Almost every morning during college, I poured myself a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Spoon in hand, I snuggled up on the sofa with a book, enjoying the moments of quiet before biking to campus and furiously scribbling down notes during lectures.
Yes… Even during the winter, when the fog was as thick as pea soup and I could barely see ten feet in front of my bike’s handlebars, I still chose a bowl of cold cereal over steaming hot oatmeal. There was something cozy and comforting about those familiar flavors and textures as the spoon slipped into my mouth and tilted its contents onto my tongue.
For those breakfasts, I combined granola with bran or multigrain flakes. With a set of deep blue glass ramekins, I perfected the ratio of both cereals and milk, and I learned how to layer them and tilt the bowl so some of the granola clusters and bran flakes remained crisp and crunchy, not soft and soggy and sad, all the way until the final spoonful.
For the granola, I rotated through a few brands and flavors. My favorites came from Trader Joe’s: vanilla almond, maple pecan, dried cranberry, and even freeze dried mango during the summer. However…
This homemade healthy pumpkin spice granola easily would’ve landed in my top five and consistently appeared in my bowl — and not just during the fall. Given how quick and simple it is to make (you only need one bowl!), I would’ve whipped up batches all year round!
QUICK OVERVIEW – HEALTHY PUMPKIN SPICE GRANOLA
Difficulty: Easy, including for many beginner bakers.
Taste: Very lightly sweetened with notes of cozy pumpkin and warm spices in every bite.
Texture: Crisp and crunchy with plenty of big clusters.
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE HEALTHY PUMPKIN SPICE GRANOLA
Let’s talk about the ingredients you’ll need to make this pumpkin spice granola. There are only five — and I bet you already have some of them in your kitchen!
Oats. A classic granola ingredient! Old-fashioned rolled oats and instant oats (also called “quick cooking” or “one minute” oats!) both work in this homemade pumpkin granola recipe. You can use the regular kind or the gluten free versions, if you’d like to make this granola gluten free.
Tip: Instant oats are not the ones sold in brown paper packets with flavors like “apple cinnamon” and “maple brown sugar!” Instant oats are smaller and thinner than old-fashioned rolled oats, and they only include one ingredient… Oats! They’re generally sold in containers right next to the old-fashioned rolled oats. (They’re also perfect for making oatmeal cookies!)
Brown rice cereal. I know… If you haven’t made any of my other healthy granola recipes before, then this might sound like an odd ingredient for granola. The oats add that classic heartiness and granola taste, but I love incorporating rice cereal as well. It’s a really easy, low calorie way to add a nice crunch to your pumpkin spice granola — without the need for any oil!
Hint: If you check their ingredient labels, many store-bought granola brands actually include rice cereal in their products too!
Pumpkin. It’d be nearly impossible to make pumpkin granola without this! I use canned pumpkin purée (also called “100% pumpkin”) as a quick and easy shortcut. Although it’s usually fairly easy to locate in US grocery stores during the fall, when supermarkets prominently feature it on aisle end caps and other fall-themed displays, you can often find canned pumpkin purée on the baking aisle during the other months of the year. (Only few stores stock it on the regular canned fruits and vegetables aisle, for some reason!)
Tip: Avoid canned pumpkin pie filling! That contains added spices and sugar, which can impact the way this granola turns out.
Pumpkin spice. I like to make my own pumpkin spice blend, instead of using store-bought, so that I can control the spice ratios. I’ve found many store-bought jars go heavy on the cinnamon and light on the other spices, so their flavor isn’t always as rich and cozy. I’ve included my homemade blend for you in the Notes section of the recipe, but you’re welcome to substitute store-bought pumpkin spice, if that’s easier for you!
Tip: “Pumpkin spice” is short for “pumpkin pie spice,” as in the spices commonly used to make pumpkin pie. That’s why jars of pumpkin spice don’t actually include pumpkin!
Pure maple syrup. This is what you’ll use to sweeten your healthy pumpkin spice granola! Pure maple syrup is considered an unrefined sweetener (and clean eating friendly!). It’s the kind that comes directly from maple trees. It’s often sold in thin glass bottles or squat plastic jugs (like this!), and the only ingredient on the label should be “pure maple syrup.”
Hint: Honey also works! But if you use pure maple syrup, then your healthy pumpkin spice granola is vegan.
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST PUMPKIN SPICE GRANOLA
Now that you have those five ingredients, let’s quickly cover how to make the best pumpkin spice granola. It’s easy and straightforward, but I have some tips for you… Plus a baking trick that yields gigantic crunchy clusters!
One bowl. That’s right — only one bowl required! I love recipes with minimal dishes… It makes cleanup a breeze! 😉
Mix gently. It’s fine to vigorously stir together the pumpkin, spices, and maple syrup… But once you add the oats and rice cereal, be gentle! You want to maintain the rice cereal’s shape as much as possible (and avoid squishing it into crumbs!) so it adds that nice crisp texture to your granola clusters.
Tip: I use a fork to mix up the ingredients for this healthy granola. Why a fork? And not a spatula or wooden spoon? Well…
The open space between the tines of the fork allow for ingredients to pass through them while you mix, compared to the flat sides of a spatula or spoon. That makes the mixing faster and more efficient! Using a fork can also help prevent squishing the rice cereal too much… So you maintain that crisp texture and end up with crunchy granola!
