My solution: Use the stove top instead. Some of the advantages to this approach are obvious, as in making granola this way takes just one large skillet and considerably less time than the oven method.
But there’s also a less obvious, and maybe even more compelling reason: the opportunity to play around with the trimmings of baking without actually baking. You get to combine the earthy grains, sweeteners and fragrant spices we often associate with baked goods while applying them in a way that, for someone who identifies as a cook first and a baker second, can feel more intuitive.
In full disclosure, my Stove-Top Granola won’t give you the big clusters you can get from sheet-pan granola, and because this approach is most efficient to work with in small batches, it’s not the right method to use when you’re looking to fill several Mason jars.
The plus of working with smaller amounts is that it’s easy to experiment with ingredient combinations — different grains, an offbeat blend of spices and herbs — without committing a week’s worth of breakfast to your curiosity.
The recipe here offers one example, combining rolled oats with honey and olive oil, walnuts and pumpkin seeds, chopped dates and a resin-scented thread of cinnamon, cardamom and fresh thyme. It is wonderfully aromatic and only subtly sweet, although the amount of honey you use, depending on your sweet tooth, could be negotiable. It comes together in less than 30 minutes, and while it requires some intermittent stirring, the active cooking time is only about 15 minutes.
You’ll move quickly at first, heating the oil together with the honey, adding the spices and thyme, letting them warm just long enough for their fragrance to bloom, then stirring in the oats until they’re coated and slick. While the oats toast, you stir here and there. You can break up the walnuts and gather them together with the pumpkin seeds (you’ll add them halfway through), chop the dates and possibly clean up dishes from dinner the night before.
Once the oats are golden, the seeds have puffed and the walnuts have begun to glow, you’ll pour everything out onto a wide plate to cool for about 10 minutes before stirring in the dates and raisins. After about 10 minutes, the granola is ready to serve. Bring out thick yogurt and fresh fruit if you have it, or a small glass of cashew milk, or just eat it by handfuls, fingers for a spoon.
Be sure to use a heavy pan that is wide enough (10 to 12 inches) to toast the oats evenly, and you may need to adjust the heat to the right shade of medium-low to take the mixture to a golden brown without scorching.
Use my recipe as a starting point to get the method down, varying the grains, fat, sweetener, spices and add-ins that suit you best. Other variations:
- Add rye or barley flakes or a little whole millet to the oats.
- Use coconut oil or ghee in place of the olive oil.
- Replace the honey with brown rice syrup or sorghum (but avoid granulated sugars, which have a tendency to clump and burn).
- Swap the walnuts and pumpkin seeds for pecans and sesame seeds.
- Replace the dates with dried apricots or prunes (yes, really), or the thyme, lemon and cardamom for rosemary, orange and fennel.
- If you like your granola richer or sweeter, increase the proportions of oil and sugar.
Breakfast is personal. It’s worth getting your granola just right.
MAKE AHEAD: The granola can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- Pinch salt
- 1/4 cup walnut halves, broken up
- 2 tablespoons hulled, unsalted pumpkin seeds
- 2 large pitted dates, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons sultanas or golden raisins (optional)
Warm the oil and honey in a wide, heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring just until fluid and well incorporated.
Stir in the thyme, cinnamon and cardamom; cook for about a minute, just until fragrant. Add the oats and a pinch of salt, stirring to coat evenly. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the oats begin to take on some color. Reduce the heat to low and/or stir more frequently if the oats begin to burn.
Stir in the walnuts and pumpkin seeds; cook for another 7 or 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the oats are golden and well toasted and the pumpkin seeds have plumped a bit. Transfer the granola to a rimmed baking sheet to cool for at least 10 minutes, then fold in the dates and the sultanas or raisins, if using. (The granola will continue to crisp as it cools.)
Serve, or cool completely and store in an airtight container.
From food writer Emily Horton.
Tested by Helen Horton; email questions to email@example.com.
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The nutritional analysis is based on 3 servings.
Calories: 370; Total Fat: 19 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 100 mg; Carbohydrates: 48 g; Dietary Fiber: 6 g; Sugars: 23 g; Protein: 8 g.