How to Make Healthy Overnight Oats: The Ultimate Guide

How to Make Healthy Overnight Oats: The Ultimate Guide

Overnight oats are a filling, nutritious breakfast that can be made ahead of time. Find out how to make a batch of healthy overnight oats now. 

What are overnight oats? 

So what are overnight oats? Essentially, overnight oats are oats that are soaked in milk or another liquid overnight. However, they’re often more than just oats and milk. 

Most recipes call for adding a bunch of other ingredients like chia seeds, yogurt, fruit, cinnamon, and/or nut butters. 

Spoonful of peanut butter overnight oats with oat milk

Are overnight oats healthy? 

Overnight oats can be a super nutritious breakfast. But it all depends on what you’re adding to them. I’ll talk more about how to build a balanced jar in the next section. 

On their own, rolled oats are an excellent source of fiber, especially a type of fiber called beta-glucan. 

Beta-glucans have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels, making them good for heart health. They can also help lower post-meal blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes and may even be good for immune health. 

Additionally, oats are an excellent source of: 

  • Copper: important for immune health, maintaining strong bones, and forming red blood cells. 
  • Magnesium: needed for nerve and muscle function, supports strong bones, and helps regulate blood sugar levels. 
  • Manganese: essential for metabolism and may help reduce inflammation. 
  • Phosphorus: key for muscle, bone and heart health. 
  • Thiamine: important for brain health, metabolism of nutrients, and muscle contractions. 
  • Zinc: needed for taste and smell, as well as promotes wound healing and a strong immune system. 
Jar of rolled oats

Soaked oats are easier on digestion 

You may have heard that soaked oats are easier to digest, and that’s actually true. 

Oats (as well as other grains and legumes) contain a plant compound called phytic acid, which makes it harder for our bodies to digest and absorb certain nutrients. 

But, when oats are soaked, this phytic acid breaks down, making it easier for our bodies to digest the oats and their nutrients. 

How to Make Healthy Overnight Oats: The Ultimate Guide

What do you add to overnight oats? 

There’s no one overnight oat recipe. Instead, there are three main categories of ingredients that you can mix and match to create your ideal texture and flavor. 

Oats

The base of overnight oats is, well, oats. 

I recommend using rolled oats (the ones that take about 5 minutes in the microwave to cook). I like them as they stay nice and chewy after being soaked overnight. 

While you can use any brand you’d like, my go-to is Bob’s Red Mill Extra Thick. They’re just so perfectly chewy and have a slightly sweet nuttiness. 

However, if you want your oats to be more liquidy/softer, you can use quick-cooking (also called 1-minute) oats. Just don’t use instant oats! Trust me, the consistency will be far too mushy. 

As for steel-cut, I personally don’t like using them as they stay quite hard and very chewy But I know some people like the crunch. Another option would be to partially cook your steel cut oats, let them cool, and then use them as your base. 

Liquid

To soak your oats, you’ll need some sort of liquid. To keep oats on the healthy side, I recommend limiting the use of sweetened liquids. 

Here are some good go-to’s: 

  • Milk 
  • Unsweetened milk alternative, like oat, almond, or soy 
  • Unsweetened Greek or Icelandic yogurt (great for adding protein!) 
  • 100% fruit juice 
  • Water

Mix-In’s 

Now the fun part! Mix-ins are what will give your overnight oats flavor and texture. Plus, they’re also a great way to add an extra nutritional boost. 

There are three ingredients I almost always add to my oats:

  • Natural almond or peanut butter: provide healthy fats, protein, and creaminess. 
  • Chia seeds: help to make overnight oats even thicker as well as add healthy fats, protein, and essential minerals. 
  • Cinnamon: add a boost of flavor. 

Of course, there are a BUNCH of other ingredients you can add, including: 

  • Fresh or frozen fruit
  • Flax or hemp seeds
  • Nuts, such as almonds or walnuts 
  • Cocoa powder
  • Spices, like cardamom or nutmeg 
  • Extracts, such as vanilla, almont, mint, or orange 
  • Local honey or pure maple syrup 
  • Protein powder 
Spoonful of lemon curd overnight oats

How to make healthy overnight oats

Now that you know what goes into a batch of overnight oats, let’s talk about how to make healthy overnight oats. 

Before you start, the key is having a small container to make and store them in. I recommend using a glass mason jar as it’s easy to grab and put in your bag in the morning. But any small reusable container with a lid will work. 

Step One: Add dry ingredients

The first step is to add all your dry ingredients to your mason jar. This includes oats, any nuts or seeds, spices, and protein powders. 

Step Two: Add wet ingredients

Next, add in your liquids. This includes milks/milk alternatives, yogurts, water, juices, flavor extracts, honey, or maple syrup. 

Step Three: Mix 

Once everything is added, all that’s left to do is mix! 

I recommend using a butter knife rather than a spoon for mixing. I find that it blends everything together better. Especially if mixing in a mason jar. 

Step Four: Fridge

Once mixed, place the lid on your jar/container and store it in the fridge for at least 3 hours and up to 5 days. 

Step Five: Dig in! 

When ready to eat, all you have to do is grab your jar and dig in! 

You can also add additional toppings in the morning.  

How to Make Healthy Overnight Oats: The Ultimate Guide

Do you eat overnight oats hot or cold? 

Overnight oats are designed to be eaten cold. 

And if you like your oats to have a thick, doughy consistency, then I recommend eating them straight from the fridge. 

However, I know some people find the texture to be more appealing after letting them warm up to room temperature. 

If you prefer your oats hot, then you can absolutely microwave them for a minute or two.

Just note that if you like making overnight oats with Greek yogurt, I’d leave out the yogurt until after microwaving them in the morning. 

Spoon in mason jar of peanut butter overnight oats

It takes a few tries to get the consistency just right. 

Just like hot oatmeal, there are going to be some who prefer a thick, doughy consistency while others will prefer a more liquidy jar of overnight oats. 

If you’re new to overnight oats, know that it can take a few tries to get the consistency just right. 

Here’s a good general formula for making overnight oats that you can use to tweak based on personal preferences: 

  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup milk or milk alternative
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds 
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter 
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon 

How to make overnight oats thicker

  • Reduce milk and add full-fat Greek yogurt
  • Add an extra ½ – 1 tablespoon of nut butter
  • Try an extra couple tablespoons of rolled oats
  • Use an extra ½ – 1 tablespoon of chia seeds 
  • Add a scoop of protein powder 

How to make overnight oats thinner 

  • Increase liquid to ¾ cup per jar 
  • Or add an extra few tablespoons of milk in the morning
  • Leave out the chia seeds
  • Use regular instead of Greek yogurt 

Healthy overnight oat recipes 

Okay, now that you have the tools you need, let’s talk flavor-combos! Here are a few healthy recipe ideas to get you started. 

Simple overnight oat recipes 

Cozy cinnamon almond overnight oats

Overnight oat recipes with fruit

Healthy peach crisp overnight oats

Overnight oats that taste like dessert 

How to Make Healthy Overnight Oats: The Ultimate Guide

High protein overnight oats 

Strawberries and cream protein overnight oats in a mason jar

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About Kelli McGrane Headshot

I’m Kelli MS, RD, and my mission is to prove that eating healthier doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. Follow along to learn more about food and cooking, with an emphasis on breakfast and sweet treats!

About Kelli McGrane Headshot

Welcome to The Healthy Toast!

Hi, I’m Kelli McGrane MS, RD! My mission is to show you that eating healthier doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. I believe getting to know your food is the first step to a healthy relationship with it. Follow along in my journey to learn all I can about ingredients and cooking with an emphasis on breakfast and sweet treats!

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