Bircher-Benner (Traditional or Swiss) Muesli or Overnight Oats

A week or so ago I was reading about a "new food" for breakfast. According to these authors, this food was an amazing discovery--the latest and greatest way to have a healthy breakfast with very little effort. As I read the recipe, I realized this was just muesli, though they were calling it "overnight oats."

Muesli is a breakfast staple in German-speaking areas of Europe; you find it next to the other packaged cereals in the grocery store. We had it all the time when we were in Austria. It was developed by Dr. Bircher-Benner in Switzerland in the year 1900 or so as a health food for the patients at his clinic. The original, original recipe actually has more apples and just a little bit of oats, about 2 Tb. oats (soaked overnight in water) for 1 grated apple. It was flavored with sweetened condensed milk to avoid the diseases found in fresh milk or cream at the time. Now there are quite a few variations, but I tried to find the most basic one. You can soak the oats and other flaked grains overnight in water or juice, or in milk and yogurt.

So, here is the original "overnight oats": muesli.

Muesli or Overnight Oats

1 c. rolled oats
1 c. milk (or water)
2 Tb. apple juice or orange juice
1 apple finely diced or grated, with or without peel
1 c. yogurt, plain or flavored
2-4 Tb. honey or brown sugar, if the yogurt is plain, optional
Dash of cinnamon, optional
Toppings: fresh or dried fruit, nuts

Combine all the ingredients (except the toppings) and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning dish it into bowls and serve it with the optional toppings. This is basically cold, uncooked oatmeal in yogurt. Muesli keeps for several days in the fridge. The acid in the juice and yogurt keeps the apples from going brown.

Notes: This is a recipe that can easily be changed for your, or your children's, tastes. You can make it without apples, and then stir in other fruit in the morning. You can make it with as much sugar or fat as you want--use non-fat plain yogurt and fruit for your sweetener, or make it with the sugar-laden flavored yogurt. Some of the packaged kinds in Europe even had chocolate flakes or chips in them. You can add different flaked grains (rye, wheat, about 1-2 Tb. in this recipe) and toast the grains before soaking them.

Then, I even read that if you don't want it cold, you can heat it up in the microwave the next morning and have (gasp), cooked oatmeal! I guess maybe you can get more people to eat oatmeal if you call it by a different name. Actually, I think that when you get to the point of cooking it, I start to call it cooked oatmeal and not muesli.

Another note: Yes, this tastes good. I would not post a recipe that I didn't like and that most of the family would eat. And the bonus is that it can also be a healthy breakfast.


  1. I just had this at a brunch this week. It was so good. It had apples and almonds in it plus we topped it with strawberries and blueberries.

  2. One of my favourite quick go-to breakfasts (I live in Germany ahah), it is just soothing :) I actually don't liked cooked oats (like boiled), I even prefer to put it all together and eat it right away - when using rolled oats, or a mixture of rolled and old-fashioned, it still gets quite tender.
    Have a nice week!


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