I’m hesitant to talk about raw food parfaits here because, well, if the government found out how unbelievably HEALTHY and ENJOYABLE parfaits are, I’m sure they’d make them illegal. But, I’ll take a chance …
After we moved to Portland in 2010, I discovered that the leading local raw restaurant (Blossoming Lotus) offered raw packaged foods for sale at co-ops around town. I began buying their parfaits regularly. They were simply divine — and I enjoyed them to the point of our food budget straining a bit. So, eventually, I thought, “Hey, this isn’t rocket science … Make your own!”
Actually, a parfait isn’t so much different than a few other things you may already enjoy. But, it has a few special things going for it that, for some odd reason, fill me with unending delight. For one, it’s called a “parfait” — which is fun. It seems like a dessert or something, right?
Second, it’s customarily served in some sort of tall glass or similar container. This is because, in most cases, a parfait is a vertical, layered recipe — and so it’s a best practice in terms of presentation to show off the layers as best you can.
The Components of a Parfait
In general, a parfait has three components (as far as I can tell, anyway):
- First is the fruit.
- Second is the cream.
- Third is the crunchy stuff.
After that, it’s all about variations, style, and personal ingenuity. So, let’s tackle those three items, above, in a bit more detail.
Okay, this one’s ridiculously easy: Get some fruit, and chop it up into very small, bite-sized pieces. I’ve found that a nice mixture of fruit is palatable — apples, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, pears, blackberries, bananas, etc. Again, there are no rules! So, I’ve found it’s best to stick with whatever is in season near you. That’ll be the freshest and cheapest. (And, by the way, since the in-season fruit is always changing, you can use this same basic recipe all year round and still experience amazing variety!)
This is where things really get interesting because you’ve got a TON of options to achieve a huge variety of tastes, textures, colors, and even fat-contents (low to high). Here’s a very basic recipe that I’ve found tasty and easy:
- Toss a decent handful of nuts (I like raw cashews, as they blend super well into nice, smooth, creaminess) into your blender (preferably you’ll have a nice high-speed blender like a Vitamix);
- Add a bit of water or juice so it’ll blend well;
- A bit (a few teaspoons, at least) of lemon juice usually adds a nice tartness;
- Toss in a few frozen strawberries to cool it down, as this helps thicken the cream a bit;
- Add a bit of vanilla extract, if you like (bonus points if you have real vanilla beans on hand!);
- Add just a tiny pinch of salt;
- Optionally, if that’s not sweet enough for you, maybe add a bit of agave nectar or a date;
- If you want to get fancy, add a dash of cardamom powder or other favorite spices (e.g., cinnamon, nutmeg, carob, raw cacao, etc.). I sometimes used to add a bit of protein powder, as a general thickener.
Begin to blend, and keep one or two bananas on hand as it blends. Toss in chunks of banana until it looks super-creamy. And, make sure to blend it thoroughly, as a nice, smooth cream is best.
Now, most creams will ideally be left to thicken in the fridge for an hour or two. But, I’m just not that patient in the morning. This is why I recommend the frozen strawberries and (fresh or frozen) bananas — both of which really help add creaminess immediately. There are certainly many other options for attaining creaminess (such as incorporating chia seeds, Irish moss, or maybe even avocado). Remember: You can change up anything in the above recipe. So, the possibilities are easily in the billions.
The Crunchy Stuff
Okay, so you’ve got your fruit and cream. It’s time for the crunchy stuff. Here’s where you can split things off into either a 100% raw dish to maybe downshift to a high-raw one. The local raw restaurant I mentioned used sprouted, dehydrated buckwheat as their crunchy element (also adding, I’ve noted, some pepitos — which also tastes good). A sprinkling of raw sunflower seeds can also work well here.
I’ve tried roasted buckwheat (available at my local grocer), but it didn’t taste very good to me. Plain old oatmeal, though, tasted about right, as did some meusli I tossed into one once. I imagine there are a hundred things that would probably taste pretty good.
So, just to be clear: For a fully raw crunch, I like raw buckwheat groats. Other good chewy items might include raisins or date pieces or sunflower seeds. For a generally healthy crunch, try oats. Or, for a maybe less-healthy, but still tasty crunch here, you could opt for a little boxed granola (which will likely have sugar in it, but perhaps you can find healthier varieties) or maybe some grape nuts cereal.
The final step is the layering. Spoon in some of the fruit (maybe an inch high or so), then a layer of the cream (maybe a half-inch), and then some crunchy stuff (just a sprinkling). Repeat until you’ve filled the serving glass.
- Make LOTS of the cream at once! If you have extra cream, you’ll be able to store it in the fridge, which will improve the consistency to a really nice thickness! Plus, not only will it be thicker and better later, but you’ll have saved yourself the whole step of making the cream again when you’re hungry in a few hours.
- For lower-fat varieties, try less nuts and more low-fat thickening ingredients (e.g., bananas, etc.).
- For cream flavor varieties, make sure to try different nuts and seeds, as well as varying the other items. Raw sunflower seeds can work, as can other nuts.
- Try alternating colors or creams in different layers! To achieve this, try varying the cream ingredients. Use things like colored berries, green powders, various juices, etc., to achieve the colors you want.
Over the past decade or so of making these, I’ve found myself less interested in the presentation aspect, mainly because I’m just making this for myself. So, the layering part can be skipped if you’re short on time and/or just want to eat and not worried about how it looks. I usually just make myself a nice bowl and mix it all up.
I actually eat this frequently as my main meal (could be breakfast, lunch, or dinner!). With enough fruit, goodies, and cream, it’s quite filling, rich, and satisfying. When it’s fully mixed, it looks rather boring (though it tastes great). But, just before stirring it up, it usually looks nice and colorful, like this:
✍🏻 Jim Dee maintains his personal blog, “Hawthorne Crow,” a web design blog, “Web Designer | Web Developer Magazine,” and a vocabulary blog, “Wonderful Words, Defined.” He also contributes to various Medium.com publications. Find him at JPDbooks.com, his Amazon Author page, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium, or via email at Jim [at] ArrayWebDevelopment.com. His latest novel, CHROO, is available on Amazon.com. If you enjoy humorous literary tales, please grab a copy!