Minimalist Granola: Serve it by Itself or Spruce it up with Add-Ins

On Monday morning, I pulled a handful of ingredients onto the kitchen island: oats, maple syrup, oil, salt, cinnamon, sesame seeds.

Vertical close-up image of a glass jar filled with an oat and nut mixture, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

In one bowl, I measured out dry ingredients; in another, I measured out wet ingredients. Then, with a long wooden spoon, I stirred it all together into a sticky, gloppy mess.

I poured and spread the mixture onto baking sheets, looked at them sitting side by side on the island in the morning light, and then I slid them into the hot oven.

There, the liquids would bake into the oats and nuts and seeds, creating a sweet, savory, golden granola that’s been our favorite version as of late. I think we’ve made it three times this month.

Vertical image of a baking sheet pan filled with baked granola on a white towel.

While I am writing this, the granola is sitting in three glass mason jars in my kitchen, two quart-sized and one a regular pint.

I have parfaits planned for the morning, with layers of yogurt, fruit, and homemade granola. These are beloved largely in my household for the very fact that we can grab them almost mindlessly, to eat in the car or at the park, when we want to be able to focus on other things while receiving some nourishment at the same time.

I try to remind myself of the importance of mindfulness, to look for the beauty in mundane things. I remind myself to look at, to really notice this food in front of me, to taste the salty crunch and to observe the sesame-studded clumps.

Vertical image of a glass jar on a white towel with granola, next to a wooden spoon and yogurt with strawberries.

When your mental world is cluttered and busy like mine can often be, pausing for a second to simply be and quietly observe offers welcome clarity. It pulls you out of the muck of disorganized ideas and anchors you, if only for a moment, in the physical world in which you live. I welcome the private practice of observing, actively participating in, and remembering the world around me.

We call this a minimalist granola because the ingredient list is so short. You won’t find most of the typical mix-ins here. This recipe is perfect for when you don’t have extra dried fruit on hand, or you don’t feel like running out to the store to acquire a very specific type of specialty seed.

Vertical close-up image of a glass jar with granola on a white towel with a blue stripe.

Instead, this is a basic recipe that we can always rely on, made with pantry staples that we typically have on hand. The nuts and sesame seeds are not necessary, but they’re nice to include if you do have them. Pumpkin seeds are also great here, and if you like, you can add dried fruit to the finished creation after it’s done baking.

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Horizontal image of a spoon on top of baked granola in a sheet pan resting on a white towel.

Minimalist Granola with Almonds and Sesame Seeds


  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Yield: 8 cups 1x

Description

Want to brighten your morning with a slightly sweet, nourishing cluster of oats? Kick off the day with this simple cinnamon-scented granola.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil (or a neutral oil like avocado or grapeseed)
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (or coat with nonstick cooking oil spray).
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the oats, salt, cinnamon, almonds, and sesame seeds. Gently fold the olive oil mixture into the oats.
  4. Spread onto the baking sheets, evenly flattening the mixture with the back of a spatula.
  5. Bake, stirring once halfway through, until golden brown and very fragrant, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

  • Category: Granola
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Breakfast

Keywords: snack, granola, almond, cinnamon

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Mix the Wet Ingredients

Horizontal image of maple syrup pouring into a white bowl.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper for easy cleanup. If you prefer, you could also brush the pans with oil, or coat them with cooking oil spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. I like to use pure versions of both for the best flavor, but feel free to add whatever you have on hand.

Step 2 – Mix the Dry Ingredients

Horizontal image of a wooden bowl with assorted dry ingredients and spices.

In a separate bowl, combine the oats, salt, cinnamon, almonds, and sesame seeds. Leave the nuts and seeds out if you don’t have any in the pantry, or feel free to substitute with whatever you do have available.

Step 3 – Mix the Wet Ingredients into the Dry

Horizontal image of mixing an oat mixture in a wooden bowl.

Gently fold the olive oil mixture into the oats. Spread the mixture onto the baking sheets, evenly flattening it with the back of a spatula.

Horizontal image of spreading unbaked granola with a spatula on a sheet pan.

If you find that the oats are sticking to your spatula, it helps to spray it with nonstick cooking spray as well.

Step 4 – Bake

Horizontal image of a spoon on top of baked granola in a sheet pan resting on a white towel.

Bake, stirring once halfway through, until golden brown and very fragrant.

