We Tried 9 Ways of Making Gloriously Clumpy Granola and Found a Winning Combination

published Oct 26, 2022
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Graphic showing 9 different methods to make clumpy granola.
Credit: Photo: Yunhee Kim; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

All granola-lovers fall into two camps: clumpy and unclumpy (you know, the granola where the toasted oats and crunchy add-ins never quite stick together). I am firmly in the former category, and always have been. Give me all the craggy, crunchy clumps.

Clumpy granola is ideal for eating over yogurt or chia pudding or simply with milk, and is also perfect for eating on its own as a snack. I’ve made countless batches of granola throughout the years, always with the goal of getting as many of those irresistible clusters as possible. But what’s the best way to make clumpy granola?

Is a beaten egg white the secret to super-clumpy granola? What about other binders, like flour or wheat germ? Or is it as simple as using a lower oven temperature and not stirring the granola? To find out, I pored through recipes and tips on the internet and found nine popular methods that I was excited to try — some of which I’ve used before and many that were new to me.

So, What’s the Best Way to Make Clumpy Granola?

While there are a number of methods that worked really well, I found two top methods for making clumpy granola. One simply relies on a very low oven temperature and produces small clumps, while the other — my personal favorite — involves spreading and compacting the oat mixture on a rimmed baking sheet, creating large shard-like clumps. Read on to learn more about these two methods — and other methods you might want to try.

Credit: Photo: Yunhee Kim; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

A Few Notes on Methodology

Ingredients: I purchased fresh packages of all ingredients from the same store, on the same day, and used the same brand of like ingredients.

Tests: Each batch of granola was baked in the same oven. For each method tested, I used the same rimmed baking sheets and the same type of parchment paper (when called for in the recipe).

Ratings criteria: I rated each method on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing the perfect ideal. I judged each method on the following criteria: Amount of clumps, size of clumps, how well the clumps held together over time, texture of clumps, ease of eating, ease of method, total time required, and availability and cost of ingredients.

Credit: Photo: Yunhee Kim; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Clumpy Granola Method: Soaking the Oats

Rating: 2/10

About this method: I read about this tip on Food52, which references Bon Appétit‘s recipe for Surfer’s Granola. Here, a full cup of hot tap water is stirred into the dry oats, then left to sit for 15 minutes before you proceed with the recipe (which also skips any stirring during baking). The idea is that the water softens the oats, and stickiness from the starch will create more clumps, which won’t be broken apart by stirring.

Results: I was especially intrigued and hopeful about this method. The positives first: This method resulted in a lot of solid clumps of granola. But due to the final texture and uneven cook, it really fell short.

When the granola first came out of the oven it wasn’t very granola-like. Instead it was soft, overly chewy, and reminded me of an oatmeal cookie. While the granola did firm up somewhat as it cooled, the ultimate texture was more like a crunchy cookie, rather than the delicate crisp you typically get with granola. The clumps also didn’t hold up well — by the next day they lost any crunch they had and were very chewy and tough to eat.

Credit: Photo: Yunhee Kim; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Clumpy Granola Method: Cool in the Oven Overnight

Rating: 4/10

About this method: The idea of this tip, which I picked up from Food52, is to bake the oat mixture at a high temperature for a short time (375° F for 10 min), then turn off the oven and let granola cool completely in the oven, ideally overnight. In theory, this should work with just about any granola recipe. While Food52 doesn’t give instructions about spreading the granola, I took the intel I gleaned from making 10+ batches of granola in a row and spread the oat mixture in a thin, cohesive layer on the baking sheet in an effort to encourage more clusters and clumps.

Results: I loved the simplicity of this low-effort method, but unfortunately the texture didn’t deliver. Yes, there are plenty of clumps, but the short burst of heat wasn’t enough to totally dry out and crisp the oats, so the oats retained a fair amount of chew.

