Naturally-Sweetened Granola

naturally sweetened granola

When it comes to granola, we’re all living in denial. The word evokes such feelings of healthfulness, it’s actually become an adjective to describe somebody who’s wholesome. “They’re a little too granola,” you might say about that guitar-playing, “aw-shucks” guy in your reading group. But the truth is that granola is PACKED with sugar. I read on the interwebs that 1/2 cup can contain up to 20 grams of sugar. Which is why I was so excited to find a recipe for naturally-sweetened granola in Marco Canora’s wonderful book, A Good Food Day.

Always Trust a Skinny Chef

There are a lot of “healthy” cookbooks written by chefs but what I love so much about Marco’s is that you can tell that he really makes these recipes and that they abide by his very high standards of what constitutes good food. His restaurant, Hearth (which has been kicking around the East Village for almost twenty years and is one of the places I’m most looking forward to frequenting when we move back) serves just this sort of food too. Nourishing, but not punishing. Which is exactly what you can say about Marco’s granola.

In terms of ingredients, it has all the delectableness of pistachios and coconut mashed up with the good-for-you-ness of chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. And there are enough old-fashioned rolled oats in here to please any Quaker.

Naturally-Sweetened Granola Needs Natural Sweeteners

The original recipe — which I’ll include here — calls for molasses which I thought I had, but turns out I didn’t. So I just added more honey along with the maple syrup. Those two things — honey and syrup — are applied delicately. The finished granola isn’t too sweet; it’s just sweet enough.

And the addition of cinnamon and ginger gives it just enough complexity so it doesn’t feel like health food. Which it normally isn’t. Except this one is.

Get it Good and Toasty

Your main goal, once you pop it into a 275 oven, is to take it as far as you can without burning it. The toastiness is what gives this naturally-sweetened granola its signature crunch; take it out too early, you’ll have some dusty, oaty, sandbag filler.

But this stuff? It feels like such a treat. Especially if you splurge on the dried fruit that you add. I went for dried cherries, which are my favorite.

With some full-fat yogurt (Marco says it’s okay!) and some fresh blueberries, this granola makes for a breakfast of champions. And though there’s some sugar in there, there’s not twenty grams of it. And the chia seeds make it undeniably healthy. So thank you Marco Canora for my new go-to granola recipe!

naturally sweetened granola

Naturally-Sweetened Granola

A healthful, not-too-sugary granola from James Beard Award-winner Marco Canora.
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Keyword chia seeds, coconut, granola, oats, pistachios
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings 8 cups


  • 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons unsulfured blackstrap molasses If you don't have, just replace with an equal amount of maple syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons chestnut honey Regular honey works great too
  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw hulled sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup raw cashews I used pistachios; walnuts and almonds would work well too
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries or even raisins


  • Preheat the oven to 275. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • In a small saucepan, combine the coconut oil, 2 tablespoons water, cinnamon, ginger, molasses, maple syrup, and honey and whisk over medium-low heat until everything is melted together, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, combine the oats, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, coconut flakes, and a couple of pinches of salt (I was pretty generous with salt because I like that punch). Pour the wet ingredients over the oat mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.
  • Divide the granola between the baking sheets and spread in a thin, even layer. Bake for 30 minutes, then stir with a spatula. Continue baking until the oats are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Let the granola cool completely on the baking sheets; it will harden and become crispy as it sits. Divide the dried cranberries or cherries or raisins between the two batches and toss to combine. Store in airtight containers at room temperature.

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4 thoughts on “Naturally-Sweetened Granola”

  1. I have been using this recipe for years.
    the applesauce or fruit purée is a great binder as well as a low sugar sweetener. I cut back on the honey and oil using a small amount of avocado oil. I usually combine rolled oats with rye and triticale flakes and sometimes quinoa flakes. I also add hemp seeds and goji, and dried mulberry. I don’t know what the nutritional value is but it tastes better than any packaged granola.

    1. Love the Prune cookbook… except I’ve never cooked anything from it. Will try the granola next! Thanks.

  2. Love that cookbook…..just recently made the Wild Salmon in Parchment with olives, fennel and lemon… delicious!

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