Hands down, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. It’s the only meal that tastes great at any time of the day – morning, noon, evening. Take this raw grain-free granola, for instance. You can have it with plant-based milk for breakfast, sprinkle it on top of a smoothie for lunch, and top your salad with it for dinner. Genius!
What I love most about this raw grain-free granola is how crunchy it is. I’m talking about a crunch that you can actually hear in your head. While this might not be a big deal for you, crunchiness is something that either makes or breaks the deal for me. As much as I love smoothies and oatmeal, they both lack one important thing: a nice crunch. No matter how much of these foods I eat, I always end up grazing the pantry for nuts, seeds, or even cacao nibs afterwards. At one point I thought I was being ridiculous and decided to stop buying nuts and seeds altogether. Not much of a help as I ended up crunching on raw carrots and sliced cabbage instead. If you think that I’m going a little overboard with all the crunching here, keep reading.
According to neuroscience, what you hear when you bite plays an important role in your experience and enjoyment of food. It turns out that crispness and pleasantness are highly correlated when it comes to our rating of foods. Crispiness is a flavor quality. Once you realize how important the sound is to the overall multi-sensory experience, you stop wondering why food marketers focus on promoting their products on the basis of crunchiness, crispiness, and crackly sounds in their advertisements. Think of all the labels screaming at you “extra crunch”, “exceptionally crunchy”, “stays crunchy even in milk”, or “the crunchy way to say ‘I love you’”. Food marketers even developed a sophisticated apparatus to measure the perceived level of crunch that consumers hear in their head. See? I’m not the only one craving some crunchiness.
Here’s where the grain-free granola comes in. In addition to being crunchy, it’s also hearty, filling, energizing, caramel-y, and slightly nutty. Pair it with some milk and you have a protein-rich breakfast. Sprinkle it on top of a smoothie, porridge, yogurt, pudding, or a salad and you have a delicious topping. Your imagination is the limit.
Another great thing about this grain-free granola is that you can easily swap out any ingredient. If you’re allergic to nuts or want to make this recipe more cost friendly, use seeds instead. If dried fruit isn’t your thing (in which case we need to talk!), use more coconut. Just make sure that you replace the same amount of dry ingredients for dry, and wet ingredients for wet. Mix and match and voila – you just made your own granola.
How To Make Perfect Grain-Free Granola
Create a textural variety – while it doesn’t matter what type of nuts and/or seeds you use, try to use at least two different varieties. I used almonds and sunflower seeds in this recipe. However, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, and sesame seeds would be amazing as well. When pairing the nuts and seeds, use one kind that is on the harder/crunchier side (e.g. almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds . . .) and one kind that is on the softer/chewier side (e.g. pecans, sunflower seeds, walnuts . . .).
Soak the nuts/seeds – all nuts and seeds contain a phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, which interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. While many traditional cultures naturally soaked or sprouted nuts/seeds, this practice is not longer common, particularly because it’s time-consuming. It is, however, simple and inexpensive and can greatly increase the nutrient content of the nuts/seeds you consume. All you need to do is soak the nuts/seeds for 8 – 24 hours in a simple mineral solution (like salt). Then drain and rinse the nuts/seeds and place them on a kitchen towel to absorb excess moisture.
If you’re going to be using the nuts/seeds right away, you don’t need to dehydrate them. However, if you want to store them for later, you’ll need to dehydrate them or bake them in the oven at the lowest temperature so any remaining moisture on the nuts/seeds doesn’t cause them to mold.
Don’t skip the add-ons – I LOVE dried fruit in my granola. I know, I know – many people hate it. However, I think that dried fruit not only increases the textural variety, but it also adds a new layer of flavor. I tend to use tart dried fruit, such as dried cranberries or cherries, because they provide a beautiful contrast to the maple syrup-sweetened nuts. Just be sure to add the fruit after the granola has been dehydrated/baked. (Dried fruit doesn’t need to be dried 😉
Chop all the ingredients evenly – the easiest and fastest way to chop all the nuts and seeds is to use a food processor. Another benefit of using a food processor is that it creates same-size pieces so the granola bakes evenly. If you’re using nuts/seeds that are similar in size, you can process all the nuts/seeds at the same time. However, if you’re combining bigger nuts (e.g. almonds) with smaller seeds (e.g. sunflower seeds), you’ll want to process the nuts first so the seeds don’t turn into a powder.
I hope you love this raw grain-free granola as much as I do. If you give this recipe a try, let me know by leaving a comment below.