Overnight oats have become a popular easy breakfast. The idea is simple – combine oats and your milk or liquid of choice in a container, refrigerate overnight, and wake up to perfectly creamy oatmeal. But what milk should you use to get the best texture and flavor? Whether you want to avoid dairy or simply mix things up, this guide will walk you through the best milks for overnight oats.
Why Use Milk in Overnight Oats?
Before diving into the milk alternatives, let’s discuss why milk is typically used in overnight oats.
Milk acts as the liquid base that hydrates the oats. Water can technically be used, but milk provides added protein, vitamins, and creaminess. The fat and protein in milk helps thicken the oats to a pudding-like consistency.
Many recipes call for dairy milk such as cow’s milk, which provides calcium, vitamin D, and protein. However, some people need or prefer to avoid cow’s milk due to lactose intolerance or dietary restrictions. That’s where non-dairy milks come in!
No matter what milk or liquid you use, the right ratio is key for the perfect overnight oats.
But first, let’s explore the best options to use for soaking oats.
Nut Milks – Creamy and Nutritious
Nut-based milks are extremely popular alternatives to dairy milk and work beautifully in overnight oats. Here are some of the top nut milk choices:
Almond Milk Reigns Supreme
Almond milk is hands down the most popular nut milk in both the U.S. and worldwide. Its mildly sweet flavor pairs perfectly with oats. It’s made by blending almonds with water, and often contains added vitamins and minerals.
Look for unsweetened almond milk to avoid excess added sugars. Vanilla almond milk also tastes delicious mixed into overnight oats.
One thing to note is that plain almond milk has a thinner consistency. For creamier oats, you can stir in a spoonful of Greek yogurt or dairy-free yogurt like coconut or soy.
Coconut Milk Adds Tropical Flavor
Transport your taste buds to the tropics with rich and creamy coconut milk. Made from blended coconut meat and water, coconut milk adds a slight coconut flavor that complements both sweet and savory oats.
Pay attention to the type of coconut milk you select. Canned coconut milk is extremely thick and dense – best reserved for cooking. For overnight oats, opt for store-bought cartons of coconut milk specifically designed as a milk substitute.
Coconut cream is another option that provides even more richness. Just avoid using too much, since it can make oats slimy.
Creamy and Smooth Cashew Milk
Underrated cashew milk has a creamy, almost cheese-like consistency that gives overnight oats a luxurious mouthfeel. It’s nutty yet subtle in flavor.
Stick to unsweetened cashew milk, since the natural sweetness stands out more. You can also find vanilla and chocolate cashew milks for even more flavor.
Macadamia Milk is Decadently Thick
Similar to cashew milk, macadamia milk imparts a silky thickness perfect for overnight oats. It’s slightly nuttier in flavor and contains healthy fats.
If you want a tropical twist, combine macadamia milk with fruits like banana or mango. Or add cocoa powder for a nutella-esque chocolate flavor.
Oat Milk – Naturally Meant for Oats
What better milk to mix with oats than oat milk? This plant-based milk alternative has gained immense popularity in recent years.
Oat milk has a natural mild, creamy sweetness that complements the flavor of oats. It’s made from blended oats and water, and has a consistency similar to skim milk.
In America, oat milk is used in all types of recipes and beverages. But it’s especially popular in overnight oats recipes in the UK.
Give it a try to add an extra oaty taste and protein boost to your morning bowl.
Soy Milk – Protein Punch
Soy milk has been a staple milk alternative for years, especially among vegans and vegetarians. It boasts a good amount of protein, packing about 8 grams per cup.
The main drawback is that soy milk has a distinctive bean-like flavor and thicker consistency. For overnight oats, you’ll want to flavor it with cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, or another strong taste.
Still, soy milk is worth a try if you want to increase the protein content of your overnight oats. Just shake up the flavors to make it more palatable.
Fruit Juice – Sweetness Without the Cream
Using 100% fruit juice allows you to skip dairy and nut milks altogether. Orange juice and apple juice naturally sweeten oats with fruity flavor.
Just realize that fruit juice results in much thinner, soupy oats. To better approximate milk’s texture, you can blend juice with flax seeds, yogurt, silken tofu, or nut butter.
While fruit juice adds vitamins, most varieties don’t provide much protein. Hence why pairing juice with Greek yogurt or tofu can help balance nutrients.
Overall, fruit juice makes a tasty liquid base if you’re seeking pure fruit sweetness.
Water Thins Out Overnight Oats
In a pinch, you can always use plain water to make overnight oats. Water sufficiently hydrates the oats without adding extra calories, carbs, or sugar.
