This Granola Is the Low-Investment, High-Return Baking Project We All Need Right Now
Every time I make granola, I am so stinking pleased with myself. For an investment of roughly 10 active minutes of my life and some stuff from the pantry, I am blessed with cups on cups of a golden, glorious, tremendously toasty, crunch-tastic mixture that I hardly feel worthy of when all’s said and done. It’s a magic that makes even a plastic cup of low-fat yogurt into a breakfast worth hustling out of bed for. At least that’s how it works in my world. Clearly, I’m a fan.
And my fandom is far from unfounded. If you’ve never made your own granola, I want to let you in on a something: This is one of life’s special little gifts to humankind. Don’t sleep on it.
Granola is one of the food items that truly is epically better when you make it at home. No matter what level of cook you are, granola from your oven is going to knock the pants off of anything you buy at the store. They’ve yet to find a way to successfully stabilize and package the distinctive warm toastiness a freshly baked batch of granola offers. And again, it actually couldn't be easier to make.
So, homemade granola inherently tastes better than anything you can buy, it requires barely any time and virtually no culinary skill (seriously—this is a stir, stir, dump, bake situation—you could make it half asleep)... it doesn’t get any better, right? Except that yes, it does!
Even beyond all of the above, granola has another blessed trick up its crunchy sleeve: It’s incredibly customizable. As long as you have oats (preferably old-fashioned) and a few other staples (like sugars, oil, and an egg), you can make granola. The recipe below is built from my basic, go-to formula—I like to call it Any-Way-You-Want-It Granola. Because while I have filled in ingredient details according to what I like (and typically have around between the freezer and pantry), you can make substitutions all over the place based on what you like and have on-hand.
GET THE RECIPE: Best Basic Granola
And in that way, Any-Way-You-Want-It Granola is the just-right baking project for right this minute. Here’s a breakdown of the key players in this Best Basic Granola recipe and how you can change them up (or eliminate them altogether).
Purpose: This is the whole-grain backbone of your granola!
What to Use: Old-fashioned oats are ideal here, but you could use also use steel-cut (just expect more chew). And if all you have is quick-cooking, go ahead and use ‘em! If you’re coming up a little short on the 3+ cups of oats called for in the recipe, it’s OK. The recipe will be fine if you’re missing ¼ to ½ cup.
Purpose: To add crunchy textural diversity and toasty flavor depth. Nutritionally speaking, these also boost protein and offer heart-healthy fats.
What to Use: Pecans, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts, and cashews all work great. You can use more than one if you like! Whatever nuts you use, just be sure they’re halved or chopped into smallish pieces. You could also stir in some shredded coconut in addition to your nuts.
Purpose: To add another layer of texture and flavor intrigue. Plus more protein, fiber, and healthy fats!
What to Use: In this recipe, we call for a blend of pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds, but you could also use flax seeds, poppy seeds, shelled sunflower seeds, or ditch the seeds entirely. Maybe add another handful of nuts instead!
Purpose: Incorporating dry milk powder helps to promote clumps and clusters forming in your granola.
Do I Have To? No. If you don’t have milk powder on hand, you can absolutely leave this ingredient out. Your granola will still be delicious, just less clustery.
Purpose: Everything you cook needs salt, it brings other flavors to life. Here, it emboldens the granolas sweetness and keeps it from tasting flat/dull.
What to Use: We call for kosher salt in the recipe, but you can definitely use table salt. You’ll just want to reduce the amount of table salt used to 1 teaspoon.
Purpose: To add warmth and flavor depth, and enhance the other ingredients in the granola.
What to Use: We used cinnamon and cardamom, but no need to stop there if you like it spicy. Ground ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves are all welcome. You could even take your granola in a slightly savory direction with rosemary, thyme, or turmeric.
Purpose: To flavor the granola with robust sweetness and help create a sweet “dressing” of sorts to glaze all of the oat and nuts as they toast.
What to Use: Honey, maple syrup, and agave all work wonderfully. Again, feel free to mix here!
Purpose: To help carry the other liquid elements needed to coat the granola, promote crisping as the mixture toasts, and prevent the granola from sticking to the pan.
What to Use: Vegetable oil, canola oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil, and corn oil are all solid neutral-flavored options. And if you want to impart a little additional flavor, try (melted) coconut oil or olive oil. Additionally, you could even mix in a couple spoonfuls of nut butter along with your oil.
Purpose: To add another note of sweet depth and promote browning and crisping during baking.
What to Use: Both light and brown sugar are great. Granulated or coconut sugar can be used in a pinch.
Purpose: More flavor depth!
What to Use: Imitation vanilla extract is OK to use here. If you’re out of vanilla or not interested in using what you do have, you can leave it out or try a different extract, like a tiny bit of almond.
Purpose: To help shellack the granola in a glossy, crunchy exterior.
What to Use: Egg white. Sorry, this one isn’t very flexible.
Purpose: To customize your granola even further to your preferences.
What to Use: Once your granola is out of the oven and cooled a bit, feel free to stir in: raisins, dried cranberries, any other sort of chopped dried fruits (apricots, dates, etc.), chopped candied ginger, freeze dried fruits, or chocolate chips.
And with that, you’re ready to enjoy the gift that keeps on giving: granola—any way you want it.