Morning is my favorite time of the day, when everything still seems possible. It’s the time when I review my daily planner, write a couple of pages in my journal, and spend 10 minutes reading. It’s also when I (normally) have to shepherd my kids to school. Getting both the “me time” and the “kid time” done in a timely fashion is key to my happiness for the day… but it means I have to pick my battles. Weekday mornings are not the time for me to cook a hot breakfast. Yet, I often crave something a little more substantial than just toast, nut butter, and fruit. Enter the ultimate batched breakfast solution: vegan overnight oats.
In this post, I will show you how to include a big batch of vegan overnight oats to your weekend meal prep. It takes only 10 minutes to prepare a whole week’s worth of breakfasts, and you are going to be so glad you did it!
Prep, mix, eat: a three step process
Vegan overnight oats will save you time if you batch the hands-on work ahead of time. This is how I work it into my schedule. Keep in mind that I am the only person eating overnight oats in my household, so this is just for me. I prepare five jars at a time, one for each morning from Monday to Friday. You’ll find instructions for scaling up below.
- Sunday night: Mix all ingredients into 1-cup Mason jars, buffet style. (You can also mix everything in a big container and scoop out individual servings the night before.)
- Night before: Add plant milk to one jar. Refrigerate. (It’s not absolutely necessary to refrigerate if you’ll eat the vegan overnight oats within 12 hours.)
- Morning: If I’m going somewhere, I just grab the jar (and a spoon) and eat it at room temperature. If at home, I transfer to a slightly bigger bowl, add a little bit of water, stir, and reheat in the microwave for 1 minute and 23 seconds. One minute would be fine too. 🙂 If there is extra fruit left after filling the kids’ lunchbox, I throw it into the bowl, as well. Bonus!
Stock your pantry with your favorite oat boosters
At their simplest, vegan overnight oats require only two ingredients: rolled oats and a liquid. You can use plant milk, water, or a mix of both. Mix them up, wait 8 hours, and there’s your basic breakfast.
But who wants to do that? The beauty of this plant-based breakfast option is that it’s possible to pack it full of extra nutritious and tasty ingredients. In particular, it’s a great place to add antioxidant-rich fruits, seeds, nuts, and even some spice! Without even trying hard, you can tick four or more boxes on your Daily Dozen challenge.
Here are some of my favorite things to include:
- Chia seeds. I thought I would never like chia seeds, for the same reason I dislike tapioca. But I wanted to add some omega-3s to my breakfast, so I started with only about half a teaspoon mixed into my overnight oats… and now I put in two whole tablespoons! By bringing variety to the mixture, the chia seeds balance the oats so that it feels less like a bowl of mush and more like pudding.
- Dried fruit. My current favorite is goji berries, which I buy for a reasonable price from my local Asian grocer. Other great options include raisins, chopped figs, currants, dried cranberries (note that many are loaded with sugar), and freeze-dried blueberries. If you have access to a dehydrator, your options become endless: dried bananas, apples, strawberries, pineapple… it’s all good!
- Nuts and/or seeds. Why pick just one? For nuts, I especially like walnuts, but chopped almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, and even pecans work great. And don’t forget the seeds! Hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds (quickly chopped) are fantastic here. I like to add a sprinkle of ground flax seeds (flaxmeal) too, but I find that more than 1 teaspoon changes the taste too much.
- Spice. Jumpstart your intake of nutrients with your first meal of the day! Start by adding 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon true cinnamon to each portion of your overnight oats. If you have a taste for Indian-flavored dishes, you can also add a little dried turmeric and ginger. Start with a pinch and see where it takes you.
The best strategy is to mix things up from week to week, keeping the general structure of your favorite combo but swapping fruit for fruit or nut for nut. That way, you’ll bring an even greater array of brilliant phytonutrients into your beautiful body.
Prep your own zero-hassle and zero-waste plant milk
Of course, you can use plant milk from a box for your vegan overnight oats. But that requires bringing home from the store a heavy container that’s mostly filled with water, then having to rinse it, put it in the recycling bin, and carry that to the curb. (And that’s when it’s even recyclable, which it isn’t in a lot of municipalities.)
