I treasure granola for its subtle, sweet crunch and easy snackability. It’s one of my favorite toppings for yogurt or smoothie bowls, and the flavor options are endless. My only beef with the stuff is getting the perfect consistency. (I like clumpy, clustered granola.) Store bought gets expensive, and homemade granola often ends up way too loose for me, so what’s a girl to do? Figure out how to clumpify granola, of course. Here are my tips to clump up any granola recipe you’re using.
Granola recipes typically include oil and a liquid sweetener to make up the wet ingredients. This is a vital part of granola making, and really the only part that differentiates it from its unsweetened, raw, decidedly less fun cousin, muesli. The oil helps conduct heat from the oven so the oats and nuts cook thoroughly rather than just dry toast, and the sweetener adds color as it caramelizes and, of course, sweetens. Every other ingredient is dry: oats, nuts, spices, seeds. To make granola stick together in clusters, you have to make moments of what I’ll call “granola glue” with the wet and dry ingredients.
How to make granola with small clusters
There’s a middle ground between completely loose granola and the large clustered variety. To make granola that sticks together in small pieces, you’ll need to make granola glue with a powdered or ground ingredient. Try nut flours, oat flour, milled flax seeds, wheat bran, or germ. This finely powdered ingredient will mix with the oil and sweetener, gluing some of the oats, seeds, and nuts together.
You can do this with any granola recipe you use by simply adding this binder in with the other dry ingredients. The amount will differ slightly by the type of powdered ingredient you choose. For a starting point, add about a third of a cup of the powdered component for every half cup of total wet ingredients. There should be enough liquid to thoroughly moisten the oats and everything else without puddling at the bottom of the mixing bowl.
How to make seriously big clusters
Credit: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
The powdered ingredients will only go so far. To make granola extra clumpy, bring in reinforcements. Use a powdered ingredient as instructed above, but add a small amount of egg whites to the wet ingredients in your recipe. Egg whites have no fat in them (which is great if you’re avoiding additional fats), so when the water evaporates out of the whites in the oven the remaining proteins set up hard, clear, and crispy, the same way meringue or royal icing dries firm. It’s the same technique I use in this easy recipe for sugared nuts.
Add one tablespoon of egg whites (fresh or cartoned work fine) to the oil and sweetener measurements of your recipe. I use one tablespoon for every half cup of total wet ingredients. Whisk the wet ingredients together thoroughly, especially if you’re using fresh egg whites. Add the dry ingredients and mix. The small amount of egg white will bind with more strength than just the sweetener alone and make larger clusters. Don’t worry, the bonds are still relatively fragile. This isn’t destroy-the-roof-of-your-mouth, Nature Valley levels of strength.
Baking and cooling matter
Credit: Allie Chanthorn Reinmann
Keep a thick layer. When you pour the granola mixture into the pan for baking, make the layer about a third of an inch thick. You want to give your clusters a chance to form, so don’t scatter the pieces away from each other or make the layer too thin.
Stir and press. Most recipes ask for the granola to be tossed, flipped, or stirred a few times while baking to ensure even cooking. Every time you do this, some of the bonds will break. That’s okay, but make sure to form new ones before you return the granola to the oven. To do this, simply use a spatula to toss the granola, and then press it down firmly in a layer about a third of an inch thick again.
Cool first, then break. Once the granola has finished its cooking time and is well-browned, don’t disturb it. Let the granola cool as it is, in a pressed layer. This allows the sugars and proteins a chance to set firmly and crisp up. Once the tray is room temperature, about 20 minutes or so, use a spatula to lift the granola. It should break apart according to what you added—powdered ingredients will break easily into small clusters, and egg whites will create large hunks. Apply a small amount of pressure to break the pieces into the size you want.
Toss your cooled granola clusters with dried fruit, and it’s ready to eat. Feel free to snack immediately, or store it in an airtight container for up to a month at room temperature.