The main caution with water is that it results in extremely thin, watery oats. There’s no protein or substance provided.
While okay for basic overnight oats, you’ll definitely want to dress up water-based oats with mix-ins. Blend in Greek yogurt for creaminess, nut butter for protein, or fruit for sweetness.
Or, use half water and half milk of your choice. This decreases calories while still providing some richness.
Yogurt – Tangy Creaminess
Here’s an idea – use yogurt itself as the liquid base! Greek yogurt works wonderfully to impart thick, creamy tanginess.
Mix in 2-4 tablespoons of Greek yogurt per 1/2 cup of oats. Make sure to use plain, unsweetened yogurt to control added sugars.
You can even spoon extra yogurt on top of cooked oats. Just avoid going overboard on the yogurt, as too much creates a pasty texture.
Regular yogurt can also be used, but it won’t thicken as much. For a vegan option, coconut or soy yogurt provides creamy plant-based protein.
Buttermilk – Tangy and Rich
Cultured buttermilk is a dairy milk that works well in overnight oats. It has a thick, tangy taste thanks to live cultures that turn milk sour.
Buttermilk provides a good amount of protein, vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium, and phosphorus. Use it just like regular milk measured out by the cup.
Since buttermilk is thicker than regular milk, you may want to thin it out with water, milk, or yogurt. Too much on its own can make oats gloppy.
Half and Half – Indulgently Creamy
For ultra creamy oats, you can’t beat half and half. This dairy blend of half milk and half cream provides rich texture.
However, beware that half and half has significantly higher fat and calories than regular milk. Use a 1:1 ratio as you would with milk to avoid excess richness.
If seeking a healthy breakfast, half and half is best avoided. But for occasional overnight oats, a splash adds serious creaminess.
Goat or Sheep Milk – Easier to Digest
Goat and sheep milk offer dairy from an animal source other than traditional cow’s milk. They contain slightly different nutritional profiles.
Benefits of goat and sheep milk are that they are potentially easier to digest, especially for those sensitive to cow’s milk. They contain less lactose and different proteins.
On the flip side, these milks have stronger, gamier flavors. The taste is not for everyone, so sample a small amount before using in overnight oats.
They work well combined with stronger mix-ins like cocoa, jam, or maple syrup that mask the distinctive flavor.
Perfect Milk to Oats Ratio
Now that we’ve covered the best milk and liquid options, let’s discuss amounts. Getting the proper ratio is key for overnight oats to come out right.
1:1 Ratio for Thicker Oats
A 1:1 ratio of 1/2 cup oats to 1/2 cup liquid is standard for thicker overnight oats with a pudding or porridge-like texture. This approximates the consistency of cooked oatmeal.
Use this ratio if you want heartier, more filling oats – especially with rich liquids like nut milks, yogurt, or half and half.
Up to 2:1 Ratio for Thinner Oats
To make thinner, more drinkable oats, use up to a 2:1 ratio with 2/3 cups oats and 1/3 cup liquid.
This creates an almost smoothie-like consistency. It works well with runny liquids like juice, water, or thin nut milk.
Don’t Add Too Much Liquid
It may seem counterintuitive, but avoid drowning oats in extra liquid. This dilutes the flavor and prevents oats from thickening overnight.
Err on the less liquid side, and stir in extra tablespoons as needed before eating if the oats seem too thick.
Milk and Liquid Options for Custom Overnight Oats
From dairy to non-dairy, fruits to nuts, here’s a condensed guide to the best milk and liquid options for overnight oats:
- Nut milks like almond, coconut, cashew, and macadamia provide creaminess and nutty flavor
- Subtly sweet oat milk complements oat flavor
- Soy milk boosts protein, so pair with cocoa or fruit to mask flavor
- Fruit juice imparts pure sweetness, blend with yogurt or flax for texture
- Water thinly hydrates oats, so enhance with nut butter, yogurt, or fruit
Dairy and Dairy Substitutes
- Tangy Greek yogurt adds thick creaminess
- Buttermilk provides tang and thickness when diluted
- Rich half and half makes ultra creamy, decadent oats
- Goat or sheep milk offer options for the lactose-sensitive
Final Tips for Milk and Overnight Oats
Overnight oats provide endless possibilities to customize flavors and textures. Don’t limit yourself to just milk!
The best approach is to experiment with different milk and liquid options based on taste, dietary needs, and nutritional goals. Mix and match fruits, nuts, spices, and more to create your own signature overnight oats.
Hopefully this guide provides a starting point to picking the perfect liquid base. No matter what milk or ingredient you choose, proper proportions are key for ideal overnight oat texture.
Got questions or suggestions about milk and overnight oats? Leave a comment below!