Southern chefs reveal their go-to additions for a perfect batch of overnight oats.
"I love adding grits to my overnight oats," says Jocelyn Delk Adams, author of award-winning cookbook Grandbaby Cakes: Modern Recipes, Vintage Charm, Soulful Memories., who hails from Winona, Mississippi. "[They] add another texture and flavor profile that really takes it over the edge, adding that stone-ground grits are the way to go (you'll want to cook your grits before adding them to your overnight oats mixture).
"Kumquats are the perfect addition to overnight oats. Their skin is sweet but the juice is sour, so the flavor really adds and interesting contrast to the graininess of the overnight oats," notes Chef Steve McHugh, Chef/Owner of Cured in San Antonio, who lets his soak with cinnamon and sugar. "Kumquats bring me back to those many exotic flavors of New Orleans, where my cooking career really began."
“My brother, mother, and I are all fierce devotees, our love of it introduced to us from my grandmother, and she in turn by her own mother," says Ashley English, Southern cook, homesteader, and author of Southern from Scratch. "At one point, over 1,000 apple varieties grew in the Southern and Central Appalachians, writes author Ronni Lundy in her cookbook Victuals. North Carolina, the state I’ve called home for over half of my life, is currently the seventh largest apple producer in the United States. [No wonder] I have developed a lifelong affinity for the fruit and for apple butter, which is regularly served in Southern restaurants, put down on the table with complimentary biscuits and butter.”
"Satsumas are Louisiana’s citrus of choice. They’re similar to a mandarin, but have a distinctly sweet flavor," offers Carl Schaubhut, Chef/Owner of award-winning restaurant DTB (Down the Bayou) in New Orleans. "Adding satsumas to overnight oats adds a bright and vibrant layer to the oats – it’s like adding a ray of sunshine to your morning."
"I love to stir in peach preserves – it takes me back to my childhood and mama’s kitchen every time!” shares Chadwick Boyd, TV host and The Soulfull Project recipe ambassador. Try adding a few slices of fresh peaches on top before serving for an additional texture and layer of flavor.
But, of course! "I love the meaty texture yet crispness of a toasted pecan. It's the nut staple in my overnight 'Oatmeal Brûlée," says Hana Pevny Chef / Owner / Innkeeper Waldo Emerson Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine. "Pecans remind me of my Texas roots," ads Pevny, who recently relocated from Austin to Kennebunkport.
"Every September, West Liberty, KY is home to the annual Morgan County Sorghum Festival with mule drawn grist mills and huge vats of sorghum bubbling. I grew up a bit further East in Pikeville, but it's rare to find an Eastern Kentucky pantry or table without Sorghum," shares Chef Mark Richardson of Dudley's on Short in Lexington, Kentucky. "[It] has a depth of flavor, almost a umami savoriness that you don't necessarily get with other sweeteners. Added to overnight oats, it's a bit mellower on the sweetness and great for those of us who prefer things a bit on the savory side."
"Muscadines, commonly found in the South, are originally from Mexico. This varietal of grape would rarely be found in the North," explains Executive Chef Savannah Sasser of Hampton + Hudson in Atlanta. "I always enjoy the slightly tart sweetness and texture of the muscadine." For a pretty presentation and the best flavor, seed and quarter the grapes before adding to your overnight oats.
Carrot Cake Flavors
"I like to use chia seeds, rum, almond milk, Greek yogurt, shredded carrots, sorghum, fresh vanilla bean, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt [to my overnight oats]. The next morning, I’ll add fresh walnuts," offers Executive Chef Cameron Floyd of Sweet Auburn Barbecue in Atlanta. "This provides a healthier twist on a carrot cake, a Southern staple."