I first discovered overnight oatmeal more than a decade ago, when I was desperate for a speedy, healthy breakfast that I could grab-and-go before my heinous commute to work. Once I realized the magic that is overnight oats, I never looked back. The crappy job with the terrible commute is no longer in my life, but overnight oats still are!
There are a million-and-one websites that show you how to make overnight oats out there, so I’m not planning on reinventing the wheel here. I am going to tell you that my overnight oatmeal recipes have been pinned nearly a million times, and I literally get stopped on the street now by complete strangers saying “HEY! I know you! I make overnight oats from your website!” #truestory #hashappenedmorethanonce
I promise, you can’t go wrong with these! There are no weird ingredients or crazy mix-ins. You can do this! These overnight oats recipes have been tested, loved, and used by thousands of people. These are the recipes that I come back and use over and over and over again.
Before I get started though, I want to dive into an overnight oats tutorial. I’m going to answer all the most frequently asked oats questions, tell you exactly how to make overnight oats, and give you my favorite tricks and tips for perfect oatmeal. Let’s dig in!
What are overnight oats?
If you’ve never heard of overnight oats before, let me give you a quick little primer. Overnight oats are a no-cook method of making oatmeal. Instead of cooking your oats with liquid on the stove or in the microwave, you mix rolled (AKA: old-fashioned) oats with the liquid and other mix-ins, and let it rest in the fridge overnight. In the morning, you have a pudding-like porridge that is perfect for easy grab-and-go breakfasts.
What do overnight oats taste like? Do they taste good?
This is a question I get asked all the time, and my response is, if overnight oats didn’t taste good, I wouldn’t eat them! I get it though—after a lifetime of eating hot oatmeal, switching to eating cold overnight oatmeal can take a bit of getting used to. I promise, it is worth a shot. I’ve converted even the most skeptical people into total overnight oats fanatics. What seals the deal: the ease (you don’t have to do anything in the morning) and the texture. Overnight oatmeal doesn’t have the same texture as hot/stovetop oats. It’s creamier, denser, and in my opinion, so much tastier. I’d take a jar of overnight oats over hot oats any day!
My best comparison is coffee—iced coffee and hot coffee are both coffee, and they are both totally tasty, but they are also inherently different. Overnight oats are the iced coffee of your breakfast plate!
Speaking of that, do you eat overnight oats warm or cold?
That all being said, you absolutely can heat up your overnight oats if you prefer. I eat them cold straight out of the fridge, and I think most overnight oatmeal aficionados do as well. It’s part of the convenience of overnight oats—grab and go! However, if you want them warm, just heat them in the microwave for 30-60 seconds, stirring frequently, or in a small saucepan on the stove until heated to your liking.
Are overnight oats good for you?
Yes, with one caveat—overnight oats are inherently customizable, so if you fill your overnight oats with candy and lots of added sugar, it quickly turns from breakfast to dessert. Some of my overnight oats recipes below actually trend a bit more toward dessert-land, but that’s up to you to decide. Remember, you can always reduce or completely remove the amount of added honey or maple syrup.
Does soaking the oats make them easier to digest?
Did you know until very recently (as in, the past half-century or so), it was customary to soak and even ferment oatmeal before you ate it? Oats contain one of the highest levels of phytic acid of all grains—meaning they can be quite hard to digest for some folks. If you’ve ever had tummy troubles after a morning bowl of oatmeal, you might have good luck soaking your rolled oats in warm water overnight at room temp—bonus points if you mix in a few tablespoons of yogurt, kefir, or whey, and actually let your oats ferment for 8-12 hours in a warm spot. I’ve personally had a lot of luck soaking and fermenting oats! Both my husband and daughter (and occasionally myself) suffer from lots of stomach cramps after eating oats, and when we soak and ferment them, no cramps! If you’re interested in more information about how to traditionally prepare grains like oats for easier digestion, I highly recommend reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
And while making overnight oats doesn’t do quite the same amount of predigesting as soaking at room temperature and fermenting, it does definitely help! The time spent in the fridge soaking in the liquid helps to break down some of the compounds that cause digestive issues.
How do you make overnight oats?
The process for making overnight oats is really one of the simplest meal preps you can do. In a jar or small bowl, whisk together the following ingredients:
- Old-Fashioned/Rolled Oats—Obviously, you’re gonna need some oats in that overnight oatmeal! While you can make overnight oatmeal with steel cut oats or quick cook oats (more on that in a sec), we’ve found the best results come from old-fashioned or rolled oats. If you need to eat gluten-free, make sure to get certified gluten-free oats.
