Lemon and vanilla bircher muesli

Bircher muesli with lemon zest and vanilla

Lemon zest has that marvelous ability to perk up even the most humdrum of dishes. Spritzing some zest on a broad bean and three-cheese risotto I made the other night added just the right note of freshness to an otherwise cheesetastic dish. Meatballs with lemon zest, a la Nigel Slater, is always a crowd-pleaser and where would plain old lemon cake be without a judicious grating of that aromatic zest?

Admittedly bircher muesli has its fans and foes. Some love it and wax lyrical about the many health benefits of this traditional Swiss breakfast dish. Others just love the creamy taste of their morning bircher. Some find it utterly repellent and that’s understandable I guess. It’s a texture thing. Squidgy, cold oats may seem like a tough sell but there are some great riffs on bircher muesli out there, such as Food Stories addition of pomegranate seeds and pistachio nuts – if that’s not going to get you out of bed in the morning then nothing will!

I find bircher is great in spring and summer, and save porridge for cool autumn and winter days. Granola is delicious but bircher is more digestible in my opinion. You can make large batches that will last all week or a small-ish batch as I did recently.

This ‘recipe’ will last you three days, and believe me soaking the oats or whatever grains you use overnight is definitely the secret to this dish. Those who advocate simply soaking the grains in liquid for 30 minutes and eating immediately really don’t get the joys of bircher muesli. Don’t be fooled by ersatz recipes, you want to let this dish do its thing overnight.


  • 2 handfuls of oats (I used Rude Health Morning Glory porridge leftover from winter – it’s a mix of oats, rye and barley flakes along with five seed varieties)
  • 1 tart eating apple such as Granny Smith or Empire, coarsely grated
  • Enough whole milk or apple juice to cover (I like milk but you may prefer a fresher taste in which case go for apple juice)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon plain probiotic yoghurt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Lemon zest (use this when you’re about to eat the bircher rather than adding at the beginning)


Simply combine all the ingredients except the lemon zest in a bowl and stir, then cover with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight. Simples!

The next day take a portion of bircher and place in another bowl, then grate lemon zest over this. I love the new Yeo Valley whole milk lemon curd yoghurt – it’s tangy and not too sweet, so I add a heaping tablespoonful to my bircher for an extra citrus kick.

What are your favourite bircher toppings? Other than lemon zest I’ve also been adding pomegranate molasses and as summer berries come into season simply sprinkle a small handful of them on your bircher for extra antioxidants. If you like the crunch of granola try adding a little on top of the bircher for a contrast in texture.

* Some bircher background: This dish reputedly originated at the start of the 20th century when Swiss physician Dr Maximillian Bircher-Benner presribed soaking oats and grated apple with a teaspoon of lemon juice in lots of condensed milk, then eating it the next day. Often in Switzerland and Germany you will find bircher that has been soaked in cream. If this horrifies you then consider the fact that the nutrients in oats are better absorbed by the body when eaten with cream. Take that dairy-fat-phobes!

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11 Responses to Lemon and vanilla bircher muesli

  1. goodshoeday says:

    I just don’t really get muesli at all. Sort of like soggy sludge. And a terrible waste of all the lovely additions. Think I prefer granola. Well really I prefer a bacon butty but if thats not on offer then I’d rather granolas crunch that muesli pap. Sorry :S

    • Signe says:

      Hehe, yes I am familiar with your anti-muesli muesings (forgive the pun) but I love it. Though a bacon butty is also high on the list of great breakfasts ;-)

  2. miss south says:

    I have only recently come across Bircher muesli and I am hooked on the creamy soft texture and miss it the mornings I don’t have it. I never have fruit juice in the house, so I mix the pomegranate molasses with water and soak the oats in a homemade cordial and add flavour that way.

    I am now annoyed I forgot to soak any oats last night and have to have ricotta pancakes instead!

    • Signe says:

      Well I wouldn’t be too annoyed at having ricotta pancakes Miss South but I take your point, there is something pretty addictive about bircher. Will try your method of adding diluted pomegranate molasses to the mixture, I usually drizzle it on top but can see that working really well as part of the soaking process. Thanks for your comment :) Sig x

  3. angela says:

    My Grandmother, who was German, always had cream with her Bircher muesli and I thought it was an anathema, now I realise that she was probably eating it according to its original recipe!

    • Signe says:

      Angela, I know! The idea of adding cream to bircher always seemed a little odd to me but having learnt more about how the nutrients in oats are absorbed better by the body when the oats are eaten with cream it makes perfect sense! It’s like having dessert for breakfast :-)

  4. angela says:

    I forgot to say, I came across your site via Silvana de Soissons (I have written for the Foodie Bugle) and wanted to say how much I enjoyed coming across it.

  5. Love this twist on the classic Bircher recipe – sounds and looks utterly delicious, and I will certainly give it a whirl. I do like a bit of extra crunch with mine – at the moment, I’m getting it from some chopped golden cobnuts :)

    • Signe says:

      Thanks Aforkful, I know what you mean, a little extra crunch with the bircher really accentuates all that creamy goodness. Will have to try cobnuts x

  6. I’m loving Bircher Muesli at the moment and posted my take on Ottolenghi’s version a few weeks’ ago (here – http://bit.ly/fvgytk). He also includes vanilla which I think really lifts the creamy gloop – love the idea of including lemon too. My all time favourite toppings are pistacchios and dried cranberries – tart and crunchy at the same time.

    As for soaking the oats in cream – why not?! A little cream on porridge is a wonderful indulgence if you’re in the right mood and who says healthy recipes can’t be adapted sometimes?

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