How to make overnight oats – a healthy breakfast loaded with protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and flavor. Including a how-to for a base easy overnight oats recipe, 5 flavor variations, + top tips and FAQs!
What Are Overnight Oats
Overnight oats are essentially a no-cook method for making oatmeal. Instead, the oats and other ingredients are left to soak (usually overnight, hence the name) in liquid like milk, yogurt, or a combination of the two. As the oats soak, they absorb the liquid and become tender.
Why try overnight oats recipes over regular oatmeal? There are several benefits I love. First, the raw oats are more easily digestible after soaking. They also contain a higher level of resistant starch, which will keep you fuller for longer.
Personally, though, my favorite benefit is the texture. Unlike regular stovetop oatmeal, which is very soft and gloopy, overnight oats are still tender but maintain some of the “chew” in the oats. Plus, they maintain that texture over several days, making them a fantastic meal-prep breakfast option!
Prep a week’s worth on Sunday night, and you’ll have a filling, nutritious, and delicious grab-and-go breakfast (or snack!). Plus it will keep you full until your next meal.
Best of all, they’re cheap to make and easy to prepare. And can be made with practically endless flavor variations, toppings, and dietary adaptations. For example, all my recipes use gluten-free certified oats and can be made 100% dairy-free, refined sugar-free, and vegan. Keep reading for my current top five best overnight oats meal prep recipes!
The Base Ingredients of Overnight Oats
Just six ingredients make up the base recipe, three of which are technically optional. Yet, it’s the best overnight breakfast oats recipe to add to in unlimited ways!
- Oats: Use certified gluten-free oats if necessary.
What are the best oats for overnight oats?
I recommend using plain old-fashioned rolled oats for this easy recipe. I don’t recommend using steel-cut oats as the method will change. You can technically use quick oats, though the texture will change.
- Chia Seeds: (Optional) There are white and black chia seeds. You can use either (or a combination). These will add protein and heart-healthy omega fatty acids. Overnight oats with chia seeds are also thicker and more filling.
- Milk: Use the dairy or non-dairy milk of your choice, including:
You could use water if preferred, but I like milk’s extra creaminess and flavor.
- Yogurt: (optional) Use plain, unsweetened yogurt (natural or Greek yogurt) or vanilla yogurt for this base recipe. You could use coconut yogurt, soy yogurt, or almond yogurt if you’re dairy-free.
Yogurt helps to thicken the oats overnight and make them creamier. Feel free to experiment with making simple overnight oats without yogurt if preferred, though.
- Sweetener: I like to use maple syrup but there are several to choose from:
- Honey (or vegan dandelion honey)
- Agave syrup
- Brown rice syrup
- Date syrup or date paste
- A sugar-free sweetener: Like monk fruit sweetener, stevia, erythritol, etc. for keto overnight oats
- Vanilla: (Optional) use natural vanilla extract to avoid an artificial flavor.
- Salt: To enhance the flavors within the overnight oatmeal recipes.
How To Make Overnight Oats
Arm yourself with the correct overnight oats ingredient ratio, and you’re good to go. You will get easy and delicious breakfast oats every time.
What Is The Perfect Overnight Oats Ratio?
Too much liquid and your oats will be soupy. Not enough, and you could lay bricks with it. Thankfully, I’ve discovered the perfect ratio:
1 part rolled oats + 1 part milk + (optional) ½ part yogurt
So, for a single portion of this easy overnight oats recipe, use ½ cup oats + ½ cup milk + ¼ cup yogurt.
Depending on the other ingredients added to the oats, you might need an extra 2-3 tablespoons of liquid. i.e., adding powdered ingredients like cacao powder or protein powder.
The Step-By-Step Instructions
You can prepare the oats in individual cups/mason jars. OR make the entire base in a large bowl as one large batch and separate it into portions later.
- First, combine the old-fashioned oats and chia seeds.
- Then add all the remaining ingredients (milk, yogurt, and sweetener) and mix well.
- Then, set it aside covered in the refrigerator to thicken for a minimum of 2 hours, though overnight is best.
