Made guilt-free with purely healthy & clean-eating ingredients.
During my high school years, my mom played Fairy Godmother to the infant son of her sweet coworkers. Born without an immune system, he basically lived the life of “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” and spent months in a sterile hospital room, away from society’s germs from common colds and fevers. Multiple days each week, my mom hopped on the freeway after leaving work for an hour-long commute in the opposite direction of our house, visiting the family at an elite San Francisco medical center instead. (See here for more details—plus get a recipe inspired by the best brownies in the city!)
One afternoon, Mom sat in the sterile room paging through a home décor magazine, fully gowned in bright teal scrubs, in case any doctors or nurses stopped by while her coworkers dashed out for food and caffeine. They didn’t get much sleep at night at the Ronald McDonald House just down the street, and the constantly beeping machines in the hospital room ruled out any opportunities to nap there too!
They quickly returned before Mom even finished the first article, toting a cardboard drink carrier from Starbucks and a white paper bag. The small grease stains on the latter could only mean one thing—a decadent chocolate dessert—which Mom tried not to ogle and glanced at the coffee cups instead.
The infant’s mother handed one to Mom, explaining, “Thank you for staying here for us. We got you a chai latte!”
Although Mom occasionally brewed a cup of tea in the mornings and evenings (her preferred caffeine source over coffee), she always drank it plain, never with milk or sugar. Still, grateful for the gesture, she took a tiny sip. And another. And another.
And since that date—for almost 7 years—she has started every single day with a chai latte. She initially bought them from Starbucks, but she began mixing them herself after discovering they sold chai concentrate at the grocery store. Even when we go on vacation or visit our grandparents, she stops by Target as soon as soon as our flight lands to stock up on cartons of skim milk and that chai concentrate.
It’s a tradition.
Because I created a mocha granola for my dad last month, I decided to do the same for Mom while spending last weekend at my parents’ place. Daddy joined in on the surprise, and we spent some quality father-daughter time in the kitchen mixing, baking, and sneaking taste tests while Mom chuckled at Ellen ordering pizza at the Oscars.
An hour later, we presented her with this Chai Latte Granola. Full of cozy cinnamon and warm spices, every mouthful truly tastes like my mom’s favorite morning drink. With its addictive aroma wafting through the air and the perfect kiss of black tea coating every crunchy cluster, we just couldn’t stop nibbling!
You only need 7 ingredients for this super simple recipe—most of which you already stash in your pantry and fridge! Even better, you don’t need to heat up a pot and boil sugar to make a simple syrup like with most granola recipes. Just whisk, mix, and bake!
I always combine both old-fashioned oats and crisp rice cereal in my skinny granola bases. (See here, here, here, here, and here.) The rice cereal adds an irresistible crunch without lots of excess calories—I promise you’re going to love it! For this recipe, I measured out equal amounts of oats and rice cereal so every cluster turned out extra crunchy.
You’ll whisk together the remaining ingredients to form the liquid coating. It starts with strong chai tea brewed from a bag, and to ensure that the flavor really shines, steep it for at least 30 minutes. (Avoid chai concentrate; it contains lots of added sugar.) To enhance the chai’s spice taste, I mixed in a teaspoon of cinnamon along with a bit of maple syrup for sweetness. Finally, I poured in a splash of milk—it wouldn’t be a “latte” granola without it!
Make sure you toss everything together really well! The sweet tea mixture acts as the “glue” that holds the clusters together, and any dry cereal won’t actually stick to its neighbors. Spread the granola into a pan, and bake it at 350°F. After 15 minutes, give it a little stir with a spoon to break it up into smaller chunks. The bits closest to the edges generally brown a little faster, so I usually push those parts towards the center (and the middle parts outward) to ensure that all of the cereal bakes evenly.
Then repeat those steps all over again! Pop the pan back in the oven for 15 minutes, but this time when you take it out, you need to sneak a little taste test. Yes, it’s required! Depending on how crunchy the cereal is then, and depending on how crunchy you want the finished granola to be, you’ll stick the pan back in the oven for anywhere from 5-15 more minutes. Just remember: the granola continues crisping as it cools, so tend towards the side of slightly underdone when you decide to pull it out of the oven!
After carefully watching the pan and sampling multiple clusters for quality control, my dad and I seriously contemplated keeping it all for ourselves. With its perfect crunch and warm cinnamon coating, this healthy Chai Latte Granola almost convinced even us coffee drinkers to change our morning beverages!
Still, we thought better of it and brought out a little sample to Mom on the couch. When I originally came up with my idea, I accidentally forgot that her digestive system doesn’t always get along so well with oats, so she normally avoids granola. But… Her eyes lit up like a little kid’s on Christmas morning after her first bite, and she reported that it tasted exactly like her chai lattes! She almost begged to keep the entire batch for herself, and I happily obliged.
Love you Mom! ♥