Are you tired of pumpkin everything yet? I do pumpkin with the best of them. Pumpkin scones, pumpkin butter – even chili with pumpkin and pumpkin-filled pavlovas to name just a few. But I’m happy to step away from pumpkins and munch on granola these days. Of course, if you’re a pumpkinoholic, you’ll be glad to know there are pumpkin seeds in this Secret Ingredient Crispy Granola. But really, this post is not about pumpkin anything, it’s about building a lighter, better granola.
This recipe began with an old standby – my favorite, lightly-sweetened, easy granola. But just as I was pulling out the ingredients, I realized that I had less than the required 3 cups of rolled oats. What to do? Instead of abandoning my plan, I improvised.
I took a few other liberties with my original recipe and looked at an Alton Brown granola for a bit more inspiration.
What Makes Secret Ingredient Crispy Granola Special?
- First, there is the secret ingredient. On a whim, I grabbed a box of crisped rice breakfast cereal leftover from a rice crispy treat adventure that I haven’t yet posted. (My leftovers were not Kellogg’s brand, so they didn’t use the Kellegg-trademarked name, Rice Krispies.) I measured out the oats and found I had just 2 cups. Staying with the basic 3 cup measurement, I substituted 1 cup of the crisped rice for oats. The rice cereal lightens the granola and makes it crispier than I’ve ever achieved with “regular” granola
- Second, this version is less sweet than many recipes for granola. This recipe ditches the honey and uses a combination of sweetened and unsweetened coconut. (Or if you prefer, use my handy method for converting unsweetened into sweetened coconut.) Personally I like variety and often have opened bags of different types of coconut, so I use whatever I have on hand.
- Third, it’s so simple. Many granola recipes, including my original one, heat the liquids before mixing them with the dry ingredients. This recipe skips the heating and just mixes the oil, maple syrup, and salt. The only heating required before the granola bakes is if you use coconut oil for part of the oil. Although it is typically solid, a short time in the microwave or on the stove, will liquify it.
The steps are easy.
How to Make Secret Ingredient Crispy Granola
- First, pick your ingredients. Or if you’re like me, scour your pantry and refrigerator for bits of nuts, seeds, and coconut. I like variety. So I include several types of nuts, at least one seed, and several different types of coconut.
- Next, mix all the dry ingredients except the salt. I use a large spoon or my (clean) hands.
- Then combine the wet ingredients plus the salt and pour that liquid over the dry ingredients. Here’s another tip that I found out by chance – using coconut oil (heated to liquify it) for part of the oil will make the granola even crunchier.
- Mix everything up well, moistening all the dry ingredients. Then spread the granola out in a thin layer on two half sheet pans.
- Bake it “slow and low,” turning it every 15 minutes or so. The turning allows the granola to cook evenly. It’s best to rotate pans (unless you have a double oven and can bake one in each oven) and turn them back to front once during the baking process. Allow the baked granola to cool in the pans before moving it to airtight containers.
Enjoy Secret Ingredient Crispy Granola on top of yogurt, with milk, or mixed with fruit or other cereals. And if you eat it by itself in a cup or by the handful, I won’t tell.
Extra Tips for Making and Storing Granola
Don’t you hate it when granola gets soggy in your pantry? When granola loses that special crunch that wakes you up in the morning as it hits your tastebuds, it just isn’t the same, right? These 3 tips will help you make and store granola to keep it crunchy.
- Using coconut oil. I’ve found that liquifying a bit (maybe an ounce or less) of coconut oil and adding it to already liquid oil, helps the granola get and stay crunchier. To add it, gently heat the coconut oil, just until it is liquid, then add it to the other oil. Why does this work? I’m no chemist, but coconut oil is harder than other oils in its natural state and I’m sure that has something to do with why it helps crisp up granola.
- Adding dried or fresh fruit only when you’re about to eat the granola. Fruit (even raisins and other dried fruit) is softer than the granola. Don’t let it soften the granola, which will happen if the fruit and granola are store together. Instead, add the fruit just before serving. That keeps the cereal crunchier.
- Store the granola in an air-tight container. These days I’m reusing containers whenever I can. For granola, this means keeping it in glass jars that used to hold Bonne Maman jam. I’ve found that one batch of this Secret Ingredient Crispy Granola makes about 2 large and 1 small jars worth. (The big ones are from Costco, the smaller one from a “regular” grocery.
Secret Ingredient Crispy Granola
This granola recipe is my favorite. It is crunchy and infinitely variable.
- 2 cups rolled oats (not quick oats) 6.75 oz/195 g
- 1 cup crisped rice 1.75 oz/50 g
- 2 cups chopped or slivered nuts 8.75 oz/250 g See note
- 1 cup coconut, sweetened, unsweetened or a combination See note
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds 1 oz/32 g
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar 1.75 oz/50 g See note
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil 2 oz/59 ml
- 1/4 cup maple syrup 2 oz/59 ml
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 250°F/ 120°C. Put the racks just above and just below the middle – in other words, not too close to the top or bottom of the oven.
In the large bowl, combine and mix well the oats, crisped rice, nuts, coconut, brown sugar and cinnamon.
In a small bowl or a liquid measuring cup, combine the oil, maple syrup, and salt. (If using coconut oil for part of the oil, you need to heat it to liquify it.) Mix them well.
Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and mix until all of the dry ingredients are coated. Divide the granola between the two sheet pans and smooth it out so that each pan has a thin layer of granola.
Bake the granola for 1 hour (60 minutes) to 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes), stirring the granola approximately every 15 minutes and turning the pans front to back. About halfway through, switch the position of the pans, to put the one on top below and vice versa.
When the granola is golden brown, remove from the oven and let it cool in the pans. Once cooled, store in airtight container(s).
I like to use at least three types of chopped and slivered nuts, to get variety in taste and form. Cashews, almonds, and pistachios are my favorites, but feel free to experiment.
If you use coconut oil (melted) for part of the oil, the granola will crisp up even more.
This post was originally published in November, 2021. I’m republishing it now (in 2024)with a few new photos and tips.