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Homemade Cheerios

 Homemade Cheerios | NourishingJoy.com

These are easier than they look, so don’t be discouraged! :) Take a look below.


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Ah, Cheerios. The ubiquitous, cheery O’s that frequent the pantries of parents everywhere – in the Western world, at least.

They are, after all, a pantry staple for many parents since they’re perfect finger food, easy to toss in the diaper bag, and they don’t stain the carpet if spilled.

There are even books written specifically to use Cheerios as a teaching tool (we loved this one when our oldest was a toddler) and coffee table books written that include Cheerios’ role in American health and pop culture (this one is especially intriguing).

Problem is, those lovely O’s can be both unhealthy and expensive:

  • Despite using whole grains, the enzymes in the grains that make whole grains healthy (and digestible) are largely denatured during the manufacturing process due to excessive heat and pressure.
  • Cheerios, like most store-bought cereals, use synthetic vitamins and preservatives, some of which are potentially derived from GMO sources.
  • Other ingredients in Cheerios also come from genetically modified organisms, most notably the corn starch and the sugar, which actually changed just at the beginning of this year, when General Mills announced that Cheerios is now GMO free. Others believe, however, that there is still at least one GMO ingredient lurking in the cereal.

All this to say, you can make Cheerios at home!

So, let’s first take a look at how store-bought Cheerios are made so we can better understand the ingredients in homemade Cheerios.

Homemade Cheerios | NourishingJoy.com

 

How Cheerios Are Made (and why most store-bought cereals are detrimental to your health)

What’s especially interesting to me is that if you look at the list of ingredients on a box of Cheerios, there’s not a single “wet” ingredient. It’s all dry grains and starches (plus synthetic vitamins and preservatives)!

Homemade Cheerios | NourishingJoy.com

To make Cheerios, the flour is steamed inside a high-pressure chamber. This gelatinizes the proteins in the flour, which softens and binds the dough.

The paste is then pushed out of the chamber through a die, which is how the recognizable “O” shape is formed, then cut and dried. Or should I say, “lightly toasted,” as the lovely lady at Nature’s Path described it when I called their offices…

Synthetic vitamins are then sprayed on the cereal. Most vitamins, whether natural or synthetic, are sensitive little creatures and will denature if added before the extrusion process due to the excessive heat. Thus, the vitamins are sprayed on at the end of the processing.

(Side note: This is the standard procedure for fortifying extruded cereals with vitamins. However, sprayed on vitamins tend to taste horrible and can wash off in milk, so since original Cheerios doesn’t have a sugar coating of any kind and has no bitter taste, I actually suspect that they use a type of heat-stable synthetic vitamins that can be added earlier. I haven’t been able to verify this, though – if I find a source that will tell me conclusively or if General Mills will return my phone calls, I’ll update this information.)

Now what’s interesting to note here is that the whole point of this process is to end up with a product that is ready to eat. We’re not just extruding dough here, like you do when you’re making pasta, or even like commercial pasta makers do when they’re making pasta, but in the cereal-making process, the extrusion is also the cooking process, which means that once the cereals are finished and packaged up, they are truly ready to eat.

Needless to say, there is no way to replicate that process at home,  so the texture and flavor of homemade Cheerios will never match the store-bought kind exactly (although I’m still tinkering to get ever closer…) The commercial version also uses ingredients not available to the home cook (in this case, modified wheat starch, which functions differently than flour).

For example, here’s a quote from Clodualdo Maningat, Ph.D., corporate director of research and development and quality control, Midwest Grain Products Inc., Atchison, KS, describing why modified wheat starch is superior: “There are three textural and sensory benefits of using modified wheat starch in extruded, gun-puffed cereal. First, it helps in obtaining a high expansion volume. Secondly, it provides film-forming ability to slow down the absorption of milk into the cereal. Finally, it has a low fat content, which contributes to improved flavor characteristics of the cereal.” (source)

As you can see, it’s very difficult to replicate those properties using whole foods!

