4.4 g sat), 37.9 g carbs, 5.8 g sugar, 165.7 mg sodium, 12.1 g fiber, 9.5 g protein