Friday, August 1, 2014

Overnight Oats... the Basics (and some preaching)


A couple summers ago as we were about to leave for a trip, I stumbled upon a really weird concept... eating uncooked oats, cold.  I was intrigued but didn't have the opportunity to try it before leaving the next day.

When we arrived at our destination our hostess and I were discussing meals. I mentioned the idea.  Thankfully she and her husband both seemed to be curious about it, and since they had all the ingredients on hand we whipped up a batch of Overnight Oats for the next day's breakfast.  My husband declined and ate his oats in the traditional manner.

He likes oatmeal hot with brown sugar, thank you very much!

This is the basic recipe... yogurt and rolled oats in a 4 to 1 ratio.  That's it.  Stir them together, cover, refrigerate overnight, and eat cold the next morning.  I haven't eaten them unembellished like that, but you could if you really wanted to.

I've never really wanted to.

I've used both Greek-style yogurt and standard American-style.  Plain.  Always plain.  Using the stuff that is pre-flavored rather defeats the purpose of eating healthier foods.  Seriously, friends, the sweetened stuff is NOT all that good for you.  Check out the ingredients!

If you choose to use the less healthy version of yogurt I'm sure it would work just as well.  But know what you are choosing.  Don't be misled by crafty advertising.

Sermon over.

Using Greek yogurt will give you a thicker result than American yogurt.  A higher ratio of oats to yogurt will yield a gummier texture.  I don't mind the gumminess, but some may find it off-putting.

So what are the basic add-ins?  Nut butter, sweetener, fruit. 

My preference for nut butter is almond.  Chunky, all natural almond butter.  Again, read your ingredients list!  Be aware of what your food contains.  The kind I use is nothing but almonds.

Sweetener is key for most people, I'm sure.  I have used honey, real maple syrup, and fruit puree to sweeten my overnight oats.  My taste preference is honey, but my calorie preference is fruit puree.  Sometimes I don't even use a sweetener.  It really all depends on what I have on hand.

Let me just pause to say that this is not a low-calorie diet food.  This is a real foods food.  God's food, as a friend of mine says.  That's why I try to use the most basic, unadulterated ingredients I can find (and afford).  So much of our food supply has been altered in a way that our bodies don't recognize and we are being poisoned by it.   I've used stevia in this a time or two, but I have mixed feelings about stevia.  It is so highly processed and doesn't resemble its original source at all that I'm not convinced that it is all that healthy.  But sometimes you have to make a better choice when the BEST choice isn't available. 

Sermon over. 

For real, this time.

Fruit.  You can add fruit to your oats prior to refrigerating overnight, but I prefer to add it right before eating.  It can get a bit droopy otherwise.  Blueberries are my personal favorite.

And now for froufrouing it up a bit...

I've experimented with relatively few items since I like my typical mixture the best... yogurt, oats, almond butter, and cinnamon, blueberries added the next day.  After making a carrot cake-inspired version I've started adding shredded carrots (uncooked) and shredded coconut.  I like the texture.

Extracts, "sweet" spices, chopped nuts, toasted seeds, dried fruit.  I've seen quite a few yummy-sounding combinations for Overnight Oats.  A quick search on Pinterest will show you millions of options. 

Well, at least dozens.

My favorite method is to mix it up in a large batch.  4 cups of yogurt, 1 cup of oats, 4-ish tablespoons of almond butter, 4-ish teaspoons of cinnamon, half-cup of coconut, 1 cup carrots, 4-ish teaspoons of honey or maple syrup (if using).  Divide among several glass jars, pop on the lids, and refrigerate.  It isn't an exact science, which is my favorite kind of recipe to follow! 

I'm a rebel like that.

Still skeptical about trying this out?  I don't blame you.  My husband has never even tasted it.  It just doesn't sound good to him at all.  And that's fine.  Really.  Even though he has grown to like many, MANY foods that he once said were inedible, he doesn't trust me on this one.

Pfft!  His loss.  I didn't want to share it anyway. 

But I did share it with a group of women friends a few weeks ago.  They all seemed to like it.  They all took the recipe home with them after eating the sample.  One of the women made it for her husband.  He ate it and declared it to be "okay".  Which, according to her, is high praise from him.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure because I did so much preaching... 

I know a moderate amount of information about eating healthy food.  I like to eat food that is good for my body.  I honestly do.  I am getting better and better at making wiser choices.  I know what foods make me feel energetic and I know what foods make me feel sluggish.  I'm learning that things labeled to make them sound healthy are not always very healthy.  I pay much closer attention to those things than in years past. 

So, yay for me!!!  {Applause appreciated, but not necessary}

All that is very true.  However, that does not mean that you will never see me eating a big ol' nasty drive-thru burger, or chips, or a vat of ice cream.  I eat those, too.  I will sit at anyone's table and eat what is offered to me and I will not flinch because of its anti-health ingredients. 

Note to self: This "disclosure" part really should be its own post.  People don't like blog posts that are too wordy.  You are dangerously close to exceeding the limit.

My goal is not to be a purist.  C'mon, folks!  Dairy Queen just came out with the Chips A'hoy Blizzard.  Do you really think I'm going to pass that up?  I'm not.  But I will know what I am choosing and will accept the consequences.  Those things aren't wholesome and nutritious.  So when I feel like a bomb went off in my gut, and when my 4 mile walk takes me longer because I feel like a slug, and I get the sugar grouchies, I'll know exactly where it came from.  And I'll be less likely to make that choice again very soon.

Will you be giving Overnight Oats a try?


  1. Have you ever prepared your overnight oats and left them on the counter instead of refrigerate them? I read that it is healthier to do it that way because it lets the (good) bacteria do it's job. The problem, though, was that doing that starts the fermentation process which is what is intended, but coupled with the tang of the yogurt, the oatmeal had too much bite for my taste. I eat oats from the refrigerator with fewer of the health benefits or do I let it do its healthy work on the counter but not enjoy the taste as much? I haven't come up with an answer yet.

    1. I have lacto-fermented juice using the whey drained from yogurt, but I haven't tried it with oats. I think I would like the tang since I've also made labneh and liked it very much. It gets very tangy! The overnight oats may have more good bacteria develop if left at room temperature, but since I eat it nearly every day, I'm getting plenty (I think) already. If I were to try lacto-fermenting the oats I probably wouldn't stir in any extras until after it was done "brewing". I'd probably be more apt to try it in winter. I like eating cold stuff in summer! :-)

  2. Do the overnight oats have the same consistency as cooked oatmeal? There are very few foods that I don't like, but some of my "dislikes" are due to food texture. Oatmeal is one of those things...I just don't like the sticky/thick texture. I like oats in baked goods or crunchy toppings (of course I do!), but I've just never enjoyed them in the cooked breakfast form.

    1. I don't find the texture to be as mucilaginous (thanks, Joanie!) as cooked oatmeal. It is more gummy than slimy. But since I don't mind the texture of cooked oatmeal, I really haven't paid too close attention. If you were game to try it, I'd start with a smaller amount of oats and work your way up, provided you like how it tastes and feels.