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Overnight Oats vs Instant Oatmeal: They are Different

Overnight Oats vs Instant Oatmeal. They are both popular choices for breakfast and snacking. For breakfast options, oats reign supreme, offering a lot of versatility.  Among the array of oat varieties, two contenders stand out: overnight oats and instant oatmeal. While they may seem interchangeable at first glance, delving deeper reveals major differences that can significantly impact taste, texture, and nutrition.

From quick oats to steel-cut oats, each type of oat brings its own character to the breakfast table, offering many choices to suit diverse preferences.

Get the inside scoop as we explore the distinctions between overnight oats and instant oatmeal. We’ll examine their cooking times, nutrition benefits, popular flavors, and ideas for mix-ins and toppings.

Whether you’re a fan of creamy peanut butter-infused concoctions or prefer the simplicity of classic maple syrup and brown sugar, there’s good news. Both are a great option and cater to a wide range of tastes and different textures.

Overnight Oats vs Instant Oatmeal They are Different

Overnight Oats vs Instant Oatmeal

The main difference between overnight oats and instant oatmeal lies in their preparation method and texture. Overnight oats offer a creamy and chilled texture from soaking overnight, while instant oatmeal provides a smoother and softer texture through quick cooking with hot water or milk.

Preparation Method:

  • Prepare Overnight Oats by soaking raw oats in liquid (such as milk, yogurt, or juice) overnight in the refrigerator. This allows the oats to soften and absorb the liquid, resulting in a creamy and chilled texture.
  • On the other hand, you prepare Instant Oatmeal by adding hot water or milk to instant oats. Allow them to cook for a short time, usually 1-2 minutes. This rapid cooking process rehydrates the oats quickly, resulting in a softer, smoother texture compared to overnight oats.


  • Overnight oats have a creamy and slightly chewy texture due to the soaking process. Serve cold straight from the fridge, although you can warm it up if desired.
  • Instant oatmeal tends to have a smoother and softer texture, similar to traditional oatmeal cooked on the stovetop, but with a quicker preparation time.
  • Both overnight oats and instant oatmeal have their perks.
  • Overnight oats are great for planning ahead and customizing to your taste.
  • Instant oatmeal saves time and still offers a nutritious start to your day.

No matter which you choose, oats are a fantastic breakfast option. So, whether you’re rushing out the door or taking it slow, embrace the oat and enjoy a delicious start to your day.

Cooking Times

When it comes to cooking times, overnight oats and instant oatmeal offer different speeds.

Overnight oats are the champs of convenience. Just mix oats with your favorite liquid, like oat milk or coconut milk and let them chill in the fridge overnight. However, the texture of overnight oats is very different from traditional oatmeal. Because they are not cooked, they can have a slightly chewy texture.

Instant oatmeal lives up to its name. It’s ready almost instantly with just some hot water or milk, perfect for those busy mornings.

Different types of oats have different cooking times. Steel cut oats take the longest, while quick oats are the fastest.

Nutritional Benefits

Oats are naturally rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, promoting digestive health and overall well-being.

Both overnight oats and instant oatmeal come with a heap of nutritional benefits.

However, instant oatmeal often comes in convenient packets that may contain added sugars, artificial flavors, and other processed ingredients to enhance taste and shelf life. These added sugars and processed ingredients can negate some of the health benefits of oats and may contribute to spikes in blood sugar levels.

Oats are packed with fiber, which helps with digestion and keeps you feeling full.

Steel-cut oats have the most fiber since they’re the least processed. But instant oatmeal can still be good for you if it’s made with whole grains and not too much sugar.

Steel-cut oats remain the healthiest option due to their minimal processing and higher nutrient content. When choosing instant oatmeal, opt for varieties with minimal added sugars and fewer processed ingredients to maximize health benefits.

Bowl of Cooked Oatmeal

Flavor Profiles

One of the best things about oats is their ability to take on different flavors.

Overnight oats are like a blank canvas. You can top them with anything from fresh fruits to nuts and seeds.

