When my family used to vacation in Hawaii, one of our best treats was a trip down the cereal aisle in the grocery store.  We would marvel at what Americans deemed “breakfast food”.  Each child was allowed to choose one kind, to be an alternative to cookies for the duration of our stay.  Back then, anything with marshmallow bits was the clear winner, because there weren’t as many chocolate-flavored options as there are now.  A long winded story, I know, to get to the topic of this posting.

Getting people, young or old, to eat breakfast is sometimes a challenge.  Some people just aren’t ready for solid food first thing in the morning.  Bribery becomes part of the contingency plan.  For many people, chocolate is the bribe that works the best.

I am not opposed to chocolate as part of the breakfast routine.  This recipe uses cocoa, the “good” part of chocolate – all the flavonoids and very little of the fat.  Back in my recipe development days, I poached a good idea for chocolate-flavored granola from Nigella Lawson, and came up with a great chunky granola that was well received by tasters.  It made a boatload, though, so I have re-vamped the concept for a more modest yield, with a ton of options.  This way, you won’t be sick and tired of your creation before it’s time to make a new batch.

Oats, by the way, are technically gluten-free, but are often not-celiac-friendly by virtue of being prepared in the same facility as wheat products.  If this is a serious issue for you, be sure to source rolled oats that have been certified gluten-free.

Have fun with this!  Coincidentally, it’s still a pretty good “cookie alternative”, but with a whole lot more flavor and fiber than, say, Count Chocula®.

Chocolate Granola


1 ½ cups Rolled Oats   (I like the large-flake old fashioned kind.  Quick-cooking oats are ok, but have much less flavor; instant oats are not a good choice.)

1 cup Chopped Nuts  (Any kind of nuts, chopped.  Pecans are perfect.  Walnuts work well.  Cashews are a little bland.  Almonds are great.  The original recipe used peanuts)

½ cup Additional Stuff   (Any mixture of seeds – sesame, ground flax, chia (not too much), sunflower, hemp hearts, puffed millet – visit the bulk section of your local health-food grocery and see what they have)

¼  cup Coconut   (I prefer ground unsweetened, but choose whatever you like)

½ cup Applesauce   (If you don’t have a lot of applesauce on hand, buy a jar of baby food, or simply peel and dice an apple, microwave it with a teaspoon of water until the apples are tender, puree it and use that)

½ cup Brown Sugar   (Golden or Demerara – you choose)

2 Tbsp Honey   (Liquid honey is easiest – you can melt the pasteurized solid kind, though)

2 Tbsp Maple Syrup   (Pancake syrup will do in a pinch, as will Golden Syrup or Corn Syrup, or even Brown Rice Syrup (which can be found in health food grocery stores, and is in the original Nigella Lawson recipe).  Molasses would change the flavor quite a bit, but it might work out – you never know until you try …..Oooooo, leave out the cocoa, up the ginger, and go for gingerbread-flavored granola!)

2 Tbsp Cocoa   (Unsweetened.  Don’t use hot chocolate mix by accident, OR on purpose!)

1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil   (Not olive oil.  Use something with a neutral flavor.  Coconut oil is good if you’re on that kick.  Peanut oil is pleasant, but don’t feed it to your allergic friends. I like sunflower oil myself)

1/2 tsp Salt   (Not an option.  The granola tastes flat without it)

1/2 tsp Cinnamon   (This adds dimension to the flavor profile)

½ tsp Ground Ginger   (I haven’t tried using grated fresh ginger, but I bet it would be good. Use twice as much if using fresh)

Optional Dried Fruit   (I’m not a fruit person, but you go ahead if you want to.  Add as much as you like.)


Combine the oats, seeds, nuts and coconut in a bowl.

Make a wet mixture of everything else except the optional dried fruit.

Add the wet stuff to the dry stuff and toss to coat completely.

Spread on a parchment or waxed paper or Silpat-lined baking sheet.

Bake in a pre-heated 300°F oven for an hour, or until dry on the surface.  Turn the sheet around half-way through baking time to keep the browning even.  It crisps up considerably as it cools.

Cool completely before crumbling.  I like to keep it quite chunky.

If you’re adding dried fruit, this is the time to do it.  If you add it before baking, it tends to get “toasted”.

You’ll note I have no picture of me adding fruit.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  Hopefully it will be gone before you have to wonder if it’s still fresh.  Drying is a natural form of food preservation, but with the oil and the nuts in there, it won’t keep forever.  Share with a friend if you don’t think you will be able to consume it all within a couple of weeks, or pop half in the freezer until you need it.  It only makes about 4 cups, and it’s good for you, so eat it often.  I keep mine in a canister on the kitchen counter, and I probably help myself to a cluster every time I pass by.

If you make your granola into a parfait like this, with plain or flavored yogurt, you can almost believe it’s a treat!

…and your guts will thank you.