Brown Butter Pecan Granola

The best granola on the planet, this brown butter pecan granola is lightly sweet, nutty, and golden-toasted. Those little clusters of granola are fabulous.

sheet pan with parchment and spatula sliding granola into a pile

You guys, I’m a granola snob. I’m not even ashamed to admit it. And I feel like I can’t live another day until I tell you that this brown butter pecan granola is unbelievably good. Like, one of the best granolas I’ve ever made or eaten. 

I have a few go-to granola recipes in my back pocket that I make often since everyone in my house is crazy for a bowl of granola + yogurt + fruit. We eat that combo for breakfast at least weekly, and it is one of my kids’ favorite after school snacks (and one of my go-to lunches). 

The minute I found out how easy it was to make granola at home, I didn’t look back. It’s ridiculously simple! And quite a bit cheaper than buying a package of granola at the store (dang, it’s expensive!). Plus I’ve never met a storebought granola that beats the taste of my favorite homemade granola recipes – especially this brown butter version!

white bowl with yogurt and brown butter pecan granola

Let’s talk about the butter

If you’ve eaten a lot of granola in your life, you’ll recognize and appreciate that this brown butter pecan granola is probably on the more indulgent end of granola…thanks to the butter. The brown butter. It’s worth every minute and calorie, if you ask me. One taste, and you’ll understand.

Usually I try to be open minded about ingredient substitutions, but I feel pretty strongly that the brown butter is necessary to accomplish the full deliciousness of this recipe. As in, don’t make this granola without it. {pretty please} 

I have a quick and easy tutorial on how to brown butter here. You don’t want to skip that step – regular melted butter just isn’t going to do it. Taking five minutes to brown the butter adds a minimum of 87 1/2 layers of flavor. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Sheet pan filled with brown butter pecan granola

Why this granola is unique

I already mentioned the brown butter. It is the cornerstone of this recipe and makes it totally irresistible. But there are a few other things that set this granola apart:

  • Pecans. And actually, it’s not the pecans that are all that unique, it’s what you do with them. The pecans are ground to a pretty fine consistency before using in the granola. Why does this make a difference? It lends a lovely, toasted pecan flavor to every single little bite of granola as those crushed pecans float their way into every granola crevice and corner. Yum. (This is especially nice for me who doesn’t always love large pieces of nuts anywhere in my food.)
  • Pepitas. Also known as pumpkin seeds. I admit this ingredient threw me for a minute. I don’t keep pumpkin seeds on hand. But I considered it divine intervention when I spied a bag of sprouted pumpkin seeds at Costco. The subtle crunch and nutty flavor is fantastic in this granola. If you can, try to get unsalted, shelled pumpkin seeds. The ones from Costco are actually lightly salted so I dial down the salt just slightly in the recipe when using those. (Here’s an unsalted brand on Amazonaff. link)
  • Craisins and Orange Zest. Both of these ingredients are optional in the recipe. I’ve made it with and without them. Honestly delicious either way. The cranberries and orange give it a delightful holiday vibe, which would be perfect for packaging up for some gift giving. If you are on the fence, I’d encourage you to branch out and use them both just to see! The cranberries are easy – you can add a few to a handful of granola to see how you like the flavor before influencing the rest of the granola with a bunch of cranberries. 

glass bowl with ingredients for granola: coconut, pepitas, cinnamon, oats, pecans

The other ingredients are pretty normal granola ingredients. Old-fashioned oats. Coconut (you can use sweetened or unsweetened). A bit of salt and cinnamon. 

Then, to the brown butter, you’ll add some honey and brown sugar and whisk it up. That delectable brown butter syrup (someone could make millions if they figured out how to package and sell this concept of brown.butter.syrup) is poured over the granola ingredients to get everything ready for the big bake.

step by step of brown butter, adding sugar to butter, pouring syrup over granola ingredients

The unbaked granola is spread on a sheet pan and baked at a low temperature for about an hour until golden. I like to toss and stir the granola every 20 minutes. It looks pretty wet when it’s stirred – and even when it comes out of the oven, but it dries out as it cools. 

Keep in mind that granola can go from fragrant and flavorful to burned and blah in just a few minutes, especially as it nears the end of the baking time. Watch it closely! 

unbaked brown butter pecan granola and then a lower picture of baked granola

The key to really great granola

Are you ready for this tip? It’s really, really, really important. 

Don’t stir the granola when it’s done baking. 

So easy, right? Well, for some reason, it’s not as simple as it sounds. There is this unexplainable desire (if you’re me) to stir the granola one last time when it comes out of the oven golden and toasted and fragrant. A last self-satisfied toss to declare: I AM a granola master. Except, if you stir it at that point in time, you won’t be. 

As the granola cools, it dries out. And as it dries out, the butter and sugars harden into beautiful, delightful, perfect granola clusters. Stirring the granola as it cools means you’ll probably end up with granola flakes. Delicious granola flakes, admittedly, but not the granola clusters everyone longs for. 

glass jar filled with brown butter pecan granola

If you are a granola lover, I am very, very excited for you to get your hands on this recipe. I think you’re going to love it. 

If you haven’t made homemade granola often or ever, perhaps now is the time? This brown butter pecan granola just might be the recipe that converts you forever. 

I have a big old tub of this sitting in my pantry right now. It’s not going to last long. None of the previous batches have. But I don’t mind whipping up another batch when it runs out. It took me almost three years to try the recipe after a MKC reader (thanks, Nicole!) sent it to me, so I’m ok making up for lost time. I have no good excuses that it took me that long to try it except that I just have so many recipes I want to make and so little time. 

The lesson here is twofold: firstly, it’s never too late to introduce brown butter granola to your life and secondly, if you’ve sent me a recipe in the past and I haven’t made it yet, don’t feel bad – I’m almost certain to get to it in the next decade. 🙂

white bowl with yogurt and brown butter pecan granola and craisins

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Brown Butter Pecan Granola

Yield: 5 cups
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Brown Butter Pecan Granola

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (I use salted)
  • 1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) pecans
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup (2 to 3 ounces) raw or sprouted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1/2 cup (1 ounce) unsweetened or sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse, kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a stainless steel skillet or saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until the butter foams and then browns, 5-6 minutes. Watch carefully so the butter doesn't burn. You just want the itty bitty solids that separate from the butter to turn golden brown. Remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar, honey, and vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In a food processor or high-powered blender, pulse the pecans until finely ground. The texture should be a coarse powder with maybe a few larger pieces here and there.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the pecans, oats, pumpkin seeds, coconut, orange zest (if using), cinnamon and salt. Pour the brown butter syrup mixture over the top and stir to combine evenly.
  5. Spread the granola into an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 60 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes, until the granola smells fragrant and is a nicely toasted golden color. The granola will look wet as you stir and might even look a bit wet coming out of the oven. It will dry as it cools.
  6. Let the granola cool completely on the baking sheet. Crumble into pieces and stir in cranberries, if using. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (it will keep well for 1-2 weeks).

Notes

Substitutions: as with most granola recipes, I suspect this recipe will fare well to adaptations. Feel free to play around with the ingredients! I don't always add the orange zest, but it is very tasty (especially with the cranberries).

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Recipe Source: adapted from this recipe at Bon Appetit (a MKC reader, Nicole H. encouraged me to try this three years ago – thanks for the email, Nicole, and your patience since it took me so long to try it!)

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