Allow it to cool and harden completely before transferring it into a container with a lid for storage.

Horizontal image of a glass of granola and a bowl of yogurt on a wooden table with a pink towel.

Store somewhere cool and dark in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Good Morning, Granola

When you skip the sugary cereals and reach for a nutritious blend of fiber-packed oats instead, your body will rise and shine.

For more delicate notes of sweetness, agave does the trick. Not a fan of nuts? Try pumpkin seeds instead. Feeling fruity? Dried cranberries deliver an unexpected burst of flavor.

Horizontal image of a white bowl with an oat mixture on a white towel next to a wooden spoon.

What nutritious mix-ins (or mix-ons) do you like to scatter throughout your homemade granola? Here are some more delicious recipe ideas:

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on April 25, 2016. Last updated: September 22, 2019 at 11:59 am. With additional writing and editing by Fanny Slater and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

17 thoughts on “Minimalist Granola: Serve it by Itself or Spruce it up with Add-Ins”

  1. The most beautiful thing on the Internet right now. I need to re-read and think about this one more and more. Your writing is so beautiful, so precise!

  2. I love everything about this post, Shanna – gorgeous writing, food for thought, and a delicious recipe, to boot!

  3. Beautiful. I can’t look at granola the same way after having tasted your words here. I tell myself to be mindful, to stop whatever I am doing and pay attention to the breakfast/lunch/dinner in front of me, to forget about posting an update on the Internet for a while in order to enjoy the special moment of nourishing my body and let the act nourish my mind and spirit too. I totally agree with you. Let’s not capture moments only with the camera, let’s capture them with our heart and soul too, because a lot of these moments are deserving of that.

  4. Wow..I am lost for words. I came across your blog from your recent article on moms and our secret sacrifices on DesiringGod. You touched my soul so deeply in your writing there that I was led here. God is obviously trying to teach me something – slow down and savor. Earlier when I was eating lunch, before I came upon this entry, I was inspired to for once not peruse Facebook on my phone or a book. The result was marvelous – not only was the dish more interesting, I was also more thankful that God so thoughtfully and creatively thought of and made every single spice that went in, the chicken that sacrificed his/her life, the rice that was harvested grain-by-grain…
    Thank you so much for the recipe as well – so many granola recipes, while promising deliciousness, require so many ingredients that I never have on hand. This one is indeed minimalist and definitely ready to be made almost always.

    • The other day on Twitter, I saw Oxford posted a study that showed mindfulness therapy could treat depression, and I thought immediately of this idea. How kind of God to give us instruction, like “be thankful,” that so clearly fuels our own joy! I love the way you described your sitting down to think about your lunch, to be present eating it, and how that spurred new joy and gratitude in your heart. Like many disciplines, it takes some thought and intentionality to do it, but it is a sweet means of grace when we do. Thanks for your kind words!

  5. Hi, friend. Thanks for the beautiful photos and the beautiful words. You capture simple moments and turn them into works of art right here on the screen. And your posts always remind me that I need to practice this art more, as well. It’s important. It really is. Miss you lots!

  6. Oh, thank you for reminding me! When I was reading this post I was saying “yes!yes!” in my head. I used to see things in such a poetic way, just really seeing them, cataloguing them as they are there and then, and life seemed to immediately have more meaning, deeper meaning when I (subconsciously) started doing that. Reminds me so much of Walt Whitman, doesn’t it?

    And I like the idea of minimalist granola too! My hubby has been complaining that I never make granola anymore, and now I have a vey good motivation. Thanks!

  7. This granola looks yummy! I’ve never made it with olive oil before. Miss you on Instagram and hope your little one is doing well (10 months last week!!).

    • Elissa! Hi! I miss seeing your little guy, aka, my little guy’s birthday twin, too! I hope someday our offline lives will cross and we can get these dudes together!

  8. You are always such an inspiration in living mindfully, intentionally, fully. I’ve missed you on IG, but wholeheartedly respect + admire you for stepping away from something that you felt was taking away from a true fullness of life!

    Also, now I want to whip up some granola. 😉

  9. Beautiful writing and beautiful grano.a. Sometimes though, I want something that is not so sweet. And maybe with more protein – different nuts and seeds. Glad there is no dried fruit. I am forever pulling it out of commercial granolas. Just increases the sugar content way too much.

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