These skinny clusters will keep you full for hours!
Throughout our childhood, my brother and I commandeered most of the cereal shelf for our favorite flavors—Life, Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, and Fruity Pebbles—but Daddy usually snuck a couple inches at the end for his “grown-up” box. He stuck with Grape-Nuts during our early elementary school years so Mom only needed to stop by the Lucky’s down the street for the entire family’s weekly groceries, but when I graduated to middle school, Dad started driving past Trader Joe’s on his way home from work too.
Slowly, bags of TJ’s granola began popping up in the pantry. Country Pumpkin Spice Granola appeared first, the small plastic bag nestled innocently behind our kid-friendly boxes. I ignored it for a year or two, always reaching for the Fruity Pebbles instead, until one afternoon as a high school freshman.
I walked into the pantry, ready to grab my typical chewy granola bar, but after a whirlwind week at work, Mom completely forgot to replenish our dwindling supply. With my rumbling stomach demanding an after-school snack, I stood studying my options (and procrastinating on Algebra homework) until I spotted Dad’s morning breakfast stash. Picking up the package, I peeled it open and sniffed the cereal. Enchanted by the cinnamon smell—one of my favorite spices!—I shook some into a ramekin and started to munch.
And munch. And munch. And munch. I polished off the entire bowl before I even cracked open my textbook, so I quickly stood up to pour another portion, this time adding milk, to fuel my brain for multiplication and division.
When Daddy arrived home that evening and discovered half of the package had disappeared, he chuckled a little bit while scribbling a note to himself to begin buying double the amount in the future.
Over the next 4 years, the two of us started sampling other varieties of TJ’s granola. We both preferred their “Just the Clusters” line over all of the others, especially the boxes of Maple Pecan. We occasionally added their Vanilla Almond Clusters to our cart, but mainly if TJ’s ran out of our favorite. We positively adored those crunchy syrup-flavored oats and soft nuts—I’d run through a box of that faster than my chocolaty Halloween candy!
Daddy normally savored his morning bowl before the sun (and the rest of us) rose, accompanied by a big cup of coffee. While we slept, he quietly brewed a pot or two, slowly sipping on his caffeine, and he always drank it black. No milk, no cream, no sugar. Just the freshly ground beans—dark, deep, and pure.
This past weekend, I took a much-needed mini vacation to visit my parents. I spent the whole week anxiously awaiting Saturday, exactly like a little kid counting down the days until Christmas, and when my excitement spiraled a tiny bit too far out of control, I decided to distract myself by baking something to bring home with me.
Remembering my dad’s two favorite parts of the morning, I combined them into one thing: Mocha Granola! With a strong coffee flavor and subtle dark chocolate undertones, these crunchy clusters pack quite a delicious punch. Their deep earthy taste—just as black as Dad’s morning cup—brings a comforting touch to the early hours of your day. Made with purely vegan and clean-eating ingredients, this skinny granola will keep you full all morning too!
I always add both old-fashioned oats and rice krispies cereal to my granolas. (See here, here, here, and here!) The oats are full of fiber to keep my stomach satisfied, while the rice krispies add an addictive crunch to the clusters without lots of excess calories. If you choose gluten-free oats, this entire granola will be gluten-free too!
To create the mocha flavor, you’ll need strong coffee and cocoa powder. I combined 6 tablespoons of warm water with 1 ½ teaspoons of instant coffee crystals, and the coffee flavor really shone. You can also use leftover coffee from your morning brew instead; just let it cool down a bit first! For the cocoa powder, either regular or special dark works great.
I only added a touch of maple syrup to this low fat granola to maintain the dark coffee flavor. If you like your granola sweeter, feel free to add more.
Unlike typical granola recipes, this easy one doesn’t require any heating! That’s right, you don’t need to stir the wet ingredients on the stovetop to create a thick syrup. Just whisk everything besides the oats and rice krispies in a bowl, pour that over the dry cereal, and you’re done. So simple.
While in the oven, the granola fills your house with the comforting smell of a coffee shop, the warm aromas wafting through the kitchen and really tempting your taste buds. But don’t get distracted! Make sure you stir the granola every 15 minutes. With longer intervals, the cereal closest to the pan’s edges begins to burn. It’s difficult to see since the granola itself is dark brown, but trust me—you don’t want to spend 45 minutes waiting just to end up with charcoaled granola!
It sounds deadly to those of us with no self-control, but it’s important to let the granola cool in the warm pan after baking. It continues to crisp up, resulting in the perfect crunchy texture, as long as you can stop yourself from snacking on a handful every time you walk through the kitchen. (You caught me—I’m guilty as charged!)
Thank goodness I drove home the day after making this Mocha Granola… I would’ve polished off the entire batch by myself in less than 2 days otherwise! I snacked on handful after handful of these crunchy coffee-kissed clusters, and that warm cocoa flavor lingered in my mouth after every bite.
It’s a seriously addictive combination—and the perfect healthy way to start your day!