There’s deep pleasure in creamy chilled oats, an easy make-ahead breakfast that blends the comfort of hot porridge with the fun of crunchy cereal in cold milk. After a season of feasting with friends and family, it’s a welcome meal for one that tastes like an indulgence but leaves you feeling great.
It also fits just about any New Year’s resolution to eat well, a nod to its origins. Around 1900, Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner popularized Swiss-German müesli by serving it at his sanitarium in the Alps. He mixed water-soaked oats, grated apple and nuts with condensed milk and yogurt.
This modern version forgoes the one-note sweetness and pasty thickness of the original. Instead, it layers flavors and textures like crackling nuts, chewy fruit, seeds and oats suspended in milk with the loose swish of melted ice cream.
This recipe tastes better than müesli – and most other overnight oats – because of salt, which draws out the grain’s inherent sweetness. But its play of creamy and crunchy is what will help it win the year.
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A two-to-one ratio of milk to oats softens the oats without causing them to clump. Tiny seeds also prevent the oats from gluing together, and dried fruit lends a satisfying chew while infusing the milk with natural sugar. Finally, the nuts give this a crisp finish, especially when added just before eating. (You can even sprinkle a tiny pinch of nuts over each spoonful to maximize the crunch.)
If you like your oats hot, heat them up. For more sweetness, add fresh fruit, more dried fruit, or brown sugar, honey or maple syrup. The greatest joy in this jar may just be making it your own.
Yield: 2 cups
Time: 5 minutes, plus overnight soaking
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup dried fruit, cut into small pieces, if needed
1 tablespoon chia, flax, poppy or sesame seeds
1 cup milk or unsweetened dairy alternative, such as almond or oat milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Maple syrup, honey or brown sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped or sliced nuts, toasted, if desired
Mix oats, dried fruit, seeds, milk and salt in a pint jar or 2-cup airtight resealable container. Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or up to 5 days.
Uncover, stir well, and taste. If you prefer more sweetness, stir in some sweetener. Top with the nuts just before eating.