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  • Writer's pictureKelly

Pink Lemonade Granola (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Fruit-Sweetened, All-Natural)

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

I've been on a granola kick lately. Nutty granola, fruity granola, spiced granola, dessert-y granola, caffeinated-beverage-inspired granola, raw granola, it's all a major staple in my diet right now (but honestly, when hasn't granola been a major staple in my diet?). Luckily, I've crafted numerous vegan granolas sweetened strictly with dates and other fruits, so I can curb those granola cravings in a pinch! This time, I've created a brightly citrusy summer granola that adds a neon pop of color to any breakfast: Pink Lemonade Granola. This Pink Lemonade Granola is vegan, gluten-free, and fruit-sweetened and is naturally colored with pink dragon fruit powder. Addictively lemon-y, amply sweet, and full of nutrient-dense ingredients, you'll be on a granola kick too after you try this granola!



I've posted several of my granola creations on The Dimpled Date so far (like my Peanut Butter Granola, Golden Milk Granola, and Pumpkin Granola). But this Pink Lemonade Granola tops them all by far!! Warning: this granola is EXTREMELY addictive and you may eat the entire batch in one sitting.


This granola tastes just what it sounds like: lemonade but in granola form and with a natural pink color. To clarify this isn't strawberry lemonade granola, it's pink lemonade granola. Simply put, "pink lemonade" is the name the food industry has assigned to lemonade that's loaded up with sugar and artificial pink food dye along with other nasties. Pink lemonade is just pink, not strawberry-flavored. It makes me wonder if pink lemonade was conceived because of the existence of pink lemons, which are a thing (although the juice of pink lemons runs clear, not pink), or if the pink color is just a marketing-ploy. Regardless, the important part is that this Pink Lemonade Granola has all-natural flavor and color with no sugar or artificial ingredients.


The natural lemon flavor comes from, you guessed it, fresh lemon juice and lemon zest, while the natural pink color comes from pink pitaya (AKA dragon fruit) powder. Dragon fruit is a wonderfully nutritious fruit, and the pink variety makes for the perfect natural food colorant. My go-to pink dragon fruit powder for naturally coloring my baked goodies is Suncore Foods's Pink Pitaya Powder. It adds an electric burst of color without affecting the flavor of my desserts/baked goods. This granola is sweetened with date paste (basically, puréed dates and water // I get my date paste recipe from Detoxinista!).



This granola is loaded with protein, fiber, healthy fats, and complex carbs and, thus, is perfect for staying satiated between meals. It makes the perfect breakfast along with some fresh fruit or as a pick-me-up snack between meals.


Although nutritionally hardy, this granola is surprisingly light in flavor and texture, making it the perfect summer granola. If you love lemons and lemonade, then you will love this granola. It has a beautifully bold lemon flavor (without it being overpowering) with notes of vanilla and plentiful sweetness. The dragon fruit powder actually doesn't impart any flavor to the granola, just color and nutrients.


FYI: this recipe calls for 1 Tbsp lemon juice, but if you like it more lemon-y, you can add upwards of 3 to 4 Tbsp lemon juice, and it will come out even more citrusy (I personally love it with extra lemon juice. I actually discovered this by accident by adding the wrong measurement of lemon juice, but it was a happy accident!) ***ALSO IMPORTANT TIP: you're going to want to store this granola at room temperature to preserve the color and lemon flavor. If you put it in the fridge it can lose its lemon flavor and the color will fade at least slightly. Don't ask me how that works, but I know from experience. Thankfully, date-sweetened vegan granolas can be stored at room temp safely for at least one to two weeks without spoiling, and this granola is no exception. The only thing is, if you prefer your granola crunchy you can only preserve the crunchiness by refrigerating it. Otherwise, at room temp it will be more chewy/soft. So if you're just in it for the crunchiness and nutrition of this granola, by all means refrigerate it if desired. But if you're in it for flavor and color as well as nutrition, keep it at room temperature. Of course, if you add the extra lemon juice, you may be able to get away with refrigerating it and preserving the flavor. I haven't tried this yet though, so no guarantees.


