The Real Foods guide to making your own muesli
Maximilian Bircher-Brenner invented a simple muesli over a 100 years ago. Today, there are lots of cereals out there to choose from, let alone mueslis and sometimes the choice is just too much to fathom! So many different branded varieties, with so many different ingredients and not all of them good. With that in mind, you might consider creating your own muesli, tailored to your dietary requirements and not forgetting - one to excite your palate! This is a guide to the various ingredients in muesli and advice on how to create the perfect version of bircher muesli for yourself. Click on the highlighted links below to take you directly to that section of the article or on the highlights throughout the article to take you to the products in our webshop.
Traditional Bircher Muesli
Updated Bircher Muesli recipe
Muesli Bases - a healthy start
Bite, crunch & texture
Alternatives to dairy - coconut yoghurts and hemp milks
Around 1900 a Swiss physician by the name of Maximilian Bircher-Brenner invented muesli for his patients. Having suffered from jaundice himself he had experimented with a range of raw and wholefoods on himself and his family. Raw and wholefood intake for health seems sensible enough to us now (and studies show he was right, we do need those nutrients) but at the time it was groundbreaking and subject to a fair bit of controversy.
His basic idea was that raw fruits and vegetables will help you heal. The original and traditional Bircher Muesli recipe used condensed milk or cream, as at the time pasteurisation was not widespread and raw milk can be very dangerous if not handled correctly. His muesli emphasises raw fruit and soaking oats. It tastes a little like a cool and creamy porridge.
Muesli became popular throughout the sixties as health food and vegetarian diets became more popular. We’ve been selling the ingredients here at Real Foods since the time we used to be called ‘Real Foods Bulk Wholesale Victuallers’, over 40 years ago! A tried and tested healthy breakfast cereal recipe, with an ethos close to our hearts, using the very best in wholefoods.
The traditional recipe for Bircher Muesli is pretty simple and consists of key ingredients - oats, lemon, apple, nuts and cream - the emphasis being on the fruit. Variants have included pinhead oats, milk, apple and lemon juice, honey, grated apples, cinnamon, dried nuts, dried fruits, toasted coconut, berries, and an optional dollop of yoghurt. Today, the choice of ingredients is wide and you can easily invent new favourite mixes. Chia seeds add creaminess for those avoiding dairy, mango and coconut for those wanting a tropical twist or simply a handful of pecans, because you can - it's your muesli recipe now!
Making your own Bircher Muesli couldn't be simpler, try the recipe below and add your own twists!
Original Bircher Recipe
Traditional Bircher Muesli
1 tablespoon rolled oats (soaked overnight in 2-3 tablespoons of water)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
I tablespoon of condensed milk or cream
200 grams of apple (preferably a sour variety, grated over the muesli just before eating)
Topped with 1 tablespoon of ground hazelnuts or almonds
Modern Bircher Recipes
Try the original recipe updated with a few vegan and gluten-free alternatives in our recipe section here. The cheerful pictures above and below are from our colleague's successful bircher muesli experiment! Yum, she says, definitely tasty.
Or use this updated recipe for a modern twist on it to make a truly 21st century muesli
Modern versions tend to replace the condensed milk or cream with live, natural or coconut yoghurts. Live yoghurts add pre and probiotics to the muesli as well as creaminess. Other popular choices include greek yoghurts, creme fraiche or milk. If you're avoiding lactose or dairy, try coconut yoghurts or nut milks to add creaminess.
The addition of cinnamon, honey or nutmeg is also common in modern recipes to sweeten the muesli once the condensed milk is removed.
Many advocates of bircher muesli still recommend soaking the oats overnight to create the correct texture, although rolled oats are already steam cooked and the phytic acid has already been removed in the pre-cooking.
However, if you're planning on making the recipe with Pinhead or Oat Groats for a wholegrain, chewier version then pre-soaking will cut down on the preparation time. It will also mean it is easily digestible. Try using rye, wheat or other wholefood grains to add texture. Softening them is essential as you are not cooking this muesli.
Generally oats or rye are soaked in water overnight, however some advocates of the muesli often soak their preferred oats in fruit juice to sweeten and add nutrients. Try apple or orange juice to soak them.
What we would emphasise is that muesli is much better for you when it's made using fresh, ideally organic ingredients. Our own brand oats, flakes and grains start in sizes as small as 100 grams (and cost as little as 47 pence!), so you can experiment with small amounts and if you keep it in a sealed container in a cool,dark place you'll get ALL the nutrient benefits and a far better flavour profile. Find our basic flakes here in our webshop.
Making your own muesli base
Begin with a basic muesli base, such as our wheat-free or no added sugar muesli bases, so you know exactly what you’re starting out with. All the ingredients used in our mueslis are listed on the packet or sack and you can also get advice in store on what might best suit you as a starting point.
Once you’ve got your muesli base, the sky’s the limit. There are many things you could add to give it a greater range of texture, taste and health benefits. You can build your muesli around these three components, so without further ado let’s look our starting point, the base.
We have oat groats, pinhead oatmeal and medium oatmeal which are entirely uncooked (not raw - they're heat stabilised so they don't go rancid, useful if you plan to store your muesli). There's also porridge and jumbo oats which are steamed and rolled, meaning they create a creamy base easily. Not forgetting oat bran for those who want to add more fibre to their diets. If you want more information on all the different types of oats - have a look at our oats article detailing the differences here.
Our oats and oatmeal can be found here on the website.
