This crispy, crunchy protein granola is lower in fat and sugar, but still a satisfying breakfast or snack—in peanut butter or chocolate variety! It's even Weight Watchers-friendly, with just 8 SmartPoints in each full cup.
The “Crunchy Granola” Lifestyle
Growing up, there were no hipsters like there today—and “health food stores” were pretty much the only place to buy things like oat bran or whatever new good was supposed to help keep you alive into your 80s. And granola was most definitely considered health food.
These days, we've come a long way in both the availability of so-called health foods (hello Amazon Whole Foods!), and we now know that just because you call something “granola” doesn't mean that it's going to be healthy for you overall. In fact, although most granola has tons of great things for you in it, it also often has plenty of sugar.
I love granola so much that I had long made my basic Maple Almond Granola Recipe for myself, and only for myself. It was one of the very few things that I made selfishly, and I loved it as much for its crunchy, sweet, nubby taste and texture as I did for the fact that it was mine, alllll mine.
But I knew there had to be a way to make it, well, lighter and with more protein and still have it taste great. This protein granola ticks all the boxes: lower carb, lower fat, packed with protein, truly satisfying and really flavorful even though it's only lightly sweet.
I love oats and serve certified gluten free oats all the time to my gluten free family. They're nutrient-dense, satisfying and we love their chewiness.
One of our favorite granola bar recipes has plenty of crisp rice cereal in the recipe (don't forget to see my master granola bar recipe, too). But baking with crisp rice cereal can be tricky. If you add something hot to it, it tends to taste stale, which I have discovered when making rice krispie treats with homemade marshmallows.
Even so, I was dying to try making granola with more crisp rice cereal than oats. Plus, Weight Watchers assigns crisp rice cereal a much lower point value than oats.
Oh, but if you are gluten free like we are, please be very careful as Kellogg's Rice Krispies in the U.S. are not gluten free. I've got 5 GF crisp rice cereal brands that you might want to try, though. Check those out before you make your decision.
All the powders: cocoa, peanut butter, and protein
I get into the details of what each individual ingredient does in this protein granola recipe below, but I'm really loving the idea of adding these powders to my baking lately. They're all low in fat and nutritious.
I started experimenting with powdered peanut butter years ago when it was actually pretty hard to find. For that reason, I was reluctant to use it in recipe development. Now, there are lots of brands of it, and it seems to be available in most regular grocery stores.
We usually buy PB2 brand, but just because it often goes on sale. It seems to be big in the Weight Watchers community, but I really love it because it's very versatile.
Cocoa powder is a great way to add chocolate flavor without all the calories and sugar of most chocolate, and it often is a perfect substitute for PB2, since I know not everyone can have peanuts. I do try to provide as much substitution information as possible (this article has a ton of info below!), but please keep in mind that the more substitutions you make, the further you get away from the recipe as developed and tested.
A word about how to store anything that you'd like to make and keep crunchy. The egg whites and applesauce add a fair amount of moisture to this granola mixture, and we all know what happens to rice krispies when they get wet.
To make sure that this protein granola gets and stays crispy and crunchy, like any proper granola should be, don't skip the steps that instruct you to stir the granola during the baking process. Be sure to bake the granola until it's a true golden brown all over.
Finally, allow it to sit on the baking sheet after it's baked until it's completely cool, and then break it up into chunks and store it in a glass jar—not plastic! Storing anything crunchy in a sealed glass jar at room temperature is the only way I know of to keep it as crunchy as the day you made it.
The granola may clump a bit as it sits, so before you shake it out of the container, give it a strong shake while the top is still on. That will break it back up.
Ingredients and substitutions
This recipe is already gluten free and dairy free. But it does have nuts, eggs, oats, some sugar and an animal product. So let's dig in!
Oat-free: I've never made granola entirely without oats except for this recipe for Paleo Granola—but it's definitely not low fat or low sugar. In the U.S., where I live and work, you can eat oats on a gluten free diet.
If you'd like to try to make this recipe oat-free, try replacing the one cup of rolled oats with more crisp brown rice cereal. I honestly don't know how it would go, but feel free to experiment!
Egg-free: The egg whites in this recipe are there to add protein, and as a binder that helps the recipe to crisp and brown even without much sugar. If you'd like to replace the egg whites, you can try aquafaba (I have absolutely no idea whether or not that would work!).
If you don't mind adding more sugar, I'd go with another 4 tablespoons (84 g) pure maple syrup instead. That will make this recipe much less Weight Watchers-friendly, by a mile, but we can't have it all—at least not all at the same time!
Nut-free: There is only 3/4 cup of almonds in this recipe, but they really make it taste like granola. If you can't have nuts, though, you can try replacing the almonds with an equal amount, by weight, of sunflower seeds or even hemp seeds. I'm just guessing here, though!
In place of powdered peanut butter, you can use more protein powder or even 5 tablespoons (25 g) of unsweetened cocoa powder for a chocolate variety. It doesn't taste very strongly of chocolate, though. But it's a lovely hint.
Vegan: Collagen protein has really become a favorite of mine, as it's nearly 100% protein and great for hair, skin, and nails. Plus it's a great way of getting more protein into my kids. I've really liked Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides (affiliate link, but of course feel free to shop around), but have recently started using Perfect Hydrolyzed Collagen Peptides (affiliate link), and I might just like it better. Plus, it's less expensive.
In this recipe, it really helps the granola to hold together as it's rather sticky. But if you need to make this recipe vegan, try replacing it with a vegan protein powder that you love. I've generally enjoyed Vega brand and use it in my Homemade Protein Bars, but it does have additional ingredients beyond protein and it's much heavier by volume than collagen protein.
Sugar-free: There is really very little sugar, comparatively, in this recipe, with only 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup. It's really necessary for the granola to stick together and frankly for it taste great. The final sprinkling of powdered sugar substitute helps a bit as well.
But if you need to make this completely sugar-free (other than the naturally occurring sugar in the applesauce), you can try using Lankato brand maple syrup sugar substitute. I haven't tried any of the Lankato products yet, but I just ordered their monk fruit granulated sugar substitute and I'm looking forward to experimenting with it.
Watch this short how to video (about 1 minute)
Just push play ▶ below to watch me make this protein granola. Then make your own!
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Protein Granola | WW-Friendly, Too!
1 cup (100 g) old-fashioned rolled oats (certified gluten free, if necessary)
2 1/2 cups (75 g) crisp brown rice cereal (gluten free, if necessary)
1/4 cup (30 g) unsweetened coconut flakes (toasted is better)
3/4 cup (84 g) raw almonds, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons (18 g) powdered peanut butter OR 5 tablespoons (25 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 scoops (20 g) collagen protein powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons (21 g) Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, melted
1/2 cup (126 g) unsweetened smooth applesauce
3 egg whites (75 g)
2 tablespoons (42 g) pure maple syrup
1 to 2 packets monk fruit in the raw sugar substitute or erythritol (optional)
Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
In a large bowl, place the oats, rice cereal, coconut flakes, almonds, powdered peanut butter, protein powder, and salt, and mix gently to combine well. Create a well in the center and add the melted vegan butter, applesauce, egg whites and maple syrup, and mix gently to combine well. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer.
Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir gently to redistribute the mixture so the center is on the edges and vice versa. Return to the oven and continue to bake for another 12 minutes. Remove from the oven again, sprinkle the optional powdered sugar substitute evenly over the top of the granola, and stir to combine. Return to the oven and continue to bake for another 12 minutes or until deeply golden brown all over. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the granola to sit until completely cooled and set. Break up into chunks and smaller pieces and serve immediately or store in a sealed glass container at room temperature until ready to serve.