What happens if you use instant oats for overnight oats?

Overnight oats have become a popular breakfast option for many people looking for a quick, healthy morning meal. The basic overnight oats recipe calls for regular rolled oats that soften and absorb liquid overnight when refrigerated. But can you use instant oats instead? Here’s a look at what happens if you use instant oats for overnight oats and whether it’s a good idea.

Do instant oats work for overnight oats?

Yes, you can use instant oats for overnight oats. Since instant oats are designed to cook faster, they will soften and absorb liquid overnight just like regular rolled oats. However, there are some differences to consider when using instant oats instead of regular rolled oats:

  • Texture – Instant oats tend to be softer and mushier than rolled oats after soaking overnight. They lack the al dente texture of regular overnight oats.
  • Flavor – Instant oats often have added flavorings and tend to be sweeter than regular oats. This can alter the flavor profile of your overnight oats.
  • Nutrition – Instant oats may be more processed and have added sugars. They don’t always provide the same nutritional benefits as less processed rolled oats.

The bottom line is you can make overnight oats with instant oats, but the final result may be mushier and less flavorful compared to using rolled oats. Instant oats are designed to be cooked, so they don’t hold up as well to soaking overnight.

How to make overnight oats with instant oats

If you want to use up a container of instant oats you have on hand, go ahead and give overnight oats a try. Here are some tips:

  • Use a 1:1 ratio of oats to liquid. Instant oats absorb liquid more quickly so you likely don’t need as much liquid.
  • Use milk or yogurt instead of water for more flavor and protein.
  • Reduce soaking time to 6 hours or less. Instant oats get mushy if soaked too long.
  • Add extra ingredients like fruit, nuts, chocolate chips or granola for texture.
  • Stir the oats before eating for a creamier texture.

Here is a simple overnight oats recipe using instant oats:

Simple Instant Overnight Oats


  • 1/2 cup instant oats
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 2 tbsp yogurt or cream (optional)
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional)
  • Sliced fruit, nuts or seeds for topping


  1. In a jar or container, combine the oats, milk, yogurt (if using), cinnamon and sweetener (if using).
  2. Stir well, cover and refrigerate for 5-6 hours.
  3. When ready to eat, top with your favorite fruit, nuts or seeds.

Benefits of Using Rolled Oats

While instant oats will work, using rolled or old-fashioned oats is best for overnight oats for several reasons:

  • Texture – Rolled oats have a heartier, chewier texture that holds up well to soaking overnight. Instant oats get too mushy.
  • Flavor – Rolled oats have a mild, nutty flavor perfect for absorbing other overnight oats ingredients. Instant oats can be too sweet.
  • Nutrition – Rolled oats are minimally processed and have more fiber. Instant oats often have added sugar and salt.
  • Cost – Rolled oats are cheaper per serving compared to instant oat packets.

The whole point of overnight oats is that the oats slowly absorb liquid and soften while retaining some texture. Rolled oats achieve this best. The minimal processing also provides more nutritional benefits.

Tips for Making Rolled Oats Overnight Oats

It’s simple to make delicious overnight oats with rolled oats. Here are some tips:

  • Use a 1:1 to 1:1.5 ratio of oats to liquid. Too much liquid makes them mushy.
  • Soak oats for 8-12 hours. Any less and they won’t soften enough.
  • Mix in Greek yogurt or protein powder for extra protein.
  • Add chia seeds, flaxseed or nut butter for healthy fats.
  • Sweeten with honey, maple syrup, banana or mix-ins like jam.
  • Top with fresh fruit, coconut, nuts or seeds.

Feel free to get creative with mix-ins and toppings! Here is an example recipe:

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats


  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (optional)
  • 1/2 apple, diced


  1. Combine oats, milk, yogurt, chia seeds, cinnamon and sweetener (if using) in a jar.
  2. Stir well, cover and refrigerate 8-12 hours.
  3. When ready to eat, add diced apple and enjoy!