Credit: Photo: Yunhee Kim; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Clumpy Granola Method: Add Whole Wheat and Almond Flour

Rating: 5/10

About this method: This method, used in a recipe from Sally’s Baking Recipes, takes a two-pronged approach at making granola clusters. First, it adds a combo of whole wheat flour and almond flour (or almond meal), which act as a binder to hold the oat mixture together. Second is the bakeware. This recipe opts for a 9×13-inch baking pan instead of the standard rimmed sheet pan. The other twist is that just before the final 10 minutes of cooking, you cut the granola into squares and break it into smaller clusters.

Results: If this approach immediately reminds you of granola bars, you’re not alone. I think the flour worked well as a binder and there were some large clusters, but overall this method yielded mostly small granola clusters and a lot of oat crumbs.

Going into this test, I was particularly curious about how the duo of flours would affect the taste and texture of the granola, and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I found the flour to be undetectable in terms of taste, and it gave the clusters a slightly sandy texture that reminded me of a Nature Valley granola bar. I do think that this method (the flour addition, at least) would yield larger clumps of granola if the oat mixture were cooked on baking sheet.

Credit: Photo: Yunhee Kim; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Clumpy Granola Method: Add Egg White

Rating: 7/10

About this method: According to Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, “Nothing glues like protein.” While there are many granola recipes that include an egg white, I got this tip from the Big Cluster Maple Granola recipe in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. The egg white is whisked until frothy (20 to 30 seconds will do it), then stirred into the oat mixture. The idea is that the egg’s protein will help the oats bind to each other and create delicate clusters. 

Results: Not only does the egg white work as a glue to hold the oats together, but it also gives the granola an incredibly crispy bite. This method produced mostly small, delicate clumps (and a fair amount of granola “crumbs”), which easily break apart. While the granola wasn’t too hard to chew, it did have a tough bite that I didn’t care for and just couldn’t get past.

Credit: Photo: Yunhee Kim; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Clumpy Granola Method: Add Chickpea Flour

Rating: 7/10

About this method: This technique from Cookie + Kate relies on naturally gluten-free chickpea flour to create clubs. This no-stir approach calls for spreading the granola in an even layer on the baking sheet so it will naturally clump together as it bakes.

Results: The oat mixture baked into a sheet of granola with a delicately crisp texture, which was easy to break apart into clumps that held together nicely with minimal oat “crumbs.” The chickpea flour worked well as a binder, although it’s worth noting that it does impart a subtle flavor and gritty texture. That wasn’t a drawback for me, but this granola might not be for everyone.

Credit: Photo: Yunhee Kim; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Clumpy Granola Method: Add Bran Flakes + Wheat Germ + Egg White

Rating: 8/10

About this method: This unconventional approach comes from former Bon Appétit editor Claire Saffitz, who tweaked her mom’s recipe to create this granola. When I saw bran flake cereal on the ingredient list and read Saffitz’s claim that the clusters are what make her recipe so fantastic, I knew I had to give it a try. “This produces clusters of all different sizes and shapes, some large and some small,” she writes. The idea is that the cereal flakes act as a raft of sorts for the other ingredients to cling to, while the wheat germ (along with an egg white) act as a binder to glue everything together. You won’t want to stray too far from the kitchen while the granola bakes because you’ll need to to stir it halfway through.

Results: Thanks to the cereal flakes (and binders), there were craggy, bite-size clumps before the baking sheet even went into the oven. The cereal flakes encourage cluster creation and their delicate crispiness adds another layer of texture to the granola, which is really amazing.

If you like a granola with small clumps (rather than shards broken from a sheet of granola) and don’t mind loose granola “crumbs,” this method is worth trying.

