When I trained as a pastry cook, I learned a very classic approach, which meant plenty of butter, sugar, and tasty and delicious fats like bacon and pork belly. I took one class in vegetarian/heathy cooking during culinary school, and although I was a vegetarian at the time, I had no interest in using products like seitan and nutritional yeast. Like many other cooks, I believed the more salt, butter, and fat, the more flavor. There’s a reason just about everything tastes good deep-fried or with bacon and a fried egg on top.
So going sugar free, as Sarah Wilson suggests in her new book, seems a bit of an impossible feat for someone trained in the many ways to turn sugar into something very delicious. And looking over this recipe for sugar-free granola, I didn’t have much hope. I created the ultimate granola recipe several years ago, and I knew that combination of brown sugar, orange juice, cinnamon, and vegetable oil was going to be hard to beat. Sarah’s granola is really a simple combination of nuts and seeds—activated to make them a bit easier on your body’s digestive tract—and mixed with coconut oil and cinnamon. There is no sticky sugar substance to help bind the granola and keep it sweet, no dried fruits to get you wanting more and more.
As the granola roasted, the toasted coconut did smell delicious, but when it was finished I still wasn’t too interested and jarred it up and put it away. But the next morning, tossed with just a few spoonfuls of tangy organic yogurt, the granola was in fact delicious. And as an afternoon snack, with chopped strawberries and some kefir, it was downright addictive. I’m not sure I’ll ever give up that sweet granola of yesteryear, but this healthy combination of coconut, almonds, pepitas, and chia seeds is a mix I can eat on a day-to-day basis. And for a slightly sweeter flavor, Sarah does suggest adding a few tablespoons of rice malt syrup into the mixture before baking.
Coconut, Almond & Pepita Granola, adapted from I Quit Sugar
Yield: 5 cups
3 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
2 cups mixture of almonds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, pecans, and walnuts
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
80 grams melted coconut oil
3 tablespoons rice malt syrup (optional)
Preheat the oven to 120°C. Line a sheet tray with a baking mat or parchment paper, then combine the ingredients on the tray, stirring together well with a spatula. Place tray in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the granola has reached desired color, and rotate halfway through. Remove from oven, cool, and enjoy. Granola can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks.