The Geniuses at Sqirl Just Made Our Next Cult Granola

April  4, 2018

For anyone who’s been following along with chef Jessica Koslow and her beloved L.A. restaurant Sqirl—their oversized boats of ricotta toast with L.A.-only jam varietals; the cookbook that’s maybe even more of an art book—you won’t be surprised that her team has made our next cult granola.

Nor will you be surprised that Koslow launched the recipe (in full) in a photo on Instagram. Or that it has a kooky mouthful of a name (and ye shall be named: Turmeric Millet-nola!). Or that it was inspired by something nostalgic, then torn down and rebuilt into something entirely new.

Nonetheless, the rest will surprise you. And the result will change what you crave in your granola—airier, crispier, more warmly spiced. Here’s how they got there, led by pastry chef Gina Nalbone.

Their first trick is in ditching the oats completely for much lighter texture than you’re used to—Sqirl’s version is made from wee balls of puffed millet, but any puffed grain would work (both Arrowhead Mills and Nature’s Path brands make a lot of different ones).

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Puffed rice is probably the easiest to find but corn, kamut, and quinoa are out there too (and all are sold in big bags online). Each grain puff brings its own unique, cartoonish shape and flavor to the party, and most—though not all—are gluten-free, if that’s important to you. Feel free to mix and match.

The second, even more enlightening move is in adding baking soda, which, when combined with a slightly acidic mix of wet ingredients heated to around 250° F, unleashes millions of tiny air bubbles and turns the mixture from a burbling deep brown to creamy and frothy. “The baking soda is there to help with texture and soften the whole,” Sqirl pastry chef Sasha Piligian told me. “So you aren’t biting into hard candy.” 

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Top Comment:
“This looks really interesting and I want to make some soon. Do you have any suggestions for replacement of tumeric? I know it's a healthy choice, but I'm just not a fan of the flavor. Otherwise, it's on my list of new recipes to try this week.”
— Ginny S.

Baking soda is responsible for the texture in lots of candies we love—it helps make the snap in peanut brittle; the powdery pockets in honeycomb candy; and, in the case of homemade caramel corn or Cracker Jack, the addictive gentle crunch with just enough softness you won’t hurt your teeth. This last one is where Nalbone and the Sqirl pastry team found their Millet-nola inspiration.

You might not think you should be allowed to—or really even want to—eat Cracker Jack for breakfast, but there are a few reasons it’s okay. There’s a relatively modest amount of sweetener relative to grains and nuts—the puffballs are just barely held together with the foamy caramel. Plus there are warm spices—turmeric, cardamom, a teaspoon of bittersweet molasses—and salt to balance it all out.

And if you use honey or brown rice syrup instead of harder-to-find glucose, you’re going down a delicious, less-refined sweetener path anyway. These days, after taking a month-long break from refined sugar, I’m pretty sensitive to overly sweet things, and this one doesn’t set off any alarm bells (compared to my usual store-bought granola, which now makes my head feel like circus music is playing at frat-party volume).

Also, who says it’s just for breakfast? Koslow’s #1 suggested use for it is as a snack (you will be very popular on all those road trips, plane rides, hikes, and treks to the beach you’re about to go on this summer if you bring your Millet-nola). At Sqirl, the pastry team has used it all over their desserts, as a topping for ice creams, cakes, donuts, and malabi, the milky, Middle Eastern pudding similar to panna cotta. Piligian is contemplating adding it to cookie dough.

Use it everywhere; make it often. Tweak the grains, the sweeteners, the nuts, the spices. Go buck wild. But I’ll warn you: The same thing that’s on the Cracker Jack box is even more true here. The more you eat the more you want.

Photos by Julia Gartland

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]—thank you to writer, cook, and former Food52 editor Caroline Lange for this one!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Paola April 17, 2020
My friend made this granola with puffed kamut and it was out of this world!!! Best granola ever! So, naturally I had to try and make it! I got millet, made the granola and was so excited as I took the delicious smelling tray out of the oven to cool. The aroma is DIVINE! When I went to taste it, it was so hard and didn't feel light and cripy it felt very hard and crunchy...the millet was not right. Well..I have never bought millet, or used it before and I bought RAW millet! Please read the recipe carefully, learn from my mistake and get puffed millet! The flavor is delicious but raw millet is not... I hope this gives you a laugh and if anyone has suggestions for what I should do with this tray of granola, I'm all ears!
Sophia R. April 8, 2018
This stuff is dangerously good and works equally well with other types of puffed grains (I have done it with puffed brown rice cereal) and brown rice syrup if you cannot easily get hold of glucose where you live! Just make sure you are not on your own when the stuff is done - it is seriously addictive and difficult to stop eating!
Jessica H. April 4, 2018
This looks easy and wonderfully snackable. My question is where can I find the containers for storage in the video?
Kristen M. April 5, 2018
Right here!
Lisa April 4, 2018
Will maple syrup work?
Kristen M. April 5, 2018
I haven't tried it myself, but a commenter named Isa over on the recipe page used it and was a fan.
Lisa April 5, 2018
Thanks so much!
Cook April 4, 2018
Suggest a powdered curry for a replacement of turmeric - I'm a big fan of sweet curry in salad dressings too - gives it a slightly citrus flavor that's lovely.
Leslie April 4, 2018
Lisa April 4, 2018
Wondering if the recipe card on her Instagram photo was blurred on purpose? Or am I the only one that can’t read it!?
Kristen M. April 4, 2018
It's maybe a tad out of focus because it's probably a casual smartphone photo, but I wouldn't say blurry—maybe try reloading the page? (But also, the recipe is right here on Food52!)
Ginny S. April 4, 2018
This looks really interesting and I want to make some soon. Do you have any suggestions for replacement of tumeric? I know it's a healthy choice, but I'm just not a fan of the flavor. Otherwise, it's on my list of new recipes to try this week.
ctgal April 4, 2018
I was wondering the same thing. I don't dislike turmeric, but I cannot imagine it in a granola recipe!
Kristen M. April 4, 2018
It's a really delicious flavor all together with the cardamom and hint of brown sugar and molasses (and I especially love it with honey subbed in for glucose)—I recommend trying it this way first, but it's also easy to swap in any spice you like, to taste (just let it cool briefly and taste and tweak before it goes into the oven). Caroline Lange, who sent me this recipe, also recommended making it with 1 3/4 teaspoons of cinnamon in place of the cardamom and turmeric. Have fun experimenting!