Making granola is dead simple and ridiculously satisfying: You mix, bake, stir and then feel terrific about yourself and the pile of crunch you pull out of the oven.
It isn’t the same as hacking Oreos, ketchup or Sriracha at home. That stuff is difficult and perfection’s tough to achieve. But granola? A cinch! What you make at home will not just be as good as what you typically purchase, I can guarantee it will be better. Fresher, too.
And, best of all, it will be exactly what you want. Don’t like raisins? Skip ’em. Love cashews. Add ’em. Notice, I didn’t say it would be cheaper. Good artisanal granola, made with excellent ingredients and no difficult-to-pronounce additives, is expensive in the stores and only slightly less expensive to make at home.
Savings might not be the prime reason to go DIY, but there are others: Homemade granola is fabulously delicious, pure and bespoke; the process is easy, fun and an all-around feel-good; and the cookielike bites that you can also make from the mix are both adorable and tasty. Perhaps this explains why, developing the accompanying recipe for you, I worked through what must have been a field of oats and now have six quarts of granola in my pantry.
You probably can make granola with something other than oats, but oats are the usual backbone of the mix. If you are gluten-intolerant, make sure that you buy gluten-free oats. And everyone should look for old-fashioned rolled oats. Instant or quick-cooking ones won’t produce the texture that’s such a big part of why we love granola.
The real musts in granola are oats, some kind of oil and a sweetener. For this granola, I use just three tablespoons of coconut or olive oil and a mix of brown sugar and honey. I’ve seen recipes without or with just a token amount of sugar, but I think it’s nice to have something sweet to play off the earthy flavors in the granola and the salt, which I consider a necessity as well.
Once you’ve got these basics, just about everything else is up to you — the bespoke part. I like granola that has half as much nuts and seeds as oats, so I add pumpkin and sunflower seeds and a mix of whatever nuts I have on hand, which are typically almonds, pistachios and pecans. While I suggest you chop the nuts, you don’t have to; I’ve seen great granolas made with whole nuts, but I think those are better for snacking than for breakfasting or sprinkling over yogurt.
In the accompanying recipe, I’ve added a few fun ingredients: millet and flax for crunch; wheat germ for depth (if you’re gluten-free, just add more oats); large coconut flakes for beauty, flavor and chew; vanilla to round all the flavors; and cocoa powder for surprise. The combo is great, but you can mix it up by adding spices, if you’d like, or omitting some of the crunches. You can even leave out the cocoa, but why would you want to?
Because I’m a big fan of dried fruit, I add it to the granola, but at the very end, so that it doesn’t get baked. Again, use what you love: snipped apricots, pears, figs, dates or apples (use scissors to cut the fruit into bite-size bits), golden or black raisins, cherries or cranberries. The key is to make sure the dried fruit is moist, which is kind of oxymoronish, but important. Shriveled fruit is hard to eat and harder to enjoy. If yours isn’t moist, give the fruit a good soak in hot water, pat it dry and then stir it into the just-baked granola.
If you want to make my Granola Bites — granola mixed with brown rice syrup, pressed into muffin tins and baked until they’re super-crispy and puckish (think round energy bars) — spoon out the three cups of granola you’ll need to make them and add the fruit to what’s left in the bowl. Fruit baked into the bites has a tendency to harden and get overly browned.
Play with the recipe and let me know what you add . . . or subtract. This is definitely a make-it-your-own project.
Photograph by Goran Kosanovic. This story appeared originally in my Everyday Dorie column for the Washington Post.