Overnight oatmeal: It’s what’s for breakfast

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 17, 2017

By Deirdre Parker Smith


You’ve seen it on Pinterest, television, everywhere. It’s even on the Quaker Oats container — overnight oats.

Oatmeal is a delicious, hearty way to start the day. It can help people lower their bad cholesterol, it can be a grab and go meal, if you use instant oatmeal. It’s great in baked goods and works as a substitute for bread crumbs in meatloaf if you are avoiding gluten.

Since we have become more health conscious, but not necessarily healthier, or more willing to spend time getting healthy, overnight oatmeal has grabbed our attention. Pour a few ingredients in a jar, stick it in the frig and you can grab it as you walk out the door in the morning.

This is different from the overnight oatmeal in a slow cooker. Overnight oatmeal is a cold dish with a pudding-like consistency. The overnight oats in a slow cooker that I tried, using steel-cut oats, came out gluey and firm, like overnight wallpaper paste. The texture was awful, weirdly gelatinous and not appetizing. Unfortunately, I had eight cups of the stuff.

The nice thing about overnight oatmeal in the refrigerator is it comes out creamy, soft and enjoyable. The choices for add-ins and dress ups are nearly endless, ranging from sweet and fruity to savory and salty. You can start with the recipes on the canister of Quaker Oats and then explore online for variations.

One popular addition is chia seeds, which contain pectin and are a concentrated food containing healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants and calcium, according to WebMD. They will also thicken the end result. Chia seeds do need to soak in order to absorb liquid, so don’t add those at the last minute.

You can make overnight oatmeal at its most basic level with what you have in your kitchen.

• For best results, let the oatmeal soak in the refrigerator for a full 8 hours so it can absorb all the liquid. Fewer hours is OK, but at least 4 is best.

• Use a one-to-one ratio of raw oats and your choice of milk, yogurt or a dairy substitute

• Old-fashioned rolled oats will have the best texture, but steel cut oats work well, too, and will have more texture. Do not use instant oatmeal, it will become a mushy mess.

• To add crunch, save toppings such as nuts for the morning.

• Frozen fruit toppings will work well, because during the soaking, the fruit will thaw and the juices will mingle with the oatmeal.

• You can use any kind of container. A wide-mouth Mason jar works very well.

The method is so simple. Just add oats to the container, pour in milk and add fruit or yogurt. Top it with honey as a sweetener if you need that.

Some suggest toasting your oats in a dry pan until golden and nutty smelling to add flavor in the final product. Overnight oats also need a pinch of salt to enhance flavor.

Your overnight oats will not taste like hot oatmeal, but have a pudding-like texture that is creamier, thicker and easy to grab and go. But before serving, give your oatmeal a stir to make sure the soaked oats are well mixed with the liquid and any additions. Don’t be surprised to see lots of bubbles in the liquid.

You can top a basic recipe with any fruit, and refrigerate at the same time, or add toppings in the morning. Some more delicate fruits like kiwi or raspberries might be best added at the last minute if you want to get the fresh taste of the fruit, but adding raspberries overnight can give you added juice to flavor the oatmeal.

Nuts, fruits, seeds will all work. If you’re counting calories, be sure to portion out the toppings carefully. Many recipes with fruit do not need additional sweetener, but if you’ll be using cocoa, for example, it needs some sweetener. Bananas have plenty of fruit sugar to sweeten up an overnight oatmeal.

Try using warm spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, a little bit of cloves or allspice with fruits like apples or pears.

If you are not using any Greek yogurt in your recipe, think of adding protein powder to boost the protein content. Citrus zest adds a lot of flavor, too.

These recipes are from Quaker Oats:

Blueberry and Honey Overnight Oats

1/2 cup oats

1/2 cup low-fat milk

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup blueberries

1 Tbsp. honey

Add oats to your container, Pour in milk and add blueberries and Greek yogurt. Sweeten by topping with honey before refrigerating.

Banana Nut Overnight Oats

1 1/2 cup ripe bananas, sliced, divided

1/2 cup oats

1/2 cup low fat milk

1 Tbsp. Greek yogurt

2 tsp. honey

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. walnuts, chopped

Add oats to the container and pour in milk. Layer Greek yogurt, bananas, honey, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla on top and sprinkle with walnuts. Refrigerate over night.

Raspberry Coconut Overnight Oats

1/2 cup oats

1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 cup low-fat milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. chia seeds

1/2 cup raspberries

1/8 cup shredded coconut

1/3 cup bananas, sliced

Add oats to the container, then mix together milk, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Add to oats. Add chia seeds, Alternate layers of raspberries, shredded coconut and banana slices. Refrigerate overnight.

So, you get the idea.

You can make your oats sugar free by omitting any sweetener and relying on sweet fruit, like bananas, instead. To make them vegan, use plant-based milk and yogurt and use maple syrup as a sweetener. It is also possible to buy gluten-free oats.

To make a savory overnight oatmeal, stick with 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup milk (dairy or non), 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, salt and pepper to taste. When you get ready to eat, sprinkle on some fresh chives or green onion.

If you’re going for high protein, sprinkle crumbled, cooked bacon on top, or shreds of ham or turkey. Just remember that cold foods need more seasoning than warm foods.

Change cheeses for your savory oatmeal and top with toasted nuts for a contrast in textures.

On the website Wholefully, the classic, basic recipe is one that can be adorned with fruit, nuts, you name it.

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup rolled oats

2/3 cup unsweetened milk of your choice

1 Tbsp. chia seeds or ground flaxmeal

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

0-2 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup

Mix all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and spoon into a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Chocolate Peanut Butter: Add 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter and 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder.

Carrot cake: Add 1 large carrot peeled and shredded, 2 Tbsp. softened cream cheese, 1/4 cup raisins and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon.

Tropical fruit: 1/3 cup fresh or canned pineapple, 1/3 cup chopped ripe mango, 1/2 ripe banana, chopped or mashed, 2 Tbsp. unsweetened, flaked coconut.

Pumpkin spice: Add 1/2 cup plain pumpkin puree, 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. ground cloves, 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Overnight Oats

1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries

2 tsp. chia seeds

2 cups old-fashioned oats

2 1/2 Tbsp. chia seeds

2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 heaping cup all natural peanut butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp sea salt

Stevia to taste

Add strawberries and 2 tsp. chia seeds to a small microwavable bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. Mash with a fork, then set aside. Mix all remaining ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.

Add strawberry chia sauce and oatmeal mixture in alternate layers in four glasses, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.