Enjoy this granola with unsweetened plant milk, with unsweetened coconut milk yogurt and fresh fruit, on top of a smoothie bowl, or on its own. There are plenty of options for serving, so serve it however you *granola*. Of course, once you get a taste you may just be devouring this by the handful and you probably won't care about how to serve it but rather about when you can make the next batch! ;)


The photos in this post have different tones of lighting, so to see the most accurate colors to what this granola looks like in normal lighting, refer to the picture below. Depending on how much of the dragon fruit powder you add, this granola can be anywhere from rose gold-hued to verging on fuchsia.



Nutritional Profile of Pink Lemonade Granola


Rolled oats- rolled oats (AKA old-fashioned oats) are a great source of fiber, protein, healthy carbohydrates, and iron. Fiber aids digestion and promotes heart health, while protein helps build and maintain muscle. Healthy carbohydrates provide high-quality, long-lasting energy and iron builds red blood cells. If you're strictly gluten-free, choose certified gluten-free oats, as oats (which are inherently gluten-free) can be cross-contaminated with gluten-containing crops. Tip: rolled oats (old-fashioned), steel-cut oats, quick oats, and instant oats are all different and produce very different results in baking, so make sure you know which ones your recipe calls for! This recipe calls for rolled (old-fashioned) oats.


Coconut oil- coconut oil is rich in healthy fats (including MCTs). Healthy fats are good for heart health, brain health, skin, and hair. Medium-chain triglycerides (or MCTs), specifically provide high-quality, quick energy for the body. Emerging research is suggesting that plant-based saturated fat (the kind found in coconut) may be better for you than animal-based saturated fat and may even benefit your health. Tip: choose cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil when purchasing. Also, coconut oil can be used as an all-natural hair mask to boost hydration and shine (search online to see how to properly use coconut oil as a hair mask).


Coconut butter- coconut butter (AKA "coconut manna") is different from coconut oil. Coconut butter is essentially puréed coconut meat whereas coconut oil is the oil extracted from pressing coconut meat. Coconut butter boasts considerable amounts of healthy fats, fiber, protein, iron, and potassium. Healthy fats can lower "bad" LDL cholesterol, fiber feeds the good bacteria in your gut, and protein plays a role in nearly every bodily process. Iron builds red blood cells, which are responsible for transporting oxygen through the body, and potassium can help regulate blood pressure. Pro tip: when using coconut butter, you may notice that this butter separates into two layers: one thin clear/translucent layer on the top and one large cream-colored/opaque layer below. The top thin clear layer is the coconut oil that naturally separates out of the coconut butter, whereas the cream opaque layer is the coconut butter. Simply submerge the sealed jar in a bowl of hot/boiling water, let sit for 5 to 15 minutes, then stir to re-incorporate the coconut oil into the coconut butter. Or, you can scrape the top layer of coconut oil off the top of the coconut butter and use the coconut oil in recipes that can for coconut oil. Then, the coconut butter can be used without having to worry about separation.


Medjool dates- Medjool dates (or the "King of Dates" // and thus, date paste which is just puréed dates + water) are one of the largest and sweetest varieties of dates in the U.S., and are incredibly soft with rich caramel notes. They are my absolute favorite type of date, and my preferred variety to use on the blog. Dates are antioxidant powerhouses that are also rich in fiber, protein, potassium, and iron. Fiber slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream and aids digestion. Protein builds and maintains muscle mass. Potassium regulates blood pressure and balances electrolytes. Iron builds red blood cells that transport oxygen through the body. Antioxidants in general help protect against numerous diseases because of their ability to fight disease-causing free radicals in the body. Dates also benefit bone health, can help prevent anemia, can help regulate blood sugar levels in moderation (believe it or not!), help promote healthy bowel movements, may help alleviate some symptoms of PMS (like cravings), and show potential as a way to naturally induce (or at least shorten) labor, according to emerging research. Opt for organic dates with no added sugar to reap the maximum benefits of the dates (I use Natural Delights' Whole Fresh Medjool Dates that are grown with zero pesticides and have no added sugar).