But nevertheless, the two versions here are both very very tasty (especially the first one, in my not-so-humble opinion!) and they meet all the criteria of why parents love Cheerios:

 

Shaping Your Homemade Cheerios

As cool as they look, don’t take the time to make them into O’s if you have to cut them out one at a time! (I beg you!) After doing several batches this way, I am firmly of the opinion that it is SO not worth the time. If you want to try using a homemade pasta extruder, this is the one I drool over (for making homemade pasta too) and I suspect would be the easiest one to slice off little circles.

Both of these recipes work extremely well just by rolling the dough out and cutting them into little squares. They bake easily, they break apart easily, and they’re still beloved by toddlers everywhere.

And as a last option, the first recipe can just be crumbled like granola onto a baking sheet and baked that way. It’s certainly fast and easy.

But no more talking! Let’s make homemade Cheerios!

Homemade Cheerios
This version is excellent as a finger food for toddlers. The cereal disintegrates quickly in your mouth, is superb for tossing in the diaper bag, and despite not being highly flavored, is amazingly addictive. This recipe, however, does NOT stand up well in milk for more than a few minutes. * Only the various flours are listed by both weight and volume, as they are the ingredients that can vary considerably in size and weight gives the most consistent results.
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Ingredients
  1. 3 1/2 cups (325 g) oat flour (you can make this by grinding 3 cups rolled oats finely in a blender)
  2. 1 1/4 cups (150 g) almond flour (you can make this by grinding 1 cup almonds finely in a blender)
  3. 1/2 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
  4. 1/2 cup brown sugar (see how to make your own brown sugar)
  5. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  6. 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  7. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  8. 2 eggs
  9. 1/2 cup whole milk
  10. 1/3 cup melted butter
  11. 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, melted butter, and vanilla until combined and fold into the wet ingredients just until combined. The dough should be very soft and just slightly sticky.
  3. Set out a piece of parchment paper and place the ball of dough on it. Press into a disc about 1-inch thick and place in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to firm just slightly. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F.
  4. When the dough is slightly chilled, decide the shape of your homemade Cheerios...
  5. FOR SQUARES, place another piece of parchment over the top of the dough and roll until the dough is about 1/4-inch thick, about the thickness of two nickels.
  6. Using a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife, cut the dough into small squares about 1/2" x 1/2".
  7. Lift the entire piece of parchment paper onto a baking sheet and bake until puffed and just beginning to brown, 10-11 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven, reduce heat to 300F, then break the dough into the predefined pieces. Return to the oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring every five minutes, until the pieces are crisp and very dry.
  9. Let cool and enjoy!
  10. FOR O's, preheat the oven to 350F, then place a piece of parchment over the top of the dough disc and roll until the dough is about 1/4-inch thick, about the thickness of two nickels.
  11. Using whatever tiny circle cookie cutter that you can (I used the top of a small vanilla extract bottle), cut out circles out of the entire section of dough, rerolling the dough if necessary.
  12. Then, using a wooden skewer or a lollipop stick, poke a hole in the middle of each circle.
  13. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and lay the circles on it in a single layer. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes, turning once, until they just begin to brown.
  14. Remove, cool, and enjoy!
  15. FOR A CRUMBLE, place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet, then take the chilled disc of dough and crumble it all over the parchment.
  16. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 300F and bake another 10-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until crisp and very dry.
  17. Let cool and enjoy!
Notes
  1. Thank you so much to my friend, Nicole, for sending me her original version of this recipe. Many blessings, friend!
Nourishing Joy http://nourishingjoy.com/
Homemade Cheerios
This version stays crunchy in milk for a long time, but produces a cereal that is too crunchy for toddlers to eat plain.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup oat flour
  2. 1/2 cup non-GMO cornstarch or arrowroot starch
  3. 1/4 cup whole cane sugar
  4. 1 teaspoon sea salt
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour OR vital wheat gluten (the flour creates a more elastic dough, surprisingly)
  7. 10 tablespoons (5/8 cup) boiling water
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Pour the boiling water over and stir until the dough comes together in a coherent ball. The dough should be very soft and just slightly sticky.
  4. Set out a piece of parchment paper and place the ball of dough on it. Press into a disc about 1-inch thick, then place another piece of parchment over the top of the dough and roll until the dough is about 1/4-inch thick, about the thickness of two nickels.
  5. Using a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife, cut the dough into small squares about 1/2" x 1/2".
  6. Lift the entire piece of parchment paper onto a baking sheet and bake until the surface is dry, the dough is puffed, and it's just beginning to brown, 8-9 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven, reduce heat to 300F, then break the dough into the predefined pieces. Return to the oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring every five minutes, until the pieces are crisp and very dry.
  8. Let cool and enjoy!
Nourishing Joy http://nourishingjoy.com/
  Homemade Cheerios | NourishingJoy.com

 

Want more fascinating reading than you know what to do with?

