So, you want to make your own granola. There are a few ground rules you need to follow. The oil and sugar to grain ratio is the critically important one, and can mean the difference between making a crispy, crunchy marvel of granola-ness and a kind of limp, chewy mess. This ratio varies slightly based on the type of grain you use, because you're about to find out that granola can be made from a huge, crazy variety of grains beyond typical rolled oats. Use our other-grain granola recipes as a base formula for nailing down the ratio. Once you make a few different granolas, you'll not only have the ratio, you'll be able to judge whether your mixture is too wet or dry just by touch or sight. And this basic guide to DIY granola is just the beginning. You'll never make the same granola twice once you start mixing in different nuts, dried fruits, seeds, and spices.
Here’s how to make your own granola:
1. In a large bowl, stir together three cups of old-fashioned rolled oats, three tablespoons brown sugar, a quarter teaspoon kosher salt, and a half teaspoon cinnamon.
2. In another bowl, stir together one-third cup honey, a quarter cup canola oil, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Dump this over the oat mixture and combine thoroughly. Get your hands in it to mix everything well, and to coat the oats evenly with the honey mixture. Heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer on a baking sheet and place on the center rack of the heated oven. Bake, stirring after 15 minutes, until the granola is a very light golden brown. It should take 20 to 30 minutes. If you like your granola crunchier with a toastier flavor, bake it a little longer, keeping a close eye on it—if it gets dark it will taste burnt.
4. Cool the granola completely, stirring it around so it doesn’t stick together. (It hardens as it cools.)
5. Once the granola’s cool, get creative: Now is the time to stir in all your extras like dried fruit, raw or toasted nuts and seeds, toasted coconut, etc. (See our sidebar for variations.) Store in an airtight container (this is very important—the granola goes stale easily) and eat within two weeks.
Great Whole Grains for Granola
Rolled oats (think: old fashioned oatmeal, not the quick-cooking kind) are the most common whole grain you'll find in granola. They're inexpensive and everywhere you shop. Soluble oat fiber (one cup of oats contains nearly 4 grams of fiber) and the antioxidants found in oats have been linked to lowering cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, stabilizing blood sugar and a host of other health benefits.
Tiny, naturally gluten-free amaranth grains have an earthy, lightly nutty flavor (some varieties also have a slightly peppery kick) and when they're cooked, they "pop" with an addictive, toothsome-crunchy texture. What's noteworthy about this ancient grain (technically, a pseudocereal)? Amaranth is a protein powerhouse, containing around 9 grams of protein per cup of cooked grain. It's also considered a "complete" protein because it contains the essential amino acids lysine and methionine, which are typically low (or nonexistent) in other grains.
This ancient strain of wheat is technically called khorasan, but has been rebranded as "kamut" more recently. The large-kernel grain has a sweet, buttery flavor profile that belies its tremendous nutritional value. Kamut is high in selenium (think: cancer-fighting antioxidant) and contains up to 40 percent more protein than common wheat (6 grams and 140 calories per 1/2-cup serving).
High in both fiber and protein, spelt has the trademark "nutty" flavor attributed to many other grains. Spelt is not gluten free, but contains 3 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, and 130 calories in a 1/2-cup serving. Spelt flakes look exactly like rolled oats, but slightly darker. You can use spelt flakes in any recipe or dish that calls for rolled oats, including granola and oatmeal.
Barley is one of the oldest known grains and, according to the Whole Grains Council, was the grain used to create the English measurement system back in the day. (Edward II of England standardized the inch as equivalent to three grains of barley placed end-to-end lengthwise.) Subtly sweet and mildly nutty, the grain contains 6 grams of dietary fiber and 6 grams of protein per 1/2-cup serving. Like spelt, substitute rolled barley flakes in any recipe that calls for rolled oats.
Of all the grains here, rye boasts one of the most unusual flavors. You'll see words like "old world," "hearty," and "distinct" used to describe it, which is code for "healthy, dark, grainy flavor." The flakes are chewier and denser than other rolled grains. Studies published in Nutrition Journal and Food & Nutrition Research have shown rye has a lower glycemic index (GI) and higher satiety compared to other grains, which makes it a smart choice in the fight against obesity and diabetes.
Grain Granola Recipes
1. Popped Amaranth Granola
Get a totally different kind of snap, crackle, and pop into your morning with amaranth, a tiny, nutty grain that pops when it's pan-toasted. You won't get chunky, trail mix-y clusters with this recipe, but the end result makes a great, healthy cereal or yogurt topping. (And we won't tell if you also put it on ice cream, too.) Get our Popped Amaranth Granola recipe.
2. Tropical Spelt Granola
This is the kind of granola you'd expect to find at a swanky, Caribbean spa/resort–a slightly healthy, foo-foo fancy blend you'll feel a little smug eating because it contains an ancient grain and it's packed with dried mango, papaya, and pineapple. Get our Tropical Spelt Granola recipe.
3. Maple, Barley, and Wheat Granola
What's not to love? This granola jettisons plain old-fashioned rolled oats for a duo of grains: rolled barley flakes and rolled wheat flakes (both readily available in those bulk bins at your favorite high-priced natural foods store). Get our Maple, Barley, and Wheat Granola recipe.
4. Dried Apricot and Kamut Granola
This crunchier-than-crunchy granola is the stuff you need on hand to annoy everyone within earshot on the subway, at the office, or on your next flight. Kamut is that kind of crunchy, and it also likes to brag that it contains 30 percent more protein than other wheat grains. Get our Dried Apricot and Kamut Granola recipe.
5. Savory Pumpkin Seed and Rye Granola
Hold the milk, please. This is not your breakfast bowl of whole grain goodness. Think of this savory granola as a topper for soups, salads, casseroles, dips–almost any dish you'd want a crunchy, flavorful topping on. Use it the way you would croutons, toasted nuts, or breadcrumbs. Get our Savory Pumpkin Seed and Rye Granola recipe.
Original story by Roxanne Webber, updated by Colleen Rush