With sweet-tart dried cherries, whole roasted almonds, and toasted coconut flakes, Cherry Almond Granola begs to be sprinkled onto a bowl of tangy Greek yogurt for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
Back in the 80’s, Santa Claus brought me a shiny new Boys and Girls Cookbook for Christmas. I spent hours poring over its pages, scribbling notations in the margins about what looked good, and even menu planning on the inside back cover. (Apparently, “Sunday dinner” one night was to consist of something called “Fiesta Burgers” with a “Tossed Green Salad” and a side of “Vegge (sic) Potatoes,” which, I double-underlined, was “my own invention!”). Always the hostess. I still have the book, not only for a bit of nostalgia, but because over the years, its basic granola recipe became the springboard for my favorite Cherry Almond Granola I’m sharing with you today. Studded with sweet-tart dried cherries, whole roasted almonds, and toasted coconut flakes, this light-textured granola just begs to be sprinkled onto a bowl of tangy Greek yogurt for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
To be fair, I’ve made so many changes to my childhood granola recipe over the years that I can hardly even call this an adaptation. The delicious base is really what inspired me here: rolled oats, wheat germ, honey, and light brown sugar. I particularly love the addition of wheat germ to granola. It adds a nutty, toasty flavor, helps the granola bind (though, this is not an overly-clustered recipe; more on that later), and is a great source of protein and nutrients. The original recipe called for butter, but I’ve come to prefer using a more heart-healthy, neutral-flavored oil, such as grapeseed. Beyond that, I’ve changed about every mix-in (and you can, too, according to your own preferences), and added a touch of cinnamon and vanilla for a warm, autumnal flavor.
There tend to be two camps in the great granola debate: those who prefer a cereal-like texture, and those who prefer clusters. I enjoy both, but most of the time, I’m a granola sprinkler. Large clumps just don’t do well with a bowl of yogurt and a spoon, or layered into a parfait with fresh fruit. While this granola does form some clusters after cooling, it is, by nature, a more loosely-textured granola. That’s not to say that it can’t be enjoyed as a snack on its own by the handful, but it’s not a recipe that you’ll be picking up and popping into your mouth in big, neat pieces.
One of the biggest advantages to making granola at home (aside from knowing exactly what went into it, and being able to customize it to your own flavor preferences) is the cost. Prepared granola, especially ones considered “gourmet” mixes with whole nuts, can be off the charts on the price scale. My jaw nearly hit the ground when I was browsing in a specialty market a few weeks ago and came across an 8-ounce bag for $8! Homemade granola can be a huge savings, especially if you have access to a store with good prices on dried fruit and nuts (::cough: Trader Joe’s ::cough::). It’s really just a stir-and-bake operation, too, making it a great recipe to make as August’s long, lazy days turn into September’s school and work schedules. It might be 95-degrees today in NJ, but I’m inching into fall, folks!
Cherry Almond Granola
While you will get some clusters of granola with this recipe, this is not a heavily-clumped recipe. It is best suited to sprinkling over yogurt and in parfaits for breakfast (or a very delicious snack!). Cherry Almond Granola keeps well, stored in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to two weeks.
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1/4 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup light-flavored oil (I use grapeseed)
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup whole raw almonds
- 1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
- 1 cup dried cherries
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, stir together oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, and kosher salt until combined. Set aside.
In a small bowl (or a liquid measuring cup), whisk together oil, honey, and vanilla until smooth. Pour over oat mixture and stir until evenly combined. Fold in almonds and coconut.
Spread granola in an even layer onto prepared sheet pan. Bake 40-45 minutes until golden brown, flipping the granola with a spatula after 20 minutes and rotating the pan in the oven for even baking. Keep a close eye during the last 10 minutes of baking, as the granola can go from toasted to burned (especially in the corners) quickly.
Remove from the oven and immediately fold dried cherries into the granola on the sheet pan. Re-spread granola into an even layer and let cool to room temperature. Break up granola, leaving some small clumps, if desired.
Feel free to substitute different nut varieties and dried fruits to your personal flavor preferences. Larger fruits, such as apricots, should be cut into smaller pieces before adding to the granola. For a sweet treat, add 1/2 cup chocolate chips when the granola is completely cooled.