The Foodie


The Foodie: Granola

October 01, 2008
by Sarah Amandolare
Whether you prefer a boutique brand of granola or granola bars from your average supermarket, the appeal of simple ingredients like oats, dried fruits, nuts, and honey is undeniable. Learn how granola has gone from hippie snack to breakfast mainstay, get tips for making your own delectable mixture, and discover a few new brands and flavors to try.

Granola Basics and History

You’ve probably held a bit in your pocket beside a campfire or thrown some atop a bowl of yogurt, but what exactly is granola, other than a crunchy oat-laden crumble?

Massachusetts bakery Big Sky Bread describes granola as “a breakfast and snack food consisting of rolled oats, nuts, and mixed with honey” and roasted in the oven “until crispy.” In addition to being an early-morning selection, granola is a favorite of hikers and campers because it’s lightweight and provides a quick energy fix.

In the 1870s, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg first created a breakfast mixture of “whole grains, baked and ground up.”  He named it “Granula,” but after being sued because the name was already being used for another product, changed the name to “Granola.”

In the 1900s, Layton Gentry began popularizing “Crunchy Granola,” and sold his formula to Tennesee company Soxex Inc. in 1965. Soon after, granola became a mainstream “breakfast cereal served with milk and fruit” as well as a snack and was used “as a base for cookies,” according to Time magazine.

Making Your Own Granola

The New York Times’ Mark Bittman is a master of breaking down cooking for the masses. In a video segment on making granola, Bittman demonstrates a simple recipe for what seems to be one of his favorite treats. And, aside from ‘60s nostalgia, he provides two reasons for crafting your own granola at home: better taste and better ingredients.

Granola to Try

In August 2008, the blog Serious Eats taste-tested 14 brands of granola and narrowed their list down to six favorites ranging in price, texture and flavor profile. According to the blogger, “granola is now in the midst of a second renaissance,” as is evidenced by “the dizzying array of granola available at the grocery store.”

Coming in at number two on Serious Eats’ list, and earning credit for granola’s recent reemergence was Bear Naked granola. The company has a homemade history, begun by Kelly Flatley and Brendan Synnott, two friends from Darien, Connecticut. However, Bear Naked’s many varieties have exploded in popularity since the company was sold to the Kellogg Company for $122 million.

Special Varieties

Gluten-Free Girl discusses her dilemma of loving oatmeal and granola, but suffering from celiac disease. She offers a tasty-sounding gluten-free granola recipe, and recommends two gluten-free brands of oats. In her recipe, she uses McCann’s oats and rice flour to achieve the perfect texture and consistency.

Scroll down in this Paris-themed post on the blog Orangette for a passage on chocolate granola. This decadent variety is not dripping in milk chocolate, but incorporates raw almonds, unsweetened coconut and bits of bittersweet chocolate for a departure from the typical oats and honey versions of granola. Apparently, the blogger enjoyed this treat daily during her stay in the City of Lights after getting a bag at a Parisian grocery store.

For a truly healthy granola fix, try Raw Granola, which was a hit at a recent Toronto Vegetarian Food Fair. Increasingly, “research suggests eating high-enzyme foods helps digestion,” according to the Tree Hugger blog. Additionally, enzyme-rich diets are associated with increased vitality and slower aging.

There isn’t always time or money to make your own granola or sit down to a bowl of nearly homemade granola purchased from your health food store. In which case, there are plenty of delicious and healthy granola bars available on grocery store shelves. Real Simple points to four favorites, including crunchy and chewy varieties.

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