Recipe Review

The Weird (but Brilliant) Technique That Makes This Granola Recipe So Good

updated Jul 31, 2020
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Credit: Image: Jesse Szewczyk; Design: The Kitchn

Serious Eats is one of the most trusted food sources on the internet, thanks to their attention to detail and scientific approach. But we’ve had mixed results with their recipes in our showdowns: They took home top prize for French onion soup and pancakes, but failed to impress us with their eggplant Parmesan and zucchini bread.

When it came time to pick out recipes for this week’s granola showdown, I approached Serious Eats’ recipe with a bit of skepticism. Would it fly to the top of the pack, or sink to the bottom? But after giving it a closer look, I knew I had to try it. Developed by pastry pro Stella Parks, it was unlike any other granola recipe I came across. Stella has you soak the oats in buttermilk before baking, claiming that it helps make the granola light, crisp, and clumpy. Here’s what happened when I gave it a go.

Get the recipe: Serious Eats’ Crisp Homemade Granola

Credit: Image: Jesse Szewczyk; Design: The Kitchn

How to Make Serious Eats’ Crisp Homemade Granola

Serious Eats’ granola is a bit of a project, but it’s totally worth the effort. You’ll start by combining rolled oats, wheat germ, flax seeds, and chia seeds in a large bowl. To that you’ll add both buttermilk and melted butter and toss it all together so the oats are evenly coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for 20 minutes. (The buttermilk is said to “tenderize” the oats and express “their natural starch, creating clumpy nuggets.”) After 20 minutes, add sugar and toss once more to coat the oats, then let the mixture sit for another 30 minutes.

While the oats are soaking, go ahead and prep your mix-ins. (These get added to the granola after baking.) Toast pumpkin seeds, chopped almonds, and pecan pieces in the oven and transfer into a bowl. Toss them with oil and salt, then add dried apricots, dried cherries, and dried blueberries, and set the mixture aside.

Pour the soaked granola onto a parchment-lined sheet tray and spread the oats into an even layer. Bake until golden, stirring occasionally to make sure they brown evenly. Transfer granola to a bowl, let cool, and toss with the mix-ins.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of Serious Eats’ Granola Recipe

This recipe is ingenious. I was worried the buttermilk was a gimmick, but it seriously improved the texture of the granola, causing the granola to stick together and creating perfect little clusters that became crisp and crunchy in the oven. You couldn’t necessarily taste the buttermilk, but the technique was a revelation. For people who prefer granolas with large clusters, this is the recipe for you.

The flavor was just as incredible. It was perfectly sweet without being sugary, and the combination of dried fruits and nuts made it interesting. The bright orange apricots contrasting against the dried blueberries made the granola the prettiest out of all the recipes I tested.

The only downside (in addition to being a fair amount of work) is that the granola had a tendency to burn on the bottom. I had to stir it every 10 minutes or so to make sure the bottom wasn’t burning, and I still ended up with a few clusters that were a bit too brown. But other than that, the recipe is delicious and a true win for cluster-lovers.

Credit: Jesse Szewczyk

If You’re Making Serious Eats’ Granola, a Few Tips

  1. Hit up a health foods store for the harder-to-find ingredients. I ended up going to my local health foods store to find the flax seeds, chia seeds, and wheat germ used in this recipe. If you don’t have one in your neighborhood, you can also order them online.
  2. Don’t rush the soaking step. The first step in this recipe is to soak the oats with buttermilk and melted butter for 20 minutes. The oats soaked up all of the buttermilk, so be patient and let them sit so they properly hydrate. While this is happening, you can go ahead and prep the add-ins.
  3. Stir frequently while baking. I found that the bottom of the granola browned much quicker than the top, so I had to stir it frequently to prevent it from burning. Serious Eats states that you should stir it every “25 minutes or so,” but I found that it needed more frequent stirring to cook evenly. To be safe, I recommend giving it a stir every 10 minutes.
  4. Let the granola cool completely before eating. Serious Eats’ notes that you should let the granola cool for 45 minutes before transferring it into an airtight container. As the granola cooled, the clusters got crunchier and crisper, so be patient and give it time before eating.

    Rating: 9/10

    Have you ever made Serious Eats’  granola recipe? Tell us what you thought!
Credit: Image: Jesse Szewczyk; Design: The Kitchn