Check out these intriguing articles and online books about the innovation and methodologies of making ready-to-eat (RTE) cereals!

Food Product Design: Keeping the Crunch in Breakfast Cereals

Cereal Chemistry: Breakfast Cereals and How They Are Made, Second Edition (the abstracts are free to read)
 
Biofortified: An interesting comparison between the genetically modified ingredients in Cheerios and other products that use GMO components
 
Weston A. Price Foundation: Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry
 
Patent Storm: Patent for an cereal extruder including examples of recipes and how the machine works
 
Nourished Kitchen: Boxed Cereal is Not Food, Plus Two Nourishing Alternatives for Breakfast – includes excellent information about feeding grains to children under two years of age

Precision Nutrition: All About Breakfast Cereals

Kelly the Kitchen Kop: Breakfast Cereals – Should We Eat Them? – I especially appreciate her reflections about Kashi brand cereals

 

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Comments

  1. helen says

    These sound great! My daughter loves ‘puffs’ and I stick with them since they are organic and GF. These sound like a fun project.

    Your link to feeding grains to babies is broken – I’d love to read it.

    • Kresha Faber says

      Helen, sorry about the broken link. It’s fixed now!

      I’m sorry that these aren’t gluten or grain-free, but I hope they’ll work for you nonetheless! :-)

  2. Rebecca says

    Hi Kresha, I love your blog and recipes, you have such great recipes and ideas! I just wanted to make a small correction to your intro of this blog post. Cheerios aren’t a staple in the Western world… it’s only really a standard in American pantries. As an American living in the U.K., I know this from firsthand experience. For years I used to ask my mom to ship me Cheerios since the only place to get “normal” Cheerios here is in U.S. Expat stores for outrageous prices due to import fees. Until I discovered the paleo diet 2 years ago, when I weened myself off Cheerios and onto oatmeal for breakfast, it was extremely difficult after having Cheerios for breakfast for most of my life! But I did it in the end to improve my health. I will definitely try out this recipe for fun and let you know how it goes!

    • Kresha Faber says

      Well, the almond flour is in the recipe because it’s not terribly absorbent like grain-based flours are, so it provides structure and levity without added density. If you can find another flour that isn’t highly absorbent, it should work. You could try coconut flour, but the taste and texture would definitely be different.

      Also, any other nut flour could be substituted, but I’m assuming you’re dealing with an allergy to all nuts, not just almonds.

      Good luck!

  3. says

    I’m not sure if the dough will be too crumbly for this, but what about rolling the dough into a tiny log then slicing it into rounds and poking the hole with a skewer? Might still be a lot of work, lol. But the 0′s are super cute.

    • Kresha Faber says

      Definitely try it! I actually think the dough would be too sticky, though, rather than too crumbly, so you may have to account for that. But if you could figure out a way to do with plastic wrap or parchment paper (or maybe even a silicone mat), then it just might work! Let us know. :-)

    • Kresha Faber says

      Well, I didn’t include it as an option merely because I think it will make the dough too sticky, which would require more flour, which would make them denser. However, perhaps I’m wrong in that – if you want to try it, let us know how it goes! :-)

  4. Marie says

    Also, how long are these good for & how should they be stored? I’m looking forward to making these for my toddler! Thanks!

    • Kresha Faber says

      These should be stored in an airtight container like any other grain or cereal. If they’re stored in a cool, dark place (like a regular cupboard), they should stay fresh for up to 2-3 months. If they’re out in the light (like on the top of the refrigerator), I would estimate they’d stay fresh for about a month.

      I hope that helps!

  5. Virgil Kearns says

    Cheerios – You were looking for modified food starch. My mom has difficulty swallowing and uses Thick-It. Maybe this will work.

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