- Milk—This can be dairy milk or any plant-based milk you enjoy. I prefer to stick to unsweetened milk so I can customize the sweetness later. Unsweetened almondmilk is what we use in our house!
- Yogurt–I prefer to use 24 hour strained whole milk yogurt, but you can easily use plant-based yogurt if you want to make this free from animal products. Just try to make sure you use plain, unsweetened yogurt—again, to control the final sweetness of your overnight oats. You can see how “stacking” sweetened products like milk and yogurt could quickly result in a super sugar-heavy breakfast! You don’t have to use yogurt in your overnight oats, but I find it gives the final oats a much creamier texture—plus, getting a nice dose of probiotics is never a bad thing!
- Chia Seeds or Ground Flax Meal—Again, you don’t have to use these plant-based thickeners in your overnight oats, but I find the finished product is a lot creamier and thicker if I do add them. Plus, both chia seeds and flax have wonderful nutritional benefits of their own. I’m all about making my overnight oats as nutrient-dense as possible!
- Maple Syrup or Honey—Everyone requires different levels of sweetness to satisfy their sweet tooth, so I leave the sweetening of your overnight oats completely up to you. I do recommend a natural, liquid sweetener (like honey or maple syrup), just because it blends much easier.
- Salt–If you ever make something sweet and it tastes “flat,” try adding a pinch of salt! Adding a bit of salt to your overnight oats will really help balance the sweet flavor.
- Flavoring—In my base recipe down below, I use just vanilla extract, but the possibilities are really limitless! We have seven more overnight oats recipes at the end of this post to help spark your imagination (Strawberry Cheesecake Overnight Oats are my favorite!)
Overnight Oats Substitution Questions
Can you make overnight oatmeal dairy-free or vegan?
You can definitely make your oats both vegan and dairy-free! Just make sure to use plant-based milk and yogurt and choose to use maple syrup as your sweetener if shooting for vegan overnight oats. Easy, delicious, and 100% plant-based!
Can overnight oatmeal be made with water?
Yes, if you’re running low on milk, you can swap out the milk for just plain water. The final texture won’t be quite as creamy or rich, but it’ll work in a pinch.
Can you make overnight oats with steel cut oats?
Short answer: yes, you can use steel cut oats to make overnight oats. Steel cut oats are the whole grain groats from the oat plant (the groat is the whole kernel of a grain after it’s been hulled) that have been roughly cut by—you guessed it—a steel disc. Basically, steel cut oats are one of the least processed versions of oats you can get, which makes them a healthy option for folks who tolerate oats. Because steel cut oats are inherently less processed, you should increase the amount of liquid by 1/4 cup, and prepare for a chewier oatmeal in the morning.
What about instant or quick cooking oats?
Quick cooking oats will work for overnight oats, but the resulting oatmeal will be a bit less thick and creamy. If you choose to use quick cooking oats, think about reducing the liquid by a tablespoon or two. Instant oatmeal (the kind in the little packets) is a highly processed food with tons of additives. I can’t recommend you use it to make overnight oats.
Do you have to use the chia seeds or flax meal?
Have to? Nope. Do I highly recommend you do? Yes. Adding in chia or flax seeds helps the overnight oats thicken and get nice and creamy. If you don’t have them around to add, cut back on the liquid by about 1/4 cup on each recipe, and be aware that your final oats won’t be as dreamy creamy. Oh, and make sure to use ground flax meal instead of whole flaxseeds. The whole ones don’t have the same thickening properties as the ground stuff.
Do you have to use Greek yogurt, or what can I sub in?
Regular plain yogurt will work, too, although your end result will be a bit thinner. If you aren’t a fan of yogurt at all, you can leave it out altogether, double the chia or flax, and add an extra 1/3 cup of milk. Your final result won’t be as creamy or pudding-like, but it’ll still be good!
Can you make sugar-free overnight oats?
I know lots of folks are against added sugar in our diet, but I’m a big believer in moderation. I believe a tablespoon of maple syrup in my overnight oats isn’t going to be the death of me. If you disagree or if your health situation requires you to be more stringent with your sugar intake, that’s totally cool! Just leave out the added sweeteners when you go to make the recipes. I’ve also included suggestions for how to sweeten each recipe without added sugars. Feel free to use stevia or monk fruit sweetener if you prefer.
