Whenever I have granola around, I never feel hungry. It has all the flavors I could want on a moment's notice (sweet, savory, salty), and, because it's full of high-protein, high-fiber ingredients like oats and nuts, just a handful can keep my stomach from growling.
For a while, though, I didn't usually have granola on hand. What I'd see at the store was always too expensive for my budget or packed with too much added sugar for my taste (I don't have a big sweet tooth!), and when I'd get home I'd be too busy with other cooking projects to want to hunt down a recipe.
That all changed when I realized you don't actually need a recipe to make homemade granola. No need to spend time perusing the web for something, because with just a super simple ratio and a few ingredients (that you probably already have in your pantry), you can totally whip up a batch in no time. Follow these tips and before you know it you'll always have granola to snack on.
There are certain wet and dry ingredients every granola recipe needs.
Every granola recipe needs dry ingredients like nuts, seeds, grains, and spices, and wet ingredients like oil and syrup. The dried ingredients are what make up the classic clusters you know and love, and the wet ingredients are what bind them together (and makes them nice and crunchy).
That being said, you can really use whatever dry ingredients you prefer, as long as you always include some combination of the basics: nuts, seeds, grains, spices. For this story, I made a batch of granola with almonds, sesame seeds, rolled oats, and cinnamon, though you could just as easily make something with walnuts, hemp seeds, and cardamom. You can even use multiple nuts, seeds, or grains at once, if you like. So if you feel like going H.A.M. and using pecans and hazelnuts, then do it! Or if you want several spices, that's cool too. Even alternative grains like quinoa are fair game (though you'll want to cook these separately beforehand so that they aren't too crunchy).
You can also always use whichever wet ingredients you like, too. For my granola, I used a mix of olive oil and honey and it was great, but in the past I've used coconut oil and agave and the results were similarly fantastic. Don't be afraid to experiment with things like maple syrup, sunflower seed oil, vanilla extract, or anything that you might have in your pantry that you think would taste good in granola. And if you prefer something that's a little less sweet (or not sweet at all) you can reduce the amount of (or completely skip) sweeteners—just be sure to compensate by using more of your chosen oil instead so that you have enough wetness for the granola to cook properly. I've made savory granola with just oil before and it tasted great. There were fewer clumps because I didn't have a sticky sweetener to bind the grains together, but it was still totally snackable.
Pro tip: Use an egg white as one of your wet ingredients for a bit of extra protein.
Think about using an egg white, especially if you're leaving out sweetener. Egg whites will bind your grains like a sweetener normally would to give you nice, big, crunchy clusters—not to mention they'll add a bit more protein to your recipe.
The ratio to follow is 1 part wet ingredients to 6 parts dry ingredients.
Through trial and error (and some guidance from the web) I've found this to be the best ratio to use when you're making granola. It may not seem like a lot of wet ingredients in comparison to the dry ones, but syrups and oils go a long way. You don't want the grains and nuts to be totally doused, just lightly glossy and wet enough to bake into something perfect and crunchy.
As for how much that really looks like, it can be anything you want. If you want to measure in cups, you can do 6 cups of dry ingredients and one cup wet ingredients or 3 cups dry ingredients and 1/2 cup wet ingredients, and so on depending on how big you want your batch to be.
With dry ingredients, go big on the oats and small on everything else. So if you're making a full six cups, try 1 or 2 parts nuts, 1 part seeds, and 3 parts oats. That's a good basic ratio to keep in mind.
When you're dealing with wet ingredients, generally you'll want to go half and half on the oil and the sweetener, unless you're not using sweetener at all in which case you should just double the amount of oil you're using. That may seem like a lot of oil, but you need that amount of wetness for the granola to cook properly—otherwise it may end up too dry.
First, combine your dry ingredients. Then, add your wet ingredients.
Before you add your wet ingredients, make sure you've fully incorporated all your dry ingredients. Then, combine the two just before you're ready to stick everything in the oven to avoid making everything soggy.
And don't add any dried fruit until the very end.
If you do want to include dried fruit (dried apricots are my favorite in granola) you'll want to wait until the very, very end to add them. If you bake them with the rest of the granola, the oven will dry out the fruit even more. And dried fruit is the perfect ingredient to use if you want a bit of sweetness, but would rather not use a lot of sweeteners.
Let the granola bake longer than you might think, but keep the oven temperature fairly low.
Granola seems like something that should be in and out fairly quickly, but it actually takes about 40 minutes. You'll want to heat your oven between 300 to 350 degrees F—I prefer to keep it lower, because it cooks much faster at the higher temp, and I've wound up with a few burnt batches because of that.
Before you put the granola in the oven, spread it out evenly over a parchment paper-lined baking sheet so that it all lays flat. Remove it from the oven approximately every 15 minutes to give it a stir and rotate the pan, so that everything cooks evenly.
Let it cool, store it up, and enjoy.
Before you pack it up in Tupperware, let it cool completely. If you pack it up too quickly, the steam from the heat may cause it to lose its crunch.
You can pack it up in any kind of vessel you like—whether that's a Mason jar or a lunchbox—just make sure it's airtight otherwise it might get stale. A batch will last you up to six months stored at room temperature, and even longer if you pack it in a Ziploc bag and stick it in the freezer. So if you make one huge batch right now, you'll be able to enjoy it for the next half a year—if you can keep yourself from eating it all in a week.