How to Make Overnight Oats Without a Recipe

While you sleep, you can "cook" your oatmeal overnight in the refrigerator.

January  7, 2020
Photo by James Ransom

Here at Food52, we love recipes—but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Multitasking always seems like a better idea than it is. It's just an innocent, time-saving technique until one day, as you're texting, listening to music, and writing an essay at the same time, you end up texting your mom about how annoying your mom is. Whoops!

And when it comes to cooking and baking, some of the most egregious offenses occur when you don't give a recipe the attention it deserves (in my house: sugarless rice pudding is, unfortunately, a true story). 

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Luckily, there is a way to cook and sleep at the same time. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is true that you can cook your oatmeal overnight in the refrigerator with no actual cooking—and no actual recipe—required. This hands-off oatmeal is an endlessly customizable grab-and-go breakfast that will be waiting for you when you wake up.

How to Make Overnight Oats

How to Make Overnight Oats Without a Recipe

1. The only ratio you need to remember when making overnight oats is 1:1. You'll soak one part rolled oats with one part liquid overnight. Use less liquid if you want thicker oatmeal, more if you like it runny. You can use water or any type of milk (like almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, etc.) and feel free to add a splash of cream, half-and-half, or even orange juice.

How to Make Overnight Oats

2. Sweeten and flavor the oatmeal with whatever appeals to you: honey, agave, jam, maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla extract, citrus zest, and the list goes on. Then get creative: Add nuts, dried fruit, shredded coconut, seeds (chia, flax, sunflower, pumpkin), fruit, or even nut butter.

How to Make Overnight Oats

3. Give the whole thing a stir, pack it into a jar, seal it, and let the jar sit overnight in the refrigerator. 

How to Make Overnight Oats

4. In the morning, top with fresh ingredients—fruits, granola, honey, a dollop of peanut butter—or simply take the whole jar for the road.

5 Overnight Oats Recipes for Inspiration

1. Tahini-Chocolate Chunk Overnight Oats

You'll need less than five minutes to prepare these overnight oats, which make the most of one of our all-time favorite combos: nutty tahini and bittersweet chocolate. 

2.  Overnight Oats With Almond Butter & Honey

Instead of letting the fridge do all the work, this recipe uses a slow cooker set to "low" to soften the oats overnight. In the morning, all you have to do is stir almond buter and honey in a warm, cozy bowl of the stuff. 


3. School Morning Muesli

Made for school (or work) mornings, this simple make-ahead muesli calls on cranberries for tart sweetness, apples and almonds for crunch, and peaches or nectarines for fresh fruity flavor. 

4. Chocolate Overnight Oats With Strawberries

Another much-loved combination (chocolate and strawberries) shines in this easy-to-prep recipe that basically gives you an excuse to eat dessert for breakfast.  

5. Creamy Vegan Bircher Muesli

Most overnight oats recipes are easy enough to make vegan-friendly, but we especially love this super-creamy version, which uses a homemade vanilla macadamia milk.

What's your favorite overnight oats flavor combo? Tell us in the comments below! 

Photos by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • lynne
  • Carol Porterfield
    Carol Porterfield
  • Angela M. Hay Reschke
    Angela M. Hay Reschke
  • Asdon
  • catalinalacruz
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


