Homemade granola is my weakness. This almond granola doesn’t just look delicious. It’s also vegan, gluten-free (when using certified gluten-free oats), nutritious, full of ‘crunch’ and texture as well as flavours. It is completely free from dried fruit and tastes sweet, but not overly so.
When Wriggly was born five years ago, I was craving porridge and granola. I’d never eaten either before that. I have loved snacking on Greek yoghurt topped with granola since then. The combination just works beautifully, and I love the fact it doesn’t need refined sugar yet it tastes really sweet and moreish. This almond granola is our current favourite. It’s inspired by the nutty granola recipe I posted back in 2014.
Ever since I had granola at my latest Pignoulet Pilates retreat, I have been craving this cupboard staple. In fact, I made it a couple of days after coming back from France and have made it another seven times since.
Until I started making my own granola, I didn’t particularly enjoy the oversweet, overpriced mixture of oaty clusters laden with dried fruit. When you start making your own granola at home, you’ll realise that you can just chuck in whatever you fancy or whatever you’ve got in the cupboards on the day you make it. You don’t need lots of fancy granola recipes. Once you’ve got the base right, you can tailor it completely to your taste by adding spices, nuts, dried fruit, swapping some of the oats for other grains and even add chocolate chunks.
If you can get your hands on a range of oat sizes, it’s quite nice for texture. I like to use a mixture of regular-sized and jumbo rolled oats.
Why aren’t there any raisins or any form of dried fruit in this almond granola?
I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed raisins or most dried fruit, so the main reason behind the lack of raisins is mostly my personal taste. I do like to have a bag of dried apricots in my bag when I’m travelling, and love a sprinkle of dried cranberries in homemade cereal bars, but I just don’t think our granola needs the added sweetness.
There’s no denying that dried fruit is a good source of fibre and antioxidants. It also makes a good on-the-go snack and a couple of my girls love raisins, but the little nuggets of sweetness also contain a lot of sugar and can be linked to tooth decay. One of my girls in particular has issues with her teeth, so we are trying to reduce the amount of sugar in her diet.
Of course dried fruit is a natural source of sugar, but it is sugar all the same, and because it is so sticky, the acid attack it causes tends to last longer than with other types of sugar, and this can lead to further tooth decay. If you want to read more on the subject, check this article from The Guardian.
If you are a dried fruit fiend, just go ahead and add a small handful of raisins, sultanas or chopped apricots to the granola once it’s cooled down. As you’re ready to transfer it to a clean jar, you can also add chocolate chips in.
What’s the best way to serve almond granola?
I don’t actually have an answer to that question. We all seem to enjoy it in different ways in our house. My favourite way to eat it is sprinkled over Greek yoghurt, but my eldest prefers his almond granola with milk. My girls just have the clusters in a bowl and would rather eat them like finger food.
We don’t just eat our lovely, nutty granola for breakfast either. It works well as a ‘power snack’ after exercising or even for dessert, scattered over our favourite yoghurt or vanilla ice cream.
I’ve made this granola a fair few times in the past couple of months and it’s been taste-tested by friends and family. Many people have been asking for the recipe, so I am finally taking the time to sit down and type it.
Granola is really sweet and feels moreish. Is it remotely healthy?
Always check ingredients and nutritional value when you buy a box of granola. When it’s made at home, the beauty is you can add whatever superfood is on trend at the time or remove anything you deem unhealthy.
Here is a bit of information about all the ingredients I use in our almond granola:
First and foremost, oats keep you feeling fuller for longer. They contain more fibre than any other grains and they could also lower levels of cholesterol.
An article published in the British Journal of Nutrition in August 2014 states that “Oats (Avena sativa L.) are classified as a whole grain and are particularly high in soluble fibre, 𝝱-glucan, lipids, protein and specific micronutrients, as well as act as a unique source of polyphenols. Whole grains are important dietary components of a healthy lifestyle.”
In plain English, soluble fibre “attracts water and turns to gel during digestion. This slows digestion.” It’s also found in nuts, barley, seeds, lentils, peas as well as some fruit and vegetables. Some types of soluble fibre may help lower the risk of heart disease.
Beta-glucan is a type of soluble fibre that is linked to supporting a healthy heart and help lower levels of bad cholesterol.
“Lipids are fat-like substances found in your blood and body tissues. Your body needs small amounts of lipids to work normally.” (Source: The National Kidney Foundation)
“Polyphenols are a category of plant compounds that offers various health benefits. Regularly consuming polyphenols is thought to boost digestion and brain health, as well as protect against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain cancers.” (Source: Healthline) https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/polyphenols
Research shows that eating three portions (16g per serving) of whole grains could reduce the risk of several chronic diseases.
Oats are also linked to the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes. It also has health benefits like blood-pressure control, weight management and gastrointestinal health.
Although oats don’t contain gluten, they are sometimes grown near wheat or barley, which would contaminate oats with gluten, so if you’re following a gluten-free diet, make sure you look for Coeliac UK’s Crossed Grain Trademark.
Almonds, which are highly nutritious, also also a great source of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and heathy fats. They’re high in protein, fibre and healthy monounsaturated fats.
“Antioxidants help protect against oxidative stress, which can damage molecules in your cells and contribute to inflammation, ageing and diseases like cancer.” (Source: Healthline)
Most of the nutrients and antioxidants contained in almonds are concentrated in almond skin, so try to go with almonds with skin on rather than blanched almonds.
Almonds are also high in magnesium, a nutrient the body needs to stay healthy. It regulates “muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure and making protein, bone, and DNA.” (Source: NIH)
Last but not least, almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E. “Vitamin E helps maintain healthy skin and eyes, and strengthen the body’s natural defence against illness and infection (the immune system).” (Source: NHS)
- Maple syrup
Pure maple syrup is made by tapping sugar maple trees and concentrating the sweet sap through a process of heating and evaporation to produce a thick syrup. Most maple syrup is produced in Canada.
When you get maple syrup, make sure you read the label as you want real maple syrup, not maple-flavoured syrup.
Maple syrup contains some minerals and antioxidants. However, don’t assume that because it’s a healthier alternative than refined sugar, you can drink it out of the bottle. Of course natural sweeteners like maple syrup aren’t as bad as refined sugar, but they should still be used in moderation. Sugar is sugar is sugar and maple syrup is just over two thirds sucrose.
- Coconut oil
Coconut oil is 90% saturated fat but it is high in medium-chain triglycerides, which are harder for the body to convert into stored fat and could potentially be helpful when trying to lose weight. They are also linked to the development of good bacteria in the gut lining.
When buying coconut oil, always go for unrefined, virgin coconut oil, which is extracted without the use of chemicals.
- Chia seeds
We love chia seeds in our house. When Jumpy was on a very restricted diet because of her allergies, I would use ‘chia eggs’ to make her cakes. I’d also use chia seeds in her smoothies, gluten-free bread and sprinkled over most of her meals, as they contain omega-3, are high in protein and rich in minerals. Nowadays, there’s always a bag of chia seeds in the cupboard.
Chia seeds, which come from the Salvia hispanica plant, look like poppy seeds. The tiny black seeds from Central and South America are rich in fibre and help you feeling full for longer.
“Chia seeds contain omega-3 in the plant form: alpha linolenic acid (ALA) making them a valuable source for vegans and vegetarians.
Chia seeds are relatively high in protein – so are a useful source of plant protein and provide a range of amino acids, particularly for vegetarian and vegan diets.
The combination of fat, protein and fibre means the seeds are digested relatively slowly, providing long, slow release of energy to keep blood-sugar levels stable.
Seeds are rich in minerals such as calcium and magnesium and trace elements such as manganese, which helps make enzymes. The benefits of chia seeds is attributed to the calcium content and other trace minerals known for their role in bone health. A 25g portion of chia contains 157mg of calcium, which is a significant source of calcium, more than that in 100ml of milk.” (Source: BBC Good Food)
Not only is cinnamon delicious, but it can also lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Just make sure you get Ceylon cinnamon. If you’re using the Cassia variety (the cinnamon you generally find in supermarkets), stick to smaller doses as it contains approximately 1% coumarin, a natural plant chemical that acts as a blood thinner. Ceylon cinnamon contains 250 times less coumarin and also has a more delicate and sweeter flavour.
“Cinnamon has been shown to reduce fasting blood sugar levels, having a potent anti-diabetic effect at 1–6 grams or 0.5–2 teaspoons per day. Cinnamon is well known for its blood-sugar-lowering properties.
Apart from the beneficial effects on insulin resistance, cinnamon can lower blood sugar by several other mechanisms.
First, cinnamon has been shown to decrease the amount of glucose that enters your bloodstream after a meal. It does this by interfering with numerous digestive enzymes, which slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in your digestive tract.
Second, a compound in cinnamon can act on cells by mimicking insulin.This greatly improves glucose uptake by your cells, though it acts much slower than insulin itself.
Numerous human studies have confirmed the anti-diabetic effects of cinnamon, showing that it can lower fasting blood sugar levels by 10–29%. The effective dose is typically 1–6 grams or around 0.5–2 teaspoons of cinnamon per day.” (Source: Healthline)
- Vanilla Extract
Where do I start with the health benefits of vanilla? Well, just make sure you get the real stuff, and not synthesised vanillin, which has none of the beneficial properties of vanilla.
The dark brown liquid is made by infusing whole vanilla beans in alcohol.
The taste of vanilla is unlike anything else, and when you use it in recipes, you can reduce the amount of sugar you use for your treats.
People take vanilla to treat gas and fever. It could even have antidepressant effects. (Source: WebMD)
- Fleur de Sel
Fleur de sel is harvested from saltwater flats in Brittany. “As seawater evaporates, fleur de sel floats to the top in shallow marshes where it is skimmed off by hand. It forms only in certain specific weather conditions, which accounts for the fact that it is very expensive.” (Source: Spiceography)
I always use fleur de sel rather than table salt as a finishing touch because it is a much more delicate alternative that enhances the flavours of our food.
Enough of my blabbering. Here’s our almond granola recipe:
Almond Granola with no Raisins (Vegan, Gluten-free, Dairy-free)
- 300 g rolled oats 3 cups certified gluten-free for GF granola
- 40 g chia seeds 1/4 cup
- pinch crushed Fleur de Sel
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 130 g flaked almonds 1 1/2 cups
- 70 g almonds skin on (1/2 cup)
- 185 ml maple syrup 3/4 cup
- 65 ml coconut oil 1/3 cup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to gas mark 3 (170 degrees Celsius / 325 degrees Fahrenheit) and line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.
- Melt the coconut oil on a low heat.
- Place the whole almonds in a plastic bag and crush them roughly using a rolling pin.
- Stir all the ingredients together, ensuring everything is coated in coconut oil and maple syrup.
- Spread the mixture on the baking sheet evenly.
- Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to ensure the granola crisps evenly.
- Leave the granola to cool completely before storing it.
It can be kept in an airtight container or jar at room temperature for approximately two weeks.