Overnight oats have become a common breakfast idea with tons of variations – but what about the original idea they are all stem from? Swiss Bircher muesli is a delicious combination that’s both creamy and fruity. It’s a healthy, easy breakfast you need to try!
Much as I try, I am just not naturally a morning person. It can sometimes take me a little time to get going and I definitely work better going on auto-pilot to get things ready.
As a result, anything easy or made ahead really helps. Banana oatmeal is one of our go-tos, and I love this Swiss Bircher muesli as the weather gets warmer as well. It’s full of flavor, easy and delicious.
The origins of Swiss Bircher muesli
Overnight oats seem to be making the rounds quite a bit at the moment as an almost-new phenomenon. However, the idea has in fact been around for a good century or more thanks to a Swiss doctor/nutritionist Maximillian Bircher-Benner.
He created it as a way to get his patients to eat more fruit. When you look at this recipe and hopefully try it, think of the beautiful mountains of Switzerland and all that goes with it.
This bircher muesli may not look much, but it is simple and delicious. The oats are smooth and the apple has a slight crunch. The whole think fresh and wonderfully healthy feeling. The images of goat-herders, lakes and mountains are easy enough to picture alongside. Unfortunately this idyllic tranquility was a far cry from what was going on in our house when I first shared this recipe.
The side effects of winter
When I first shared this recipe almost exactly 3 years ago (how did that happen?!), it had been quite the winter. We’d had excessive amounts of snow, and sadly it was far from away by the first week of March. It was doing this weird and annoying thing earlier of snowing some more (as if we needed it), then raining only a few hours later, then warming slightly and melting so there was some delightful slush all over the place. Yuck.
In the midst of all this, our roof was apparently not too keen on the snow and ice that had held on for the last month and we had the odd drip down on the inside of our windows over recent weeks. Not great, but not too drastic.
One morning, however, we had a drip elsewhere that was a much bigger issue – coming through the smoke alarm. Unsurprisingly the alarm soon went off. I say ‘alarm’ but actually all four or five that we have in the house went off and there was no stopping them without taking out the batteries and turning off all the electricity. By which time, I felt like I was going deaf and my son had decided he didn’t want his cereal after all but instead ate my toast. Thankfully, he didn’t take my coffee or there really would have been a problem.
Now somehow I must have had some foresight this would happen. I had soaked some oats the night before to make this Bircher muesli. I thought I would have it as a bit of a snack or part of lunch (I had been having some more breakfast-like lunches recently). Instead, they were to become my breakfast and a pretty great one at that. So much so that I almost relaxed and temporarily forgot about all that was going on.
How to make Bircher muesli
Bircher muesli is really easy to make. You simply soak the oats overnight, add some grated apple then additions as you prefer. I have just added some raisins and a little cinnamon and yoghurt since I soaked the oats in apple juice.
Some people soak them in milk, others soak them in water. I find apple juice gives them a lovely freshness and sweetness that means there’s no need to add any other sugar. It will seem like quite a lot of apple compared to the oats, but it is meant to be that way. That is partly what makes it so tasty. You still taste both but it is fruitily fresh.
Tips for the best Bircher muesli
- Don’t worry that you have too much liquid when you soak the oats – they do absorb nearly all of it. You can use a little less if you want to make sure there is no runniness at all.
- If you forget to soak the night before, even soaking 20 minutes or so in the morning will soften the oats a bit. I’d recommend you just use less liquid.
- The apples are best coarsely grated to leave a bit of crunch since the oats become soft. If you want it all really soft, then finely grating also works – this is great for young kids.
- The little yoghurt at the end then gives them a slight creaminess without it being too much (you can miss it out or use non-dairy yoghurt if you are looking for a dairy-free version).
- Top your Bircher muesli as you like – some slices of apple, nuts or more dried fruit are all good.
We did, thankfully, get the electrics checked and all was fine. And while I certainly wouldn’t wish the same circumstances again, it did have an upside. It was a nice excuse to have this Swiss Bircher muesli as a really tasty breakfast that I hadn’t had in a while. Hopefully you won’t have such a dramatic situation, but I would really recommend you give these a go. And think cow bells, not smoke alarm sounds, as you do.
Swiss bircher muesli (the original overnight oats)
- 1/2 cup rolled oats 45g, would suggest not quick oats
- 1/2 cup apple juice 120ml, a little under maybe, there is a little liquid left with this
- 1/2 apple (suggest eg pink lady, braeburn)
- 2 tbsp raisins
- 2 tbsp yoghurt (or dairy free as appropriate)
- 1 dash cinnamon
- Cover the oats with the apple juice and leave to soak overnight in the refrigerator.
- In the morning, peel and coarsely grate the apple and add this, the raisins, yoghurt and cinnamon to the oats.
- Stir well and serve.
Try these other overnight oats ideas:
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This post was originally posted March 2015 and has been updated primarily with new photos.