Greetings from my cookbook recipe testing laboratory. I mean, my very messy kitchen. You wouldn’t believe all the dishes. All the measuring cups. All the mixing spoons. Lemons rolling everywhere. My brain is so full of recipe details that I hardly make sense anymore, but the successes fuel other successes. I’m so excited about the recipes I’ve finalized for my Love Real Food cookbook!
Since I’m struggling to keep my act together, I thought we’d go back to basics today with my basic granola recipe, which is also the best granola recipe. Granted, I’m partial, but it really is the best and I use that term sparingly.
My recipe was originally based on Meg Gordon’s recipe, which I’ve tweaked over time as I made my honey almond granola, gingerbread granola and cranberry orange granola. Now that you have my base recipe, you can play around with the mix-ins and spices to make it your favorite granola!
This homemade granola is leaps and bounds more tasty than any store-bought granola I’ve ever tried. It is also a far more healthy granola option, since it’s made with whole grains, unrefined oil and naturally sweetened. You just can’t beat freshly baked granola packed with delicious and good-for-you ingredients. By the way, you can preserve that freshly baked flavor by storing this granola in the freezer. Just pull it out and pour.
Here’s a breakdown of the ingredients:
Old-fashioned oats: Heart-healthy, hearty, chewy oats keep their shape during baking. Be sure to use certified gluten-free oats if you need gluten-free granola.
Nuts and/or seeds: I used pecans and pepitas (green pumpkin seeds). Other options include walnuts, which are rich in Omega-3s, whole or slivered almonds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios and sunflower seeds.
Healthy fats: Oil helps make this granola crisp and irresistible. I prefer unrefined coconut oil, which is delicious (you can barely taste the coconut, if at all) and produces the perfect texture. You can use olive oil instead, if you’d like your granola to be a little more on the savory side.
Natural sweetener: I love using real maple syrup in my granola. Honey works great, too.
Salt and spice: Salt is totally necessary for flavorful granola! Too little and your flavors won’t sing. I prefer using fine-grain sea salt in this one (I always cook with fine-grain sea salt), but regular salt will do, too (just use a little less). I added cinnamon to this batch for some warmth. Ground ginger (in lesser quantities) and pumpkin spice blends are other options.
Dried fruit: I just added whole dried cherries once my granola cooled. Dried cherries aren’t too sweet and they’re rich in antioxidants. So are dried cranberries and other dried fruit. I love chopped dried apricots, especially the Blenheim variety, but you can add any dried fruit you like.
Other (optional) mix-ins: You can add chocolate chips only after the granola has completely cooled (they’ll melt). If you’d like to add coconut, you can add it halfway through baking for perfectly toasted coconut (see recipe note).
Let’s talk about clumpy granola. For maximum clump-age (sorry), your oats need to be a little crowded in the pan so they can stick together, but not so crowded that they don’t toast evenly. I recommend using a basic half sheet pan for this granola recipe. It’s the perfect size and the rimmed edges make sure no granola falls overboard. Be sure to line the pan with parchment paper so the sweetener sticks to your oats rather than the pan.
Beyond the equipment, I’ve had better luck achieving clumps with maple syrup rather than honey (couldn’t tell you why it works, but it does). Lastly, let the granola cool completely before breaking it up. I’ve even left it on the pan overnight, covered.
For maximum clumps, after stirring the mixture at the half-way baking point, gently press down on the granola with the back of a spatula to make sure the oats are pressed up against each other before putting the pan back in the oven. Even with all those techniques in place, I occasionally end up with a batch of granola that isn’t as clumpy as my others (it’s always delicious, though).
- 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (use certified gluten-free oats for gluten-free granola)
- 1½ cup raw nuts and/or seeds (I used 1 cup pecans and ½ cup pepitas)
- 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt (if you're using standard table salt, scale back to ¾ teaspoon)
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ cup melted coconut oil or olive oil
- ½ cup maple syrup or honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅔ cup dried fruit, chopped if large (I used dried cherries)
- Totally optional additional mix-ins: ½ cup chocolate chips or coconut flakes*
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts and/or seeds, salt and cinnamon. Stir to blend.
- Pour in the oil, maple syrup and/or honey and vanilla. Mix well, until every oat and nut is lightly coated. Pour the granola onto your prepared pan and use a large spoon to spread it in an even layer. Bake until golden, about 21 to 23 minutes, stirring halfway. The granola will further crisp up as it cools.
- Let the granola cool completely, undisturbed, before breaking it into pieces and stirring in the dried fruit (and totally optional chocolate chips). Store the granola in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks, or in a sealed freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Make it gluten free: Be sure to use certified gluten-free oats.
Make it nut free: Use seeds, like pepitas or sunflower seeds, instead of nuts.
If you want toasted coconut in your granola: Stir the coconut flakes into the granola halfway through baking. They'll get nice and toasty that way.
Serving suggestions: This granola is awesome on its own, with milk or yogurt and fresh fruit, and you can even throw a couple handfuls into a salad for granola "croutons."