lynne March 2, 2021
Actually, it's creamy and delicious cold, and removes the sliminess of oatmeal that some folks object to. I add in toasted coconut, hemp seeds, a nut and a dried fruit typically. Also, soaking oats in yogurt or similar mitigates the phytic acid, making the oats more nutritious (calcium more bio-available) and digestible. Don't knock it til you've tried it!
Carol P. March 2, 2021
I really don't get this. You eat the oatmeal cold from the fridge? That sounds like the grossest thing ever! Oatmeal is supposed to be warm and comforting not cold from the fridge, right?
Angela M. December 6, 2018
So I was looking for a smoothie recipe and came on this page. why couldn't i use the oats soaked overnight to make a smoothie with fresh cold greek yougurt, ice, and berries?
Lydia January 8, 2020
You could! I used to work in a smoothie bar where some recipes included a scoop of refrigerated (from the microwave) plain oats for creaminess.
lynne July 22, 2018
I think it could be done at room temp but i would just give it long enough for the oats to soften, maybe 3-4 hours, not necessarily overnight. You can google the shelf life of yogurt outside the fridge and evaluate from there.
Asdon July 25, 2018
Ok thank you
Asdon July 21, 2018
Thank you so much for this recipe but is it required to leave the oats in the refrigerator overnight or can i just leave it at room temperature. I don't have a refrigerator that's the problem.
lynne April 3, 2018
I personally find the quick oats too mushy but different strokes...one commenter even uses steel cut oats. I wonder if teff would be good overnight...packed with protein.
catalinalacruz April 3, 2018
We prefer overnight oats made with Quaker Quick One-Minute oats. It's much creamer and tender. Liquid absorbs better.
lynne April 3, 2018
Doesnt need to be airtight, and keep in mind it will expand a bit as the oats rehydrate. Lots of great variations, eg turkish apricots and slivered almonds; golden raisins and walnuts; dried cherries and pecans; currants and sliced almonds...
JenK April 3, 2018
Thank you!! I love hot oatmeal but sometimes don't have the time to wait for it to cook -- that's right, some of my mornings are that busy. I will use this recipe for those mornings, and add a couple 'o tablespoons of yogurt as recommended to reduce the phytic acid along with a couple of tablespoons of shredded coconut and toasted slivered almonds. The small size Ball (jam) jars would be perfect for this.
lynne January 19, 2018
Its even good with almond milk, tho i still use some of my homemade yogurt for flavor and to neutralize phytic acid in the oats. Its critical to use thick rolled oats or it will be too mushy. Since i went from hot oats to cold oats about 1.5 yrs ago, my calcium went from 8.6 to 9.8. And i am a 56 yr old female. I really think its been bc i can access the calcium in the oats better with overnight fermentation. And the yogurt...
Regine January 17, 2018
I was skeptical but this turned out delicious. I soaked 1/2 cup rolled oats in 1/2 cup whole milk mixed with some sugar, kosher salt (salt really is a must, at least to me because it replaces the excess sugar I would otherwise need due to my love for sweets), vanilla extract, cinnamon, golden raisins and toasted almonds. I took it to work with me and ate it without having to warm it up.
lynne November 1, 2017
yes! I have a recipe for overnight oats that is delicious cold. 3 c organic thick rolled oats; 1/3 c toasted coconut; 1/3 c dried currants; 1/3c slivered almonds; flax or other seeds as you like; spices (cinnamon, powdered vanilla). I add a half cup of this mix to 1/4 c homemade plain yogurt and 1/4 c water and leave it overnight in the fridge. Serve it with berries and a little maple syrup and sunflower seeds. Eat it every morning, never get tired of it.
Gloria November 1, 2017
You eat this cold????
lynne October 7, 2016
to mitigate the phytic acid in the oats, it's best to include some whey or a couple spoonfuls of plain yogurt in the liquid. also adds a nice umami flavor.
KellyDC October 7, 2016
No mention of salt?? Add it to the oats; you'll regret it otherwise.
LinYee Y. October 7, 2016
has anyone had any problems with a bitter flavor? i've been using bob's red mill organic oatmeal and horizon organic whole milk and have had experienced a strange acrid taste.
Wendy April 3, 2016
LOVE refrigerator oatmeal, and steel cut oats work just fine! I also add a touch of almond flavoring or vanilla!
Pattiji June 5, 2016
Wendy, how do you prepare your steel cut oats?
tastysweet December 6, 2015
Where can I purchase those jars? What size are these?
Natalie October 7, 2016
A bit late, but those are Weck canning jars. Amazon and Container Store carry them, I believe.
tastysweet October 7, 2016
what size?
Natalie October 9, 2016
I would guess the 220ml/7.4oz
Bob December 6, 2015
This will be my next breakfast récipe.
John December 5, 2015
What a great idea.