A good healthy start
If you take our wheat-free muesli base as an example, you’ve got barley flakes, rye flakes, jumbo oats, porridge oats and oat bran (organic).
Barley contains high levels of dietary fibre, helping with your digestion and selenium which is an antioxidant and good for fighting the harmful free radicals in your body which contribute to the ageing process and can promote cancer. Using barley can also help reduce your LDL cholesterol level.
Looking at rye flakes it’s difficult to know where to start, but amongst many health benefits from consumption, it has been found to be specifically beneficial to post-menopausal women at risk from high cholesterol levels and is also a good anti-cancer agent, helping your body to more effectively remove the toxins in your body that can promote cancer. Finally, you’ve got your oats. Another great source of dietary fibre and another good way for men and women to combat high cholesterol levels, the Scots haven’t been eating them all these years for naught you know!
We should also point out that our wheat-free muesli base is sugar free.
Crunchy, nutty or are you both?
Adding bite,crunch and texture. To give your Muesli a bit more bite, try adding some flakes. These add a bit of welcome crunch, a nice balance against the softness of the oats, and are high in fibre so good for your digestion. Don’t forget to make sure your flakes have no added sugar.
Our basic flakes can be found here on our website. They include buckwheat, wheatbran and bran flakes, crispy rye or wheat flakes. Or try quinoa pops or barley flakes!
Hold it there though, you will want to give some of these a miss if you are on a wheat free diet, so for those of you with wheat intolerance, go for nuts or our gluten free options instead for your texture. Real Foods has a wide variety of nuts and gluten free options. Alternatively or additionally you could go for seeds, and many of our own recipe mueslis contain sunflower kernels and pumpkin seeds. To give your digestive system a kick start, throw in some bran flakes.
Our own Wheat Free Muesli contains raisins, sultanas, currants, pumpkin seeds, apple, coconut, walnut and brazilnuts. These have been added to the wheat-free muesli base to naturally sweeten and add crunch.
For another tasty texture addition, try adding some toasted coconut flakes. We use this in our exotic muesli recipe which gives it a tropical taste and again another good source of texture.
Our No Added Sugar Deluxe Muesli is a popular mix, with a base of porridge oat flakes, starch and wheatgerm to keep you full, a range of nuts to add protein and 'good' fats and dried fruits to add more vitamins and a touch of sweetness.
Sweet enough? Many cereals and mueslis on offer out there have added sugar, which may not be naturally occurring. From the point of view of health, try and sweeten your muesli with fruit, giving you naturally occurring sugar in the form of fructose. If you really want to add more sweetness, try one of these sugar alternatives or syrups.
A good basic source of sweetness, taste and fibre could be dates or raisins and you could also try adding chopped apricots and or dried bananas (go for the unsweetened variety of any fruit of course). Try these unsulphured organic apricots chopped and mixed in. Fruit doesn’t just give you your sweetness though, in it's many forms it adds another interesting texture to your palate and with over well over 50 different kinds of dried fruit available on our shelves, you’re bound to find something to spice up your muesli. Talking of which, try adding a little cinnamon or nutmeg to your recipe to further excite your taste buds.
ORAC. Let’s not forget the health benefits of fruit either and many of the dried and fresh fruits available at Real Foods also have a high ORAC rating. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity and put simply, food substances with a high ORAC rating contain a higher than usual level of antioxidants, which as mentioned earlier, are a good anti-cancer and anti-aging agent as they help to reduce cell dysfunction. Antioxidants can also help prevent the onset of problems such as heart disease and diabetes.
Many of the fruit and nuts used in our own ORAC muesli recipe have a high ORAC rating and a good rule of thumb is the deeper the pigment of the fruit, the higher the ORAC rating.
To give you a helping hand, here is a list of fruit (and nuts) you might want to add to your muesli recipe which are available from Real Foods and have a high ORAC rating:
You could add to the health benefits of your bowl by adding a superfood such as mesquite or lucuma powder to your recipe. Or try adding chia seeds, cacao nibs or goji berries. These are good superfoods to add to your bowl as they will naturally sweeten and enhance the flavour of your muesli, whilst giving you extra vitamins and nutrients.
Whet your appetite
Dairy Free milks and yoghurts. Finally, you have your muesli in the bowl, so depending on your point of view, the next logical step might be milk. There are many different varieties of milk, dairy and non-dairy available on the market. Especially relevant to those with a dairy intolerance might be the wide range of non-dairy varieties stocked by Real Foods, amongst which we have oat , almond, rice, hemp, millet and quinoa varieties and not forgetting good old soya, in brands too numerous to mention here. For those who like a little more moo on their muesli we do of course have organic milk. Alternatively you could try using yoghurt instead of milk and again we have dairy and non-dairy alternatives to suit most tastes. Coconut Yoghurt has been particularly popular with our customers recently. Here's the full range of dairy alternatives.
We hope that by reading this article, we’ve given you some inspiration in what to do with your cereal bowl to liven it up a bit, and a good spoonful of useful advice on how to do it in the most healthy way possible. Don’t forget that you can get all the advice you need in store, and you can also find health notes on our website.
You can find the full range of Muesli and Granola here on the website.
Bear in mind that granolas contain sugar, in fact that's the main difference between granola and muesli!
We also have a brilliant range of Gluten Free cereals If you're shopping purely for Gluten Free goods, simply use the drop down filter on the left hand side of our shop, it will filter our shop and range of products accordingly.