Nuts/seeds- nuts/seeds, generally speaking, are good sources of healthy fats, protein, fiber, and vitamins & minerals. For example, walnuts are a great source of healthy fats (including omega-3 fatty acids), fiber, protein, and iron. Omega-3s benefit everything from heart to brain to eye to metabolism to joint to immune to skin to hair health. As far as seeds go, pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are a healthy example and are rich in healthy fats, fiber, protein, iron, antioxidants, magnesium, and other vitamins & minerals. Magnesium supports healthy bones and plays a central role in numerous chemical reactions in the body. Tip: Choose raw, unsalted, unsweetened nuts and seeds whenever possible, as you can reap more nutritional benefits with raw nuts/seeds and without the added salt and sugar.


Dragon fruit (pitaya)- dragon fruit (AKA pitaya // and thus pitaya powder, which is just dried and ground pitaya) is rich in fiber (including prebiotics), protein, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and antioxidants. Fiber stimulates digestion and helps prevent the absorption of cholesterol in the gut and prebiotics feed the good bacteria in the intestines. Protein builds muscle and plays a role in nearly every bodily process. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that benefits the immune system and stimulates collagen production. Iron builds red blood cells, magnesium benefits bone health, and antioxidants in general play a key role in preventing disease by fighting free radical damage. Dragon fruit comes in many varieties and colors including red (pink exterior with red/pink edible flesh inside), white (pink exterior with white edible flesh inside), and yellow (yellow exterior with white edible flesh inside). Dragon fruit is truly a treat (and a splurge), so if you can treat yourself to this fresh fruit every once in a while, do it if your local supermarkets stock it. The fresh fruit has a magnificent flavor and sweetness that you won't get with dragon fruit powder like Suncore's Pitaya Powder.


Lemons- lemon juice & zest are filled with antioxidants, vitamin C, and beneficial plant compounds that boost the immune system, aid iron absorption, and fight free radical damage. Pro tip: drinking lemon water is a great form of detox for Lyme disease and in general! Simply juice at least half a lemon and enjoy that juice in half the amount of water you drink in a day.


Unsweetened raisins- unsweetened raisins are dried grapes with no added sugar that are incredibly nutritious. They contain fiber, protein, potassium, iron, calcium, and antioxidants, without all the added sugar. See above ingredient nutritional profiles for the health benefits of fiber, protein, and iron. Potassium regulates blood pressure, promoting heart health. Calcium builds strong and healthy bones and can help prevent osteoporosis. Antioxidants fight free radical damage, thus helping to protect against disease. Opt for unsweetened raisins over sweetened ones, because even unsweetened raisins are a high-calorie, high-sugar dried fruit naturally.


Desiccated coconut- coconut meat (and thus, desiccated coconut, which is just shaved and dried coconut meat) is a great source of healthy fats, fiber, protein, iron, potassium, manganese, copper, selenium, and phosphorous. See above ingredient profiles for the health benefits of healthy fats, fiber, protein, iron, and potassium. Manganese is a mineral that is essential for bone health. Copper plays a role in cardiovascular health and helps develop and maintain bodily tissues, including bones, the brain, and the heart. Selenium is a mineral that is a component of proteins and enzymes that produce DNA. Phosphorous helps build bones, teeth, DNA, and RNA. Tip: choose unsweetened desiccated or shredded coconut, which are already naturally sweet in their own right.



