Overnight Oats in a Mostly-Empty Yogurt Container

There used to a website called “Is It Iced Coffee Weather?” that would tell you whether you should drink hot coffee or iced coffee on a particular day.

I’d like to build a similar website for oats. For me, it’s either overnight oat weather or hot oatmeal weather. Right now, in L.A., we’re on the cusp. Yesterday, the weather was in the 80s; this morning, it was in the 50s. Usually I make my decision the night before: if it’s hot oatmeal, I put a cup of steel-cut oats in a pot, cover with 4 cups of water, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, and cover so they’ll cook up in ten minutes the next morning. Last night, though, I opened my refrigerator and saw a mostly-empty yogurt container. That was the universe telling me it was time to overnight oat.

The thing about my overnight oats is that I don’t use a recipe. So those of you who are scrolling to the bottom of this post, sorry!

It’s all impulse; you make various decisions along the way: sweet or less sweet? Wet or not so-wet? (When I make it not-so-wet, my husband says the overnight oats “taste like concrete.” I don’t mind that though.)

Here’s how you start: look inside your mostly-empty yogurt container. This one had about 1/2 cup to a cup of yogurt. To that, I added milk and stirred it in. Let’s say I added 1/2 cup of milk. Then I add a pinch of salt and I start sweetening it with maple syrup (you could also use honey).

At this point, you taste it. Not sweet enough? Add more maple syrup (or honey). Too sweet? Add a little more salt. (You could also add a splash of vanilla here.) As far as the wetness, you want the mixture to feel like slightly thinned-out cream.

But here’s the thing: you really can’t screw this up. As long as you like the taste, the next step is adding the dry stuff. So start with less dry stuff: add old-fashioned rolled oats (start with 1/2 cup) and then play around. I like to add pistachios, unsweetened flaked coconut, golden raisins, and pumpkin seeds.

Other options: slivered almonds, dried currants, pitted and chopped-up Medjool dates, pomegranate seeds, dried blueberries. You get the idea!

You stir that all together and look at your concoction. If it looks pretty wet, that’s okay — you’ll have wet overnight oats in the morning. If it looks very dry, you may wind up with concrete. If that worries you, add more milk. Here’s what mine looked like last night before bed.

As you can see, mostly wet.

And here’s what it looked like this morning when I woke up.

As you can see, the oats absorbed most of the liquid. That’s the cool thing about overnight oats — they suck up whatever liquid you put in there, so it’s really up to you how you want this to go.

To serve, I scooped the oats into my Pinocchio bowl and topped with a banana that was on the verge of overripe, but there were only two left so I wasn’t going to bake anything with them.

So tonight, when you go to bed, ask yourself a few questions: “Is it going to be hot tomorrow?” “Is it going to be cold?” “Do I have a mostly-empty yogurt container in the fridge?”

If the answer to the last question is “yes,” ignore the first two questions and do what I did. Even on a chilly morning (it’s 61 degrees right now, brrr!), these are oats you won’t want to kick out of bed.