12 Ways To Upgrade Your Store-Bought Granola

Crunchy, healthy, and delicious, granola sits comfortably on the summit of Snack Mountain. It's a dynamic treat that can be enjoyed savory or sweet, and every way in between. Granola was invented in the 1860s but didn't catch on until a century later after being rebranded and relaunched as an alternative to sugar-filled cereals and snacks. Granola can substitute the consistency, taste, and versatility of cereal, without its sugary ingredients. There are lots of granola brands that make delicious snack-worthy products.

Although many store-bought brands are perfectly fine as is, granola was made to be customized. That's where it has cereal beat; it's endlessly customizable. Your taste buds are missing out by not exploring the delicious potential of upgrading store-bought granola. A little sprucing here, a sprinkle of love there, and boring granola will become the life of the party. Beyond snack-worthy mixes, you can create all sorts of treats, baked goods, and more. If you enjoy these crunchy oats, you'll love hearing about these fun ways to upgrade store-bought granola.

1. Mix it with fresh fruits

It's hard to go wrong with granola and fresh fruits. From creamy banana and zesty pineapple to refreshing kiwi and fruity mango, it never hurts to add some fruity flare to store-bought granola. Berries are a popular add-in, they bring a sweet and tangy touch that's balanced by the toasted nutty taste of granola. Just about any berry variety will work too, as long as they're chopped down to a small enough size. There are many fruit types that complement granola. It's a quick and nutritious snack that's full of vitamins, fiber, and healthy fats.

According to WebMD, granola alone can contribute to weight loss, improved blood pressure, and reduced cholesterol levels. Adding fruit boosts those health-supporting qualities. Berries are antioxidant-rich while pineapple has anti-inflammatory powers. Apples are a refreshing option and a good source of vitamin C. If you're into tropical varieties, you've absolutely got to try passion fruit. It's sweet, tart, and loaded with fiber. With a bit of imagination, you can create countless fruity granola combos that'll make snack time worth looking forward to.

2. Pair with dried fruits or candy

Along with fresh fruits, using dried fruits and candy is another way to upgrade your store-bought granola. Dried fruits carry the same fruity taste and nutrients, with the added benefit of a longer shelf-life. They're great for use in large batches that you plan to store and can also be used to make granola bars. Another perk to using dried fruit over fresh is that it doesn't require any prep. Most, if not all, dried fruits pair nicely with granola.

If you have a sweeter tooth, skip the dried fruit and try candy. Like in cereal and trail mix, hard candies like M&M's, malt balls, chocolate chunks, and peanut butter cups are always great choices. You can get creative with all sorts of candy flavors. Try marshmallows for a chewy crunch or salted caramel for crisp creaminess. Here's a fun hack to jot down: Use leftover Halloween candy to upgrade store-bought granola. Although it's the one day that you're allowed sugary indulgence, you can always add a little nutritious granola to the mix.

Just make sure that you never cook dried fruit or candy with granola. When adding mix-ins to granola, timing is everything. Dried fruit and candy can be mixed directly with store-bought granola, but if you've toasted it, they should only be added after it's cooled.

3. Sprinkle into your pancake mix

Breakfast is about to get better with this next upgrade. Granola is one of the best ingredients for giving pancakes texture. All you have to do is sprinkle some into your pancake mix. Sweet, toasted, and nutty, it retains a crunchy consistency as it cooks and makes pancakes even more filling. The process is simple too. Following the usual steps, pour your pancake mix onto a hot griddle or into a hot pan until it forms a small circle.

Next, sprinkle each pancake circle with granola and cook until small holes appear on the top and edges. That's your cue to flip it. When the pancakes turn a light golden brown, that means that they're hot and ready to be enjoyed. Add a slice of butter, drizzle with maple or chocolate syrup, and garnish with the fresh fruit of your liking. A sweet, decadent, fruity, and nutritious breakfast is the perfect way to get the day going.

4. Combine with creamy nut butter

Simply put, nut butter and granola were made for each other. There's something irresistible about crunchy granola bits swimming in a sea of nutty creaminess. When blended together, it's a delicious and nutritious duo that can be enjoyed as a spread, on a sandwich, or molded into tasty no-bake energy balls. No-bake energy balls are snackable treats composed of granola (or rolled oats), nut butter, and seeds. We recommend using creamy nut butter varieties rather than oily or crunchy types — those have the best consistency for shaping and molding. Crunchy nut butter works fine too, but since you're adding granola, using that isn't really necessary.

