Mostly Unsweetened Granola

Granola (8 of 8)

The grocery store near my house has a wall of granola. It’s mixed in with other bulk bins for oats and powdered milk but there’s a solid section that is only granola. For someone who doesn’t eat a lot of cereal, it’s a bit overwhelming. Over the years I’ve bought a few varieties but none more than once; none of them stuck with me. I’d finish the bag I bought (or sometimes even throw it away half-eaten) but next time I found myself staring down the granola aisle, back at square one, unsure of which kind, if any, I wanted to buy.

Granola (2 of 8) Granola (4 of 8)

It’s not just a purchasing problem; I’ve gone through more than my fair share of granola recipes at home. Some with chocolate, with ginger, with maple syrup, with so much brown sugar and butter it may as well be dessert. That’s in fact, the real problem. I don’t want my granola to taste like dessert.

It’s not that I don’t like dessert. Take a look around the archives, I am a fan of sweet post-meal treats. But when I want dessert, granola is not going to cut it. I’d sort of figured that granola just wasn’t for me and moved on to other breakfast options for when I can’t justify a stack of pancakes. And then I found this option; it’s my granola-true-love just when I’d given up hope.

Granola (7 of 8)

A few things to note about this granola:

  • I sometimes use salted roasted nuts and sometimes plain roasted ones, depending on what I have on hand. If it’s mostly salted nuts then I just omit the salt from the recipe.
  • I’ve tried chopping the nuts by hand and using the food processor and both work but hand-chopping will give you bigger pieces, if that’s your sort of thing.
  • This recipe makes about a two week supply of granola for two people who also eat granola a few times a week but I wouldn’t recommend cutting it in half. It’s hard for a blender or food processor to get at a smaller amount of dates and water and make a good paste for coating the dry goods.
  • As far as mix ins go, I like a lot of sesame seeds or sunflower seeds but Jeff prefers big flakes of coconut added towards the end of cooking. Make it your own.

Granola (5 of 8)

Mostly Unsweetened Granola
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4 cups
  • 1 cup dried and pitted dates
  • 1 ΒΌ cups just boiled water
  • 2 cups mixed nuts, chopped (or just use your favorite kind but skip the peanuts, they're too oily here)
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Optional add-ins: Up to half a cup of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes, cocoa nibs, or add your own favorite
  1. COMBINE the dates and hot water in a bowl and set it aside for the dates to soften for about 20 minutes. In the meantime preheat your oven to 325F and line two baking sheets with foil.
  2. COMBINE, in a separate bowl, the chopped nuts, rolled oats, salt (if using), and add ins that aren't in danger of burning. Anything very thin (like coconut flakes) should be kept aside for now.
  3. POUR the softened dates and their soaking water into a blender or food processor and process on medium-high power until it creates a thick slurry/paste consistency. Add the vanilla extract.
  4. POUR the paste over the nuts/oats and use your hand to mix it all together. If you like clusters you can clump it together in your fists to make nice big chewy pieces.
  5. DIVIDE the granola mixture evenly between the two prepared pans* and spread it out evenly with your hands (no need to get anything else dirty). Then put it in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, give it a stir, swap the position of the pans in your oven so things cook evenly and put it back in for another 10 minutes (if you're adding coconut flakes put them in after the granola has been in for 15 minutes total). At this point the granola should feel relatively dry and be fairly brown all over, maybe a little extra brown in some spots; if it's not then bake it in 5 minute intervals, checking and stirring after each to see if it's ready. It will still be pliable while it's hot but it will crisp up as it cools. Remove it from the oven and let it cool completely in the pan.

    Stored in an airtight container it will stay fresh for up to three weeks.
I've tried to shove this all into one pan but then it doesn't dry out well enough before the granola starts to burn a bit. Giving the batch more space by spreading it out will let it dry and brown evenly so the finished granola isn't soggy and chewy.


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