When I first started making granola, I baked it in square or rectangular cake pans. I crammed them full, where you couldn’t see any of the pans’ metal bottoms, and occasionally removed them from the oven while the granola baked to stir. However, I often ended up with a fair amount of soft soggy clusters if I didn’t stir enough… Or tiny bits if I stirred too much.
But when I tested out Phi’s method of baking granola on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat, I did a very long and very excited happy dance in the middle of my kitchen when the final timer rang.
The granola was perfect! Every bit was crunchy, and the clusters were gigantic. No teensy tiny mouse-sized crumbs in sight!
That’s because the rimmed baking sheet is much larger than a square or rectangular cake pan, which means there’s more surface area (aka space!) for you to spread out the granola in a thin, even layer. When it’s in a thin layer, the granola bakes and crisps up more evenly. The granola also requires less stirring, which leads to bigger clusters. (The more you stir, the smaller the clusters become!)
When you overcrowd the pan (like I did with those cake pans!), your granola ends up steaming and doesn’t dry out, so you often need to stir more (again, that yields smaller clusters) or end up with soft and soggy bits (if you don’t stir as much to yield bigger clusters).
So the moral of the story… Give your granola enough space and it’ll turn out perfectly crisp and crunchy — with really big clusters!
Bake, stir, repeat. Like many of my other healthy granola recipes, you’ll bake this one at a slightly lower temperature and remove the pan from the oven to gently stir twice. The first time, use a spoon or fork to break apart the layer of granola into chunks.
I know… I just preached how important it is to not over-stir. But you do need to break apart that one large granola layer and stir some during the baking process so it bakes properly and fully dries out. Otherwise, the middle bits will still be soft at the end!
Tip: After the second stint in the oven, try to swap out which clusters are in the middle versus near the edges of your rimmed baking sheet. The edge pieces often bake faster, so I move them into the center during the final stretch and give the center pieces a chance to turn just as crunchy.
Break apart clusters. Once your granola is cool enough to touch, break apart any really big clusters into smaller bite-sized pieces. Then let your granola cool completely to room temperature on the pan. Yes, I know it’s hard to wait… But this ensures it turns out as crunchy as possible!
FAQS ABOUT PUMPKIN SPICE GRANOLA
Is this pumpkin spice granola gluten free, vegan, or clean eating?
Yes! This healthy pumpkin spice granola is naturally gluten free, egg free, dairy free, and vegan. It’s also low fat, nut free, oil free, and clean eating friendly with no refined sugar. (Whew, that’s a lot of categories!)
Can I substitute other oats?
You sure can! You can use old-fashioned rolled oats or instant oats (aka quick cooking or one minute oats) — or the gluten free versions of either! However, I don’t recommend any type of steel-cut oats; they don’t bake the same and therefore impact the granola’s texture.
What can I substitute for the brown rice cereal?
If you can’t find crisp brown rice cereal, then regular crisp rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies) is a great substitute!
Can I substitute oats for the rice cereal?
Yes… But keep in mind that substituting oats will change the texture of your granola, as well as the nutrition information.
I didn’t get any large clusters, just lots of tiny bits. Why is that?
The most common culprits are using a cake pan (instead of the large rimmed baking sheet) or too much stirring. See the “How to Make the Best Pumpkin Spice Granola” section above for more tips and information!
My granola turned out soft. How can I make it crunchy?
Easy — just pop it back in the oven! The usual culprits of soft clusters are not stirring enough or not baking long enough… Or both! (If your initial granola layer is too thick, that can also result in soft clusters.) So if you end up with soft clusters at the end of the designated baking time, simply slide that baking sheet back in the oven and continue baking until they’re crisp and crunchy.
What goes well with pumpkin spice granola? What’s the best way to eat it?
Once this granola is completely cool, you could add all sorts of things to it, if you’d like! Pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds!), nuts, coconut, regular dried fruit, freeze dried fruit… Even chocolate chips. 😉 The sky’s the limit!
My favorite ways to enjoy granola are to pour it in a bowl with a splash of milk, make a parfait with Greek yogurt (I love its added protein!) and fresh fruit, or simply eat it by the handful. Basically… You can’t go wrong!
How should I store this pumpkin spice granola? How long does it last?
Store it in an airtight container. It should keep for at least five days, if not longer. It also freezes well! See the Notes section of the recipe for the best way to thaw it.
Ready to make your own? And when you do, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy pumpkin spice granola!
Healthy Pumpkin Spice Granola
- In a large bowl, stir together the pumpkin, maple syrup, and pumpkin spice. Pour in the brown rice cereal and oats, and gently stir until both cereals are evenly coated.
- Spread the mixture into a thin even layer on the prepared pan. Bake at 325°F for 20 minutes. Gently stir to break up the granola and move the clusters around the pan to prevent the bits closest to the edge from burning. Bake for an additional 10 minutes, then gently stir again. Bake for an additional 6-10 minutes (for a total of 36-40 minutes) or until the granola is crunchy. Let the granola cool for 3-5 minutes before breaking apart any extra large clusters. Cool the granola completely to room temperature on the pan before transferring to an airtight container.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins
♡ Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
♡ Healthy Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Bites
♡ Healthy Pumpkin Oatmeal Snack Cake
♡ Healthy Pumpkin Pancakes
♡ Healthy Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy pumpkin recipes and healthy granola recipes!