Breakfast

The World’s Easiest Make-Ahead Breakfast

February 16, 2018

What can you do with just five minutes? Actually, way more than you think! Introducing Food52 in 5: your cheat sheet for speedy, delicious recipes, fun mini projects, and more.


Regular oatmeal comes together in mere minutes, sure—but when you’re half asleep, halfway out the door, or all the way hungover, the difference between having to cook or microwave something versus just grabbing a jar from the fridge can be huge. (Thank you, last-night me! Really, thank you.) Enter overnight oats.

So, how to make them? Just start making oatmeal, then stop: Combine liquid (usually any milk) and old-fashioned rolled oats. Chill for 8 to 12 hours. And...that’s it! Whereas making hot oatmeal calls for a 2:1 liquid-to-grain ratio, the overnight kind is an easy-to-remember 1:1. Here's how to play around from there:

Oats

Start with ½ cup per serving as a baseline. If you want to flesh that out with a spoonful of toasted wheat germ, chia seeds, or flax meal—watch out, world!

Liquid

If you’re including a lot of mix-ins (see below), you’ll probably want more than ½ cup. First combine your oats, mix-ins, and ½ cup liquid. Then add more, splash by splash, until the result is slightly thinner than you like your oatmeal. Keep in mind, it will thicken as the oats absorb the liquid and release their starches. Some favorite milks: cow, any fat content; soy; almond; cashew; even oat (so meta). If you want to power up, cut the milk with ultra-strong coffee or espresso.

Nut (or Seed) Butter

Peanut, almond, cashew, pecan, sesame, sunflower. The world is your jar of nut (or seed) butter. Preferably unsweetened and salted. Start with a spoonful, then build from there. If you want some texture, incorporate roasted, chopped nuts, too—match with the butter or mix it up, like peanut butter with pecans or tahini with cashews.

Photo by Julia Gartland

Fresh or Dried Fruit

Be careful with fresh fruits. Because we’re soaking here, anything that leans toward mushy will only get mushier. Try firm blueberries, pineapple chunks, or finely chopped pear. With dried fruit, anything goes: raisins or currants, chopped apricots or dates. Just check the ingredients to see if there’s any added sugar. If there is, that’s fine, but you’ll want to cut back on your...

Sweetener

Steer toward liquid sweeteners versus anything grainy that needs to dissolve, like white or brown sugar. Think honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, agave syrup, molasses, pomegranate molasses, even chocolate syrup. Jams and preserves are a great way to sweeten and add flavor, too, from syrupy strawberry to seedy fig.

Bonuses

Customize your oats to taste: Add a pinch of kosher salt, black pepper, citrus zest, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ginger, or chocolate chunks.

Toppings

In the morning, if you want to treat your overnight oats to a quickie garnish, sprinkle on top: any fresh fruit that wouldn’t have wanted to soak (think blackberries, raspberries, strawberries), chopped nuts, or granola (oats on oats!).

Shop the Story

Need some more concrete ideas? A few pairing suggestions:

  • Almond milk + almond butter + strawberry jam, with freeze-dried strawberries on top.
  • Soy milk + pumpkin butter + toasted pecans + crumbled graham crackers.
  • Coffee-milk + chocolate syrup + toasted hazelnuts on top.

Or my most recent creation, which thinks it’s an oatmeal-chocolate chunk cookie, but it’s breakfast. (Actually, what’s the difference?) Get the recipe below, and share any combinations you come up with in the comments!

Tags:

12 Comments

Andy D. February 24, 2018
This is called Muesli for those who might want to look it up. It's a great breakfast and definitely not what I would consider to be "soggy"
 
Louise M. February 23, 2018
I made this for breakfast this morning and it was delicious. I followed the ratio of 1/2 c oats to 1/2 c milk, added some maple syrup and about of chia seeds. This morning I popped it in the microwave for about 45 seconds and added sliced strawberries. It was chewy, tasty, EASY and from what I can see the possibilities are endless!
 
Nancy February 22, 2018
Love the mix in ideas, thanks! I usually do oats, unsweetened almond milk, PB2 (powdered peanut butter, 3 diced dates, and chia seed. Taste like carmel oatmeal! Delish!
 
