Sweet and Salty Grain-Free Granola Inspired by 'The True Story of Hansel and Gretel'

Sweet and Salty Grain-Free Granola Inspired by 'The True Story of Hansel and Gretel'

Wednesday, 1 December, 2021

Food and drinks are some of the easiest ways — and the most fun— to vicariously experience another culture. When you add a great book to the mix, you've got the makings of a perfect evening. In Food+Fiction, we recommend a delicious read and a related recipe so you can try the taste of different destinations in your own kitchen.

This post is part of our Food+Fiction series.


In the Grimm brothers’ version of Hansel and Gretel, the poor, hungry children were abandoned in the forest by their father (kind but overwhelmed) and his wife (cold-hearted). Left to wander in the woods for days, the children eventually stumble upon a house made of gingerbread with a cake roof and windows of spun sugar.

After helping themselves to a few handfuls of roof and windowpanes, they’re discovered by a witch (!) who takes them inside and feeds them ‘milk and pancakes with sugar, apples, and nuts.’ But that duplicitous crone had built the house of sweets only to lure the children into her deadly clutches.

Young Hansel is trapped in a cage and fed treats, all the better to fatten him up for the witch’s future feast. But Gretel eventually gets the upper hand — courtesy of a well-timed shove of witch into oven — and the children return home to be reunited with their dear father. (Here’s the origin of the fairy tale and a LibriVox recording.)

The novel The True Story of Hansel and Gretel transforms the old story, relocating the action to the forest of World War II Poland. In this version, the witch is a hero; the villains are Nazis; and the forest is a primary character. Sadly, the gnawing hunger and icy cold suffered by the children remain.

But, a rarety among WWII novels, this novel delivers — if not the fully happy ending of the Grimms’ fairy tale — at least a life-affirming and hopeful conclusion.

This granola is easy to make — you’ll wonder why you ever bought granola from a store — and is grain-free; just power-packed fruit and nuts here! It travels well in pockets and backpacks, just in case you should feel peckish on your own treks through the forest. It’s also pretty enough to share at parties and tastes amazing sprinkled on top of Greek yogurt.

colorful granola in a bowl on a wooden table
Photo courtesy of Elena Veselova/Shutterstock.'

Sweet and Salty Grain-Free Granola

Makes about 3 cups. Prep 5 minutes. Bake 25 minutes.


  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates, about 9
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt


Prep. Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Roast the nuts. Coarsely chop the almonds and walnuts; place in a large mixing bowl. Add the pepitas and coconut flakes. In a small bowl, combine oil, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg; stir to combine. Pour the oil over the nuts, tossing with a rubber spatula until everything is combined and coated.

Add the fruit. Spread the nuts on the baking sheet and roast in the oven for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop the dates and place them in the large mixing bowl, along with the raisins and cranberries. Remove the nuts from the oven and add to the bowl with the dried fruit. Mix to combine, then drizzle with the honey, and mix again. Return the granola to the baking sheet, spread it in a single layer, sprinkle with the salt, and return it to the oven. Roast 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is crisp and toasty.

To serve, remove the tray from the oven and allow the granola to cool completely. It should get clumpy like the best granola does. Nibble at will! Store leftovers in an airtight container.


It is finished. The tale is told truthfully, and truth is no heavier, no more beautiful than lies. Yet there is something that makes me love the truth, and that love made me wander and worry until the truth was given to you, like a gift. For this in the end is what we have. The love of something. Wild ponies. A kiss salted by tears. The scent of raspberry syrup in a bottle. Oranges. Two lost children who come to your house in the dark forest. There is much to love, and that love is what we are left with. When the bombs stop dropping, and the camps fall back to the earth and decay, and we are done killing each other, that is what we must hold. We can never let the world take our memories of love away, and if there are no memories, we must invent love all over again. The wheel turns. Blue above, green below, we wander a long way, but love is what the cup of our soul contains when we leave the world and the flesh. This we will drink forever. I know. I am Magda. I am the witch. — Louise Murphy

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel

by Louise Murphy

Set in the forests of Poland during the last days of World War II, this is a gripping retelling of the classic fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. It draws insightful, poignant parallels between the dark morality of fairy tales and the brutality of war. {more}

This fairy tale retelling (297 pages) was published in July of 2003 by Penguin. The book takes you to the forest of WWII Poland. Melissa read The True Story of Hansel and Gretel and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel


Top image courtesy of Olesia Bilkei/Shutterstock.

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