Big Clusters Maple Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Granola

Storebought granola is the biggest ripoff of all time.

Homemade is mindlessly easy, tastes infinitely better, is made-to-order, and oh yeah, it’s a fraction of the cost.

My favorite kind of granola is the kind with big clusters and lots of textures and flavors. I covet those choice clusters, just ripe for picking.

Granola that’s sandy, dry, and loose with oats that don’t stick together is not my idea of granola. That’s toasted oatmeal. What a buzzkill.

This granola is all about the big chunky clusters and I have a few secrets for creating them. It’s a cinch to make, vegan, gluten-free, and highly adaptable based on personal preferences.

To make it, whisk together maple syrup, honey/agave/brown rice syrup (depending on vegan status), coconut oil, molasses, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. All those sticky ingredients, and the brown sugar that caramelizes, create a glue-like sauce that binds the oats together.

I used coconut oil, and the granola doesn’t taste at all like coconut, but use another oil if you prefer. And I used 2 tablespoons of cinnamon and while that sounds like a lot, it’s really not that much to nicely season a tray of oats, nuts, and dried fruit so it’s not bland. If you’re hesitant, you can always reduce to taste.

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To your saucy glue mixture, stir in oats (use certified GF if preferred) and almonds. If you don’t like almonds, don’t like nuts, want to use another type of nut, great. Skip, omit, or tweak to your liking. If omitting nuts, I suggest adding about 1/2 cup additional oats.

Spread the coated mixture on a baking tray and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the sauce that pools slightly at the edge of the pan begins to barely caramelize. Take the tray out of the oven, don’t stir it, don’t mess with it, just let it be. If you stir it, there’s no chance for the clusters to stay intact. When I read granola recipes that call for stirring every 10 minutes or so, I know those recipes will probably produce the loose, sandy, crumbly granola I try to avoid.

Top the warm granola with about 1 1/2 cups dried fruit. I used 3/4 cup of a raisin medley, 1/2 cup candied ginger, and 1/4 cup dried orange-scented cranberries. All the dried fruit and almonds are from TJs. I have half their dry goods section in my cupboard, so any excuse to use my odds and ends of dried fruit is good.

Use what you have, and if you don’t like raisins or are partial to another dried fruit, or none, go for it. I also like dried flattened bananas, dried mango, cherries, or blueberries. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the dried fruit and there’s enough carryover residual heat to begin to melt them. Again, don’t stir. Sprinkle and leave alone.

The final trick to creating the big clusters is to let the granola cool completely on the baking tray, exposed to air. If you make this before bed and let it cool overnight, even better. However, this granola is on the chewy and sticky side rather than crispy, hard, dry, or overly crunchy.

When you do go to break up the granola, you’re going to love seeing the well-formed clusters. You can store the granola in airtight containers, Ziplocks, or glass jars. It’ll keep for weeks and makes great gifts. But you may want to hoard it instead, and I highly doubt it’ll last more than a few days.

The maple flavor really shines and there’s a pleasant pop of cinnamon without being overdone. The semi-sweet chocolate is a nice touch, and breakfast or snacks are always better when there’s chocolate involved.

All the textures from the oats, nuts, and dried fruit make this so easy to down by the handful. You’ll never want storebought again.

Big Clusters Maple Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Granola (vegan, gluten-free)

My favorite kind of granola is the kind with big clusters and lots of textures and flavors. The granola is a cinch to make, vegan, gluten-free, and highly adaptable based on personal preferences. Swap out the type of oil, nuts, or dried fruit based on taste preference. Reduce the cinnamon and use certified gluten-free oats, if desired. The maple flavor really shines and there’s a pleasant pop of cinnamon without being overdone. Breakfast or snacks are always better when there’s chocolate involved. Don’t stir the granola in order to create big clusters, and the longer it’s exposed to air to cool, the crispier it gets. This granola is on the chewy and sticky side rather than crispy, hard, dry, or overly crunchy.

Did you make this recipe?

Ingredients:

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup honey/agave/brown rice syrup (use the later choices to keep vegan)
1/4 cup liquid-state coconut oil (canola or vegetable oil may be substituted)
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons cinnamon (reduce to 1 tablespoon if sensitive to cinnamon, or to taste)
1 tablespoon molasses (not blackstrap, too pungent)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch salt, optional and to taste
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned whole-rolled oats (not quick-cook or instant; use certified GF if necessary)
1 cup almonds (I used raw unsalted; or use your favorite nut)
1 1/2 cups dried fruit (I used 3/4 cup raisin medley, 1/2 cup candied ginger, 1/4 cup orange-scented dried cranberries; use your favorite dried fruits, or omit)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat or line with parchment paper. This granola is messy, sticky, and I recommend either a Silpat or parchment rather than just spraying a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together first 9 ingredients, through optional salt.
  3. Add oats, almonds, and toss to coat evenly.
  4. Turn mixture out onto prepared baking sheet, keeping mixture lightly piled. Smoothing lightly with a spatula is okay, but don’t pack down too much. You want air to be able to flow without it being tightly packed.
  5. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the sauce that pools slightly at the edge of the baking sheet begins to barely caramelize. Watch your granola closely to make sure it’s not burning since ingredients and ovens vary. Remove baking sheet from oven and don’t stir.
  6. Evenly sprinkle with dried fruit.
  7. Evenly sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  8. Do not stir granola and allow it to cool, for at least 1 hour, overnight if possible. The longer it’s exposed to air, the crispier and crunchier it becomes.
  9. Break granola apart and store in airtight containers with lids or in Ziplocks. Granola will keep airtight for at least 2 weeks.
Only Eats

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