Kevin Johnson's Savory Pecan Granola

Kevin Johnson's Savory Pecan Granola

By Stephanie Burt

Although Charleston, S.C. has changed much in recent years, many tourists still hit the cobblestone streets looking for heavy dishes such as shrimp and grits, she crab soup, and plenty of barbecue. For the decade that Chef Kevin Johnson has been cooking at his restaurant, The Grocery, he’s quietly eschewed such heavier dishes for the menu while still making it feel “very Charleston.” He focuses on local ingredients and their seasonality, and he also loves to build flavor and satisfaction -- two things the aforementioned iconic dishes have in spades -- without using a lot of added fat to do so.

“I’m continually looking to round out dishes, and I find that adding a textural layer does that, he says. “And I have a disdain for soggy things that should be crunchy, so I’ve noticed that I’ll cook a topping separate and add it at the end so it retains that crunch.”

The Grocery’s flavors come from the Mediterranean rim but the ingredients are Southern, so pecans are a natural fit to add that crunch. “This isn’t a ‘put it in a bowl granola,’” Johnson says, instead suggesting this mix can round out cooked peaches, roasted root vegetables, or top (not be tossed with) a kale, arugula, and apple salad.

“This is earthy and toasty with some heat,” so it can add some spice to a sweet dish and add some sweet heat to a savory one. Make a batch and keep in an airtight container to add healthy crunch to your cooking.


Kevin Johnson’s Savory Pecan Granola
Yields about 4 cups

2 c. pecan pieces
1 c. oats
1 c. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. sesame seeds
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 egg white
1/3 c. canola oil
2 tbsp. sorghum syrup - can substitute honey



  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Using a food processor, grind the oats, sunflower seeds and sesame into a powder and place into mixing bowl.
  3. Pulse pecans in food processor until finely minced but not so far that they are powder., then add to mixing bowl
  4. Add chili powder, paprika, cayenne and salt to nut-oat mixture and stir to combine
  5. In a separate bowl, beat egg white until frothy. Stir in oil and sorghum.
  6. Gently coat nut mixture with egg white mixture and spread into even layer on baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden, stirring mixture halfway through to redistribute.
  8. Allow to cool to room temperature and store in airtight container (good for about one month).

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