No-bake energy balls are super easy to make. There are only three simple steps. Start by blending granola into the nut butter, along with any additional ingredients. Dried fruit, flax seeds, and chocolate chips are popular options. You'll then have to refrigerate the mixture until it stiffens to a moldable consistency. Now the mixture is ready to be molded into bite-sized balls. These miniature energy boosters are great midday snacks and can also be stored away and enjoyed later. We definitely suggest choosing these tiny power-ups over sodium and sugar-filled snacks if you're looking for a nutritious alternative. 

5. Blend into your baking mix for texture

Whether salty or sweet, granola is the perfect crunchy addition to baking mixes. Its texture gives pastries a dynamic mouthfeel. Along with crispy bites, ingredients like chewy dried fruit and earthy seeds can breathe new life into some of your favorite baked goods. Put a twist on tradition with oatmeal cluster cookies. Granola is a surefire way to take your oats to a whole new level. That's just one tasty treat you can add granola to — it's also scrumptious with muffins, cakes, banana bread, and more. If you're looking to reduce your sugar intake, you can compensate by using a granola mix with sweet ingredients like cocoa nibs, vanilla extract, or peanut butter chips.

It's important to be mindful of the quantity you add to the baking mix though. Too much granola and you'll be disappointed with the results that you pull from the oven. Add enough to pepper the mix, but not so much that it changes the consistency. Of course, adjust depending on the size of the ingredients in your granola blend. You can also sprinkle some atop finished baked goods for another layer of crunch.

6. Skip the oven with no-bake cookies

As rewarding as enjoying a fresh batch of cookies from the oven is, sometimes life doesn't allow time for baking. It's a precise process that can go awry without patience. Luckily, with no-bake cookies, you can skip the bake-time entirely. As the name implies, no-bake desserts don't require using your oven, which means that you can get your pastry fix and still have more than enough time for work deadlines. Cookies are one of many types of decadent treats you can make without baking. There are no-bake cakes and pies too.

It only takes three minutes and a handful of ingredients to make 10 servings of no-bake cookies. All you need is granulated sugar, one stick of butter, low-fat milk, baking cocoa, and old-fashioned oats. Using a saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, milk, and cocoa. Bring the mixture to a boil while making sure to stir often. After a few minutes, remove the saucepan from the eye and use a tablespoon to transfer dollops to wax paper. Let each dollop sit until it firms — and just like that, your no-bake cookies are ready to scarf down. If you have the willpower to save some for later, no-bake cookies can last up to a week in an airtight container or Ziploc bag at room temperature, and up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

7. Grind it down to breadcrumbs

When thinking of ways to upgrade store-bought granola, it's natural if adding ingredients is the first thing that comes to mind. Even without mix-ins, this crunchy clustered snack is far more versatile than you might expect. Did you know that one way to elevate store-bought granola is to grind it down and use it as breadcrumbs? It's a suitable alternative for those looking to avoid gluten, and depending on the granola mix, it can add a touch of sweet or savory. Take note though, that there are some granola varieties that aren't gluten-free.

Breadcrumbs have all sorts of uses. You can use them to bread meats and seafood or add texture to pasta and salads. Turning granola into breadcrumbs is super simple: all you need is a food processor. It can be used in any of your normal breadcrumb-infused recipes. For example, meatloaf, chicken cutlets, or casserole. It can even be used to help prevent cake from sticking to the pan or as a substitute for panko in this breaded air fryer chicken recipe.

8. Make homemade granola bars

While it may seem like a no-brainer, you'd be surprised at how many granola lovers have never upgraded store-bought granola into homemade bars. After all, why go through the hassle of making your own when there are so many good brands available? That's an easy one, you haven't experienced the delicious potential of granola bars until you've made them at home. You have the option of deciding which ingredients to use, whether you want it savory or sweet, and if you enjoy the consistency chewy or crispy. Fun fact, if you lean towards the latter, using egg whites will help you achieve ultra-crispy granola.

