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 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.
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.
3. Give the whole thing a stir, pack it into a jar, seal it, and let the jar sit overnight in the refrigerator.
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.
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.
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
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).