How to Make Your Own Granola Bars

A lot of us reach for granola bars when we’re looking for a healthy snack to satisfy our sweet tooth – but how healthy are they? Store-bought granola bars can easily contain just as much fat and sodium, and almost as much sugar, as your average chocolate bar.

Just like other highly-processed snack foods, grocery store granola bars are often made with cheap ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup, palm oil, hydrogenated oil, and added chemicals and preservatives.

If you love granola bars and are trying to eat healthy, why not make your own? It’s not hard to do, and once you have a basic recipe you can customize it to fit your own tastes and dietary needs.

This is a basic chewy granola bar that is sweetened with dates instead of sugar. Dates are a much healthier choice than refined sugar for a number of reasons. First of all, they are packed with vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Scientific studies show that the sugar in dates does not have the same negative effect on blood sugar and weight that you see with refined sugars.

If you’re not crazy about the taste or texture of dates, you will most likely still enjoy these bars. The dates are pureed and used to sweeten and hold the bars together. The flavor and texture all comes from the oats, nuts and other ingredients.

Date-Nut Chewy Granola Bars

  • 1 3/4cups rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup chopped raw nuts
  • 15 pitted medjool dates
  • 1 Tbsp natural nut butter
  • 3 Tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup flax or hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, shredded finely
  • 1/4 cup chopped raw cocoa nibs (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (fine)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Process oats in a food processor for about 10 seconds to make a coarse meal. Stop while there are still some whole flakes.

Spread oats on a cookie sheet and toast at 300 degrees F for about 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Oats should be lightly browned.

Follow a similar process with the nuts. Process until you’ve got something between finely chopped nuts and a coarse meal. Toast on a cookie sheet for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once. Be careful not to let nuts burn.

Set oats and nuts aside to cool.

Turn oven up to 350 degrees F.

Process dates in food processor until they form a smooth puree. Remove about 2 Tbsp of the date puree and set aside.

Transfer the rest of the date puree to a large bowl. Add nut butter, coconut oil and vanilla and combine well.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients (except the reserved date puree) and mix with your hands. The mixture should be crumbly but able to stick together if you squeeze it. If the mixture is too dry, add some of the reserved date puree. If it’s too sticky and soft, add a few Tbsp rolled oats. Store any leftover date puree in the fridge for your next batch.

Press the mixture into a parchment-lined 9 x 9 baking pan. Put another square of parchment on top and press firmly with your hands to even out the mixture as much as possible.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 1 hour. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours.

Carefully transfer to a cutting board and cut into bars with a sharp knife. These bars will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks – if they last that long!

Variations

These bars are vegan and can easily be made gluten-free by using certified gluten-free oats. You can customize them by varying the kind of nuts and nut butters you use, choosing a different type of oil, and changing up the spices.

For example to make gingerbread bars, omit the vanilla and add 2 tsp ground ginger and a pinch of cloves. Substitute dried currants for cocoa nibs.

For maple pecan bars, try using pecans for the nuts and a mild nut butter such as macadamia. Substitute pure maple extract or 1 tsp fenugreek for the vanilla.

For a Nutella-inspired variation, use hazelnuts and hazelnut butter. Add 1 Tbsp of raw cocoa powder and omit the cinnamon.

There are endless ways you can vary this recipe. Just don’t change the date/oat ratio and keep the overall volume of other ingredients the same. If you want to leave out the coconut, for example, you can find something with a similar texture or just add an extra 1/2 cup of oats.

By making your own granola bars, you'll end up with something healthier and tastier than anything you can buy. Once you get used to homemade granola bars, you'll never want to go back to store-bought!

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