It doesn’t matter what brand of overachiever you are, we are all striving to accomplish a lot in the day. Sure, we could all use a little bit more time to get it all done. But, if we skip breakfast it is very likely we’ll all fall on our faces before 11 a.m. (Maybe I only speak for myself?) What I’m trying to say is a no-brainer breakfast is very much my MVP, and overnight oats fit the bill.
Overnight oats — oats and milk left to soften in the fridge overnight — may not be the first thing that makes you go “mmmm” when you think of breakfast. But that’s probably because you’re fixated on the cold oatmeal part. We all love a hot, steamy bowl of warming oats, particularly if they’re dolled up with our favorite toppings, packed with flavor and super-ingredients to keep us going all morning. Just think of overnight oats as the more chill, no-cook, no-hassle version.
BASIC OVERNIGHT OATS RECIPE
Start with 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats and add 1 1/4 cups milk of your choice, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt and a big pinch of sea salt. Mix it all up in a big glass jar or the bowl you’ll enjoy your oats out of in the morning. Then, stir in 1 tablespoon each ground flaxseeds and hemp seeds, while these are totally optional, adding seeds ups the fiber and nutrition of your breakfast. (Note: Do not use instant oats, which turn to mush or steel-cut oats, which need to be cooked.) If you want to guarantee a sweet note to your oats, add 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey. Place the oat mixture in the fridge overnight and, when you get up in the morning, pull it out while you get ready for your day. Let it come to room temperature, then enjoy! If it’s too thick for your liking, you can add additional milk and then all the other goodness (see below!)
In terms of dolling up your oats, the sky’s the limit and you can skew your oats in a million different directions. Add your favorite nuts, fruits or sweet and savory mix-ins. Get creative and put whatever you have in the fridge into your oatmeal. Sometimes I have extra spinach so I sauté it and put an egg on those oats. Most of the time, I have a bumper crop of seasonal fruit to stir into the mix.
There are a few tiny tweaks you can make to the basic recipe that helps those fresh, seasonal, in-the-mood ingredients shine. Here are four ideas:
USE HOMEMADE MILK
Store-bought almond milk is OK. But homemade nut milk flavored with medjool dates and salt is better. I like cashew, but almond, pecan or even sunflower seeds work, too. Milk made at home is also more nutritious because it contains zero fillers or stabilizers. It’s also creamier, though I don’t know why. Sub dreamy, refreshing homemade nut milk into the basic recipe and save some to pour over your oats in the morning.
Homemade Nut Milk
- 1 cup (150g) raw cashews, almonds, pecans or hazelnuts
- 2 pitted medjool dates
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Dash of sea salt
- Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
Soak the nuts in about 2 cups (500ml) water for at least 4 hours, or up to overnight, in the refrigerator. Drain the nuts and rinse until the water runs clear. Add the nuts and 2 cups of water to a blender. Start on a low setting and increase the speed until the cashews are totally pulverized. This could take 2 minutes in a high-powered blender or longer in a regular blender.
Blend in 2 cups (500ml) of water, your sweetener of choice, vanilla extract, sea salt and cinnamon (optional). If your blender can’t totally break down the cashews, strain the milk through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Store the milk in a covered container in the refrigerator. It should keep for 3–4 days.
ADD SUPERPOWERED TURMERIC
Turmeric has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory ingredient by cultures around the world, and it’s delicious in morning oats. Add 1 teaspoon of powdered turmeric — either after your oats have soaked or in the basic recipe above — along with a pinch of black pepper. (Black pepper is said to activate turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties.) Turmeric has a bitter flavor profile; to offset it, add a tablespoon of honey and fresh, seasonal fruits to this combination. Turmeric oats also go well with savory flavors — add a handful of sautéed spinach and a fried egg for a well-rounded breakfast.
Think of this version as healthy chocolate oatmeal … sort of. Stir in 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cacao powder for a grounding punch that helps boost digestion, calms the senses and also acts as an anti-inflammatory. Note that cacao is different from cocoa — cacao is ground straight from the unsweetened cacao nib, while cocoa is a sweetened cacao product. You want cacao. On top of this, add fresh fruit, a sprinkle of sea salt, a tablespoon of coconut butter and maybe something crunchy to round out your bowl.
Chia seeds don’t add any flavor but do amp the nutrition of a bowl. I add 2 tablespoons of chia seeds to the basic recipe more than any other mix-ins. This is completely optional, but I find it helps my body to stay hydrated through the day, gives me a bit of extra protein and healthy fat and helps with liver function and regulating blood sugar. I add a little bit of extra homemade nut milk whenever I add the chia seeds because they absorb up to three times their weight in water.