Home-made plant milk can be made from bulk ingredients which are a lot less cumbersome to bring home. And the great thing about using home-made plant milk for your vegan overnight oats is that you don’t need to strain out the pulp.
Put together in a blender 3 1/2 cups of water with 1 cup nuts (almonds, cashews, hazelnuts…) or 3/4 cup seeds (hemp or pumpkin) or even 1 cup cooked rice. Blend for a minute or two depending on your blender and transfer to a jar. Voilà! Plant milk for the week. (Perhaps add a label to the jar so that your loved ones don’t pour themselves a glass of the unstrained milk. It’s good, but most people aren’t used to the texture and probably won’t enjoy the surprise. In overnight oats, you won’t notice or mind the difference.) Oats also make a great milk but have to be blended for only 15 seconds to prevent sliminess. And, well, oat milk in overnight oats is a bit… oaty? But I’m not going to stop you from trying.
PRO TIP: For a one-two punch combining zero-waste and whole foods wins, add a couple of pitted dates to the blender. That way, you can skip the refined sweetener.
What about sugar?
If you haven’t followed my pro-tip to add a pitted date to the plant milk above, your second best option is to add a dry sweetener at the “dry mixing” stage. A packed teaspoon of brown sugar should be enough. You could also try erythritol.
If you prefer a liquid sweetener like maple syrup or molasses, you can also blend it in your plant milk. Otherwise, you’ll have to add it to the jar the night before serving.
Two methods: mixing pot vs. individual jars
You can either mix a big batch of all the ingredients of your vegan overnight oats in a single, large container, or prepare all of your individual jars ahead of time, buffet style.
If you have enough small containers, I suggest the buffet method. It means even less work required at night to get your next day’s breakfast ready. It also allows you to vary the ingredients from jar to jar. For example, you could experiment with a different ratio of oats to chia seeds and decide, at the end of the week, which one you like best.
If you are making overnight oats for a crowd and batching more than 5 portions, you’ll need a really big container to fit it all in. Keep in mind that you will need to mix the container by hand before scooping out your oats every night, because some of the smaller ingredients (especially chia seeds) tend to settle at the bottom. A big glass jar with an airtight lid works well, or one of those large flour canisters. Keeping an appropriately-sized scoop inside the jar will make night-before prep even easier.
My favorite containers for individual portions of vegan overnight oats
I have a stash of exactly five one-cup wide-mouth Mason jars for my weekly batch of vegan overnight oats. They are easiest to fill, mix, and eat from. Plus, unlike plastic, I don’t mind putting glass directly in the microwave if needed. Another benefit is that they stack neatly on top of each other, and have interchangeable lids with all the other jars in my pantry. No searching for the right lid!
But you don’t need to head to the store and buy fresh jars just for this purpose! Store-bought salsa jars, among others, are often just the right size. I bet you can build your inventory of just-right jars over the course of a few weeks.
If you choose Mason jars, make sure to use the two-part metal lids and not the plastic lids. The latter are missing a rubber seal, which makes them leaky if you shake your overnight oats container. Keep those plastic lids for dry ingredients only.
A great way to involve kids in the kitchen
Little kids LOVE to play with measuring cups. Asking for their help in batching vegan overnight oats also gives them the opportunity to “steal” a taste of the various ingredients – a boon for parents of picky eaters.
Once your pantry is stocked with all the necessary ingredients, it makes it easy for bigger kids to prep their own overnight oats to their own taste, too. Then, when they inevitably wake up just in time for the school bus or race to early-morning sports practice, they can just grab a jar and spoon for a healthy, filling, and nutritious breakfast on the go. (You might want to use plastic containers if your teens are a bit rough on their stuff.)
Make vegan overnight oats your own way!
See the general ratios below, and adjust them based on YOUR taste. Then use the serving counter to adjust quantities according to the number of portions you need to prepare. Aim to have no more than 2/3 cup of dry ingredients per 1-cup jar.