Banana Bread Granola – vegan, gluten free & refined sugar free

This granola, man, has it been weighing on me. It took me several tries over the course of several weeks (months!) to get it right. I think it was actually cold out when I started this experiment. hmmm

Nevertheless, I’m so glad I plodded along. It was such a tease – the idea of it, the smells emanating from the oven, and then the taste, not quite right. But I persisted (and ate some burned granola along the way), and this weekend’s batch confirmed my last recipe test and proved blog worthy.

Dear readers, believe me when I tell you: go make this. You won’t be sorry. It’s excellent, quick and easy in the morning with almond milk, and it’s also pretty great as a snack. There’s no refined sugar (unless you so choose), and it’s full of whole grain, protein, fiber, and omega goodness. Perhaps you have a trip in your future? It packs well and will not earn you a glare or a pat down at security. They might be jealous, though.

Banana Bread Granola – vegan, gluten free & refined sugar free

Below is what I use but feel free to pick and choose your add-ins or come up with some of your own. The various seeds and the wheat germ are completely optional, but I include them for nutrition. The sugar? Doesn’t need it one bit. I argued with myself, but ultimately left it in the ingredients list so you can make your own decision. To start, you could try just 1 or 2 tablespoons. I also never needed to add in the extra tablespoon of liquid sweetener. As for oil, so far I like coconut oil best, but olive oil also works has the added bonus of not needing to melt. The recipe should work with just about any kind of oil you prefer; it’s really just a matter of taste.

3 C rolled oats (GF for gluten free eaters)
¾ C walnuts
½ C pecans (I’ve also used hazelnuts)
3 Tbsp raw sugar (totally optional)
½ tsp sea salt or ¼ tsp table salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp flax seed
1 Tbsp hemp seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp wheat germ (optional – skip for gluten free)
¼ C coconut oil (see note)
1/3 C + up to additional 1 Tbsp maple syrup, agave or honey if not vegan
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium ripe banana, mashed (~1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 275F.

Using a large spoon or spatula, mix the oats, nuts, sugar if using, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and any seeds/wheat germ you’re using together in a large bowl. If there’s a fine coating of cinnamon on everything, it’s well mixed.

In a small saucepan over medium low heat (or carefully in the microwave should also work), warm the coconut oil, maple syrup (or agave or honey) and vanilla extract. Once liquidy, remove from heat and whisk in banana puree until well combined. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well.

Spread the mixture evenly onto one or two baking sheets (I lined mine for easy clean up, but Minimalist Baker did not) and bake for 75-90 minutes, gently turning occasionally, until golden brown and nearly crisp. I like to crack open the oven door now and then to let out some of the steam (accumulated moisture). I don’t know if doing so helps the granola crisp up faster or not, but it feels like it should.

Once the granola is visibly browned, remove from the oven and gently toss just a bit to let the heat escape. Cool completely (it will crisp up as it cools) on the baking sheet or in a heat-safe bowl. Store in a container or jar with an air-tight seal – it should keep for a couple weeks.