Finally, when ready, enjoy the easy overnight oats with your add-ins or toppings of choice. I particularly like to experiment with different options for each day, including:
- Fresh fruit (berries, banana, chopped apple, peaches, pear, etc.).
Note that you can add fresh or frozen berries to overnight oats recipes. They will defrost overnight and release some juices, which you can mix into the oats.
- Dried fruit (dates, raisins, blueberries, craisins, apricots, etc.).
- Coconut (shredded or flakes, unsweetened).
- Other sprinkles (cacao nibs, puffed quinoa, chocolate chips).
- Nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, omega seed blend, etc., or a drizzle of your favorite nut or seed butter).
- Healthy salted caramel sauce.
- Preserves (any of your favorite jams or jellies).
Strawberry Shortcake Overnight Oats
Add: 1 tablespoon nut butter + 1 tablespoon jam + ½ cup fresh fruit + 1 tablespoon crushed nuts
I used almond butter with strawberry jam, strawberries, and almonds. However, you can use peanut butter for a traditional PBJ flavor. Swap out the jam/jelly for your desired flavor (i.e., raspberry, grape, etc.) and use sugar-free jam if preferred. Then use the corresponding fruit and the nuts or seeds of your choice.
I like to layer the jar with the jam at the bottom and other add-ins on top. However, you could stir everything together, too.
Blueberry Pie Overnight Oats
Add: 1 tablespoon blueberry jam + 1 tablespoon crushed digestive biscuits + ½ cup blueberries (fresh or frozen) +1 teaspoon hemp seeds (optional) + ¼ teaspoon lemon zest.
Swap out the digestive biscuits for Graham crackers or a similar plain cookie. Use sugar-free blueberry jam, if preferred. Hemp seeds will add extra protein and omega fatty acids.
Mix everything in or layer it up with the jam on the bottom and everything else as a topping. Keep the biscuits on top so they don’t become soggy before it’s time to enjoy the oats.
Peanut Butter Banana Overnight Oats
Add: ½ cup banana (sliced) + 1 tablespoon peanut butter + 1 tablespoon crushed peanuts + 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon.
Other nut or seed butters (including homemade healthier vegan Nutella) will also work, and the crushed nuts are optional. This option works well with extra fruits, too, like chopped berries.
You can either mix in the peanut butter or add dollops of it throughout the mixture. Also, add the banana slices as levels throughout the oats.
Apple Pie Overnight Oats
Add: ½ cup chopped apple + ¼ teaspoon cinnamon + 1 tablespoon crushed walnuts (or pecans).
There are two ways to prepare this apple pie overnight oats recipe. The first has you combine the apple and cinnamon and add it to the oats raw.
The second transfers the apple to a small saucepan with a splash of water. Then it is cooked down into a tender apple compote (or microwave the apples for between 1-2 minutes). Which you use is up to you!
I like to layer the oats over the apple mixture or use it as a topping.
Tropical Mango Overnight Oats
Add: 1/2 cup chopped mango (or 1/4 cup mango puree) +1 tablespoon shredded coconut
I recommend using coconut milk for the best flavor when making mango overnight oats. Optionally, top them with fresh raspberries or add a squeeze of lime juice for a sweet-tart flavor combination.
You could swap out the mango for pineapple for a “pina colada” overnight oats recipe.
I recommend layering the jar with the mango chunks first (or the mango puree). Then the overnight oats mixture, topped with the shredded coconut.
What Else Could I Add?
There are an unlimited number of ways to flavor decadent or healthy overnight oats with. A few simple ways to add flavor include:
- Flavored extracts: coconut, lemon, peppermint, etc. (added to taste).
- Flavored syrups: coffee syrup, vanilla syrup, lavender syrup, etc. (just a drizzle).
- Flavored yogurt: dairy or dairy-free (to replace the plain yogurt).
- Protein powder: With your choice of flavor (2-3 tablespoon per portion).
- Spices: Cinnamon, nutmeg, chai spice, cardamom, pumpkin spice, etc. (to taste).
- Cocoa powder: or cacao powder (1 tablespoon per portion).
