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I wasn’t always a granola person.

I mean that literally. (I’ll leave figuratively up to debate.) I was really never crazy about granola. I felt the same way about it that I do about trail mix: there’s always something in it that I’m not crazy about (I’m looking at you, raisins), and it feels like there’s way too much added sugar (and sometimes salt) for it to be healthy.

That’s not to say I’m against sweet, unhealthy things — just sweet, unhealthy things parading around as health foods. If you’re going to eat something sweet and unhealthy, why dance around the oat- and nut-sprinkled mass of sugar rather than just going for the chocolate cake?

But I digress. Because of my objections laid out above, I never really enjoyed granola until I made it myself. And then I couldn’t stop making it. Being able to control what went into my granola made all the difference.

Making granola is just about as simple as it gets, and it’s pretty impossible to mess up (unless you forget to take it out of the oven, which I did once). At its purest, granola is just oats, nuts, sugar, and oil mixed together and baked until crunchy. The proportions of the dry ingredients, the sugar level, and whatever mix-ins you add are almost infinitely adjustable, which makes it a perfect recipe candidate for those days when you want to bake something but don’t have the level of concentration necessary for, say, croissants.

The one hurdle I had when when I first started making my own granola was getting it to be crunchy enough. I was originally using honey as my only source of sugar, which was delicious but decidedly un-crunchy. By replacing a bit of the honey with plain sugar, I was able to add some crunch without taking away the honey flavor.

After tinkering around with various batches of granola for months, I came up with a master recipe that I now adjust to fit whatever culinary whim I’m feeling. This week I was craving cinnamon and chocolate, and so this recipe was born.

The chocolate flavor in the granola comes from both cocoa powder and chocolate chips, and there’s a a hefty dose of cinnamon and a hint of cayenne in there too. Flaxseed and wheat germ make it innocuously healthy, and a strong honey flavor ties it all together. I love this granola over milk or with a bowl of plain yogurt drizzled with honey.

mexican chocolate granola

Makes about 4 cups

I love using mini chocolate chips in my granola, but regular-sized chips (or chopped chocolate, if you’re feeling fancy) works too.

If you want to up the Mexican factor here, substitute the almonds with pumpkin seeds and the sugar with piloncillo and you won’t regret it.

  • 2 ½ cups (8 ¾ ounces) rolled oats
  • ¾ cup (2 ¼ ounces) sliced almonds
  • ½ cup (2 ounces) dried unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)
  • ⅓ cup (1 ⅜ ounces) wheat germ
  • ¼ cup (1 ¼ ounces) ground flaxseed
  • ¼ cup (1 ¾ ounces) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (⅜ ounce) cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ⅓ cup safflower oil
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the oats, almonds, coconut, wheat germ, flaxseed, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne in a medium bowl. Whisk together the oil, honey, and vanilla in a small bowl, then add the wet mixture to the dry mixture. Stir thoroughly, until all the dry ingredients are evenly coated.

Dump the granola mixture out onto the sheet pan and spread it out in a thin, even layer. Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring the granola every 5-10 minutes. If you’re wanting extra-crunchy granola, make sure that after the last time you stir, you pack the granola tightly into a thin rectangle with your stirring utensil. Once it’s done, the granola should be uniformly golden brown.

Once out of the oven, let the granola cool on the pan to room temperature, then crumble into whatever size clusters you wish. Mix in the chocolate chips, making sure to wait until the granola is completely cool.

The granola should keep, sealed, for 2 weeks at room temperature or 3 months in the freezer.