The Unexpected Ingredient That Will Take Your Granola To The Next Level

We all know those people: the ones who pick all the cookie dough out of cookie dough ice cream and take the cashews out of the mixed nuts, leaving only peanuts in their wake. More serious are the folks who only eat the chunky bits of the granola, leaving you with the sad sediment of crusty oats. (Let's face it — if you wanted just oats, you'd be eating oatmeal, not using granola to top your yogurt or add pizzazz to your salad.)

Granola is delicious in its own right and is perfect when flying solo as a trail mix. And making homemade granola is easier than you might think. All you need are oats, nuts, a bit of oil and some liquid sweetener (such as honey or maple syrup), a sheet pan, and an oven — it's way easier than pie. 

But like pandemic friendships, the sticking together part can be more of a challenge. Sometimes those oats just want to stay by their lonesome, it appears. Trying to butter them up with extra fats or sweet-talking them with additional honey doesn't seem to do the trick, either, notes Food & Wine. Those oats guard their independence. So, what's a baker to do?

Just add egg whites

To create chunkier granola clusters, just add an egg, suggests Food & Wine. More precisely, you'll need one or two egg whites for every three cups of oats, per Bon Appétit. While the oil and sweeteners will add flavor and crunch to the oat and nut mixture, the binding agent in the egg white (ovalbumin) helps set the granola so that the pieces hold together in addition to getting crispy, notes The Kitchn. Translation: You'll get more and better chunks in your granola pan. 

So, how do you activate the binding agents? Whip your egg white before adding it to the rest of your ingredients. You don't need to break out the stand mixer, though — you aren't looking for hard peaks, you just need to generate enough froth from whipping to activate the egg proteins. And if you really want to take things up a notch, you can add additional flavorings like vanilla and/or almond extract to your egg white, which lends a frangipane aroma to both your kitchen and your granola. 

After mixing your oats, nuts, oil, and sweetener — plus any additional ingredients you enjoy like seeds or spices — you add the egg white to the rest, and put it all in the oven, baking as usual. The result? Fragrant, toasted, nutty oats that stick together.