Unlike store-bought granola, which can be full of fat and sugar, making it at home allows you to control the amount of fat and sugar while loading it up on fiber, protein, and micronutrients. I’ll include a recipe for the Coconut Mango Granola pictured at the bottom of this post, but first, I want to show you a framework for making granola based on what you have in your pantry.
Ingredients for Granola
At its core, granola is simply a base, a fat, and a binder. You can also add some flavoring and fruit to make each one unique. Here are just a few ideas for ingredients that you might have in the pantry.
This forms the bulk of the granola, and aside from rolled oats, you can add almost any dry ingredient to change the texture, taste, and nutritional content.
- Old-fashioned Rolled Oats – Rolled oats are the foundation for granola, and they’re produced by steaming and rolling whole oats into thin flakes. Although they will work in a pinch, I don’t recommend using “quick” oats, as they are cut into smaller pieces, which gives them a powdery texture. Steel Cut Oats (a.k.a. Irish Oats) have been cut rather than rolled, so they are not suitable for making granola.
- Nuts – Adding nuts such as cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, or walnuts are a great way to increase the protein content of your granola, so you don’t end up hungry right away.
- Seeds – Adding seeds such as chia, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, or cacao nibs not only bump up the protein content, they also add a ton of fiber and micronutrients. Better yet, they also contribute a great texture that will make your mouth happy.
- Coconut – Shredded or flaked unsweetened coconut is full of fiber, and I love how crisp and nutty it gets when baked.
- Okara Powder – Soy milk is made by cooking and pureeing soybeans with water and then filtering out all the solids. These solids are called Okara, and it’s sold as a dry powder that can be added to food to bump up its fiber and protein content.
Granola needs some fat in order to brown and crispy evenly. The choice of fat is totally up to you, but here are some ideas.
- Olive Oil – If you’re looking for a no-cholesterol option, olive oil is the way to go. Depending on the type of olive oil you use, it can also add a wonderful flavor to your granola, particularly to savory granolas.
- Coconut Oil – This is one of my favorite oils to use for granola because it has a wonderfully rich and creamy flavor.
- Butter – If you’re not trying to go plant-based, butter makes for super flavorful granola because it not only contains fat, it also contains milk proteins which will brown in the oven, giving your granola a wonderful aroma.
- Vegetable Oil – This is the most boring option, as the oil will help crisp your granola, but it’s not going to do anything for its flavor. Still, I wanted to list it as an option in case it’s all you have
The binder is what helps the base ingredients clump together into clusters. Traditionally this is usually a sugar syrup, but it’s possible to use any ingredient that has the power to bind.
- Sugar Syrup – Maple syrup, honey, or rice syrup are three great options
- Egg – Egg whites are a great binder for granola if you are trying to avoid sugar. Just be sure to beat it up, so there are no lumps before incorporating it with your base.
- Vegan “Egg” – plant-based eggs such as flax or chia eggs will also work as a binder.
- Cheese – If you are going for savory granola, any flavorful hard cheese that will melt makes for a great binder for granola. Cheddar, Swiss, Fontina, Gruyere, and Comté are all great options. You can also add cheeses that don’t melt well, like Parmesan or Asiago, as a flavoring ingredient in addition to a cheese that melts.
Flavorings aren’t necessary, but they’re the best way to customize your granola and make each batch a little different from the last one.
- Powders – Cocoa powder, matcha, and fruit powders all make for an easy way to infuse your granola with flavor. If you are using a fruit powder, I would recommend tossing it in after you’ve baked the granola and let it cool.
- Extracts & Tinctures – Extracts, tinctures, and essences such as vanilla, almond, lemon, or rosewater are all great ways to add aroma to your granola.
- Spices – Whether you’re going sweet or savory, spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and anise are a great way to add flavor to your granola.
- Soy Sauce – if you’re going for savory granola, a splash of soy sauce is a great way to add a ton of flavor.
Dried fruit such as raisins, cherries, cranberries, dates, mangoes, apple, and blueberries are a good way to add flavor as well as natural sweetness to your granola. Dried fruit should always be added to your granola after it has been baked and cooled; otherwise, the sugar in the fruit will burn, and the fruit will get tough.
How to Make Granola
Add your base ingredients to a bowl. I usually like to start with a base of rolled oats, along with some seeds and nuts.
Add some fat and stir it in until the mixture resembles damp sand. This is also where you would add any flavorings to your granola.
Add your chosen binder and mix it together to incorporate it evenly. If you are using a liquid binder, you should be able to squeeze together a handful of granola into a clump in your hand. If it’s not sticking together, you may need to add more binder.
If you are using cheese, I usually use a 30:70 ratio of cheese to dry ingredients by weight.
Press your granola mixture into a parchment-lined baking sheet into a thin, even layer. You can use a spatula or the bottom of a flat plate or pan to help you.
Bake the granola in a 340 degree F (170 C) oven for 30-40 minutes or until it’s golden brown. Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely.
The granola will not be totally crisp while it’s still hot, but if it does not crisp after being cooled down, return it to the oven for a bit longer.
Once your granola has cooled down to room temperature, break it up into bite-sized clusters and toss in any dried fruit you want to add.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although both Granola and Muesli are a combination of oats, nuts, and seeds, the main difference is that Granola is combined with a fat and binder and then baked into clusters, while Muesli is not baked.
Stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry place, Granola will last for weeks (if you don’t eat it all before then).
Oats are naturally gluten-free, so provided they were processed in a facility that isn’t processing other grains, you should be okay. The problem is that some oatmeals are processed in the same facility as gluten-containing grains such as wheat and rye, so it’s important to check the label if this is something you are concerned about.
You can make savory granola by using a binder that isn’t sugar-based, such as egg whites, or cheese, and then flavoring it with savory seasonings like chili powder, curry powder, or soy sauce. If you use cheese to bind your granola, be sure to use a cheese that will melt and eventually crisp.
Other Granola Recipes
Still need some inspiration? Check out some of these other granola recipes I’ve done in the past, including one for a savory cheese granola!
old-fashioned rolled oats
unsweetened shredded coconut
raw cashew nuts (or any nut you have on hand, chopped)
okara powder (optional)
coconut oil (or olive oil, or butter)
rice syrup (or maple syrup, or honey)
dried mango (chopped)
Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 340 degrees F (170 C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Add the rolled oats, chia seeds, coconut, cashews, okara powder, and coconut oil to a bowl and mix everything together until the oil is evenly distributed.
Add the rice syrup and continue mixing until the syrup is evenly distributed and the mixture clumps together when squeezed. If it doesn’t clump, you can add more syrup until it does.
Spread the granola mixture evenly onto your prepared baking sheet.
Bake the granola for 30-40 minutes. If your granola isn’t browning evenly, turn it around halfway through.
When the granola is golden brown, remove it from the oven and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
Break the cooled granola into clusters and then toss in the chopped mangos.
Store your homemade granola in a sealed container.