Cinnamon Matcha Spent Grain-ola

“Keep close to Nature’s heart. Break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir

Days before travelling through Ireland, when our noses weren’t stuffed into back-country guides or poring over maps, free moments were spent tidying the house (because no one wants to come home to a mess), confirming reservations, and engineering the most efficient luggage configuration.

We were going on an adventure, off to climb mountains!

Glengarriff, Ireland

But first, a mountain of spent grain from brewing five gallons of nut brown ale.

In the spirit of travel health — playing on the irony that we’d consume a fair amount of beer throughout the stout-loving country — I baked this tray of crunchy goodness. (A real life saver when you’re on a more-strenuous-farther-than-you-calculated cliff hike, energy severely flagging, and on comes the wind, rain, sleet, a flooded trail, soggy boots, more wind…)

Spent grain granola

The spent grains add an earthy layer to the traditional toasty oats, whole walnuts, pepitas, sunflower and sesame seeds bring loads of crunch and texture, cinnamon and vanilla bean powder enhance the maple syrup sweetness, and for some luck o’ the Irish (or a failed attempt to turn it green), two tablespoons of bright matcha powder.

Easy to make and eat (even on a mountain), my Cinnamon Matcha Spent Grain-ola is full of essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidant nutrients, and a good balance of fiber, protein and healthy fats. It’s equally suited to snacky munching when energy is low, or to simple, filling breakfasts with milk or yogurt — deliciously helping us tackle our lofty must-see lists (and counteracting all those pints + heavy meals out).

What’s in it for me?

Spent grains are the crushed grain kernels that were soaked in hot water to convert sugars for beer during the “mash” phase. Even after this extraction, spent grains offer pleasant nutty, malty flavors, a chewy texture and some nutrients. Research into exact nutritional content is minimal as yet, but analyses suggest it’s a good source of protein and fiber.

Oats are another good source of fiber, particularly soluble fiber that aids digestion and regulation of blood sugar levels, and helps control appetite, reduces risk of heart disease, and lowers levels of cholesterol and blood pressure. Oats are one of the richest known sources of manganese, a trace mineral with antioxidant properties, important roles in skeletal development, wound healing, and metabolism, and promotes hearing development for growing fetuses.

Walnuts and flaxseed are both standouts for alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the heart-healthy plant-based omega-3 fatFlax is also rich in fiber and one of the best sources of antioxidant plant lignansPepitas offer plenty of monounsaturated fatszinc and vitamin E, with 7 grams of protein in a 1-ounce serving; sunflower seeds rank highly among seeds for levels of polyunsaturated omega-6 fats and provide nearly 50% of your vitamin E needs per serving; and sesame seeds are an excellent source of iron and copper, with more calcium ounce for ounce than milk.

Matcha — a ceremonial Japanese green tea — is harvested, steamed, and (traditionally) air-dried then stone-ground into a bright neon-green powder. Specific growing conditions and the fact that the entire leaf is ingested, not just the steeped water, boost its nutritional content in comparison to regular green tea. In particular matcha is packed with powerful antioxidant polyphenols linked to an array of health benefits. One polyphenol known as EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) is shown to be present in matcha in concentrations at least three times as great as other green teas, and is being studied for its potential to protect against cancer and heart disease, reduce blood pressure, fight viruses and boost metabolism.

Unlike highly refined white sugar, maple syrup is an all-natural sweetener that contains manganese, zinc and is another small source of those anti-inflammatory polyphenols.

Like the recipe I shared last year, this not-too-sweet granola is very customizable and can be used as a template to suit your tastes. Vary the grain base or the types of sweeteners and oils, as long the ratios of each are kept the same. You can also switch up the nuts, seeds or spices, and feel free to stir dried fruit into the mix after baking while still warm. (See HGN Notes in the recipe below for more detail.)

Happy, healthy trails to you!

Cheers, Heather

Tell me… What are your go-to snacks for healthful travelling? 

Cinnamon Matcha Spent Grain-ola
Prep Time
Cook Time
Total Time
Recipe Type: breakfast, snack, whole grain
Makes: 5 1/2 cups
  • 3 cups dried spent grain
  • 1 cup rolled old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup mixed raw whole nuts and seeds (shown here with walnuts, pepitas and sunflower seeds)
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp melted coconut oil (or olive oil)
  • 2 Tbsp matcha powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla powder (or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  1. Preheat the oven to 300° F with a rack in the middle.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the spent grain, oats and 1 cup of raw mixed nuts and seeds. (Note that the sesame and ground flax will be added after cooking.) Set aside.
  3. In a small nonstick skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the maple syrup and coconut or olive oil, stirring until just melted and combined. Stir in the matcha powder, cinnamon, salt and vanilla powder (or extract).
  4. Pour the warm spiced syrup and oil mixture over the spent grain mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber scraper to incorporate. Dump everything onto one or two large rimmed baking trays, and spread into a single layer with your spoon or scraper. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring and rotating the pan halfway through, until the granola is aromatic, golden and crisp. Remove from the oven, stir in the sesame seeds and ground flax, and set aside to cool completely in the tray.
  5. Once cool, store in an airtight container in the pantry for up to 1 month.
HGN Notes
If you don't have spent grains available, start brewing beer! Joke, joke... Feel free to replace those 3 cups with more rolled oats, or experiment with gluten-free alternatives like barley, kamut, quinoa and other rolled GF grains. You could also try a mixture of rolled and puffed grains (look for plain, unsweetened varieties), as long as the total amount adds up to 4 cups.

To make your own toasted vanilla bean powder, follow my instructions here: Otherwise, the general substitution ratio is approximately 1 tsp pure extract to replace 1/2 tsp powder.

+ This recipe includes a mixture of walnuts, pepitas and sunflower seeds (plus flax and sesame added after baking), but any nut/seed combination works. Pecan, hazelnut, macadamia, pistachio, peanut, brazil nut, chia seeds -- take your pick, or omit altogether.
+ Vary the amount or type of sweetener by adding a couple extra tablespoons of maple syrup, honey, sorghum or brown rice syrup, unrefined muscovado, maple or coconut sugars, or light brown sugar.
+ Swap olive oil or even butter in equal amounts for the coconut oil.
+ Play around with different spices like cardamom, ginger, or even five-spice powder instead of the cinnamon.
+ Add any dried fruit you like after baking, e.g., black or golden raisins, currants, cranberries or any other berry, apricot, mango, pineapple, papaya, dates, figs.

+ + + +

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