Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Salt Free Granola with a Slovenian Flair

Is it challenging to make granola without salt?  Not especially, although you might be surprised at how much sodium is lurking in some commercial varieties.

Is granola a traditional Slovenian food?  Hardly.  Slovenians are much more inclined to eat muesli, the uncooked Swiss version of an oats-fruit-nut breakfast blend.  Granola and muesli were both developed as health foods in the late nineteenth century.  Muesli seems to have remained true to its healthy European roots, while American granola has evolved into a sweet confection that borders on crumbled cookies.

So I'll admit it: Granola was an odd choice for my first venture into low sodium cooking. But I was captivated by the description of Pomegranate Granola Fruit Chunks in Sodium Girl's Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook, Jessica Goldman Foung's guide to the low salt lifestyle we are starting to adopt at my house. (Take a look at her blog for an online version of a very similar recipe for sort-of granola bars.)

Jessica's unusual granola recipe exemplifies her approach to low sodium cooking. The key is to compensate for the absence of salt by using intense and varied flavors in unexpected ways.  In this case, the flavor surprise is the rich, deep tang of pomegranate molasses, along with grated orange rind and orange juice.

I have made four versions of Jessica's granola recipe.  I started out with a few healthy modifications, since I was aiming for a breakfast cereal rather than a sweet snack.  The original recipe calls for butter, plenty of dried fruit, and no nuts.  I substituted vegetable oil,  added some nuts, and cut down on the sugary fried fruit.  It was delicious.

The next time, I got the bright idea of introducing some special Slovenian touches: Buckwheat, pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin seed oil.  The next time around, I added walnuts and cinnamon.  I have experimented with different combinations of dried fruits. Once, I mistakenly used pomegranate syrup instead of molasses.  It seems to work every time.

A note about pomegranate molasses: This was the first time I used this amazing sweetener, which seems to have become everyone's secret ingredient.   It has an incomparable flavor: tangy, sweet, and slightly bitter.  Any Middle Eastern grocery should carry it, but many mainstream supermarkets also stock it. If you must, you can substitute pomegranate syrup, regular molasses, or honey.

For the latest version of this always-evolving dish, read on!

Granola, Salt Free and with a Slovenian Flair

Dry Ingredients:
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup whole buckwheat groats, untoasted

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup dried figs or dates, diced
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Liquid mixture:
1 T. vegetable oil
1 T. pumpkin seed oil
3 T. honey
2 T. pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar
grated rind and juice of 1 orange
1 t. cinnamon

Mix the rolled oats and untoasted buckwheat groats together and spread in a 9 by 12 inch pan or cookie sheet.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and reduce heat to 300 degrees.

Pour the toasted oats and buckwheat into a large mixing bowl.  Add the remaining dry ingredients and combine.

Line the cooled baking pan with parchment paper.

Heat the oils in a small pan.  Add the honey and pomegranate molasses; blend well.  Add the brown sugar, orange rind and juice, and cinnamon and mix together.  Bring mixture to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.

Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients in the large bowl.  Mix well.

Spread the granola onto the lined baking pan, using your hands or a spatula to flatten. Bake at 300 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.   Turn the pan during baking.  (Watch so it doesn't overbrown!)

Let cool for at least 45 minutes or until hardened.  Break into chunks or crumbles.

Serve with fruit and yogurt.  It's also good sprinkled on ice cream or as an anytime snack.

Warning: This is addictive!


  1. Interesting twist on traditional American granola. Pomegranate molasses is apparently a lot of people's secret ingredient. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Your granola company looks lovely!