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Overnight Oats with Instant Oats: Do’s and Don’ts

Overnight oats have become a popular easy breakfast option for busy mornings. The convenience of preparing oats in advance and letting them soak overnight is appealing. But can you use instant oats to make overnight oats?

Overnight oats provide a handy way to have a nutritious breakfast ready to grab and go in the morning. The idea is simple – combine oats with your preferred milk or liquid the night before and allow the oats to soak overnight. This softens the oats and infuses them with flavor. Then in the morning, your breakfast is ready to eat!

Rolled oats are traditionally used to make overnight oats. But what if you don’t have rolled oats on hand? Can instant oats be used as a substitute?

While instant oats can be used to make overnight oats, there are some differences in texture and quality to consider. The optimal overnight oat experience comes from using thick rolled oats. But in a pinch, instant oats can produce decent overnight oats with some tips and adjustments.

Using Instant Oats for Overnight Oats

Using Instant Oats for Overnight Oats

Instant oats have a significantly different texture from rolled oats. This is due to how they are processed.

Instant oats are steamed for longer under higher pressure than rolled oats. This extra processing softens them more and alters their structure. Instant oats are then pressed flatter and cut into smaller pieces. This makes them cook faster but also makes them less structurally sound when soaked overnight.

As a result, instant oats tend to fall apart more than rolled oats when soaked for extended periods. They become mushy and gloopy instead of retaining a pleasant, chewy texture.

For best results using instant oats overnight, it’s recommended to only prepare what you plan to eat for breakfast the next day. Don’t make a big batch that will sit for multiple days. The instant oats will become unappealingly mushy if soaked for too long.

Overnight oats using instant oats will also not last as long in the fridge. Rolled oat overnight oats can keep for 3-5 days when properly stored. But instant oat overnight oats will deteriorate in texture after the first day.

Making Overnight Oats with Instant Oats

Making Overnight Oats with Instant Oats

Despite the texture challenges, making overnight oats with instant oats is simple:

  • Use a small glass jar or container – mason jars work perfectly. This makes for easy mixing and portable carrying.
  • Use a 1:1 ratio of instant oats to liquid – this provides enough moisture to soften the oats without making them too soggy. Adjust the ratio based on your desired consistency.
  • Try using milk and Greek yogurt – the milk provides creaminess while the yogurt adds protein.
  • Flavor it up with mix-ins – chia seeds, nuts, frozen fruit, cinnamon, peanut butter, etc can all help flavor and enhance instant overnight oats.

Don’t limit yourself to just milk. Water, dairy milk, plant-based milks, kefir, or juice can all be used as the liquid base. Get creative with flavors by using vanilla or other yogurt flavors. The possibilities are endless!

Instant Oats vs. Rolled Oats for Overnight Oats

To understand why rolled oats make superior overnight oats, it helps to look closer at how rolled oats and instant oats are processed differently:

  • Rolled oats start as whole oat groats that are steamed and then rolled into flat flakes. This retains more of their structural integrity.
  • Instant oats undergo further processing. After steaming, they are rolled thinner, pressed flatter, and cut into smaller pieces. This makes them cook faster but also makes them fragile when soaked.

As a result, the two types of oats behave differently when soaked overnight:

  • Rolled oats hold their shape and texture better, resulting in a pleasant chewy, creamy oatmeal after soaking.
  • Instant oats turn soggy and gloopy as their structure deteriorates with extended soaking.

In the fridge, rolled oats maintain their quality for 3-5 days while instant oats go bad after the first day.

So while instant oats can work in a pinch, rolled oats make a superior overnight oats recipe that holds up better over time.

Difference Between Overnight Oats and Instant Oatmeal

It’s also helpful to understand the main differences between overnight oats and instant oatmeal:

  • Overnight oats are soaked raw in milk or water and eaten chilled. Instant oatmeal is cooked for a few minutes and served warm.
  • Soaking overnight oats decreases phytic acid and makes the oats easier to digest. Cooking has a similar effect on instant oatmeal.
  • When flavored similarly, overnight oats and instant oatmeal have a comparable taste – simple and a bit bland without additions.
  • Overnight oats tend to have a chewier, more stringy texture while instant oatmeal is smoother and creamier.
  • Plain instant oatmeal often has fewer carbs and calories than overnight oats loaded with mix-ins and toppings.

While both make a quick, convenient breakfast, overnight oats leverage the benefits of soaking rather than cooking. This extended hydration softens oats differently than a quick cook.

Best Oats for Overnight Soaking

When it comes to achieving the best overnight oats, traditional rolled oats are the clear winner.

Rolled oats have the perfect consistency and ability to absorb liquid while retaining structure. Steel-cut oats and instant oats lead to less desirable results.

Rolled oats undergo minimal processing – just steaming and rolling of the whole oat groats. This maintains the integrity of the oats instead of damaging and thinning them.

Overnight, the rolled oats soften while still providing texture and body. Instant oats become too mushy and soft after soaking.

If using instant oats due to lack of alternatives, there are still ways to improve the outcome:

  • Use a 1:1 liquid to oats ratio to limit excess moisture
  • Only prepare what you will eat the next morning so the oats don’t oversoak
  • Mix in flavorful ingredients like yogurt, nut butter, and fruit to mask texture issues

Those with gluten sensitivities should also opt for certified gluten-free oats, since oats may contain traces of gluten from processing.

Using Steel-Cut Oats for Overnight Oats

On the opposite end of the spectrum from instant oats, steel-cut oats have a very coarse, dense texture. This makes them a poor choice for overnight oats.

Since steel-cut oats are made from chopped whole oat groats, they retain much of their structure and rigidity. As a result, steel-cut oats do not absorb liquid well overnight. They require thorough cooking to soften properly.

Trying to make overnight oats with steel-cut oats will result in a bowl of still-crunchy, dry oats floating in liquid. No amount of soaking will sufficiently soften the steel-cut oats.

For overnight oats, rolled oats provide the right balance of absorption, creaminess, and retained body. Steel-cut oats and instant oats fail to strike this optimal balance when soaked overnight.


While rolled oats are always preferred, in a pinch instant oats can work decently well in overnight oats. The key is to use a 1:1 oat to liquid ratio, limit soaking time to prevent mushiness, and add flavorful mix-ins.

Steel-cut oats are too structurally dense to soften sufficiently for overnight oats. And rolled oats provide the best texture and mouthfeel.

Overall, rolled oats are optimized for soaking to create creamy, chewy overnight oats. But instant oats can serve as a substitute when necessary.

I hope this overview has helped explain whether instant oats work as an overnight oats option. Please feel free to reach out with any other breakfast-related questions!

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