When it comes to granola, I call my husband The Beast. For him, granola is breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snack. Because of this we go through it very quickly, and so every Sunday I replenish our supply so that The Beast may be fed.
For a long time this meant cranking on the oven, which is the traditional method of making granola. And let’s be honest, that’s just a pain. It really is. Hence the better, easier way to make granola: the slow cooker.
Why use the slow cooker for granola?
First, the oven baking method doesn’t really allow you to do big batches. If you bake the granola on a sheet pan and pile it on too thick, then you just get granola that stays wet in the middle and burns on the outside.
Yes, you can mix it up halfway through, but it’s a mess waiting to happen. That, or you cook it in multiple batches but frankly, who has time for that?
Second, during the warmer months, I really hate turning on the oven.
For these reasons, I prefer the slow cooker method for making granola.
How to use the slow cooker to make granola
It’s a simple trick, really. The key is to leave the lid of the slow cooker slightly ajar.
This allows moisture to escape and dry air to get in, essentially turning the slow cooker into an air dryer. All the granola needs is about 2 1/2 hours and a bit of attention every 20 to 30 minutes. Afterwards, you place the granola onto baking sheets to cool it quickly, add dried fruit, and it’s ready.
If there is one downside to this method, it’s that you won’t get any big clusters of granola. You can thank the generous amount of air flow and the few rounds of stirring you’ll be doing, along with the lack of intense high heat from an oven, cementing the oats together with the sugar. However, I doubt you’ll miss them as the end result tastes just as good.
If your family is full of granola beasts the way mine is, then trust me when I say this recipe is just what you need to keep their hunger in check.
Granola is a work of improvisation
This recipe is more of a guideline than anything else. I’ve used more or less oats or nuts depending on what I’ve had on hand. The Beast, who has an incurable sweet tooth, adds a quarter cup of packed brown sugar in with the dry ingredients if he’s needing a midweek batch after having consumed the week’s supply early.
Dried fruit is also the norm, but if you have access to freeze-dried fruit, I encourage you to give it a go for a crunchy-all-over granola. Plus, as freeze-dried fruit has nearly zero moisture, it helps your granola keep shelf-stable far longer than if you use regular dried fruit.
Freeze-dried fruit is a bit more costly, so if you want to use regular dried fruit then that’s just fine. I switch between both depending on my mood and always love the results.
Really, regardless of what I’ve done to tweak the recipe, the granola always turns out well. I’ve put a few of my favorite variations at the bottom of the recipe, but feel free to make your own and let us know about it in the comments!
My Favorite Granola Variations!
- Apricot-Raspberry Granola (pictured): 1 cup almonds, 2 tablespoons chia seeds, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots, and 1/4 cup freeze-dried raspberries.
- Cherry Almond Granola: Use 2 cups whole or slivered almonds. Add 2 teaspoons of almond extract to the liquid mixture. Add 1 cup of chopped dried cherries after cooking.
- Banana Berry Granola: Use 2 cups chopped walnuts. Add 1 cup dried or freeze-dried blueberries and 1 cup chopped dried bananas after cooking.
- Autumn Granola: Use 2 cups pecans and 1 heaping teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (or a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove). Use maple syrup for the liquid mixture. Add 1 cup dried cranberries after cooking.
- Heavenly Granola: Use 2 cups chopped raw pistachios, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 heaping teaspoon cardamom. Use honey for the liquid mixture and add 2 teaspoons orange blossom water (1 tablespoon of orange zest, or a teaspoon of orange extract will do in a pinch).
- Posh Granola: Omit the cinnamon. Add 1 teaspoon of finely ground Earl Grey tea with the dry ingredients. Use honey instead and add 2 teaspoons of orange zest to the liquid mixture.
- Birdseed Granola: Use 1 cup almonds, 1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds. (I’ve also used hemp and chia seeds for this recipe in lieu of or in addition to sesame and/or poppy seeds).
- Tropical Granola: Add 1 teaspoon of ground vanilla bean to the dry mix. Add dried pineapple, kiwi, banana, mango, and/or papaya.
More Granola Recipes to Try!
How to Make Granola in the Slow Cooker
This recipe can be made in smaller slow cookers, but it requires a lot more checking and needs more time to cook; I also I find the results are a bit uneven. More surface area means more even cooking, so use larger one if possible when in doubt.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, coconut oil, or cooking spray for greasing the slow cooker
- 2 cups raw and unsalted nuts and seeds
- 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking oats; gluten-free, if needed)
- 1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup coconut oil (melted) or olive oil
- 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cups freeze-dried fruit or 1 cup dried fruit, chopped if the fruits are larger than raisins (Or use a delicious mix of both!)
Lightly spray or grease the inside of the slow cooker with oil.
Add the ingredients to the slow cooker: Combine the oats, coconut, nuts and seeds, spices, and salt in the slow cooker and stir to combine.
Whisk together the oil, liquid sweetener, and vanilla extract. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix together.
Slow cook the granola: Set the slow cooker to high and leave the lid a bit ajar. This will allow moisture to escape and encourage hot air to circulate.
Cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring the mixture together thoroughly every 20 to 30 minutes. (For my decade-old slow cooker, the magic number for the total cooking time seems to be 2 hours and 15 minutes). Be aware that each slow cooker is different, so you may need more or less time.
Toward the end of cooking, keep a closer eye on it as the nuts and coconut may begin to burn if they’ve not been stirred enough. The granola is finished when it starts to smell fragrant and the ingredients take on a toasted color.
Cool the granola: Spread the granola out onto a few cookie sheets lined with foil or parchment (for easy transfer later) to encourage cooling. The granola will crisp further as it cools, about 10 to 15 minutes. Once cool, stir in any dried fruit as desired.
Store the granola: Place in an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place. Use within 2 weeks.