Credit: Photo: Yunhee Kim; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Clumpy Granola Method: Sandwich with Sheet Pans

Rating: 9.5/10

About this method: A twist on the spread-and-press method, Food52 shares this recipe from former pastry chef and cookbook author, Alana Taylor-Tobin. In fun story that’s like a game of telephone, Taylor-Tobin memorized the recipe from her pastry school teacher, Clair Legas, who stole it from chef Casey Hayden when they worked together. The method calls for spreading the granola in a thin layer (although slightly thicker around the edges, where it cooks faster), then topping it with another layer of parchment and a second baking sheet. The granola is sandwiched between two baking sheets while it cooks and stays that way until it’s completely cooled.

Results: You’ll need an extra piece of cookware here, but it’s worth it. The result is a large sheet of evenly-colored, deep golden-brown granola that’s crispy and clumped together. Taylor-Tobin likens it to a delicate granola bar and I couldn’t agree more. The granola is easy to break apart into whatever size clumps you like and is very easy to eat. Whole nuts don’t stick in the clumps very well (sliced or chopped nuts would work better), and you’ll get some teeny-tiny clusters and oat crumbs, but on the whole this method makes for nice size granola clumps that hold together well.

Credit: Photo: Yunhee Kim; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Clumpy Granola Method: Bake at Low Temperature and Don’t Stir

Rating: 10/10

About this method: This straightforward method, recommend by several sources, including Alexandra Cooks, relies on a very low oven temperature (275°F, which is lower than most granola recipes) and an hour-long bake time, with absolutely no stirring. While many granola recipes rely on stirring the oat mixture to ensure even cooking, it’s also what breaks up the clumps — that’s presumably why this recipe and many of the others I tested do not include stirring.

Results: There is truly nothing fancy here, which is one of the things I love about this method. It produces an evenly cooked batch of granola with crispy, bite-size clumps. Given the hour-long cook time and lack of stirring I was especially impressed by how evenly the granola baked. If you want a super-straightforward method and prefer bite-size granola clumps over massive shards, you really can’t beat this method.

Credit: Photo: Yunhee Kim; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

Clumpy Granola Method: Spread and Press

Rating: 10/10

About this method: The idea behind this method, used in the Mega Clump Granola recipe in The First Mess Cookbook, calls for spreading the mixture to the edges of the rimmed baking sheet, then pressing down to compact the mixture. The granola is baked in a moderate oven (325° F) without stirring, then is left to cool completely on the baking sheet. 

Results: The thing that stood out to me most about this approach is how sturdy the granola clusters were, without being hard or tough. Once the granola cooled it was really easy to break the sheet into whatever size clumps I wanted. And there were very minimal granola “crumbs.” The clumps of granola have a crispy, crunchy texture, and were easy to eat. This was my personal favorite method and the one I can’t wait to make again.

If giant, sturdy shards of granola are what you’re after, you will love this method.

Final Thoughts & Tips for Making Clumpy Granola

After testing nine different methods for clumpy granola (some of which I made more than once), there were several common techniques that popped up again and again, along with some general tips that will help you make clumpy granola, regardless of the recipe you use.

  1. Spread the granola in a thin layer on the baking sheet. It doesn’t necessarily have to reach the edges of the pan.
  2. Keep the edges slightly thicker than the center of the baking sheet. The edges bake faster than the center of the pan, this will help ensure they don’t burn.
  3. A low temperature is best. The winning no-stir method went as low as 275°F, and I wouldn’t go higher than 300°F.
  4. Skip the stirring. Many granola recipes call for stirring several times during baking to ensure even cooking, but this is also what breaks apart the granola clumps. As long as the oven temperature is low enough, you can get away without stirring the granola.
  5. If you do stir, use a thin metal spatula. It’s a much better choice than a wooden spoon or flexible spatula. And think of it more like turning than stirring. If you use a spatula to lift and flip, you’ll preserve more clumpy clusters.
  6. Let the granola cool completely on the baking sheet. It’ll help clumps stay together.
  7. Use the parchment to help break the granola apart: If the granola bakes into a solid sheet, the best way to break it up is to lift an edge of the parchment paper and separate it from the granola. This will often help you create larger shards. I found that breaking up the granola mid-pan creates more crumbles.