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I absolutely love granola. My love affair with the breakfast-meets-snack-food category began as a bulk-bin buyer. It’s one of my favorite things to snack on no matter the brand. There’s just something super satisfying about the crunch and the endless options involved with mixing and matching sweet and savory.
That’s why I always make room in my pantry for boxed or bagged versions of granola, despite having recently discovered how easy it is to make. This way, when I don’t have time to make granola from scratch, I can scoop a handful of it and pair with a bowl of berries, ice cream, or Greek yogurt.
That said, not all commercial granolas are created equal. I tested several major brands along with the smaller-batch ones that caught my eye to see how they would hold up against my sophisticated granola taste buds.
To add to the fun, I assembled other tasters — five of my fellow mom friends — and asked them to weigh in on the flavors, textures, and intrigue of the granolas we tried. What were their qualifications, you ask? Each one is either a regular runner, hiker, GORP enthusiast, or a patient parent who has spent more than a little bit of time shepherding a picky eater kid through the cereal aisle, meaning they all have strong granola opinions.
We tried seven brands of shelf-stable granolas, all of which are available on DoorDash. First, we tried them straight, in small bowlfuls right out of the box to get a gut reaction to the crunch quotient. Second, we tasted the granola in milk to see how each one held up with a liquid addition. I poured the milk first, added enough granola to absorb the liquid, and then waited a few minutes before tasting.
For me to recommend a bag of granola, it must meet three requirements: It should taste as close to homemade as possible; it needs to retain a satisfying crunch after being soaked in milk (which all seven achieved); and it’s got to have a little something extra special, whether that’s a cool flavor profile or an ingredient that packs an extra healthy punch.
With that in mind, here are seven winning granolas worth ordering:
Granola isn’t just a bunch of toasted oats and honey. Thanks to the thick pieces of shredded coconut and chocolate squares, this granola tastes like Almond Joy, which is a positive in my book. Its texture won serious points with my tasters, too. “Am I eating a coconut macaroon or am I munching on granola?” Lucy wondered. We all agreed that this granola was the most intriguing of the bunch — and delicious enough to top over a bowl of ice cream, which I did as soon as everyone left my house.
Ghee is one ingredient I wouldn’t have considered adding to my granola, and it brings this one to the next level. A women-owned granola brand, Jamie’s Farm has an impressive ingredient list that prompted plenty of “wows” from the tasters: grass-fed ghee, oats, and chai (a mix of cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger). (Fun fact: The chai is upcycled from Dona, a tea company in Brooklyn.)
As we tried this one, we suddenly felt like we were doing a wine tasting. “This one has a kaleidoscope of flavors,” Carol said. Lucy added, “The more I eat this, the more I discover different layers.” Lisa shared, “This is a granola that has a very complex after-note.”
I may be a granola purist, but if I’m going to buy granola, I want it packed with all sorts of healthy add-ons. Purely Elizabeth didn’t disappoint. Its ingredient list is long and features organic everything — we’re talking amaranth puffs, quinoa flakes, and chia seeds, all of which are sources of protein. This combo, along with the cranberries and nutty flavor, had me digging into the bag over and over again and hovering over my granola in milk. I kept thinking: “Could this be a cookie in disguise?” Carol agreed with me, saying, “I can imagine using this granola to make a big yummy round cookie.”
Since some of our kids are athletes, finding a high-protein, shelf-stable item is always top of mind. This granola more than fits the bill with 10 grams of protein per serving — most contain half that — and super grains such as oats, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, and quinoa galore.
But what sends this granola over the top is a supreme crunch and a pleasantly high proportion of cinnamon. The moms snacked on this by the handful. I plan to have this on hand for when my son comes home from college.
It’s hard to argue with the fact that granola is basically just as caloric as dessert, so finding a granola with 30% less sugar definitely appeals. According to the packaging, one serving contains 8 grams, a significant reduction in comparison to other Bear Naked granola products that contain 13 grams.
With an ample ratio of roasted almonds per spoonful, this granola was a definite favorite. Margaret declared that this granola is the real thing: “I would totally take this to a yoga retreat and not be called out as a fake.”
There’s something nostalgic about Nature Valley. Maybe it’s because I’m a ’70s kid, and I remember it as one of the first to the commercial granola party. It’s also the kind of product that feels so decidedly middle-of-the-road that no one could find anything that notable about it during our tasting, save for the price: a reasonable $6.59 per one-pound bag, which is half the price of some of the other premium granolas.
Still, the moms couldn’t stop snacking and thinking of different ways they’d want to eat this. “This would be yummy paired with berries and Greek yogurt,” Margaret said. And Lori couldn’t help but add: “I’d pack this for a travel soccer game and I’d definitely take this with me on a hike.”
This non-GMO, USDA organic granola reads as healthier — maybe it’s because Cascadian Farm is one of the first organic brands in the U.S., or maybe because the packaging has a crunchy, earthy vibe.
Despite its healthful appearances, this granola had an old-fashioned oatmeal raisin cookie vibe, probably because it features whole grain oats, raisins, and a touch of cinnamon. “This would be great as a late evening snack with hot tea,” Lucy said. We all agreed.
Photographer: Paul Quitoriano
Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros Gomez