How To Make Great Granola Every Time

Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn

We here at The Kitchn are very fortunate to have a multi-talented team of writers, with careers that include professional photographer, cookbook author, architect, songwriter, actor, magazine editor — and more! But today, we're happy to note one particular pro: Granola entrepreneur. Megan Gordon, one of our regular contributors, writes from Seattle where she also owns Marge, a little company turning out the most scrumptious granola you've ever tasted. She took a break from her very busy day job filling granola orders from across the country (prompted in part by a Wall Street Journal feature a couple weeks ago) and shared with us her basic method and insider professional tips for making the most delicious granola at home.

This is not a hard and fast recipe — this is a template to memorize and customize in your own kitchen, to please your every granola desire.

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Megan, needless to say, has more granola-baking experience than most of us. She bakes tray after tray of granola, experimenting with different mix-ins, and finding just the right stage of golden toastiness as she packs hundreds of bags every week with her lovely granola. (She's branching out past granola, too, working on a book all about breakfast grains of every sort — granola, hot cereals, breakfast grain salads, and more! Look for more on that next year.)

Megan's Marge Bakery granola is characterized by just the right note of salt, a depth of flavor from olive oil, cardamom and maple syrup, and sweet nibbles of dried fruit.

Her recipe, though, is just one way of making delicious morning granola to eat with milk or yogurt. Once you know a basic granola formula by heart, you can tweak to your heart's content. Like the granola a little toastier? Bake longer. Want it a bit sweeter, or with walnuts instead of almonds? It's up to you. Want it clumpy and chunky? Follow Megan's tip below.

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Visit Megan's website: Marge Granola
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Cambria and I were in visiting Seattle a few weeks ago so we took the opportunity for a granola session. It was delightful to bake up a big batch of granola with Megan. (It also made breakfast pretty awesome for a few days!)

Here's Megan's distillation of breakfast cereal wisdom — this formula will teach you how to make your own granola — tweak as you like!

Thank you Megan!

How To Make Great Granola Every Time

Makes about 6 cups granola

Ingredients

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 to 2 1/2 cups your choice of nuts and seeds*
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup oil, such as olive oil
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon liquid sweetener, such as honey or maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cups dried fruits, chopped

* Note: Nuts that are already roasted should go in at the end after the granola is baked so as not to burn.

Equipment

Mixing bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
Spatula
Parchment
Half-sheet pan or baking shee

Instructions

1. Set out your ingredients: For this particular run of granola we are using: 3 cups old-fashioned oats, 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup sesame seeds, 1/2 cup almonds, 1/2 cup wide-flake, unsweetened coconut (added near the end of baking), 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped (added at the end), 1 cup roasted pistachios, chopped (added at the end)

2. Preheat oven and mix dry ingredients: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the oats and any untoasted nuts or seeds together in a large bowl. Stir to combine.

3. Mix in the spices: Add salt, cinnamon, and cardamom and stir thoroughly to combine.

4. Stir in the liquids: Stir in the oil, sweetener, and vanilla.

5. Bake the granola: Turn the granola out onto a parchment-lined half-sheet pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the mixture is light brown and toasty.

6. Stir the granola: Stir every 15 minutes or so for an even color and to make sure the granola is cooking evenly. (If using coconut, add in the last 15 minutes of baking.)

7. Prepare any late-addition ingredients: Roughly chop any dried fruits and roasted nuts being added after baking.

8. Stir in late-addition ingredients: Remove from the oven and add the chopped dried fruits and any roasted nuts at this time. Stir to combine.

9. Let the granola cool: Let cool before enjoying. The granola will continue cooking just a bit in the cooling process — it will firm up/dry out, so if it seems a little too wet don't worry.

10. Store the granola: Store in an airtight container and it should stay fresh for 7 to 10 days. For longer shelf life, store in the refrigerator.

Additional Notes:

1. Want Clumpy Granola? The key to getting chunkier granola is not to mix the granola as it's baking. Pat the wet mixture down into the baking sheet with the back of a spatula and don't mix it or disturb it while baking. Then, after cooking, you can remove it from the pan in granola chunks and store as indicated above.

2. Nuts and Fruits: I love working with sliced almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts and sesame seeds. As for fruits, dried cranberries, cherries, apricots, raisins and currents are all great choices. Experiment with different combinations to find your favorite!

3. Consider Your Oats: Make sure to use old-fashioned oats for your granola, not quick-cooking oats. quick-cooking oats are less substantial and will cook differently and result in an almost dusty granola texture.

4. Bulk Spices: When buying spices for your granola, buy in bulk! It's almost always the freshest.

5. Mixing Techniques: While granola is absolutely a one-bowl affair, you want to mix all of your dry ingredients together before adding your wet ingredients so as to avoid clumping of salts and spices.

6. Don't Fear the Salt! Salt enhances the flavor of your granola — most people don't use enough of it! Use it.

7. Experiment with Savory Additions: I use olive oil for my granola which gives it a special toastiness. I also love using cacao nibs and a little extra salt, all of which result in an almost savory granola. Explore that savory edge!

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(Images: Faith Durand)

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Faith is the executive editor of The Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks. They include Bakeless Sweets (Spring 2013) as well as The Kitchn's first cookbook, which will be published in Fall 2014. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.

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