Whose oats will reign supreme?
I’m always on the lookout for the best overnight oats recipe. Say what you will about the dish, but you can’t deny that it's cheap, filling, and fast. Sometimes all I really want is to make my breakfast the night before and shove the container into my work bag when I’m running out the door—but I still want it to taste good. And so begins another recipe throwdown.
We have two domestic goddesses in the ring. In one corner, Gwyneth Paltrow, founder of Goop, promoter of conscious uncoupling, adaptogens, and smoker of just two cigarettes a year. I made her Chocolate Cinnamon Overnight Oats from It’s All Easy. In the other corner, we have the Pioneer Woman (known less formally as Ree Drummond), blogger extraordinaire and raiser of wild horses. I made her Overnight Oatmeal from an episode of The Pioneer Woman entitled “Alone Again.”
The first thing you notice about Ree's recipe is all the sugar. “I’m one of those people that has to have sweetness in her oatmeal,” Drummond says in the episode. In addition to chopped Granny Smith apple and raisins, the recipe calls for 2 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar. To quote Drummond, “and when I say heaping, I mean heaping heaping.” OK, Ree.
The fruit and sugar take a bath with whole milk, half-and-half, vanilla extract, salt, and a full cup of rolled oats. As I tossed the mixture together, I couldn’t help but notice that this was a lot of food, yet the serving size said 1-2. If I ate a cup of oats in the morning, I think I’d fall asleep at my desk, I thought to myself. I covered the bowl and tucked it in the fridge. Drummond says to refrigerate the mixture overnight; mine sat for about 12 hours. To finish the oats, Drummond pours them into a bowl and tops them with more sugar: a couple tablespoons are sprinkled over the top and then sit in the broiler for a few minutes to get a golden creme brulee-inspired topping. It’s then covered with blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.
Next up, GP. Unsurprisingly, this recipe was not reliant on dairy or refined sugar for flavor and richness. “Is it muesli? Is it chia pudding? We’re not really sure how to define this hybrid breakfast bowl,” reads the headnote. A mixture of ½ cup gluten-free quick-cooking oats (she says rolled oats won’t absorb the liquid properly), chia seeds, almond milk, dates, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, and fresh orange juice, it certainly felt nutrient-dense. It also smelled very good. Paltrow says the oatmeal can be mixed together in a mason jar or bowl, and it should sit for at least 2 hours or up to two days. Again, mine sat for about 12 hours.
The next morning, as I bruleed the Pioneer Woman’s oatmeal, I couldn’t help but think that this is something I would never do, especially not on a weekday. When it came out of the oven, it certainly looked pretty, and it smelled like dessert. It also tasted like dessert. In fact, it was much sweeter than I typically prefer my actual desserts. The tart apple and salt definitelydid help offset the richness of the oatmeal, and the vanilla was a nice addition.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s oatmeal looked like a brown bowl of slop, but what can you expect from cocoa powder and oats? The flavor, however, was complex. Chocolate, orange, cinnamon, and vanilla are a delightful combination. Again, I found the oatmeal a tad sweet (whatever, I’m boring and don’t love sweet oatmeal, let me live!), but I know that was because I used two extremely fat and squishy medjool dates here. One medjool or two smaller deglet noor dates probably would’ve been plenty. The texture was also quite nice—it wasn’t overly gelatinous like chia pudding, nor was it all mushy like muesli. I think a handful of toasted nuts or seeds for some crunch would’ve made this even better.
After tasting and considering what I look for in overnight oats, the winner was obvious.