Instant oatmeal often comes in pre-flavored packets, or you can jazz it up with your favorite toppings like peanut butter or maple syrup.

Experimenting with flavors is part of the fun. Whether you like it sweet or savory, there’s a flavor combo out there for you.

Overnight Oatmeal Toppings and Mix Ins

How are the different types of oats normally served?

In summary, steel-cut oats and rolled oats are usually served hot, while quick oats and instant oats can be served hot or cold depending on personal preference. Overnight oats are typically served cold but can be warmed up if desired.

Here’s a breakdown of how different types of oats are typically served:

Steel-Cut Oats:

These oats have a chewy texture and nutty flavor.

They are commonly cooked on the stovetop with water or milk until tender, usually taking around 20-30 minutes.

Steel-cut oats are typically served hot, topped with various ingredients like fruits, nuts, or a drizzle of honey.

Old-Fashioned Oats:

Rolled oats have a slightly softer texture compared to steel-cut oats.

They can be cooked on the stovetop or in the microwave with water or milk, usually taking about 5-10 minutes to cook.

Rolled oats are versatile and can be served hot as oatmeal or used in recipes for baked goods like cookies or granola bars.

Quick Oats:

Quick oats are rolled oats that have been chopped into smaller pieces for faster cooking.

They cook even more quickly than rolled oats, typically in 1-3 minutes on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Quick oats are often served hot as oatmeal and can be customized with various toppings.

Instant Oats:

Instant oats are the most processed type of oats, pre-cooked and dried for quick rehydration.

They are designed to be prepared quickly by simply adding hot water or milk, usually taking just 1-2 minutes to cook.

Instant oats are commonly served hot as a convenient breakfast option, often found in flavored packets or plain varieties.

Overnight Oats:

Make overnight oats by soaking oats in liquid (such as milk, yogurt, or juice) overnight in the refrigerator.

The next morning, they are typically served cold straight from the fridge, although some people prefer to heat them up before eating.

Customize overnight oats with various mix-ins like fruits, nuts, seeds, or sweeteners to create an easy breakfast option.

Instant Oatmeal with Fresh Fruit

Toppings and Mix-ins for All Types of Oatmeal

No matter what type of oatmeal you are using, Overnight Oats vs Instant Oatmeal, we have a lot of different ways you can elevate your oatmeal experience.

Fresh Fruits:

  • Sliced bananas
  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • Diced apples or pears
  • Mango chunks
  • Sliced peaches or nectarines

Dried Fruits:

  • Raisins
  • Cranberries
  • Diced apricots
  • Chopped dates
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes

Nuts and Seeds:

  • Chopped almonds
  • Walnuts or pecans
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Flaxseeds or chia seeds

Nut Butters:

  • Peanut butter
  • Almond butter
  • Cashew butter
  • Sunflower seed butter


  • Maple syrup
  • Honey
  • Agave nectar
  • Stevia
  • Brown sugar or coconut sugar (in moderation)


  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Vanilla extract
  • Pumpkin pie spice
  • Cardamom

Dairy or Non-Dairy Toppings:

  • Greek yogurt or dairy-free yogurt
  • Milk (dairy or non-dairy options like almond milk, oat milk, or coconut milk)
  • Whipped cream or coconut cream

Other Flavor Boosters:

  • Dark chocolate chips or cocoa nibs
  • Granola clusters
  • Shredded coconut
  • Crumbled graham crackers
  • Jam or fruit preserves

Savory Options:

  • Sautéed vegetables (spinach, mushrooms, onions)
  • Crumbled bacon or sausage
  • Shredded cheese (cheddar, feta, parmesan)
  • Fried or poached egg
  • Fresh herbs (chives, parsley, cilantro)

Mix and match these toppings and mix-ins to create endless flavor combinations and keep your oatmeal exciting every day.


You can find Victoria crocheting, quilting, and creating recipes. She has cooked in restaurants for over 20 years, including many larger parties. In her professional career, she has worked in management in a wide variety of businesses including higher education as a dean of a division. All the while attending college part-time to achieve her doctorate in higher education with an emphasis in e-learning.

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