How long do overnight oats take? Do I really have to chill them overnight?
They start to thicken up nicely in about two hours. I’d recommend going at least four hours to get the optimal yumminess. I think most people just recommend overnight because it’s easy to put it together in the evening, and then wake up to an awesome, pre-made breakfast. The fridge does the work for you while you’re sleeping.
Can I make these ahead of time for meal prep?
You certainly can! Overnight oats are PERFECT for weekend food prep. Back when I was working in an office, I’d make up 8-10 jars on the weekend to grab for quick breakfasts and snacks during the week.
How long do overnight oats last in the fridge?
The recipes with fruit mix-ins, I’d eat within three days. The ones without, you could get by with letting them chill in the fridge for up to a week.
What else can you mix in?
Once you get the hang of overnight oats (by using the base Classic Vanilla Overnight Oats recipe below), you really can let your imagination run wild with what you mix in and flavor your oats with. Check out our full recipes at the bottom of this post, but here are a few ideas for mix-ins that might strike your fancy:
- Collagen powder, protein powder, or other dietary boosts—Check out our How to Make Smoothie Booster Packs post for a good rundown of nutritional mix-ins—usually whatever you’d use in a smoothie, you could use in overnight oats.
- Flavored extracts—Try peppermint extract around the holidays, almond extract, coconut extract, lemon extract, oh my!
- Espresso powder—Get your boost of caffeine IN your breakfast (plus, yum!).
- Citrus juice and zest—Key lime pie overnight oats? Lemon poppyseed overnight oats? Orange cardamon overnight oats? Yum, yum, and yum!
- Eggnog—Swap out the milk for eggnog at Christmas time. You won’t be sorry.
What jars do you use for overnight oats?
These recipes are designed to fit in a pint/half-liter size canning jar. It’s a big serving for big appetites, perfect for refueling after a big workout or keeping you full for hours. If your appetite isn’t quite as big as mine, you can definitely get by with dividing these recipes into two. Here are the jars I recommend:
Jars for Overnight Oats:
- Weck 742 Half Liter (fits full batch, pictured): I love these jars because there are no disposable parts, and they are just so darn cute, but they are priiiiicceeyyy. If you take care of them though, they’ll last a lifetime (or even more).
- Ball Wide Mouth Pint (fits full batch): These are classic, and for good reason. They are affordable, readily available, and great quality. The wide mouth makes it easy to scoop in (and get out!) the oats. They come with the metal two-piece lids, but I recommend getting the Ball plastic caps to go with them. You can’t preserve with those caps, but they are great for storage use.
- Weck 762 Jelly Jar 1/5 Liter (fits half batch): How cute are these guys? They are a touch less than half of the full batch, so you might have a scoop or two leftover, but if you really pack the oats in, you should be just fine!
- Kerr Wide Mouth Half Pint (fits half batch): These can sometimes be hard to track down in stores, but they are a great jar to have around the house. We use these for everything from overnight oats, to storing thumbtacks, to actual jelly canning. I like them because they have clear sides. In the summer, you should be able to find them at most small-town hardware stores (they always have the BEST selection of canning jars). Again, I recommend the Ball plastic caps to go with them.
Okay, now that you have your jars and all your questions answered, let’s move on to the actual recipes. Like I said above, each of these recipes makes one very large serving. Great for a big breakfast. If you’re looking for a lighter meal or a snack option, halve ’em.
Classic Vanilla Overnight Oats Recipe
First, I’m going to talk you through my overnight oats “base” recipe. This recipe is simple, easy, and delicious on its own. If you’re a vanilla fan, you’ll love it! But this recipe is also good to know because it serves as a base to get imaginative. Mix in whatever fruit or seeds you like. Change up the milk. Leave out the sweetener. Make this recipe your own!
Suggested Dietary Swaps
- Make it vegan: Use plant-based milk, plant-based yogurt, and maple syrup for sweetener.
- Make it sugar-free: Drop the sweetener and add 1/2 mashed ripe banana.
- Make it gluten-free: Use gluten-free oats.
More Easy and Delicious Overnight Oats Recipes
Wholefully is your one-stop-shop for all kinds of delicious and healthy overnight oats recipes! Click on any flavor that looks good to you to head on over and get the full printable recipe:
Phew! That’s a whole lot of overnight oats recipes and information! I hope you were able to find something in there that’ll make your breakfasts a little bit more exciting. Enjoy!