Can You Make Overnight Oats Without Refrigeration?

Properly making overnight oats requires refrigeration. The oats need to soak for several hours in cold liquid in the fridge to soften and absorb flavor. Leaving overnight oats out at room temperature can allow bacteria to grow and spoil the oats.

If you don’t have access to a refrigerator, there are some other soaked oat options you can make including:

  • Bircher muesli – Soak oats for 1-2 hours in lemon juice or milk at room temp.
  • No-fridge oats – Use boiling water to cook the oats, then add toppings.
  • Stovetop oatmeal – Cook oats for 5 minutes on the stovetop.

However, these methods won’t have the same texture and flavor as true overnight oats. Refrigeration is vital to get the benefits of slowly soaking and absorbing liquid over time. This results in plump, tender oats perfect for grabbing and going in the morning.

Do Overnight Oats Need to Be Cooked or Heated Up?

One of the convenience factors of overnight oats is that there is no cooking required. The oats soften and absorb liquid after chilling overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning, you can eat overnight oats straight from the fridge without needing to heat them up.

Some people may prefer to heat their overnight oats briefly before eating. You can easily do this by microwaving the jar of overnight oats for 30 seconds up to 1 minute. Stir well before eating. Adding hot milk or boiling water to the oats at the beginning will also create a hot overnight oatmeal.

But heating overnight oats is not required. Many people enjoy the cool, creamy texture of chilled overnight oats straight from the fridge. So it’s up to your personal preferences!

Benefits of Overnight Oats

Here are some of the top benefits of making overnight oats with rolled or steel-cut oats:

  • Convenience – Make ahead oats ready to grab and go in the morning!
  • Customization – Add your favorite flavors and toppings.
  • Nutrition – Provides filling fiber, protein and healthy fats.
  • Digestion – Easier to digest than cooked oatmeal for some.
  • Texture – Creamy yet retaining some chewiness when made right.
  • Cost – Cheap and easy meal prep using simple ingredients.

Potential Downsides of Overnight Oats

Overnight oats are very healthy for most people, but there can be some potential downsides to be aware of:

  • Must be refrigerated to safely soak overnight.
  • May be higher in carbs than some low-carb diets prefer.
  • Raw oats can cause digestive issues for those sensitive.
  • Not heated, so the texture may seem odd to some.
  • Easy to make excess portions that go uneaten and waste food.

As long as you tolerate oats well and have a refrigerator, overnight oats make for an easy and nutritious breakfast option.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use quick oats for overnight oats?

Yes, you can use quick oats or instant oats for overnight oats. However, they tend to get mushier than rolled or steel-cut oats. For the best texture, use regular rolled oats.

Do you have to cook overnight oats?

No cooking is required for overnight oats. Simply mix the dry oats and liquid ingredients together and refrigerate overnight. The oats will soften as they soak. You can microwave or add hot liquid to heat them up if desired.

How long do overnight oats last?

Properly prepared overnight oats last 3-5 days in the refrigerator. Keep them sealed in an airtight container. The texture may degrade and liquid separate over time. For best quality, eat within 3 days.

Can I use almond milk for overnight oats?

Yes, almond milk and other non-dairy milks work well for making overnight oats. Make sure to use unsweetened varieties. The milk provides liquid for the oats to absorb as they soak overnight.

Do you need a jar for overnight oats?

You don’t need a specific jar, any sealed container will work. Mason jars are popular since they are the perfect size for single servings. But you can use plastic containers, yogurt cups, bowls covered in plastic wrap, etc.


While instant oats can be used to make overnight oats in a pinch, rolled or steel-cut oats provide the best taste and texture. Make sure to soak the oats in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours, adding milk or yogurt plus desired flavors and toppings. Refrigeration is key for food safety. Overnight oats provide a simple, healthy and portable breakfast when prepared properly using regular oats.

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