A Simple Overnight Oats Recipe with 5 Flavor Ideas

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Overnight Oats Recipe

If you’re looking for a quick, make-ahead breakfast, you will love overnight oats! We show you how to make them, including 5 delicious ways to flavor them.

Note: you may also be interested in our instant DIY oatmeal packets recipe. And check out these 9 benefits of oatmeal.

Simpler Than Steel Cut Oats

I honestly wasn’t too quick to jump on the overnight oats train because I really, really like cooked, steel cut oats. The texture is perfect, and they’re my go-to morning wake-me-up.

However, some mornings, you just don’t have time to simmer steel cut oats, and while the texture of overnight oats is definitely different than cooked steel cut, or even cooked rolled oats. The way these jars make breakfast (or snacks) super easy, makes them so worth changing up my steel cut oats devotion.

How To Make Overnight Oats

Simply put, overnight oats are made by soaking old-fashioned, rolled oats in a liquid overnight with some additional thickening agents.

Milk (dairy or non-dairy) is the most traditional liquid to use. Some people like to add yogurt in addition, or in place of the milk for a bit of a thicker bowl of oats with a little tang. (And don’t forget the added probiotics and protein!)

While oats will absorb the liquid and thicken your overnight oats on their own, it’s common to add something else to the mix to help in that thickening process (and add an extra boost of nutrition). Chia seeds and/or ground flax seeds are the go-to ingredients for this.

While chia seeds absorb more moisture than ground flax seeds will, I personally love the sweet nuttiness that ground flax seeds add to a bowl of overnight oats. If you don’t have (or don’t like) one or the other, you can substitute all chia seeds or all flax seeds. (Keeping in mind all flax seeds will make oats that are not quite as thick.)

How To Flavor Overnight Oats

Once you get the basics down, it’s time for the fun part.


Anything you would typically use in oatmeal can be used for flavoring:

  • fresh fruit
  • dried fruit
  • spices
  • citrus zest
  • pure extracts
  • nuts*
  • seeds
  • etc.

*Personally, I prefer to add my nuts right before eating my overnight oats. I find that when they sit overnight, they get a bit soft. It’s definitely not a deal breaker, but I do like their crunch.

How Long Do Overnight Oats Need to Sit?

The oats will start absorbing moisture as soon as they are mixed with the liquid, but if you want a thicker consistency, you really need to wait at least 2-4 hours for them to start to really thicken.

Overnight really is the perfect amount of time to get your oats nice and thick.

Do You Eat Them Hot or Cold?

Overnight oats are meant to be eaten cold. But sometimes you just need a warm breakfast, and in those times, you can most definitely heat up your oats.

My recipe below for overnight oats makes oats that are pretty thick, so if I am going to heat up my oats in the morning, I often add an extra splash of milk just before heating them up. The oats will absorb even more liquid as they warm, so the milk keeps them from getting too thick.

How Long Do Overnight Oats Last?

Overnight oats are the perfect make-ahead breakfast because you can prepare a few day’s worth at one time.

They will stay good for 3-5 days in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that the oats will continue to thicken the longer they sit, so you may need to add a little extra liquid for the ones that will be soaking longer.

Also, ingredients like bananas will start to darken after 2-3 days. They’re still fine to eat, just know that the color of your oats will change.

Simple Overnight Oats Recipe

This is your basic recipe for one serving of overnight oats. From here, you can scale it up as much as you want. You can add flavorings to suit your fancy. Below the recipe, you’ll find some ideas for flavorings to get you started.


* Use more milk if you like your overnight oats thinner, if you will be heating your oats, or if using dried fruit.


  1. In a pint jar, mix the oats, milk, yogurt (if using), chia seeds, ground flax seeds, and salt for your base overnight oatmeal. Mix in your desired flavorings (except for the nuts and seeds for flavoring).
  2. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. When ready to eat, top with nuts or seeds, as desired.
  4. Serve cold or warmed.

Flavor Ideas for Overnight Oats

Mix these add-ins into the basic recipe above.

Peanut Butter Banana

  •  ½ cup chopped banana
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter
  • ½ tsp vanilla

Apple Pie Overnight Oats

  • ½ cup finely diced apple
  • 1 tsp sweetener
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp allspice

Cherry Almond

  • ½ cup chopped sweet cherries
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • ½ tsp sweetener
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds (for serving)

Lemon Blueberry Overnight Oats

  • ½ cup halved blueberries
  • 1 tsp sweetener
  • ½ tsp lemon zest
  • ½ tsp vanilla

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut

  •  ¼ cup raisin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp sweetener
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts (for serving)


Measurement Guidelines For Flavorings

Use this guide to start making your own overnight oats flavor combinations!

  • ½ - 2 tsp sweetener of choice
  • ¼ - ½ cup fresh fruit
  • ¼ cup chopped dried fruit
  • 2 Tbsp nut butter
  • 1 tsp pure extract (vanilla, almond, etc)
  • Warm spices, to taste
  • ¼ cup nuts or seeds (add just before eating if possible)

Courses Breakfast

What about you? Have you tried overnight oats? What flavors combinations are your favorite?


About Sarah Ozimek

Sarah is a writer, recipe developer, traveler, gardener, and lover of (almost) all things outdoors. Together with her husband Tim, she writes the blog Curious Cuisiniere where they explore world cuisines and cooking using real ingredients and tried and true methods, the way our ancestors have done for ages. Connect with Sarah on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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  1. Mrs. M says

    I’m confused, in the article it sounds like you add the chia and flax the night before to help the oats thicken. But, in the recipe, it says to wait and add the seeds and nuts the next morning.
    When do you add the chia and/or flax?

    • Sarah Ozimek says

      Sorry for the confusion Mrs. M. Yes, the chia and flax for the base oatmeal go in the night before to help it thicken. Any nuts or seeds that you are using for flavorings should be added the next morning. I’ll see about getting the recipe updated to be more clear. Thank you!