Vanilla-Almond-Coconut Granola (No Added Sugar)

I’ll level with you: the “no added sugar” in this post’s title means no refined sugars, no honey, no agave.  This granola is sweetened — with dates, which are high in natural sugars for a fruit, but are also about half as inflammation-promoting as an equivalent amount of the aforementioned sweeteners. Dates are also packed with nutrients — like the elusive dietary iron — and fiber.  That’s some good stuff.  Dates can be pricey in a mainstream grocery store (1 lb of pitted dates costs $10.99 in ours) but try looking around for some Middle Eastern markets.  Our local Middle Eastern grocery carries unpitted dates for just $4.99/lb.

Pitting dates

It takes about 2 seconds to pit a date, so I don’t mind the extra bit of work for such great savings.  Just slice the date in half, and pull out the pit with your fingers.  Seriously, 2 seconds.  You can often find prepackaged date puree, too.  (Sometimes I’m lazy, or in a hurry.)

Vanilla-Almond-Coconut Granola with sliced bananas and Kalona Supernatural 2% Low Sugar Vanilla Yogurt (just 6g sugar per 6 oz. serving). Mmm…

I’ve been making granola with date puree thanks to Anja’s Food 4 Thought, which is a wonderful “healthy eating” blog full of inspiring recipes.  Anja often uses citrus zest to flavor her date puree for granolas (mmm… orange in granola is a favorite of mine!)  I decided to try using vanilla bean seeds and coconut oil in the puree, and was positively gleeful over the way my kitchen smelled while this granola was baking.

The lovely thing about granola is that there’s really no wrong combination of ingredients, so it allows for infinite variations.  Here I’ve added protein-packed amaranth seeds, which I partially popped in a dry skillet (like itty bitty popcorn kernels) before adding them to the granola mixture.  They added crunch, an interesting texture, and a unique toasty flavor.  (Not to mention all of amaranth’s nutritional benefits!)  I’ve found amaranth seeds in a pre-packaged box at our mainstream grocery store, and also in bulk at our local food co-op.  Shopping for granola ingredients in the bulk foods aisle of our local co-op, Wheatsfield, makes it easy to buy small amounts of new grains, nuts, seeds, and spices with which to experiment.

Wheatsfield Co-op, Ames, IA

Vanilla-Almond-Coconut Granola

1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped

1/2 cup boiling water

1 Tbsp vanilla bean seeds or paste

2 Tbsp coconut oil

1 1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats or barley flakes (barley is not gluten free)

1 cup blanched, slivered almonds, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup amaranth

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

1/4 cup whole flax seeds

2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 300 F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over the pitted, chopped dates in a heat-proof bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.  Stir in the vanilla bean seeds or paste and coconut oil.  Add the whole mixture to the bowl of a food processor and whiz it up into a smooth paste.

I’ll be honest, at this point the vanilla-coconut-date mixture is going to smell so amazingly heady and delectable that you’re going to say to yourself, “screw the granola, I could eat this paste straight out of the bowl!”  And that is A-o.k.  I’ll wait; meet me back here once you’ve made up another batch. 

Popped amaranth seeds

Meanwhile, pop the amaranth.  Pour 1/2 cup amaranth into a dry skillet over medium-high heat.  Cover, and shake the pan occasionally until about half (or more) of the seeds have popped.  Watch carefully to make sure they don’t burn.  Cool slightly, and add to the oats or barley flakes, almonds, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds in a large bowl.

Scrape every last bit of the gorgeous date puree into the bowl of granola ingredients and stir well until everything is evenly coated.

Spread the mixture out on the parchment-lined baking sheet in as thin and even a layer as possible.  Pop it into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, checking and stirring the mixture every 10 – 12 minutes or so to keep the granola browning evenly.  Pay special attention to the granola at the edges of the pan, which will brown faster than the middle.  Sprinkle the shredded coconut onto the granola for the last 10 minutes of baking so it gets lightly toasted.

Let the granola cool completely on the baking sheet, stirring it up occasionally.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

This entry was posted in Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients, Breakfast, coconut oil (virgin/ unrefined), Desserts, Gluten-free, nuts, Recipes, seeds, Snacks, Vegetarian. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Vanilla-Almond-Coconut Granola (No Added Sugar)

  1. Beth says:

    I really need a food processor. I wonder if you could do the same with dried apricots as you did with the dates? it’s a great idea. I often use home made, unsweetened applesauce as the sweetener in my granola (I do add a touch dark honey, too, but not much). It gives it a nice, subtle apple flavor. Thanks for another great looking recipe.

    • Yankeepants says:

      Well, now I’m going to have to try the dried apricots idea. Do you find that your granola still gets nice and crunchy using the applesauce as a binder? I will be interested to try that as well!

      • Beth says:

        Yep, it gets crunchy. I don’t make my applesauce too loose so there isn’t a lot of water in it. How about dried figs? yum.

  2. Mary says:

    I’m fine-tuning my granola recipe and found your recipe through a search on no sugar date granola. It looks great! I’ve never used amaranth but I use quinoa, which is a similar size of seed. I think you are right that pan-toasting it first would be best. I’ve noticed the quinoa doesn’t get all that cooked when I bake the granola. I’ve been adding chopped dates at the end, and am thinking about blending them up with the walnut butter I add to the granola before baking instead,

    • Yankeepants says:

      Hi Mary — Quinoa sounds like a great idea, too (and I will take your advice to toast it first before trying it in granola). It never occurred to me to add nut butter to my granola — that’s another great tip I’ll have to try. I just swung by your blog, and find it is full of just the sorts of delicious, healthful recipes I am always on the lookout for. Thanks for connecting!

  3. Beth says:

    I found pitted dates in the bulk aisle at Whole foods for about $5.50/lb. Well worth it. This turned out great, it just came out of the oven and it will be lucky to last the night. I didn’t have amaranth so subbed wheat germ since it was in the fridge. I also used half and half walnuts and almonds (getting my Omega-3’s), and because I like fruit in my granola, added golden raisins and chopped apricots. Oh, and I didn’t have coconut oil, so I just used olive oil. It all works and speaks to the ultimate flexibility of granola.

    This is a wonderful way to make sweetened granola without the added honey or sugar. I like all the suggestions so far, too, and would add one more…I think using pureed prunes would also make a good sub for the dates and you can find prune puree in most groceries now.

    • Beth says:

      Oh, and the blender worked just fine to puree the dates.

      • Yankeepants says:

        I’m so glad the blender worked! And also that your batch came out so tasty. Just made more granola today myself, and made a whole bunch of substitutions myself (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, pecans, and tried Mary’s toasted quinoa idea, too, in lieu of amaranth). I can’t wait to try your pureed prunes idea next time. Granola’s versatility is awesome!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s