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Muesli (/ˈmjuːzli/ MEWZ-lee Müesli[ˈmyə̯sli non-Swiss Standard German: Müsli [ˈmyːsli] ( listen))[3] is a cold breakfast cereal dish based on rolled oats and ingredients like grains, nuts, seeds and fresh or dried fruits. This mix may be combined with one or more liquids like milk, almond milk, other plant milks, yogurt, or fruit juice and left for a time to soften the oats before being consumed.[4]

Developed around 1900 by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner for patients in his hospital,[5] muesli is available ready-made in prepackaged dry form, or it can be made from scratch. In Switzerland and Germany, it is also eaten as a light evening dish called Birchermüesli complet: muesli with Café complet (milk coffee, accompanied with bread, butter, and marmalade (Butterbrot)).[4][6]


Originally known in Swiss German as Birchermüesli or simply Müesli, the word is an Alemannic diminutive of Mues which means "puree" or "mash-up."


Muesli was not originally intended as a breakfast food, but as an appetiser similar to bread and butter. It was consumed as Schweizer Znacht (supper), but not as a breakfast cereal.[7]

It was introduced around 1900 by Bircher-Benner for patients in his hospital,[5] where a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables was an essential part of therapy. It was inspired by a similar "strange dish" that he and his wife had been served on a hike in the Swiss Alps.[4]

Bircher-Benner himself referred to the dish simply as "d'Spys" (Swiss German for "the dish", in German "die Speise"); it was commonly known as Apfeldiätspeise (Apple Diet Meal). Bircher opened a chalet-style sanitorium in Zürichberg called Lebendige Kraft. These facilities had risen in popularity during the era of lebensreform, a social movement which valued health foods and vegetarianism.[7]

Original Bircher-Benner recipe

The original Bircher-Benner recipe consists of the following ingredients:

  • Apples, "two or three small apples or one large one".
  • Nuts, either walnuts, almonds, or hazelnuts, one tablespoon.
  • Rolled oats, one tablespoon, "previously soaked in 3 tablespoons water for 12 hours".
  • Lemon juice from half a lemon.
  • Either cream and honey or sweetened condensed milk, 1 tablespoon.[8]

The dish was prepared by mixing the cream and honey or condensed milk with the soaked oats and lemon juice and, while stirring, grating the whole apple into the mixture.

Cafes, restaurants and chefs in the English-speaking world often use the label bircher muesli to distinguish their dishes from the store-bought variety, indicating it has been prepared in a manner based on the original recipe - with grated fresh apple, lemon juice, cream and honey - rather than just being poured from a packet and having milk added. However, these dishes are usually a marked modification of the original recipe rather than a faithful reproduction. Many use orange or apple juice instead of lemon juice, and add other more exotic ingredients such as berries, grated fresh pears, poached or roasted fruit, vanilla essence and agave syrup.[9][10]

Fresh muesli

Muesli traditionally is freshly prepared using either dry rolled oats or whole grain oats that have been soaked in water or fruit juice. Other common ingredients are grated or chopped fresh fruit (e.g., bananas, apples, berries, grapes, mango), dried fruit, milk products (e.g., fresh milk, yoghurt, cream, condensed milk, fromage frais, quark, cottage cheese, or nondairy milk substitutes), lemon juice, ground nuts, seeds, spices (especially cinnamon), honey and muesli mix.

The preparation of home-made muesli varies according to the tastes and preferences of the cook, but the basic proportions are around 80% grain, 10% nuts and seeds and 10% dried fruits.

Packaged muesli

Packaged muesli is a loose mixture of mainly rolled oats or cornflakes together with various dried fruit pieces, nuts, and seeds – the main ingredients of any muesli. It commonly contains other rolled cereal grains such as wheat or rye flakes.

There are many varieties, which may also contain honey, spices, or chocolate.

Cultural connotations

Muesli has been associated from the beginning with health-conscious diets and back-to-nature lifestyles.

See also

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