Granola is a breakfast staple for me. Every morning consists of fruit with granola at the very minimum, and I love to have a good topping of it, not just the light dusting I’ve seen in more than a few restaurants. For me, it’s a great way to know I’m getting a sound mix of nutrients, good fats and quality proteins, slow-release carbs and fast-acting fiber, as well as a healthful slurry of vitamins and minerals.

The thing I don’t like about granola, though, is the price, which is why making it at home seemed like a logical solution. Homemade things are always better and cheaper anyway, aren’t they? Plus, granola — with all its natural, hippie associations — just seems like it should be made at home. Well, I also learned that those granola prices are often a bit of sham. The basics of a DIY granola are that it’s very easy to make and it’s also very inexpensive.

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Here’s the lowdown.

Ingredients

There are very few ingredients, most or all of which you’ll likely have around already anyway. If not, the initial start up cost of making your own granola might seem high, but comparatively it is not. This is what you need.

  • Oats are the key ingredient, and oats are cheap as chips. The bulk, probably three-quarters or more of it, are simply toasted oats.
  • Something syrupy is used to flavor and bind the oats. By making it at home, I can be sure that it isn’t of the high-fructose or honey variety. Maple syrup works fine, or agave syrup, or whatever sugary delight is your favorite.
  • Dried fruit: This generally comes down to raisins for me because they are the most readily available and cheapest, but I’ve used mangoes, pineapples, and apples from my own dehydrator.
  • Nuts & seeds: Looking for some protein and good fats to add to the mix is easy. Generally, there are several bags of seeds on the go at home, so a mixture of what’s around gets tossed in.
  • Spices: It’s time to put those spices that are pushed to the back of the spice cabinet to more regular use. Cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin spice and so on add a nice something-something for the flavor.
  • Oil: Coconut oil is great if you’ve got it, but sunflower and all those cheaper varieties work as well.

What to Do

Seriously, if you can use a toaster oven to heat a frozen pizza, then you can make your own granola. There is no special skill required, but rather just a couple measuring devices (until you get the hang of it, after which you just toss stuff together), a big bowl and a pan. Then, it’s toast.

  • Mix the oats and spices.
  • Add the oil and syrup and mix it again.
  • Put the mixture thinly on a pan and toast it until it’s the color that most pleases you. The darker, the crunchier. (Give it a stir after about fifteen minutes so it doesn’t stick.)
  • Let it cool.
  • Add whatever nuts, seeds and fruit you’ve got on hand.
  • Store it in an air-tight container.

Once you’re comfortable making it, granola is a perfect food for experimentation. I love adding things like quinoa or amaranth seeds for more protein, and there are a number of other grains that might be substituted for or supplement the oats. Sometimes, toasting the nuts and seeds provides another flavor. There are cacao nibs, an endless array of dehydrated fruits, and nut butters that can enhance your DIY granola. Also, don’t think it’s just for resting a top fruit or below soy milk, it’s also great as a snack on its own, fantastic in bars, and — my favorite — a topping for mango-banana soft-serve.

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Image source: Peanut Butter-Maple-Pecan and “Coconut Bacon” Granola