Chocolate, coconut, and almond granola naturally sweetened with dates. Free from refined sugar, vegan, and easily gluten-free, this granola is perfect for everyone!
My friend Lindsay taught me how to run. I mean, I was always physically capable, I think, but I had viewed running mostly as something that was necessary only when being chased. Or something conceived by my high school gym teachers, who would torture us by seeing how many times we could run around the school yard in 12 minutes. Which, by the way, I still don’t know, but I can tell you how many times you can *walk* around the school yard in 12 minutes: once.
In any case, sometime around 2003 I decided to become a runner, and my friend Lindsay took on the task of dragging my whining self through a learn to run 10k program. We worked at the same facility at the time and would go out for runs on my lunch break or after work, and I remember the early days of the program where it was walk four minutes then run one minute x 10 and that one minute of running seemed like an eternity of burning hell. Lindsay would always be beside me “motivating” (read: threatening) me to keep running, and keep running I did. Somewhere along the line a change happened and I realized that I had actually started to *like* running, and in 2009 I did my first half marathon. Take that, 12 minute run.
Fast forward to now, and Lindsay, ever motivating people around her to do good things for themselves, has got a bunch of people doing this 30 day fitness challenge. It’s pretty simple, you choose an exercise or set of exercises for yourself and commit to doing it every day for 30 days. You have to check in each day and confirm you’ve done them, and if you don’t do them or if you forget to check in, you go back to day one and start again. I have had to re-start twice now, both times due to jet lag when I chose sleep over exercises. I’m on day 19 now. There is also the option of doing a tandem nutrition challenge for the 30 days; I’ve committed to eating extra greens each day, which I’ve been getting in most often by adding a handful of spinach to my daily smoothie. Lindsay has given up refined sugar for 30 days. And because she’s super hard core, she’s not even eating unrefined sugars like maple syrup or honey, just naturally occurring sugars in fruits. And because I like a challenge, I told her that I would make her dinner and include a dessert which wouldn’t break any rules. Enter this granola.
Remember these No Sugar Banana Branners? I started thinking about the date base that served as the sweetener for those muffins, and I wondered if I used the same technique with the dates but then pureed them with cocoa, coconut oil, and a little vanilla, would I get a chocolate syrup that would work as both the chocolate component and the sweetener for granola? Folks! It worked like a dream. A delicious chocolaty dream. Honestly, you could make the puree and stop right there; you’d have a great no (refined) sugar chocolate sauce. You could eat it by the bowl-full like a pudding. When Lindsay arrived at my house I handed her the bowl from the food processor to lick out, and she had at it without stopping even once to question whether it fit within the confines of her no sugar challenge (trust, friends. trust.) and licked that baby clean.
I made three batches of this granola in under a week. It comes together incredibly quickly, it’s tasty and nutritious, and it seems to keep disappearing. I’ve tried it with nothing but oats and a handful of peanuts, but my preferred combo, also referred to as ‘test batch two’, uses oats, large coconut flakes, and chopped almonds. It’s amazing straight out of the jar eaten by the handful, over some plain yoghurt, or, if you’re feeling wild and crazy, sprinkled over vanilla ice cream. The recipe uses no refined sugar, is vegan, and easily gluten-free if you use gluten-free oats. If you’re sensitive to nuts you can leave them out.
Oats are rich in indigestible carbohydrates called beta-glutens which help to lower blood cholesterol levels. Oats are also host to a number of phenolic compounds which have antioxidant properties. Due to the high levels of those beta-glucans, oats are also helpful in stabilizing blood sugar. In fact, eating oats in the morning may help keep your blood sugar stable throughout the entire day. Oats are also a good source of dietary fiber and protein. Look for gluten-free oats if you’re celiac or have another gluten sensitivity.
- 200g (about 1½ cups) of chopped dates
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3 Tbsp coconut oil (or other light flavoured vegetable oil)
- ¼ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 3½ cups whole rolled oats
- 1 cup large flake coconut
- 1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
- Pre-heat oven to 325°F / 160°C. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
- In a medium pot, combine chopped dates and one cup of cold water. Uncovered, bring to a rolling boil. Add 1 tsp of baking soda, stir, and remove from heat. The date mixture will foam up for a few min, this is normal. Stir a few times, and set aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut, and chopped almonds.
- Combine cooled date mixture, coconut oil, cocoa, vanilla, and salt in a food processor. Purée until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides a couple of times.
- Pour the chocolate sauce over the oat mixture, and stir well to combine. Turn granola mixture out onto the prepared baking sheet, and spread out evenly.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and using a spatula, carefully turn the granola over. Bake for another 20 minutes, stirring at the 10 minute mark.
- Remove from oven and cool. Store in a glass jar.
This post was originally published on March 12, 2011.