There are so many good brands of packaged granola on the market these days, it’s a no-brainer just to buy it instead of making it from scratch. However, if you have food allergies or loved ones who have them, finding a brand you won’t react to can be difficult.
Thankfully, granola is so easy to make at home. You can customize it to your liking based on available ingredients. Plus, you can eat it just as you would packaged breakfast cereal and give that old box a toss!
There isn’t really a formula for granola. Just know that the more fat and sugar you add, the crunchier and toastier your granola will be. I prefer my granola light on the sugar and fat so I don’t feel guilty about turning something healthy into something not so healthy. And with all the dental work I’ve had to get recently, the less crunchy my granola is, the better!
Start with old-fashioned oats, not quick oats. What’s the difference? Read what the difference is here. When it comes to granola, the best flavor and texture will come from old-fashioned oats. Think of it as Goldilocks and the Three Bears granola; quick oats are too flimsy, steel cut oats are too thick, old-fashioned oats are juuuuust right.
As far as granola additions…anything goes! Today’s batch contains five spice powder, chopped pecans, dried cherries, cacao nibs and lemon zest. Use whatever you like and have available.
Feel free to use alternative fats and sugars as well. I love butter for my granola, but you can substitute olive oil, vegetable oil or coconut oil if you like. Sugar alternatives can include honey, fruit puree or jam, or juice reductions (like apple cider simmered gently until it becomes syrupy).
The next tip I can offer for granola making is to think about how long it takes to toast the granola and additions you are putting in. For example, today I added pecans and raw cacao nibs that toast pretty quickly.
I didn’t want them to burn so I added them in the last 10 minutes of baking. Lemon zest oxidizes, so I stirred it in right after taking the granola out of the oven.
This way it didn’t get baked, but the heat from the granola coaxed the natural lemon oil in the zest out into the granola.
Try making it at home and you won’t be sorry. Seriously…it’s almost as addictive as popcorn. Oh wait! What about popcorn in my granola!?! You’ll have to excuse me, I hear a new snack calling my name!
Homemade Granola ~ My Basic Recipe
3 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup oat flour, whole wheat flour or sprouted wheat flour (acts as a binder)
You could skip the oat bran and flour if you like and use 4 cups of oats. And in case you’re wondering, the oat bran doesn’t get so hard it sticks in your teeth. It just gets toasty!
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup or 6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup dried fruit
1/4 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (Sorry, I HAVE to have chocolate!)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
Mix the oats, bran, flour, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, butter and salt together and spread the mixture out evenly on the parchment lined baking sheet.
Place on rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove baking sheet and reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir the granola, and add in the nuts. Place baking sheet back in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes more.
Baking times are approximate and will depend on your oven, type of baking sheet, type of sugar, etc. Use your nose and if it smells like it’s getting too brown, it probably is. Turn down your oven or reduce baking time accordingly.
Remove from the oven and let cool completely before mixing in the dried fruit and chocolate.
Store at room temperature in an airtight container. Enjoy!
If using raw cacao nibs in place of the chocolate, stir them in when you add the nuts. The toasting will bring out the subtle chocolate flavor and tone down the astringency.
Another way with dried fruit is to rehydrate it for 15 to 30 minutes in hot liquid (use a complimentary juice or cider-just enough liquid to cover the fruit). Drain off the liquid, then stir the fruit into the granola before baking it. The flour and oat bran will cling to it and give you little granola coated fruit nuggets!