Postured as a groovy food for hippies (and now hipsters), granola is also one of the “healthy” foods the media loves to hate on. In spite of the media’s attempt to convince us to kick granola to the curb, dedicated fans are not fazed by this negativity. The dizzying variety of granola brands on the grocery store shelves, and, depending on where you live, an equal number of locally and regionally-produced options to chose from, is proof the media cannot win this battle.
As a self-described granola girl, I disagree that all granolas are enemies. Having been the Chief Granola Officer of Cowgirl Granola for almost six years, I know granola. While it is true that most granolas are created using multiple sweeteners (honey, maple syrup and sugar), there are many granola brands that are winning customers with less sugar and great taste.
Cowgirl Granola was an early adopter that granola could be good for you. With less than two tablespoons of brown sugar per pound, my creation was proof you could make a great granola without a lot of sugar. But, the reality is that granola is mostly oats, and organic or not, oats are a grain–and something we try to minimize in our diet.
Though I have moved on from Cowgirl Granola, my deep-rooted desire to start the day with a great granola (loaded with nuts, free from grains and prudent with the sweetener) continues to drive me–and David.
We are constantly trying new brands–hoping there will be that one that knocks us over. This has been an arduous task as we feel it’s important to give every brand an equal shot–from gluten-free options like Purely Elizabeth and Bear Naked, as well as a variety of paleo granolas including Steve’s, Paleonola and Wildway, we have tried them all. Some were so dry, it was like choking down sand and some were flavorless, while others entirely too sweet or more like muesli and too flaccid.
Hands-down, Paleonola has been the winner. Even when we try something new, we always go back to Paleonola. Perfectly toasted with just the right touch of maple syrup, we love the Maple Pancake blend and absolutely adore the Pina Colada, which is only available online or in Whole Foods stores in the northeast. Free from everything you don’t want (grains and excessive sugars) and filled with everything you do (hearty nuts, coconut and seeds), a single bag is priced at $8.99 for 10 ounces.
David burns through about a bag a week and each time we buy more, he gently suggests, sometimes nudges and even challenges me to make my own paleo granola. Because I know how expensive nuts are, I think $8.99 is a steal. Plus, not making homemade granola leaves me time to cook other things and, after making thousands of batches of granola over the years, I really hadn’t been inspired to get back on the granola-making wagon.
But that was then and this is now. And it was this gorgeous paleo granola by My New Roots on Instagram that changed my mind. (With more than 6,200 likes, there are a few others who agree.)
This stunning bowl of granola, toasted to a golden brown and completely grain-free was all it took. Loaded with seeds, nuts and coconut and moistened with a combination of coconut oil and maple syrup, the sheer simplicity of this recipe (and beauty of this picture) made me need to make granola again. The challenge was to see if this was the recipe that would allow me to bid Paleonola farewell once and for all.
Only time would tell.
Within 15 minutes, I had two baking sheets of grain-free granola in the oven and before long the kitchen was filled with hints of cinnamon mingling with maple syrup and toasting nuts. And I was smiling.
As soon as it cooled, I added a few raisins to one baking sheet and tossed dried blueberries into the other baking sheet. Then I grabbed a small ramekin to fill with warm granola and topped it with a splash of milk to determine the verdict.
This is what paleo granola is all about. This is what I had been waiting for.
Crisp, caramelized seeds and nuts coated with a hint of maple syrup and cinnamon and generous undertones of coconut, this recipe hits all of the high notes as well as a satisfying crunch of texture and flavors.
Add it to your morning yogurt or have it as a snack or top it with a splash of milk or plant-based milk and celebrate your love of granola, because this is a granola you can feel good about eating and sharing, though you may want to keep it all for yourself.
The Best Paleo Granola
- 2 cups raw nuts almonds, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts
- 2 cups raw shelled sunflower seeds
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup large flaked coconut
- 3 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup coconut oil melted
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
- 1/2 cup dried fruit raisins, dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries, etc., optional
- 1 tablespoon ground flax optional (I love to toss the dried fruit in ground flax because it helps keep the fruit from clumping)
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
To a food processor, add two cups of raw nuts and pulse five or six times to break down the nuts. I like my granola chunky, so don't over pulse.
Dump nuts into a big bowl and add sunflower seeds, both kinds of coconut, chia and cinnamon. Stir well to thoroughly blend.
In a glass measuring cup, add the maple syrup and coconut oil and microwave for :30 seconds. Add the salt and stir well to combine, so the salt dissolves. Add the vanilla and stir well to blend.
Pour the liquid mixture over the granola and mix well to coat--ensuring everything is coated well. Divide the granola on the two baking sheets and press down to flatten the granola.
Bake 30-35 minutes, rotating and stirring the granola after 15 minutes.
When the granola is golden and fragrant, it is done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. It will continue to crisp as it cools. Once it cools completely, toss the dried fruit, if using, with the ground flax seeds and add to the granola.
Serve the granola over yogurt, with a splash of milk or nut milk or as a snack.
Store in a glass jar on the counter for up to one week or in a plastic zip bag in the freezer for up to several months.