In Season: Not-So-New-School Granola

Move over oats and raisins, our not-so-new-school granola recipes provide a twist on the classics.

By Sue Muncaster // Photography by Paulette Phlipot

Just like bell-bottom pants, granola—the iconic health food fad from the late 70s—is back in style. But what started as a respectable, simple breakfast cereal has been corrupted by saturated fats, preservatives, processed sugars (or no sugar!), and artificial flavors in mass-produced packages for extended shelf life. This results in dry, tasteless promises to meet every health food craze (think, keto, paleo, and gluten-free.). 

So, let’s ditch the processed, sugary oat concoctions and get back to the basics: a bag of oats, some heart- and brain-healthy oil, honey and maple syrup, and your favorite combination of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and spices. Most granola tends to be high in calories, and my recipes are no exception. But there’s no need to count calories here. Instead, just be conscious of portion size. A quarter to a half cup serving is usually plenty to keep you energized for hours, especially when served with protein-rich yogurt and fresh berries.

Not-too-sweet granola recipes can be created on your own by combining oil, grains, coconut, nuts, fruits, and spices to suit your taste. Make your own by choosing from the following:

Grains: 
  • Old-fashioned rolled oats only!
    (Quick-cooking varieties yield a dusty granola.)
  • Bob’s Red Mill “gluten-free” oats 
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat groats
  • Small amounts of quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Teff
  • Puffed or flaked whole-grain cereal
Healthy fats: 
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
Natural sweeteners: 
  • Maple syrup
  • Local, raw honey
  • Agave syrup
  • Molasses
  • Fruit puree (think, applesauce), or a fruit butter
Spices:
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Cardamom
  • Sea salt (critical to taste, but may not be needed if using salted nuts) 
  • Vanilla, almond, or orange extract
Nuts/Seeds: 
  • Slivered or whole almonds or marcona almonds
  • Pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts
  • Sunflower seeds or pepitas
  • Dried, unsweetened coconut
  • Flax seeds, sesame seed, or chia seeds
Add-ins: 
  • Crystallized ginger
  • Dried or freeze-dried fruit
    (cherries, blueberries, cranberries, raisins, currants,
    apricots, banana chips, mango, or dates)
Instructions for all recipes: 
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, a Silpat, or grease them lightly with cooking spray. 
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the oil, liquid sweetener, and spices until incorporated. Do not boil. Taste and adjust the flavor, if needed.
  3. In a large bowl, mix oats, cereal, nuts, and seeds. (DO NOT ADD dried fruit until baking is done.) Pour in the oil and mix well. 
  4. Bake 35 to 50 minutes until golden brown (not dark). Stir the granola a few times as it bakes, making sure to incorporate the edges. (Granola will continue to cook and dry out as it cools—you’ll be surprised by how it crisps up.) 
  5. As the mixture cools, add dried fruit or other add-ins. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Freeze any portion that won’t be eaten within two weeks.

Vanilla Ginger Superfood Granola

Makes 12 cups

This granola is sophisticated—with the addition of olive oil, pistachios, crystalized ginger, and cinnamon. The quinoa (inspired by Persephone Bakery’s granola) adds extra protein and crunch and does not need to be cooked. The egg white helps the small grains stick to the other ingredients. 

For the sweetened oil:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sea salt

For the granola:

6 cups whole oats
1 cup raw golden quinoa
1 1/2 cups coconut flakes
1 1/2 cups pistachios
2 egg whites, beaten until frothy (Add to the dry ingredients before baking.) 

Add-ins:

1/2 cup chopped crystalized ginger
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme 

Easy Granola Coconut and Dates

Makes 15 cups

I made versions of this recipe for over ten years to sell at the Jackson Hole Farmer’s Market. It makes a great gift when packed in a colored mason jar with a pretty bow. 

For the sweetened oil:

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup oil (avocado or coconut)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon 

For the granola:

5 cups bran flakes* 
2 1/4 cups whole oats
1 3/4 cups sliced almonds
1 3/4 cups pecans or walnuts, lightly chopped
1 1/2 cups coconut flakes

Add-ins:

2 cups chopped dates 

* I LOVE Nature’s Path Organic Heritage Flakes, available at Barrels and Bins and Whole Foods Market.

Pink Perfection Granola

Makes 15 cups

Believe it or not, this granola turns your milk pink or purple (depending on the berry),  just like Fred Flintstone’s Fruity Pebbles! 

For the sweetened oil:

1/2 cup strawberry puree 
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup avocado oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 cup brown sugar (optional) 
1 teaspoon sea salt

For the granola:

1 1/2 cups coconut flakes
6 cups whole oats
2 cups pecans
1 1/2 cups slivered almonds

Add-ins:

4 cups freeze-dried cherries and/or blueberries (use 3 cups if using non-freeze dried)

To make the berry puree:
  1. In a small saucepan, simmer 2 cups of fresh or frozen (defrosted) berries for 15 to 20 minutes until reduced to 1 cup. 
  2. Use 1/2 cup for the granola, and then mix the leftovers into plain yogurt to satisfy any sweet tooth. 
Serving Suggestions: 
  • Granola adds flavor and crunch to a breakfast grain bowl.
  • Substitute granola for plain oats in your favorite baked crisp recipe.
  • Sprinkle granola over fresh berries with whipped cream.
  • Add large chocolate chips to your granola for a trail snack. 
Tips: 
  • Fill your cookie sheet entirely; otherwise, you’ll end up with burnt oats on the sides.
  • Press the mixture with a spatula before baking to create a uniform layer, which will form yummy clumps.
  • Some people insist on adding a frothy egg white before pouring the oat mixture onto the pan, which helps the granola stick together better. 
  • Nuts and coconut flakes can be added whole, for a chunkier granola, or lightly chopped to match the size of your oats.