To call granola ‘baked muesli’ does it an injustice. It’s so much more – and it’s not always baked, either! If you are a fan of this crunchy breakfast/snack, you’ve probably got a favourite style. Super crunchy, maybe, so it keeps its snap a while after the milk is added? Or maybe you like the chunky version, so you can eat it like a snack? Maybe you like it full of spice, or loaded with fruit.
The advantage of making your own is that you can make it just the way you like it, and it really is easy, as granola party host Rachel Khoo says. Yep, granola parties!
Before Khoo shared her Little Paris Kitchen with the world, she was filling that kitchen with the enticing aroma of baked granola and holding muesli and granola parties at friend's houses, seeking their opinions on her creations. Her very first cookbook was all about muesli and granola. “No need to be a three-star chef to make granola, it’s very simple,” says Rachel Khoo in the book.
“Those crunchy nuggets of oats are something I would quite happily munch on at any time of day (dry or with milk, yoghurt, custard, fruit compote…), and not just for breakfast. Of course, the homemade kind is the best, not just flavour wise but also budget-wise too,” Khoo says on her website, where she shares a recipe for toasted coconut and black sesame granola.
If you’d like to make like Rachel and create your own ultimate granola, we’ve rounded up some tips and recipes from great granola lovers, from the importance of the right amount of ‘glue’ (thank you Rachel Khoo!) to some great recipes for alt-grain versions, for those who don’t eat oats.
Start with good ingredients
“It’s great to be able to control the ingredients, create your own texture and spice and know that the ingredients you are using are fresh. I think things that are homemade are always better, you can taste when something has been made with love. Granola is one of those recipes that is fun to make and very easy,” says Lee Holmes, when SBS Food chats to the author of numerous books including Eat Yourself Beautiful, Heal Your Gut, Supercharge Your Gut and most recently, Supercharge Your Life, which includes a granola recipe with an intriguing ingredient: caramelised apple cider vinegar.
“I love using apple cider vinegar in my granola recipes because not only is it good for you, it also adds a lovely depth of flavour and sweetness once it caramelises in the oven. Nowadays ACV is a kitchen staple,” Holmes says when we ask about her apple and macadamia granola.
The basic formula
In her book, Rachel Khoo’s Muesli & Granola, Khoo sets out her recipes using a three-part formula that makes it easy to think about how to play with your own granola making: there’s a base (usually oats, but could be other grains), flavourings (spices and fruit) and sweeteners (maple syrup, golden syrup and/or, Khoo’s twist, a homemade fruit compote).
We think this is a good way to look at any recipe you might want to try tweaking – pick one of those three elements, and try changing that. Check the mix in the oven more often, to make sure that it’s not cooking more quickly than the original recipe, especially if you are making a sweetener swap.
Here’s a great classic granola recipe to get you started: Donna Hay’s granola is a mix of rolled oats (or spelt), seeds, coconut, maple syrup and dried fruit. “There's functional granola, and then there's granola that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning – this toasted muesli recipe is definitely the latter,” she says.
Another favourite with the SBS Food team is Anneka Manning’s maple, cardamom and almond granola, which also highlights one thing to look out for: fruit can burn if included from the start of the baking time ( although it depends on the fruit, and what other sweeteners and liquids you have in the mix). This recipe adds the fruit part-way through, which will suit those who like a slightly cooked touch to their dried fruit additions.
For many, chunky granola is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, so we asked Rachel Khoo for her tips.
“First you need the right amount of 'glue' i.e. a mix of fruit puree and sugar/syrup to make the granola mix clump together. Then you have to be careful not to over stir when you're baking so granola forms. Let the granola cool (it will harden) before handling. You can then break up very big clumps,” she says. (Her recipe for toasted coconut and black sesame granola produces a nicely chunky result).
This coco-nutty granola from Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar book is a great option for those looking for a version with low, or no, added sweeteners. “The rice malt syrup in this recipe is optional – I personally don’t sweeten my granola at all. Perhaps make half a batch with the syrup, half without and see what you like,” says Wilson of her grain-free granola, made with coconut flakes, nuts, seeds and coconut oil or butter.
Oats is by far the most common basis for granola, but you can make delicious versions without.
“This super healthy grain-free, sugar-free and the dairy-free recipe is packed with the natural goodness and protein of nuts and seeds and the blood sugar balancing properties of cinnamon – guaranteed to keep you going until lunchtime,” says Nutritionist Angelique Panagos of her sweet potato granola, which uses a puree of baked sweet potato as part of the ‘hold it together’ mix, along with coconut oil. Instead of oats, it has almonds, pecans, five different seeds and coconut flakes.
Possibly divisive, we know, but for those who like the sultry twist of cocoa or chocolate hit in their breakfast or snack, here are two great options. This cacao & black tahini granola is made with cooked quinoa, so it’s gluten-free too.
And this harmony granola (named for its diverse ingredient list, which includes linseeds, goji berries, brazil nuts, buckwheat kernels, puffed quinoa, Inca berries, teff and almonds, as well as cocoa nibs).
If you’ve run out of granola and you’ve got a hankering there is an alternative that will have some in your bowl in time for breakfast.
Stove-top granola creates a result just as good as oven granola, and it's ready in less than 20 minutes. It's as simple as melting the oil and sweeteners together, mixing in the oats, nuts and spices and then cooking for around 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Cool slightly, stir in dried fruit and it's ready to go.
And if you don't have a working stove-top, but do have a grill, there's another method to try. This requires an eagle eye and you absolutely must not walk away to do anything else, because things can go from promising to burnt mess in moments, but we have put several of our favourite oat-based granola recipes under the grill and diligently turned the mix to get it evenly toasted. It’s not quite the same as proper oven-baked granola and can be messier than the stove-top version, but it does make a speedy, toasty cereal.
Granola bars are a great on-the-go breakfast or snack. For a really crunchy version, give these superfood bars, rich with seeds, grains, tahini and spices, a go; or for a smoother version, try China Squirrel’s granola bars, packed with oats, flaxseeds and chia seeds (“to get the full effect of these healthy wheat-free breakfast bars, dip in chocolate,” she says).
Really, it’s up to you
The great thing about granola is that is so flexible. Make a few batches and you'll soon figure out what mix of spices, sweeteners, grains (or not) and oil works for you. “To be honest it’s different every time I make it and that is the beauty of granola making!” says Holmes. We agree, Lee!
This granola is quick, easy and so versatile and will help sustain you through your day. Acai (pronounced a-sigh-ee) berries are a Brazilian superfood high in antioxidants. The fruit comes from a palm tree and resembles blueberries in appearance. Think of this as muesli bar meets fruit crumble. The tangy roasted rhubarb keeps the cookie deliciously moist, while the coconut sugar adds a lovely caramel note. Sprinkle these on smoothies, yoghurt, porridge, chia puddings or just enjoy them as a snack.
This granola is quick, easy and so versatile and will help sustain you through your day.
Acai (pronounced a-sigh-ee) berries are a Brazilian superfood high in antioxidants. The fruit comes from a palm tree and resembles blueberries in appearance.
Think of this as muesli bar meets fruit crumble. The tangy roasted rhubarb keeps the cookie deliciously moist, while the coconut sugar adds a lovely caramel note.
Sprinkle these on smoothies, yoghurt, porridge, chia puddings or just enjoy them as a snack.