An easy, healthy breakfast for one made with rolled oats, grated apple, Greek-style yogurt and chopped nuts.
Did you know that overnight oats are also known as Bircher muesli?
And more importantly, were you aware that Bircher muesli has absolutely nothing to do with ‘Birchers’ – members of the John Birch Society?
Really, don’t get them confused!
For anyone who doesn’t know, the John Birch Society was a 1950s extreme anti-communist group (and it sort of still exists today, but it’s very small and not-at-all influential). The John Birch Society were involved in spreading the conspiracy theory that water fluoridation was a diabolical scheme to brainwash the American public and turn them into communists.
After all, isn’t that the obvious reason why the government would add fluoride to water?
In comparison, Bircher muesli was created by one Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss physician. The original Bircher muesli recipe only used a small amount of rolled oats, and mostly consisted of grated apple and sweetened condensed milk. It also included lemon juice and chopped nuts.
Bircher muesli has evolved greatly since it was first invented in the very early 20th century. These days, while there’s no ‘exact’ way to make it, but Bircher muesli generally involves soaking rolled oats in a mixture of fruit juice (or milk) and yogurt (or a soft cheese, such as cottage cheese or quark). Grated apple and some spices (such as cinnamon) are almost always added, and so are a range of dried fruit, nuts and/or seeds. These ingredients may be soaked in the fruit juice and yogurt along with the oats, or they can be added just before serving.
And voilà – there is your basic Bircher muesli! Unlike the original recipe, oats are now the main part of the dish. In my opinion, that proves that progress is a good thing.
So, seriously, don’t get ‘Birchers’ and ‘Bircher muesli’ mixed up – or else it will be mighty awkward.
I never used to like overnight oats until I came across a recipe for Bircher Muesli. My first thought was, ‘Bircher muesli, what on earth is that?’ I knew what regular muesli was – a dry mix of oats, dried fruit, nuts and sweetener – but the idea of soaking the oats in yogurt and fruit juice? ‘Weird’, I thought.
I’d tried vegan overnight oats before (i.e. no yogurt), but my reaction was just ‘ugh!’. The oats became edible once I microwaved them, but I really wanted a cold breakfast. Maybe I sleep with too many blankets on my bed or something, because I often wake up craving something sweet and chilled. I’ll never understand how people can eat eggs for breakfast!
Anyway, after trying a Bircher muesli recipe I became hooked. Creamy, fruity and sweet – that’s the breakfast for me! Since trying that recipe, I’ve looked at tons of others and experimented endlessly with different variations – different fruit juices, different milks, different yogurt-to-oats ratios, etc. And I’m happy to say that this really is one of those ‘anything goes’ recipes. It doesn’t matter if you use a red apple or a green apple – just know that red apples are sweeter, but green apples tend to be sharper and crunchier. Personally, I can’t decide which apple I prefer.
In the recipe, I’ve just specified ‘chopped nuts’ because, once again, anything goes!
I generally use sliced almonds and chopped walnuts. But I also love using pumpkin seeds (pepitas), sunflower seeds, pecans, pistachios …. really anything. So use whatever crunchiness you love (or, perhaps more realistically, whatever you have on hand).
And experiment with adding other fruits or some honey (or maple syrup), because you really can’t go wrong! Uh, unless you join the John Birch Society.
This post was updated (with new pictures) in March 2016.
- Overnight oats
- ⅓ cup rolled oats
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup Greek-style yogurt
- ¼ cup apple juice or milk
- ½ apple, coarsely grated
Mix-ins and toppings
- 2 - 3 tablespoons shredded coconut
- 2 - 3 tablespoons chopped nuts
- In a bowl or container, combine the rolled oats, cinnamon, vanilla extract, yogurt and apple juice (or milk). Add the grated apple, and mix until completely combined.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or put the lid on the container) and leave in the fridge overnight.
- In the morning, stir approximately half of the shredded coconut and chopped nuts into the overnight oats. If the oats are too thick, also stir in a little more milk.
- Top with the remaining coconut and nuts, as well as some blueberries. Enjoy!
Any thick yogurt should be A-OK for this recipe - it doesn't need to be authentic Greek yogurt. Vanilla flavored yogurt is particularly good!