Substitutions


I wouldn't substitute any other kind of oats for the gluten-free rolled (old-fashioned) oats because quick oats, instant oats, and steel-cut oats all take different amounts of time to cook and have drastically different textures. If the oats don't need to be gluten-free, you can sub regular oats. Possibly, you could omit the oats and instead use gluten-free/vegan/sugar-free crispy cereal. You want a good amount of texture and volume to replace the oats and something like a gluten-free, vegan, and sugar-free crispy rice cereal would do the trick I think without adding too many extra calories or fat (***PLEASE NOTE: I HAVE NOT tried this recipe with crispy rice cereal in place of the oats and therefore CANNOT guarantee good results***). If you try this recipe with crispy rice cereal, let me know how it turned out in the comments! The melted coconut oil can be replaced with an equal amount of either avocado oil, sunflower oil, OR safflower oil OR another neutral-flavored oil (olive oil might even work here, it might just lend an ever-so-slightly more robust flavor). To reduce the fat in this recipe, you could potentially substitute 2 Tbsp out of the 1/4 cup of coconut oil (per single batch) with 2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce (in other words instead of using 1/4 cup coconut oil, use 2 Tbsp coconut oil PLUS 2 Tbsp applesauce).


The softened coconut butter is difficult to substitute in this recipe, as the coconut butter is very mild and the flavors in this granola are very delicate, thus requiring a mild nut/seed butter to maintain their flavor. Possibly, you could try substituting the coconut butter with unsweetened creamy raw almond butter (NOT roasted // make sure the almonds are steam-pasteurized), unsweetened creamy raw cashew butter, a very mild tahini, macadamia nut butter, OR another mild nut/seed butter. POSSIBLY, you could attempt using a more robust nut/seed butter like unsweetened creamy roasted almond butter, unsweetened creamy roasted cashew butter, unsweetened creamy sunflower seed butter, OR unsweetened walnut butter with varied results, knowing that these nut/seed butters may be too robust for the flavor of this granola. If you try any of the nut/seed butter substitutions mentioned in this paragraph, let me know how it turned out in the comments! Another option is leaving out the coconut butter or nut/seed butter altogether.


The date paste may be replaced with 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup agave, 1/4 cup coconut nectar, 1/4 cup date syrup, OR 1/4 cup honey (if not strictly vegan). OR you may use 1/4 cup coconut sugar OR scant 1/4 cup maple sugar. OR you could substitute 2 Tbsp brown sugar PLUS 2 Tbsp maple syrup/agave/date syrup/honey (if you can have refined sugar on your diet). For 100% sugar-free, you can try using 1/4 cup erythritol, 1/4 cup Granular Swerve, liquid/powdered monk fruit to taste, liquid/powdered stevia to taste, OR chicory root fiber syrup to taste (*NOTE: if you don't tolerate Swerve or erythritol well, do not use it. And if you are using the chicory root fiber syrup, be sure you've built up a tolerance to it and don't exceed that tolerance. Chicory root fiber syrup is composed almost entirely of sweet-tasting fibers, which are healthy, but as such it needs to be gradually introduced to and increased in the diet. Too much fiber too quick can cause GI distress). Do not omit a sweetener.


Any type of mild nuts/seeds may be used, such as cashews, almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds (pepitas), etc. Choose mild nuts/seeds over robust ones because the lemon flavor is delicate and it pairs better with mild nuts/seeds. Alternatively, you could attempt to use gluten-free/vegan/sugar-free crispy rice cereal OR additional rolled oats in place of the nuts/seeds. The pink pitaya (dragon fruit) powder is optional and is just for an added pink color. If you still want a pink color but don't have dragon fruit powder on hand, try using an equal amount of beet powder OR beet juice OR use natural/vegan/GF/sugar-free pink/red food dye (like Supernatural's food dyes) until the desired color is reached (***PLEASE NOTE: I know the natural/vegan pink/red food dye will work here, but I can't guarantee that the beet juice/beet powder won't impart an earthy flavor to this granola, as I haven't tried this recipe with beets for coloring. My guess is that the granola is flavorful and sweet enough that pigmenting this granola with just a little beet juice/powder wouldn't leave an earthy flavor***). Another coloring option is using an equal amount of Suncore Food's Prickly Pear Powder OR their Fuchsia Hibiscus Powder.


