Bourbon Cacao Nib Granola


I wasn’t a granola fan until recently. Bulk health food store granola is either too hippie, too sweet, or just plain stale; and packaged granola is often too precious or expensive.

My opinion of granola changed after I made my first batch. I made it for Mr. Graham when I was in my third trimester of pregnancy and was in full on nesting mode. He liked granola and I thought it would be fun to give it a try. So I whipped up a batch, and before the tray of granola cooled, I was hooked. It satisfied the lemony, salty, crunchy cravings I had. I was seriously addicted until a year ago - just ask my family.

Since then I have tried many different methods, and we now have an easy house granola we love. These days I have a tiny helper too. We don’t measure the ingredients - I usually dump oats in a bowl, add some chopped nuts, some seeds, coat it lightly in olive oil and maple syrup and then sprinkle on some salt, lemon zest, and cardamom. My daughter does all the stirring, and sometimes a fair amount ends up on the floor, but truth be told, it is more fun to make granola with her, and a little mess here or there, such is life. 

But our house granola is not the recipe I want to share. Christmas is coming and during the holidays I like to make a more festive granola. I like to add some chocolate and bourbon to our breakfast table.

My Christmas granola has the same basics as our house granola: oats, nuts, seeds, maple syrup, but I add a little brown sugar to make it a bit sweeter, plus some cacao nibs to add chocolatey flavor, and a healthy splash of bourbon to add warmth and crunch. I used to add melted butter to it, but this year I stuck with our usual olive oil; we are a heart healthy household.

This recipe makes a boatload - around 12 cups. We eat some and give the rest away for holiday gifts. Please feel free to cut the recipe in half.

This granola will keep for a few weeks and I think it improves a bit with age, as long as you keep it in an airtight container.


You will need: 

8 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 - 3 cups of nuts, chopped. I like hazelnuts, pecans, and almonds (some folks like oaty granola, some like nutty)

1/2 cup of seeds, I like sunflower or pumpkin seeds (optional)

1/2 cup cacao nibs (please feel free to use more or less)

1/2 cup melted butter or olive oil

1/2 - 1 cup maple syrup (grade B is especially tasty) - make it as sweet as you like it

1.5 ounces of bourbon (although I must confess that I used Bulleit rye this year, but I usually use bourbon) 

1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  

Cover two jellyroll pans with parchment paper. I like to use parchment paper so I don't have to scrub the pans, I can dump the cooled granola directly into our cookie jar, and I usually re-use them that day to bake cookies or scones.

Add oats to a large mixing bowl. Add brown sugar, and stir well. Add chopped nuts, the seeds, and cacao nibs and stir some more. Pour melted butter or olive oil evenly over the oat mixture, stir to cover all of the oats with oil. Add maple syrup and stir well. Sprinkle with salt and stir well.

Dump half the contents of the bowl onto each of the parchment covered trays. Spread evenly in the pans.

Bake for 40 - 60 minutes, checking every 20 minutes to see if the edges have browned. I mix the granola gently with a spatula with each check, bringing the toasty edge bits to the center, and bringing the less toasted center bits to the edges. I like mine nice and toasted. 

When it is ready, take the granola out and let it cool on the pan. When it is completely cooled transfer to a large jar. 


Additions: Sometimes I add coconut chips or powdered ginger. I usually don't add fruit to my granola - I like it dry and crunchy, and the fruit softens it, but feel free to add dried apricots, cranberries, cherries, or raisins.

Cacao nibs are easier to find these days, most big grocery and health food stores carry them. If not, there are many online sources. You could always sub some chopped 72 % dark chocolate, but the nibs are not just chocolatey, they impart a deep winey flavor that I love.

Nota bene: This granola is fine to share with little ones, the alcohol burns off, and it is really no different than adding vanilla extract.