Granola is a beast in the food world, racking up $2 billion in U.S. sales annually. But it can be easily made for a fraction of the cost of a 12-ounce package, and it’s endlessly adaptable to dietary needs or preferences or to what’s in the cupboard. It can be made in a low-temperature oven, which requires you to check and stir regularly to ensure even toasting. I prefer to dry it: Throw all the ingredients in a bowl, mix, spread on dehydrator sheets, and let it run overnight for a fresh morning batch.
Like salad dressings, all you need for granola is a basic recipe that gives ideal proportions. At last summer’s Montana Cup, Twice as Tasty recipes were featured in two batches of granola, one nut free and the other certified gluten free. Both showcased local and regional ingredients, and both versions were based on my basic granola recipe.
1/2–3/4 cup sweetener
1/4 cup warm water or juice
1/2 cup oil
6 cups grains
1 tablespoon spices
2 teaspoons salt (optional)
1-3/4 cups seeds and nuts
3/4 cup dried fruit
Mix the sweetener and liquids in a glass measuring cup. In a large bowl, combine the grains and spices. Pour the liquids over the grains, fold together until evenly coated, and let sit for 30 minutes. Mix in the seeds and nuts.
Spread thinly on dehydrator trays covered with plastic sheets, spreading 1-1/2 to 2 cups per tray. Dry at 135°F for about 8 hours or overnight. In the morning, unplug the dehydrator and let it sit 30 minutes. Check that the granola is no longer sticky; if necessary, continue dehydrating until the mixture is thoroughly crunchy and dry when at room temperature. Alternatively, dry in the oven (see below).
Remove from the dehydrator trays. Add the dried fruit just before storing in a glass jar or other well-sealed container at room temperature for several weeks. Makes about 10 cups.
Tips & Tricks
- This granola covers all the bases, with full flavor from sweeteners, spices, nuts, and fruit. An even more basic granola ratio would be 1 part liquids to 5 or 6 parts dry ingredients (grains and/or nuts).
- You have many options for ingredients, and my batches often vary based on what I have on hand. Sticky honey, maple syrup, and molasses are excellent sweetener choices, helping the granola to clump slightly without putting excessive sugar in the batch. Oil can be sunflower, olive, avocado, or even melted butter. I like a mix of grains in my granola (see below). Cinnamon and nutmeg are ideal spices. Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts, pecans, or cashews are among my favorite combination. The dried fruit can range from currents or cranberries to cherries, apples, or tropicals.
- I make such a large batch because it fills my dehydrator nicely and is easily stored in a 1-gallon glass jar. You can go larger or smaller as needed.
- People who are gluten intolerant or celiac need to be ultracautious, so if you’re making gluten-free granola for others, ensure your grain source is certified gluten free. Bob’s Red Mill was recommended, but at my local health-food store I found Montana Gluten Free rolled oats, to the joy of celiac friends.
- Fresh fruit generally needs to dry at different times and temperatures, and it’s difficult to nail complete dryness if you mix it into the raw grains. Instead, dry your fruits first and add them to your storage jar or even each bowlful.
- I eat my granola with homemade Fresh Yogurt and often skip the dried fruit, piling on fresh raspberries or rhubarb sauce in summer and stirring in a spoonful of jam or Roasted Raspberry Syrup in winter. For the Montana Cup, I added several jams to the table for both granola and bagels, including Apricot–Raspberry–Mint Jam, Crockpot Apple Butter, Pear-Cranberry Jam, Strawberry Jam with Thai Herbs, and Tart Cherry Butter with Chai Spices.
Twice as Tasty
As you can see from the Basic Granola recipe, the options for ingredients are endless. I’ve made gingersnap granola with molasses, ginger, cloves, and lemon zest and a fruity granola with pineapple juice, Grandma Tiny’s Chunky Applesauce, and even a little shredded fresh apple. But I most often put together a version with basics that are always in my cupboard: sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, ground flax seeds, and walnuts or almonds.
Molasses and local honey are two of my favorite sweeteners. They not only impart flavor but also help to clump together the grains, giving the texture I associate with granola rather than the one I associate with muesli. A little warm water or juice helps to soften the grains and make them more receptive to the sweets. Although I typically fire up the dehydrator, the oven can enhance the toastiness—just be sure to stir and rotate often.
Nut-Free Gourmet Granola
3 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup oat bran
1 cup rolled barley
1 cup rye flakes
1 cup wheat flakes
2-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup Pumpkin Seeds
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup currants
1/2 cup dried sweet cherries
Prepare the granola as you would for Basic Granola, combining all the ingredients. Spread into two 9- by 13-inch baking pans. Bake at 325°F for about 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the nuts begin to brown and the mixture is fragrant.
Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan to room temperature before mixing in the dried fruit. The granola should be crisp and dry. If it is, store the granola in a glass jar or other well-sealed container at room temperature for several weeks. If the granola does not seem thoroughly dry, store in the refrigerator and cook your next batch 10 minutes longer. Makes about 10 cups.
Tips & Tricks
- This recipe is essentially my Basic Granola, but it gives you an idea of how I combine the various flavors, using a mix of sweeteners, grains, seeds, and dried fruit. Here, honey, molasses, and vanilla make up the sweetener; olive oil (ideally extra virgin) is the chosen oil; the grain mix consists of oats, barley, rye, and wheat; cinnamon and nutmeg give the spice; pumpkin and sunflower seeds stand in for both seeds and nuts, because this version is meant to appeal to those with nut allergies; and currants and dried cherries provide the fruit flavor.
- I made this nut-free version for last summer’s Montana Cup, since it seemed likely some of the 150 people eating over the 2 days would have a nut allergy. I avoided sesame seeds for the nut-free version, because they are increasingly reported to be an allergy issue.
- Dryness may depend on how hot your oven runs and how thinly you spread the mixture. A jellyroll pan may be a better option if you’re doing a half batch or if your oven runs cool. I find it easiest to get granola evenly dry in a dehydrator.