It’s officially pumpkin season and I’m kicking it off with this nut-free pumpkin spice cranberry apple granola that is full of mega clusters galore! It’s also full of seasonal fall fruits like dried apples and cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and toasted coconut for a healthful balanced snack, breakfast or froyo topping.
Plus it’s gluten-free, refined sugar free, and nut free making it suitable for lunchboxes and on-the-go snacking to boot!
Confession No. 1
I’ve never made my own granola bars.
Confession No. 2
This nut-free pumpkin spice apple cranberry granola recipe was supposed to be a granola bar recipe.
Confession No. 3
I created and photographed this recipe two weeks ago and yet it’s never made it further than the piece of notebook paper I wrote (and rewrote annnnd rewrote) it on…Embarrassingly enough, a piece of notebook paper that still adorns the kitchen cabinet door that I taped it to while feebly attempting to get the original granola bar recipe to work. (Yes, my test kitchen organizational system is legit high tech.)
It feels good to get all of that off my chest.
In the continued spirit of being confessional, I’ll also admit that I’ve never tried making my own granola either so maybe I was being too ambitious to skip straight to granola bars?
Yeah. OK. Maybe don’t answer that.
The point I’m trying to make is that while my initial goal of creating a batch of epic fall-flavored granola bars didn’t pan out (like, literally ha), I still feel like we can call this a win.
As a matter of fact, I feel like we can call this a win/win.
Sure, granola bars may remain on my to-do list, but I do get to cross something off of it (is there any better feeling?) and you get a new, healthy, delicious recipe for nut-free, pumpkin spice apple cranberry granola with toasted coconut.
WHEN NOT STICKING TO YOUR GOALS IS SMART
The problem with my “granola bar” was that I could never get the ingredients to stick together well enough to justify being called a bar.
No additional amount of sunbutter or maple syrup made a difference and neither did popping the pan in the fridge or freezer overnight.
Is the sunbutter to blame? Is it less sticky compared to other nut butters?
Should I have added coconut oil?
Was my ratio of dry to wet ingredients that far off?
Or did I simply give up too soon?
I have to admit that I was feeling pretty lame about the whole situation.
I mean, aren’t granola bars supposed to be one of the easiest things to make ever? Like nutrition/food blogger 101 level stuff, right?
After two days fiddling with the texture, I abandoned the pile of clustered ingredients on the counter to work on another project upstairs. When I came back to the kitchen, my husband confessed (errr commented), “That pumpkin granola is awesome—I’d crush a bowl of it for breakfast when you’re done photographing it.”
That was my lightbulb moment.
DUH. I could totally swap my granola BAR dreams for one filled with crazy clustery, chewy (and tasty) granola.
And who doesn’t love clustery granola?
I’d actually argue that unless there ARE clusters, it can’t be called granola. Anyone else with me?
WHAT A CLUSTER
No, not that kind of cluster (I mean it sort of was a CF but I digress), cluster as in hello beautiful chunks of toasted oat goodness! Just look at those whole grain oats and pumpkin seeds clinging to dried cranberries and apples—the perfect balance of crunchiness and chewiness you crave in a snack mix all grounded in a healthy portion of sunflower butter.
And you can’t see it but trust me that it’s flavored with just enough pumpkin spice to be seasonally on point without overpowering.
Read: You could totally eat a handful of it with your coveted PSL. In fact, I’d encourage it.
Because even though the ingredients wouldn’t hold together as bars, all of the extra sunbutter and maple syrup I kept adding definitely led to some amazingly giant toasted oat clusters, which is without a doubt the main reason to eat granola.
Ya feel me?
Like I said, Iwithout clusters it’s basically little more than bird food.
And this ain’t bird food.
This is serious snack food right here my friends.
Snack food you can feel good about because it’s full of nutritious stuff. You know—vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats, protein, carbs, zero refined sugars—and all that jazz. High quality, whole food, seasonal ingredients clumped together by creamy nut-free, sunflower butter.
It’s fab on its own or get fancy and add it on top of smoothies and smoothie bowls, eat it as cereal, sprinkle it on yogurt or toast—endless options!
The ingredient options are endless, too, and completely customizable depending on what you have on hand. Here’s a bit about the ones I chose, mostly for the fact that they each work so well with pumpkin spice (the real reason for this snack in the first place).
Full of essential micronutrients like zinc (important for immune function), manganese, magnesium (benefits sleep, heart health, and aids in physiological stress management), copper (essential to blood cell formation and metabolism), as well as phytosterols, antioxidants, and protein
Unsweetened Dried Apples and Cranberries
Antioxidants, vitamin C
Sunflower Seed Butter
a.k.a. “sunbutter” a.k.a. the superhero nut-free alternative spread
Toasted Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
Amazing source of nourishing medium-chain triglyceride fatty acids and full of gut-friendly antimicrobial properties
Gluten-Free Whole Grain Oats
Fiber, slow-digesting carbs, and phosphorus for energy
It’s nut free, too, so you don’t have to worry about sending someone to the emergency room if you break out your stash out in class, on a plane, or pack it in your kid’s lunchbox.
All of those ingredients alone are enough to make all your snack time dreams comes true and then I took it next level with a generous sprinkle of PUMPKIN SPICE.
The quintessentially spicy-yet-sweet and warming blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cardamom that we all find irresistible as soon as the calendar reads September.
Speaking of calendars, I think it’s about time we get to the recipe, don’t you?
Because at this rate, the chances of that the aforementioned piece of notebook paper attractively taped to our kitchen cabinet (you remember the one featuring my scribbled recipes notes?) becoming a permanent fixture in our kitchen increase and the chance that I share this recipe before the end of pumpkin season decreases.
Let’s DO IT.
/// RECIPE ///
Pumpkin Spice Cranberry Apple Granola
Snack + Treat + Breakfast
Yield: 4-6 cups | Active Time: 5-10 minutes
3 cups whole grain gluten-free oats
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened dried apples, roughly chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut (shredded or flakes)
1-1 1/2 cups sunflower seed butter (or other nut butter of choice)
1/3 – 1/2 cup maple syrup)
1/2 + 1/8 tsp pumpkin spice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
- Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread oats, coconut, and pumpkin seeds on tray and lightly spray with coconut oil (optional). Toast for 5-10 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant.
- While toasting dry ingredients, combine maple syrup, sunflower seed butter, vanilla, and pumpkin spice in a glass bowl and microwave for 20-30 seconds to warm slightly (alternatively you can do this in a small pot on the stove).
- Combine toasted ingredients, dried apples and cranberries, and sunbutter mixture until everything is well coated and clumping into clusters. Allow to cool before transferring to a food storage container.
If any of you are experts at making homemade granola, tell me all your secrets. Or better yet, share your recipes in the comments section and I’ll just stick to granola?
That sounds like another win/win to me. 😉
YOUR THOUGHTS >>>
What’s your favorite way to use pumpkin spice during October?
Any granola bar tips for me?! Share ’em below pretty pleaseeeeeeeee.
GET SOCIAL! >>>
If you give this recipe a try, snap a photo and share the love on social media! Be sure to remember to tag me @honestlynourished in your photos and use #honestlynourished so I can see it and send you some major social love. You guys always impress me with your food pics!
PLUS, if you don’t ‘gram or snap it, did it even happen?! 😉