There’s no denying the deliciousness of healthy granola — it’s a sweet and crunchy snack that’s kid-friendly and easy to take on the go.
But the calories and sugar content in store-bought granola can add up fast.
“Granola is one of those tricky products on the market that big food companies love to perceive as ‘healthy’ when really they add a ton of added sugars, oil, and preservatives,” explains Ashley Nader, R.D.
That doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the nutrients granola provides — or the yummy flavor.
Learn how to make healthy granola at home, and you’ll be able to enjoy this simple, versatile snack in a way that nourishes you.
1. Start with dry ingredients
Oats are the go-to base for a healthy homemade granola.
Beyond that, you can bring some variety to your granola by choosing one nut, one seed, and one dried fruit to add to the mix.
Nuts provide “a healthy dose of plant-based protein and important nutrients like vitamin E and potassium,” says Mackenzie Burgess, R.D.N., registered dietitian nutritionist and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices.
You may want to include one type of chopped nut (like pecans) and one type of whole nut (like almonds) for additional texture.
Just make sure you’re buying raw, unsalted nuts.
If you’re making this granola as part of a nutrition plan for weight loss, be aware that although nuts are healthy, they are very calorically dense.
Pumpkin, hemp, and sunflower seeds are good options, but Burgess prefers chia seeds in her granola because these tiny-but-mighty seeds provide heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Think of unsweetened dried fruit as more of a condiment than a main ingredient in your granola.
The calories can add up fast, but a little sprinkle brings delicious pops of chewy texture and sweet flavor.
Consider using freeze-dried fruit — it has a crunchier texture than traditional dried fruit and no added sugars.
2. Add spices
Cinnamon is a classic choice, but feel free to experiment with your creation.
Pair cinnamon with cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice for a pumpkin spice granola.
Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, use Chinese five spice to give your healthy granola the warmth and sweetness you love from cinnamon, with a hint of licorice flavor.
3. Choose your wet ingredients wisely
This step is where your homemade granola will differ significantly from the prepackaged granola in the grocery store aisles.
While store brands use canola or soybean oil, you can opt for unrefined virgin coconut oil and control the amount.
You’ll also need to choose a sweetener — something less processed than the high-fructose corn syrup found in many store-bought granola brands.
Maple syrup and honey are both solid choices, and you can use just enough to sweeten it to your taste without overdoing it. Stevia and monk fruit are good sugar-free options.
Nader notes that you don’t necessarily need to use sweeteners in your healthy granola — you can add a bit of sweetness with dried fruit or flavorful spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and pure vanilla extract instead.
4. Mix dry and wet ingredients separately
Toss your nuts, seeds, dried fruit (if you’re using it), and spices together.
If you’re using coconut flakes or chocolate chips in your granola, set those aside for now — you’ll add them in the last step.
Set that mixture aside and combining your oil and sweetener in another bowl. If you’re adding vanilla extract to your recipe, that goes in with the wet ingredients.
5. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients
Mix them to coat your dry ingredients as much as possible. (No one wants a mouthful of dry oats.)
Transfer this mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat baking sheet.
If you like granola with larger chunks in it, don’t spread the mixture too thin. The oats, nuts, and seeds need to be close together to bake into those perfectly crunchy clusters.
6. Bake until golden brown
Bake your granola mixture at 325° F for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until granola is light golden brown and crisp.
Keep an eye on your baking sheet to ensure no clusters are getting too crispy at the edges.
If the granola is browning unevenly, you can use a spatula to gently shift it around in the middle of your bake time.
7. Save coconut and chocolate for last
If you’re eyeing shaved coconut or chocolate chips as granola ingredients, there are specific steps you need to take.
Chocolate chips should be added at the end when your granola is out of the oven and has cooled to room temperature — otherwise, you’ll end up with a melty mess.
Shaved coconut will brown faster than the other ingredients mentioned above.
If you’re keen on using it, add it about halfway through the bake time so that it gets golden but doesn’t cross into burnt territory.
Creative Ways to Use Homemade Healthy Granola
Now comes the fun part: thinking of different delicious ways to enjoy your healthy granola.
Healthier homemade granola can still add up, though, so Burgess recommends sticking with a quarter- or half-cup serving based on your caloric needs.
Make “nature’s cereal”
This is Nader’s special recipe: She puts a serving of healthy granola in a bowl and adds chopped fresh fruit, like bananas and strawberries.
Then she tops it with unsweetened almond milk.
Add protein by using regular milk instead of almond milk or by mixing almond milk with protein powder before pouring it over the fruit and granola mixture.
(For a more balanced breakfast, enjoy it with another source of protein, like two boiled eggs.)
Top your Greek yogurt or make a parfait
A sprinkle of homemade granola makes a bowl of Greek yogurt much more flavorful and texturally complex.
Add fruit if you want something akin to a parfait, or layer the ingredients in a glass for the real parfait experience.
Take it on the go as a snack
Granola is an easy on-the-go snack when tossed in a baggie, especially if you make sure your recipe has oatmeal clusters in it.
Pair it with something that has protein, such as a protein shake or drinkable yogurt.
Sprinkle it over a salad
You may be more accustomed to savory croutons, but homemade healthy granola also brings a welcome crunch to your bowl of greens.
Granola is a perfect topper for goat cheese and strawberry salad!