It wasn’t long into our Swiss travels before I was introduced to Bircher-Benner Muesli. Known to all as just Bircher Muesli, it’s a staple at every breakfast buffet we’ve seen in Switzerland. In America you can find a version call “overnight oats” that is similar, but it’s not quite the same as a true Bircher Muesli.
Bircher-Benner Muesli was named after Dr. Maximillian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss physician. He “found” it while on a hike with his wife in the southern Swiss Alps in the 1900s. They were evidently given some by a mountain guest house proprietor as a snack and he fell in love. He brought back the idea of this Muesli to his “Vital Force” sanatorium as a central part of what ended up being a vegetarian and mostly raw diet that he fed to his patients in a quest to obtain “maximum healthfulness.”
You might think that cold oatmeal would be disgusting, but you would be wrong. It has the thickness of a pudding, the same graininess as a pear, and a subtle sweetness from the apple and other fruit.
Bircher Muesli (recipe from My Little Gourmet)
- 2 cups rolled oats or oatmeal (you can use quick oats as a time saver or you can use steel cut oats if you crave a much chewier texture)
- 1&3/4 cup milk
- 1/4 c apple juice
- 3 T lemon juice (this keeps the apple from changing colors and keeps it all from being cloyingly sweet)
- 1 apple, grated with peel
- 2 T honey
- 1&1/2 c plain yogurt (Greek is fine here, as is a flavored yogurt if you really don’t like plain)
- dash of cinnamon
- mixture of berries and nuts
The night before mix together the rolled oats, milk, apple juice, and lemon juice. Put it in the fridge and let it soak together. (Let’s say that you have forgotten to do this overnight. Quick oats oatmeal can save you. It only takes 30-40 minutes for this to soak together if you use the quick oats. Just throw it together, pop back down stairs to get ready for the day, and by the time you come up this will be all ready for the next step.)
The next morning add the apple, honey, yogurt, and cinnamon and give it all a good stir. Then fold in the fruit and nuts. Hazelnuts are a popular choice here, but pecans and almonds are delicious. You can use any fruit you want! Bananas, berries, oranges, whatever. And “previously frozen” fruit is great for this if the berries you want aren’t in season.
And it makes a ton! The serving size says 6-8 people, but if you make it as part of a brunch it can easily serve 15 or more. Don’t worry if you don’t finish it today. It will keep for 3-4 days.
And this is only a half portion! It’s wonderfully hardy and always leaves me feeling full for a good long time. I look for it on the breakfast buffet of every hotel we stay at. I even found a variation of it in Copenhagen.
It’s wonderful as a quick-fix breakfast or as a snack in the afternoon.