Lee A. February 22, 2018
I fill a wide-mouth quart jar with old-fashioned oats, add a pinch of salt, then pour almond milk in the jar until the oats are covered. The lid goes on the jar, the jar goes in the fridge, and I have oatmeal for at least four mornings. Super easy and always delicious.
 
Joan -. February 23, 2018
I made this last night and used my favorite granola (Nekisia Davis' olive oil, maple syrup recipe) as my flavor template. Half a cup of oats, toasted walnuts and sesame seeds, olive oil and maple syrup with a big pinch of unsweetened coconut flakes and sea salt went into a jar and were well-shaken before going into the fridge. This morning I tasted it cold and it was good, but on a cold morning it was much more comforting after I warmed it for a minute in the microwave. I'd from intended to add some dried cranberries and cherries this morning but never even thought about it until the last bites. One thing to know. This is not oatmeal - it is oat cereal.
 
Amanda L. February 22, 2018
This does sound easy, but I cannot get past the concept of eating COLD, soggy oatmeal. People who like overnight oats: Why??
 
Joan -. February 22, 2018
I'm with you Amanda. I'm wiling to give this technique a go but the last step in my procedure will be to pop the oatmeal jar in the microwave for a couple minutes.
 
Pete P. February 23, 2018
Amanda & Joan,<br />I find it a really great breakfast, a heavy ratio of dried fruits makes for something other than 'cold' soggy oats (honest) I mix in a load of chia and flax and linseed as well, I also add yoghurt as well as my soya milk, why not just give it a go :)
 
Julie February 23, 2018
I actually do my overnight oats a bit differently, and I would definitely not describe the result as soggy. I do equal parts rolled oats, yogurt, and soy milk, with frozen blueberries mixed in. The result is thick and creamy with a nice chewiness from the oats. The blueberries lend a natural sweetness that means no added sugar is necessary.
 
Joan -. February 23, 2018
I made this last night and used my favorite granola (Nekisia Davis' olive oil, maple syrup recipe) as my flavor template. Half a cup of oats, toasted walnuts and sesame seeds, olive oil and maple syrup with a big pinch of unsweetened coconut flakes and sea salt went into a jar and were well-shaken before going into the fridge. This morning I tasted it cold and it was good, but on a cold morning it was much more comforting after I warmed it for a minute in the microwave. I'd from intended to add some dried cranberries and cherries this morning but never even thought about it until the last bites. One thing to know. This is not oatmeal - it is oat cereal.
 
AntoniaJames February 20, 2018
I’m glad to see Food52 devoting some editorial real estate to this "what can you do in five minutes?" approach, which I’ve been evangelizing since the earliest days of the site. Several years ago, one of the editors picked up on this to write a short-ish feature on tasks quickly done in the morning, to make the evening meal easier. I created a quick list, just off the top of my head, of the many 2 - 6 minute tasks that I do to take advantage of small “pockets” of time when I’m home. To share it with anyone who might find it helpful, I’ve posted a link to this (still somewhat stream of consciousness) list of quickly completed tasks. https://tinyurl.com/SmallMakeAhead...... <br /><br />(This general idea is not original to me. I have been doing this in my office since reading David Allen’s “Getting Things Done,” which was published the year I started my own law practice. It’s one of the most useful business books out there. But I digress . . . .) <br /><br />I’ve added this overarching suggestion to the linked Google Doc about a month ago:<br /><br />When I plan / review my menus for the following week to lay out my prep activities for the weekend and weeknight evenings, I create a list of every small food prep or other task that will eventually need to be done. I put it on a medium index card, which I keep handy to consult whenever I have a few minutes of "downtime,” or to include in my longer prep sessions. <br /><br />Also, there are quite a few good suggestions of 5-minute tasks in this Hotline thread started last month: <br /><br />https://food52.com/hotline...... I’m guessing that many of these ideas will be the subject of separate posts in the near future . . . . . . .<br /><br />;o)
 
piggledy February 25, 2018
I so love your concept of 5-minute tasks, and have saved your google docs list, but’s the link to the Hotline thread doesn’t go to the thread, and a search for “five-minute tasks” comes up empty - any suggestions for a better search string? I’d love to read that thread, but’s it is difficult to scan for it - any suggestions for a better search string?