Overnight Oats vs Regular Oatmeal

Enjoy this recipe? Please share!

Oatmeal is healthy and delicious, and a great way to get a nutritious meal in your family any time of the year. Curious about the difference between overnight oats vs regular oatmeal (or instant oats)? It mostly comes down to personal preference.

overnight oats in jars

Breakfast might be the most important meal of the day, but it can be difficult to get something fresh on the table every morning. Many families love prepping food ahead of time. In fact, that’s one of the reasons overnight oats have become so popular.

Overnight oats are made by combining oats with milk or water, and additional ingredients like fruit, nuts and spices to create a simple and nutritious meal. They can be prepped in just minutes the night before.

Traditional oatmeal or instant oats are prepared when you need them and usually consumed the same day. While similar to overnight oats in that they many times are eaten with the same ingredients, there are some differences.

Some links may be affiliate links. That means I may make a commission if you use my links to purchase, at no extra added cost to you! I only recommend products that I personally love and believe in  Full disclosure here.

The Difference between Overnight Oats and Instant Oatmeal

With the popularity of overnight oats seemingly exploding over the past few years, it can be a little confusing to understand what sets these two breakfast favorites apart. While they’re both a great option for a healthy breakfast, the major differences between these is temperature, texture and preparation.

Overnight Oats

Overnight oats are prepared in advance. While their name might be “overnight,” that doesn’t mean you need to prepare them a day in advance. However, it’s usually recommended that you leave them in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours to allow the oats and liquids to soak.

Many people love the easy preparation. Overnight oats are ready to go the next morning without any extra steps, and no cooking or heating is required. This can be a great grab and go meal or on-the-go breakfast if you make them in jars!

Many people also love that they can make multiple kinds of overnight oats at the same time. This is a great meal prep option and let’s you plan for the week ahead.

You can use steel-cut oats or old-fashioned oats to make this dish, and some have also found that using quick oats speeds up the process, too. Overnight oats can be made with regular milk; plant-based milk like oat milk, soy milk or almond milk; coconut milk or even water.

Overnight oats are usually served cold, fresh from the refrigerator, or at room temperature. If you’re the kind of person who loves a warm bowl of freshly cooked oatmeal, you might not be a fan of the temperature of this dish.

The texture of overnight oats is also very different from traditional oatmeal, as overnight oats aren’t cooked. This can lead to a slightly chewy texture with overnight oats.

overnight oats open in jars

Instant Oatmeal

Traditional oatmeal is prepared and eaten the same day. Unlike overnight oats, you don’t need to plan in advance to enjoy them. Just heat up your milk or add hot water, mix and enjoy with your favorite toppings.

Instant oats are usually served warm. Many people love a hot bowl of oatmeal to warm them up on cold mornings. As the nutty flavor of oat changes slightly when cooked, traditional oatmeal can also taste heartier.

Unlike overnight oats, regular oatmeal isn’t a good option to grab and eat when you’re running out the door on busy mornings. However, it’s easy to make packets of instant oatmeal at work, and preparation time is pretty quick.

The nutritional benefits of these options can also vary greatly. Instant oatmeal can come plain, but is usually found in instant oatmeal packets with added sugar and other processed ingredients.

Overnight oats might have more calories, but are usually prepared with healthy, fresh ingredients that can be found at any grocery store.

Popular choices for this easy breakfast include:

  • fresh fruit like sliced bananas, strawberries and apples
  • smaller pieces of nuts
  • brown sugar
  • peanut butter
  • maple syrup
  • chia seeds
  • almond butter
  • chocolate chips
  • If you’re looking for a good source of protein, you can also choose to mix in protein powder

More Easy Breakfast Ideas:

Air Fryer Breakfast Frittata

There’s no shortage of great ideas for what you can to your own easy overnight oats recipe. Experiment with a variety of toppings for different textures. The best part of overnight oats is that you can easily customize them. You might find you love it more than a regular bowl of oatmeal for your morning meal.

No matter which style of preparation you choose, oatmeal is a great meal for families. Let us know your favorite overnight oat recipes in the comments below!

pinterest pin image

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *