Grains– Rolled oats are the most common grain used but you can also try other flaked grains like wheat, quinoa, barley or brown rice flakes. Oats are whole grains that are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Because they are packed with fiber, they help lower cholesterol and may reduce the risk of heart disease. They’ve also been shown to help control blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy blood pressure. The fiber also helps keep you feeling full for a long time thereby cutting down on snacking.
Nuts– Chopped or sliced nuts are another major component of granola. Almonds, pecans and walnuts are commonly used but you can use many different varieties like hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios and pine nuts. Although nuts are high in fat, they are comprised mainly of unsaturated fats, which help lower your LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels. In addition, nuts are also a great source of protein and fiber and contain several other nutrients that have beneficial effects on heart health.
Seeds– Seeds add texture and nutrients to granola. They also contain healthy unsaturated fats and plenty of vitamins and minerals. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), chia and sesame seeds are all great options.
Dried fruit– Dried fruit adds a sweet component to granola. Dried fruit has a much higher amount of natural sugars than fresh fruit and some varieties also have additional sugar added to it, which adds calories. Be sure to check the sugar content when choosing fruit for your granola. Raisins, dried cranberries, cherries, apricots and mango are some great options.
Oil– Oil helps the granola crisp up when it bakes in the oven. It’s best to use a neutral-flavored oil like safflower or grapeseed oil. Coconut oil can also be used and will add a nutty flavor. When you make homemade granola you can control the amount of oil used to keep the calories and fat in check.
Sweetener– Liquid sweeteners like maple syrup or honey coat the ingredients and add sweetness. You can also add in a small amount of brown sugar. Store-bought granola is often packed with sugar but when you make your own, you can add just the right amount to suit your taste.
Flavorings– You can add flavor to your granola with flavorings like vanilla or almond extract. You can also use dried spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or ginger. A nice pinch of salt should also be added to balance the sweetness.
Coconut Maple Granola
- 2 cups rolled oats
- ½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- ¼ cup sliced almonds
- ¼ cup chopped pecans
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil like safflower or coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup reduced sugar dried cranberries
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
- Mix the oats, coconut, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the oil, maple syrup, sugar, and vanilla together. Add the dry ingredients and stir to coat well.
- Spread the granola out in a thin layer on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then stir the granola and bake another 8-10 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and stir in the Craisins. Cool the granola on a baking rack. It will crisp us as it cools.
- Serve the granola plain or with milk or yogurt. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.