The vanilla extract can be replaced with an equivalent amount of scraped vanilla bean, pure ground vanilla bean powder, OR sugar-free vanilla paste/syrup. I don't recommend replacing the vanilla with another flavor or omitting it. The lemon zest and juice shouldn't be replaced, as this is a recipe for Pink Lemonade granola. You can use unsweetened store-bought lemon juice (NOT lemonade) in place of the fresh lemon juice, though. The unsweetened raisins/unsweetened dried fruit is optional. Some ideas for unsweetened dried fruits to use in this recipe: unsweetened raisins, unsweetened craisins, unsweetened dried blueberries, chopped unsweetened & unsulphured dried apricot, etc. Lastly, the unsweetened shredded/desiccated coconut is optional. If you want, you can replace it with a small spoonful of hempseed, chia seeds, or whole flaxseeds for an added nutritional boost and added crunch.



Future Recipes Sneak Peek!


It's heeeeere!! The "Future Recipes Sneak Peek" where I give you a special inside look at what's coming to The Dimpled Date next! Here are 3 new recipes that are perfected or are in the works, and that are coming to The Dimpled Date soon:


1. Unicorn Pop-Tarts

2. Lavender White Chocolate Truffles

3. Easy Date-Sweetened Lemon Squares


..AND MORE! Stay posted for more scrumptious goodies!


Enjoy!

-K.



Pink Lemonade Granola (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Fruit-Sweetened, All-Natural)


Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 to 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 to 30 minutes

Servings: abt 3 cups granola


Ingredients:


-2 cups gluten-free whole rolled oats (gluten-free old-fashioned oats)

-1/4 cup coconut oil

-2 Tbsp coconut butter

-1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp date paste

-1/2 cup mild nuts/seeds of choice (I used walnuts, almonds, and cashews)

-1 tsp to 1 Tbsp pink pitaya powder (AKA pink dragon fruit powder) (depending on how pigmented you want your granola // I use Suncore's Pink Pitaya Powder) OR enough natural/vegan pink food dye (like Supernatural's) until desired color is reached (optional, for a pink color)

-1 tsp vanilla extract

-zest of 1 lemon

-1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (you may add up to 3 to 4 Tbsp for extra lemon flavor)

-handful of unsweetened raisins, unsweetened craisins, OR unsweetened dried fruit of choice (optional)

-small handful of unsweetened shredded/desiccated coconut (optional)


Directions:


1. Make the date paste ahead of time. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a large silicone baking mat. Roughly chop your nuts of choice (if using seeds leave the seeds whole). Zest and juice the lemon.


2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, chopped nuts/seeds, pink pitaya powder (if using), dried fruit (if using), and shredded coconut (if using) and mix together. Set aside.


3. In a small saucepan on the stove over very low heat, melt together the coconut oil, coconut butter, and date paste until just melted, stirring frequently (the date paste won't be fully incorporated and that is OK). Wait to add the vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

4. Pour the melted and slightly cooled coconut oil, coconut butter, and date paste over the oat mixture and add the vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest now. Stir together until fully incorporated.


5. Spread the granola out onto the lined baking sheet into a single even layer.


6. Bake in the preheated oven (at 325 degrees F) for 10 to 15 minutes, flipping the granola halfway through.


7. Allow to cool (the granola will form clusters and the flavors in the granola will develop further as it cools).


8. Serve with refined-sugar-free lemonade, iced green tea, or a DIY frosé. Serve as a meal with unsweetened plant milk, unsweetened coconut milk yogurt and fruit, atop a smoothie bowl, or on its own. Serve for breakfast, as a snack between meals, or as a topping (atop frozen yogurt or pancakes, anyone?). Enjoy! (*Be sure to store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature to preserve the flavor and color).


Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temp for at least one week.

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