Sprucing up store-bought granola bars is easy. The process is similar to making granola bars from scratch, except of course, you get to skip the granola-making part and jump right to adding any additional ingredients that you want. You need honey, cinnamon, and dry milk to make the actual bars. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl then pour the mixture into a baking pan evenly. Depending on the ingredients used, the granola bar should take 45 to an hour to bake in the oven. Make sure to let it rest after you remove it from the oven. Once it cools down, cut the granola in bars and enjoy. If storing for later, always use an airtight container.

9. Drizzle with maple syrup

As you probably know by now, granola is a super versatile snack. It's delicious right out of the bag but when paired with a complementary ingredient, it can be transformed in so many mouthwatering ways. Some transformations can be unexpected, while others don't require much work to make. Using maple syrup to make granola clusters is one easy upgrade. Granola clusters are those chunky and crunchy bunches buried amongst the bits that pleasantly surprise you. Some store-bought brands already sell pre-clustered granola while others offer the loose variety.

If you wanna enjoy the fresh taste of toasted oats and saccharin syrup, we definitely recommend making your own granola clusters. At its simplest, all you need for the recipe is maple syrup and coconut or olive oil — but if you use plain granola, you can also add mix-ins. Try leveling up the flavor with vanilla extract, cinnamon, and sea salt. Mix-ins like slivered almonds, coconut flakes, pecans, and sunflower seeds are also tasty additions. Baking should take no more than 45 minutes — the baking pan must be rotated after 25 minutes in order for it to cook evenly.

10. Add it to chocolate for a tasty snack

There's just something about pairing foods with chocolate. Its creamy, delectable, and rich flavor has a way of elevating foods to delicious new heights. Whether chips or chunks, when chocolate is combined with granola, the experience is sweet harmony. If you're a die-hard chocolate fan, we suggest upping the ante with tasty tree bark. Also known as chocolate granola bark, it's a thin layer of chocolate that's filled with add-ins like nuts, cookies, candies, pretzels, and dried fruit — pretty much all the ingredients you'd find in granola. The candy is broken into random shapes that resemble tree bark.

It's similar to peppermint bark, which is a popular chocolate-covered seasonal treat. It offers a tough consistency, yet is not as hard as peanut brittle. The best part about chocolate granola bark is that it only takes 5 minutes to prepare. You can also switch things up by using different store-bought granolas and types of chocolate. No matter what, we always recommend using quality brands. It all boils down to taste and diet preference. For example, if you're into sweeter chocolate, you might enjoy some of the more popular brands like Nestle, Hershey, and Ghirardelli. Milk chocolate has a creamier, milder taste, whereas, if you prefer dark chocolate with more cocoa content, semi-sweet chocolate chips are the way to go.

11. Turn granola into pie crust

You clever home chefs out there might've guessed that if granola can be turned into breadcrumbs, then there's a chance it can be turned into pie crust. Well, you're 100% correct — granola can be transformed into an amazing pie crust. The nutty and toasty taste is the perfect foundation, and it's easy to make too — all you need is store-bought granola (preferably a sweet type), unsalted butter, and salt. Consider traditional crust yesterday's news and give your pie a granola twist.

The process of making it is basically the same, except you'll first need to grind the granola down with a food processor. Once ground to a fine consistency, add melted butter and stir until the mixture can stick to your finger. Transfer the filling to a pie dish and compress it until it takes on the form, then bake it in the oven at 350 F until the crust is firm. You can fill it with your pie mixture after it cools. Put a spin on a seasonal classic and try granola crust with this pumpkin pie recipe. It also goes beautifully with New York-style cheesecake and banana cream pie if you enjoy fruity flavors.

12. Churn crunchy bites into ice cream

Of all the delicious ways to upgrade store-bought granola, ice cream might be one of the best. Basic flavors like plain vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate are just waiting to be crunch-ified — ice cream varieties that come with mix-ins work as well. It all depends on what you're going for. If you enjoy a simple flavor profile that's more refined, we recommend plain ice cream, but if you enjoy everything plus the kitchen sink, your saccharine excursion awaits.

When choosing what types of store-bought granola blends and ice creams to pair, try thinking about known complementary flavors. Say you go with strawberry ice cream; granola with dried berries makes for a great fit flavor-wise. Whereas granola with coconut could be an interesting pair for chocolate ice cream. Follow your tastebuds though, there are endless combinations to experiment with and it literally only takes a couple of minutes to make. Trust us, whatever flavor combination you test out, it's nearly impossible for it to go wrong.