Yes, you can make granola in small batches -- without an oven

  • Stovetop Granola.

    Stovetop Granola. Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post.

 
By Emily Horton
The Washington Post
Updated 4/3/2019 11:46 AM

If you have even the slightest granola habit -- heck, if you even like granola -- making it yourself is almost a no-brainer. In terms of taste, healthfulness, cost and customization, homemade granola usually wins over store-bought on all counts.

Homemade granola's one drawback is that despite its straightforward preparation, it is not typically done quickly. From start to finish, a batch baked in the oven can take upward of an hour, plus a couple of large bowls and baking sheets to wash up. If you are an eater with sometimes-impulsive breakfast habits, this kind of production is not a selling point.

 

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 Stovetop 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.

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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.

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