By Bon Appétit
In our column Fake It or Make It we test a homemade dish against its prepackaged counterpart to find out what's really worth cooking from scratch.
Photograph by Danielle Walsh I'm an unapologetic lover of granola, but talk about a cereal with a roller-coaster past. For years it was written off by much of America as synonymous with unwashed hippies, until haters realized what sweet, crunchy goodness they were missing out on. Then came the dark ages of the low-carbohydrate diets, when this breakfast order drew stares of horror and disbelief. These days, my oat-based cereal pretty much gets the thumbs up from the spate of gluten-avoiders--so long as refined sugars and excess oil are kept in check. All in all, it's a good time to love granola. But how does store-bought stack up to homemade?
Kellogg's Low Fat Granola with Raisins vs. Bon Appétit's Everyday Granola
Granola is an oat-based, sweetened, baked cereal that often contains dried fruit and nuts (distinct from muesli, which is unbaked and unsweetened). The terms "granola" and "granula" were born in the late 19th century, but were used to refer to a Graham flour-based health food that resembled modern-day Grape Nuts. Both Charles W. Post and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, founders of the Post and Kellogg companies respectively, dabbled in granola recipes at that time, but only Post found a commercially viable product with Grape Nuts. The oat-based, fruit and nut granola that we know today first appeared in the 1960s, sold at health food stores and promptly embraced by hippie culture. In the ensuing decades granola has gone mainstream as a favorite breakfast item and snack.
Related: How To Make Better Comfort Food
Store-bought is cheaper. I paid $5.29 for a 6-cup box of the Kellogg's, and around $10 for ingredients to make the same quantity of homemade.
Advantage homemade. Both granolas have whole oats as their main ingredient, but the Kellogg's is high in refined sugar and contains palm oil. The homemade version contains protein-rich pecans and uses only a small amount of honey, brown sugar, and vegetable oil.
It took me an hour to make granola from scratch.
Homemade granola keeps for at least a week or two, stored in an air-tight container. Kellogg's product is stamped with a 'Best By' date a year out; a call to the company's consumer affairs line confirmed that Kellogg's does not differentiate shelf life between opened and unopened boxes.
What The Testers Said
First let me introduce our panel.
THE HEALTH NUT
A delicate eater, the health nut is calorie conscious but also likes to eat well
Calorie agnostic, our foodie judge has a sophisticated palate and a love of cooking
Ambivalent toward food trends and health concerns, this guy just wants to be fed when he's hungry
Between ages of 9 and 12 years old, not jaded, typically not into strong flavors
Testers sampled both granolas blind, alone and with milk. Everyone had a dramatic preference for the homemade, citing both a more satisfying texture and greater complexity of flavors.
The Health Nut: Homemade; "The store-bought is bland. It doesn't taste like anything besides sugar."
The Foodie: Homemade; "The homemade has this wonderful saltiness and brown sugar sweetness. It's loaded with toasty flavor."
The Kid: Homemade; "The other one is too hard, and it hurts my mouth."
The Dude: Homemade "It's not even close. I love the toasted flavor of the homemade, and all the nuts and fruit. I would eat this every day, and wouldn't eat the other one by choice."
See also: Three Recipes Every Chef Should Master
In this edition of Fake It or Make It there was no contest--four out of four testers preferred the homemade granola for its salty sweet, oven-baked flavor. From a nutrition perspective, too, the homemade makes for a more balanced breakfast or snack while the Kellogg's is little more than a sugar delivery system. If you're a regular granola-eater, it's worth investing a little time in your own.
More from Bon Appétit :
Modern Comfort Food
25 One-Bite Appetizers
DIY Pizza Party
10 Snacks You Thought Were Healthy But Really Aren't
Pick your sign
By Bon Appétit