Plummy oats and a damson cake
This week, a charity shop haul and overnight oats

I am a new convert to overnight oats, and I’m loving them.

These are wonderful if you are time stretched. You can make up dishes ready to be topped, or a big bowl that can be used over several days, or directly in little pots ready to be topped and carried off to work or school. Children may like the control of topping their own oats, or if littlies, tiny little individual portions may appeal.

Overnight oats will even freeze. Although I did find that they took several hours to defrost. So if you freeze them, I’d take them out the night before whether you are intending to eat them at home or bear them off to school or work

What happens to oats when you soak them

Wonderful things happen to oats when you soak them overnight. Oats are a very healthy foodstuff anyway, soaking them improves even upon that. Sugar has become the modern dietary enemy, replacing fat, and oats contain no sugar. Oats DO contain such valuable nutrients as magnesium, fibre, protein and potassium.

Whilst soaking, the oats become much more digestible. The starches start to break down. Oats, like all plants, contain phytic acid. Soaking reduces this, making your breakfast more easily digested.

At the same time, resistant starch develops. RS also develops in pasta and potatoes which have been cooked and left to go cold.

RS is a good thing as it helps to reduce insulin levels. Insulin can be spiked when eating hot starches. As the aim is always to try and keep insulin levels low and steady, this is a good thing.  RS is also linked to increased satiety. I have certainly experienced this. A 40g portion of soaked oats, with a bit of fruit, will easily last me all morning, right through to lunch. There are also links to improved weight management – just putting that one out there 😐 – and is better for digestion.

Basic recipe for overnight oats

Base Recipe – Per person
40-50g of value oats
About 150ml milk of your choice

Mix the two together and leave in the fridge for several hours, or, as the name suggests, overnight.

They will go all creamy, gooey and delicious.

That’s  the super simple base recipe, now the world is your oyster, I have found simply squillions of variations on this theme.

Different grains for overnight oats

Bog standard value oats make a very creamy breakfast, I usually use semi skimmed milk, or sometimes thick and creamy Greek yogurt, in which case you will either need a bit more yogurt than 150ml, or top it up in the morning. I’ve also used jumbo oats and rye flakes, both of which I use when making muesli. Both types were soft and delicious.

A reader has said that she toasts her oats in the microwave for a minute before soaking, that would add another level of flavour. Or you could toast them under the grill, watch them, they’ll burn quickly.

Fruit toppings for overnight oats

The options for fruit based toppings alone are enormous. Strawberries and blueberries: sliced banana: apricot and almond slivers: chopped, sliced or stewed apple: very ripe fresh blackcurrants or cooked into a compote: blackberries, fresh or cooked, or mixed with cooked apple for the classic flavour: plums, raw or gently softened on the hob, and so on.

Cinnamon mixed in or sprinkled on top is delicious: a little vanilla extract: some grated lemon or orange zest, or maybe some lemon or orange juice in the soaking liquid.

Milks for overnight oats

Speaking of which, the milk that you soak the oats in can be cows milk, goats, sheeps, almond, coconut, oat milk, soya or anything else that you like. Or it could be fruit juice, cloudy apple, orange, mango, cranberry. Or add some squeezed lemon or orange juice to your mixture.

A reader has suggested a tea infusion, that sounds good. You could use Earl Grey, ordinary, decaf, any of the fruit teas, peppermint, ginger and lemon. All of them would give a different flavour.

Sweetenings for overnight oats

There are many different options for sweetenings if you want to use them. A drizzle of honey, golden syrup, agave, date syrup. A sprinkle of crunchy Demerara, rich Muscovado or granulated. Personally, I am trying to have the minimum of sugars, so won’t be trying any of these.

Nuts etc for overnight oats

Cacao nibs, mixed in or as a topping, maybe combined with cocoa powder mixed in: chopped almonds, Brazil’s, walnuts, cashews etc.
Coconut, this could be in the form of a sprinkle of desiccated coconut on top or a bit more mixed in: coconut flour is supposed to make the dish rather cake like, I have some in the larder, so I’ll be trying that: flakes of dried coconut on top, possibly toasted: or use coconut milk to soak the oats.

Seeds for overnight oats

I have been adding a teaspoon of linseeds to my oats and soaking those too.

Lots of different seeds added on the top would add a bit of crunch. You could ring the changes between sesame, sunflower, pumpkin etc, or make up a little jar of them all mixed up and have a little of each sprinkled on top. Or if you like the all soft texture, add them prior to the soaking.

Savoury toppings for overnight oats

Then there are all the savoury options to try. Cheeses like feta, Parmesan, goats, value soft cheese or ordinary cheddar: sun dried tomatoes or artichokes from a jar: semi dried tomatoes, or possibly dried and reconstituted: wilted spinach flavoured with garlic and ginger: any of the nuts, chopped: nutritional yeast: any seeds, toasted or not: roasted vegetables, like beetroot, roasted in oil, garlic and rosemary, then chopped: or any other vegetable, roasted: any nut butter: any hummus: crispy bacon: chopped sausage, and so on, and so on.

What I’ve tried, or will be trying

Some of the many, many flavours I have tried or will be trying include

  • Value oats, soaked in semi skimmed milk, with linseeds, topped with sliced strawberries, blueberries and chopped almonds.
  • Value oats, soaked in semi skimmed milk and cinnamon, topped with chopped Brazil nuts, fine chopped dried apricots and pumpkin seeds.
  • Jumbo oats, soaked in Greek yogurt and a splash of milk in the morning, topped with feta, soaked sun dried tomatoes, a dollop of hummus and a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds
  • Rye flakes soaked in semi skimmed milk and topped with raspberries from the garden
  • A version called golden overnight oats which involves turmeric, ginger,cardamom and cinnamon in the soaking milk, and something savoury on top – more on that later once I’ve tried it. I’m intending to have it tomorrow morning, so I’ll report back.
  • And I want to experiment with soaking the oats in vegetable juice and topping them with roasted veg and a bit of some kind of cheese, and a sprinkle of seeds. Mmmmm
  •  I used 60g oats, 100ml mango purée from a tin and 30ml evaporated milk to make 2 portions – gorgeous!

If you haven’t already, do try some overnight oats. I’ve set up a Pinterest board collecting together some of the squillions of flavours I’ve found via Google. If you wanted to, you could have a different flavour every day for at least a year.


Overnight Oats

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Plummy oats and a damson cake
This week, a charity shop haul and overnight oats