For the most part, I think store-bought granola bars either taste like cardboard (that would be the Kashi and Nature’s Valley varieties) or corn syrup (Cascadian Farms, Cliff Bars and Quaker). They’re one of those products that marketers want you to think are healthy, when really, most of the time, they’re over-processed, full of sugar, and don’t really satiate your hunger. The only store-bought granola bars I love are Larabars and Kind bars. Though they’re tasty, they are not cheap, and I’m still not 100% sold on them because I’m a big eater and need more to my granola bars than those tiny portions provide. So, about a year ago, I took matters into my own hands and went on the search for the perfect homemade granola bar recipe.
And I couldn’t find it.
I know, I’m picky. I wanted the *perfect* balance of crunchy & chewy. I tried so many different recipes. Most called for ingredients I wanted to avoid completely: butter, vegetable oil, and corn syrup. Eventually, I decided to play around in the kitchen until I figured out what worked for me. And, finally – like with my biscuits – I got there.
Everyone always asks for the recipe, so, here you go. It’s really more of a ratio than a recipe, so you can play around with it, adjusting the contents to your liking. As long as you keep the ratios the same, these should turn out fantastic every time.
Reader’s digest version (i.e. the ratio): 2.5 cups oats (with dash of salt & cinnamon), 3.5 cups nuts & dried fruits, 1 cup nut butter, 1 cup honey.
That’s it! I promise. Here’s the details on how I work them:
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment, spray parchment with cooking spray. This step is crucial to making bars. If you don’t take the time to line your pan, you’ll end up with granola bars that stick in the pan and turn into crumbled granola which – while tasty, especially in a bowl with soy milk – doesn’t work so well for eating on the go, as I do with these nearly every day.
In a large bowl, combine the following:
2.5 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking; I use Bob’s Red Mill)
pinch of salt
some cinnamon (maybe a 1/2 tablespoon?)
1/3 – 2/3 c. flax seed (and if you’ve got any chia seeds, throw them in there, too)
Then, stir in 3.5 cups of nuts, seeds & dried fruit. My combo is usually: sunflower seeds, craisins, raisins, walnuts, pecans, cashews. However, sometimes I throw in dates instead of raisins. Or pistachios instead of pecans. Or pumpkin seeds instead of sunflower. Or add in a handful of dark chocolate chips. Or add some apricots. Or slivered almonds. I do not measure any of these ingredients, so I can’t tell you how much of any I put in there. But I can tell you this:
* I always make the grand total 3.5 cups and
* I thoroughly chop all my nuts and
* I use more nuts than fruit.
And I can tell you that all combinations of nuts & fruit I’ve tried have been equally as successful and tasty, though I do tend to stay away from super sweet dried fruits, like pineapple and banana, and I also use plain, unsalted nuts. Except for pistachios. Because, really. Dry roasted & salted pistachios are ah-mazing.
Then, on the stove, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine:
1 cup of natural nut butter (my favorite combo is 1/3 cup each peanut, cashew and almond, but you could easily use all peanut butter). NOTE: natural peanut butter contains no sugar, which is why I use so much honey. So if you use non-natural nut butter, you might want to adjust the sugar content in the next step. I haven’t tried this, so you’ll be going rogue – just a warning.
and 1 cup honey. You can switch it up and use part honey & part agave nectar, but I find the agave nectar to be too sweet. (Keep in mind this is coming from someone who is unhappy with iced tea unless it tastes like tea-flavored sugar water and eats Nutella by the spoonful.)
Once the honey & nut butters have melted together, pour that mixture in the big bowl with the oats & nuts & fruit, and mix to combine. I use my hands. It’s the only way I can get the granola fully incorporated with the nut butter/honey mixture. (Random aside: I’ve giggled every time I’ve typed “nut butter.”)
Pour all of the combined granola mixture into the lined pan. Mash it down really well. Get it in all the corners. Really smush it. Then smash it down some more. Take out your aggression on that poor granola. This step is crucial to a dense bar that holds together well.
Bake for 10 minutes. Take them out of the oven, get a spatula, and smash the granola down in the pan again, using your spatula. This step is crucial, again, to a dense bar.
Return to the oven, and bake for 10 more minutes. Cool completely before trying to cut them. in fact, it’s best if you can let them chill out in the fridge overnight before cutting them into squares.
These will keep for 2 weeks if you wrap them individually in plastic wrap and keep them in the fridge, but I’m guessing they won’t last you that long because you’ll want to eat them all at once. Or, if you’re like me, you share them with people you love and they go pretty quickly that way, too.