How to Make Bircher Muesli (Overnight Oats)

How to Make Bircher Muesli (Overnight Oats)

A change of season heralds a change of breakfast in my kitchen. I’m no longer getting up in the dark, scurrying around before 7am in the half light, trying to keep warm with a large bowl of porridge. Instead the sun is my natural alarm clock and it bathes the kitchen in a gentle, welcoming light that greets me when I pad out of the bedroom in my dressing gown. This sunnier outlook calls for a lighter, more energetic breakfast.

Bircher muesli, or overnight oats, is the original muesli, invented by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner for his patients in the 1900s. His recipe requires the oats to be soaked in milk for a period of time to soften them, making them easier to digest, as oats had not yet been made “quick” by manufacturing processes. Soaking is no longer required for muesli, but creating a breakfast inspired by Dr Bircher-Benner is a tasty, nourishing and wholesome start to the day. 

How to Make Bircher Muesli (Overnight Oats)

A bowl of soft, cold oats. Granted, it doesn’t sound overly appetising. In fact, it sounds like prison food. But when injected with flavour and texture, and topped with fresh fruit and yoghurt, it really is good.

There are a myriad of variations possible with bircher muesli, from the soaking liquid (milk, cream, condensed milk, juice), to the oats (add nothing or add any mix of nuts, dried fruit or grated apple) and the topping (fresh, stewed or dried fruit, nuts, jam). I’ve experimented with many combinations over the years and this is my current favourite, inspired by my recent trip to Byron Bay where bircher muesli was on the menu at every cafe for breakfast.

I use coconut water to soak the oats, because I like the subtle sweetness it provides (juice can lend too much sweetness). I stir yoghurt in to the soaked oats to add the creaminess the milk would otherwise provide. In keeping with the coconut theme I add shredded coconut to provide texture along with chia seeds which soak up the liquid like a sponge and aid digestion. Flaked almonds (or any almonds you have on hand) bring their nuttiness as well as a slight crunch.

The traditional topping is grated apple and nuts, but any seasonal fruit is perfectly at home atop a bowl of bircher. Adding sliced mint and a gentle squeeze of lemon to a summer fruit topping lifts the whole dish into something much more interesting. For those going into the cooler months, stewed apple or pears with hazelnuts and a drizzle of maple syrup would be delightful.

How to Make Bircher Muesli (Overnight Oats)

Apparently bircher muesli is also eaten as a light evening meal in Switzerland and Germany, which makes me feel better about the several bowls of muesli I’ve had for dinner during this pregnancy so far. That’s how tasty it is.

Coconut and Almond Bircher Muesli

Serves 4, 10 minutes to prep and serve, overnight to soak

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups coconut water
  • 1/2 cup flaked almonds
  • 1/4 cup black chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

Topping:

  • Greek yoghurt
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Tart, green apple, grated
  • Walnuts, chopped
  • Mint, chopped
  • Strawberries, sliced
  • Banana, sliced
  • Sunflower seeds and/or pepitas
  • Honey, maple syrup or agave (optional, the coconut water and fruit already add sweetness)

In a large bowl combine oats, coconut water, chia seeds, flaked almonds and shredded coconut. Stir to combine. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

To serve, scoop the soaked oat mixture into bowls and top with enough greek yoghurt to form a porridge-like consistency when mixed in. You can add some milk (cow/soy/almond/oat all fine) to help achieve this.

Top with grated apple, walnuts, strawberries and banana then sprinkle with seeds, chopped mint and drizzle with honey if desired.

38 thoughts on “How to Make Bircher Muesli (Overnight Oats)

  1. I love bircher muesli. I’ve been eating it since childhood as my mother used to make it for me, usually with whole milk and grated apple. Your version sounds gorgeous, and I think that eating it for a pregnancy dinner is entirely warranted! Love the photos too. Thanks for another lovely post Amelia! xx

  2. Your timing is impeccable. I have been wanting to try out Bircher muesli but was put off by the high sugar content it seems to require. This recipe looks perfect for me, especially as I love coconut. Pinning it now and trying it soon, thank you!

  3. Doctor Bircher! I had no idea this brekkie was invented by a physician. Absolutely love the idea of soaking the oats in coconut water, and the scattering of mint looks so pretty. Your striped measuring jug is ace!

  4. Bircher muesli is one of those things that utterly confounded me when I first moved to Melbourne. To my Canadian mind, muesli is crunchy, sweet, and best served with yogurt. Why anyone would want to eat mushy muesli, I really had no idea.

    But this looks tasty, and knowing the history behind it (and what is actually in those cups of mushy oats at cafes) makes me cautiously optimistic that I’ll like it.

    • I promise, it’s good. When I explained bircher muesli to my New York friends their faces squished up with a “COLD OATMEAL!?” kind of face. But it’s not, it’s tasty.

  5. I have eaten this all week and it’s amazing….thanks Amelia! It also is quick to make in the morning which is an added bonus :) I definitely would have eaten this all the time when I was pregnant.

  6. Did this last night and was really delicious – I added the mint too. I reckon this would be great with poached fruit, to add a little sweetness, especially if you don’t add honey (mine isn’t runny so doesn’t really work)

    • Poached fruit would be delicious Karen. If you don’t have time, you can just add some chopped dried fruit to soak overnight with the oats. Dried apricots get lovely and plump and dates go all fudgey, both adding sweetness.

  7. We love steel-cut oats, which we prefer over rolled oats for the texture. We make a batch and then eat it for a week of breakfasts, usually with savory ingredients and a soft-boiled egg (julienned leftover greens, beets, sesame seeds, sriracha, fish sauce, etc.), but your recipe for bircher muesli sounds tantalizing. Now you’ve got me wondering if s-c oats could be adapted for your bircher muesli. Any thoughts? Thanks. Ken

  8. Pingback: Pistachio-Stuffed Dates With Coconut | Simple Provisions

  9. Pingback: Mulberry glut: crumble, baked oats, bircher muesli (and raspberry flan) | Nerdy gastronome

  10. Hi Amelia, i’m Jeffrey from Indonesia
    I have eaten oats porridge since i was a kid. i have no idea to prepare this bircher muesli. I bought it at local store, and i thought the way to prepare bircher muesli was similar with prepare oats porridge.
    Since i read your lovely recommendation, its really help me to prepare bircher muesli for the first time.

    its simple and i just wondering if its really ok if i not cook it as well i prepare oats porridge

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