- Coffee/Espresso powder: Perfect breakfast for coffee lovers (1/2-1 teaspoon added to taste).
- Orange zest: For a subtle citrusy flavor (1/4-1/2 tsp).
How Long Do Overnight Oats Last?
You can store prepared overnight oats in the fridge, covered, for 5 days, making it perfect as a make-ahead breakfast or snack. However, when using lots of fresh fruit, it’s best to consume them within 2-3 days.
You can also freeze overnight oats, but without any toppings, for 2-3 months. The texture may vary upon thawing, though.
If you like to meal prep other recipes, too, check out my essential guide to meal prep!
Overnight oats are a wonderfully nutritious meal in terms of macro and micronutrients. Oats are whole grains packed with fiber, starch, and several vitamins and minerals.
Also, chia seeds are also packed with fiber, protein, and heart-healthy omega-3s. They also have several vitamins and minerals, including potassium, zinc, and various B vitamins.
Combined, the fiber and starch content is excellent for keeping you satiated for longer. The two ingredients are also highly beneficial for digestive health/gut health, bone health, providing an energy boost, health health, and more.
Combined with your milk and yogurt of choice, you’ll benefit from even more protein and extra nutrients (based on which type you use).
Yes, though I prefer them without doing so as I usually use lots of fresh fruits as toppings. To heat overnight oats, microwave them for 30-60 seconds. Ensure there’s enough space at the top of the container for expansion as it heats.
OR transfer them to a small saucepan with an extra splash of liquid and heat until warm.
Leave the oats to soak for a minimum of two hours. Though overnight is best for the creamiest, most tender consistency.
Quick oats become too soggy/mushy when soaked in the liquid and almost feel like they dissolve into the mixture. For that reason, I don’t recommend it. However, it is technically possible.
When making overnight oats with quick oats, I’d recommend enjoying them almost immediately to retain some of the texture in the oats.
More Oat Recipes
- Bircher Muesli (The Original Overnight Oats)
- Healthy Oatmeal Spinach Pancakes
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal
- Granola Butter (Oatmeal Butter)
- Chocolate Baked Oatmeal
If you try this overnight oats recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
How to Make Overnight Oats (5 Delicious Flavors)
For the Base
This will yield about 5 cups of overnight oats mixture (3 pounds/1.37 kg)
For Strawberry Shortcake
For Blueberry Pie
For Peanut Butter Banana
For Apple Pie
For Tropical Mango
- use 1/5 of the basic mixture and
- 1/4 cup mango nectar or 1/2 cup chopped mango
- 1 tablespoon coconut
- 5 Glass jars or use small bowls or cups
- You can prepare the oats in individual cups/jars or make the entire base in a large bowl and separate it into portions later.
- Combine the rolled oats and chia seeds.
- Add all the remaining base ingredients (milk, yogurt, and sweetener) and mix well.
- Place the oats in the refrigerator, covered, to thicken for a minimum of 2 hours, though overnight is best.
- I like to prepare the flavor combinations before refrigerating (so my breakfast is set for the next 5 days) but you can also do it at the time of serving. Layer the jar with the fruit or jam at the bottom, add the oats base, then add the other add-ins on top. Or you could stir everything together. Then place in the fridge.Keep add-ins you don't want to get soggy separately until it's time to serve (e.g. if you want to keep the biscuits crispy).
- When ready, enjoy the easy overnight oats with your add-ins or toppings of choice.
- Adjust the consistency: If the oats are too thick, add more milk. If they’re too thin, add more oats and allow them to sit for a little longer (around 30 minutes).
- For chewier overnight oats: Soak it for just 2-4 hours rather than overnight. The less soaking time, the chewier the oats will be, though they will also be thinner/more liquidy.
- Adjust the sweetness: According to personal taste.
- To increase the protein: You could add 2-3 tablespoon of your favorite plain or vanilla protein powder. Increase the milk by the same amount.
- Add nuts/seeds before serving: If left to soak overnight, they can soften and lose their crunch. The same can be said for most toppings and sprinkles. Even the fruit will do best added right before serving, so it doesn’t become mushy in the oats.