Granulite facies magnesian metapelites commonly preserve a wide array of mineral assemblages and reaction textures that are useful for deciphering the metamorphic evolution of a terrane. Quantitative pressure, temperature and bulk composition constraints on the development and preservation of characteristic peak granulite facies mineral assemblages such as orthopyroxene + sillimanite + quartz are assessed with reference to calculated phase diagrams. In NCKFMASH and its chemical subsystems, peak assemblages form mainly in high-variance fields, and most mineral assemblage changes reflect multivariant equilibria. The rarity of orthopyroxene–sillimanite–quartz-bearing assemblages in granulite facies rocks reflects the need for bulk rock XMg of greater than approximately 0.60–0.65, with pressures and temperatures exceeding c. 8 kbar and 850 °C, respectively. Cordierite coronas mantling peak minerals such as orthopyroxene, sillimanite and quartz have historically been used to infer isothermal decompression P–T paths in ultrahigh-temperature granulite facies terranes. However, a potentially wide range of P–T paths from a given peak metamorphic condition facilitate retrograde cordierite growth after orthopyroxene + sillimanite + quartz, indicating that an individual mineral reaction texture is unable to uniquely define a P–T vector. Therefore, the interpretation of P–T paths in high-grade rocks as isothermal decompression or isobaric cooling may be overly simplistic. Integration of quantitative data from different mineral reaction textures in rocks with varying bulk composition will provide the strongest constraints on a P–T path, and in turn on tectonic models derived from these paths.