I love granola bars. I mean how can you go wrong with oats, nuts, fruit, coconut? What I don’t love about granola bars is the amount of sugar that is in them. So for months now, I have been playing around with different ways to make them at home. I actually lost count as to how many I have tried and they all somehow ended up in a pile of loose granola. Well, with a particular pan in mind and an amazing idea posted by Minimalist Baker, I think I finally have something worthy of sharing. My recipe is different than Minimalist Baker, it is loosely adapted from there, but their recipe utilizes a paste made out of dried dates to both sweeten and bind the ingredients together. Genius!
This recipe is no bake and it calls for oats, peanut butter, coconut oil, maple syrup and thinly sliced almonds. Those are the basics. I frequently do a variety of mix-ins. You can really add anything you like: chocolate chips, toasted coconut, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, some variety of dried fruit. Possibilities are endless. You can also omit the peanut butter and use almond, cashew or sunflower butters instead.
First step is to make the date paste. You need about 5 pitted dried dates and 1/2 a cup of hot water. The ones I have are really dry and I let them soak for about 10 minutes. Once that soaking process is done, I just throw the dates and the water into a blender and make a paste.
Next, toast the oats. You toast them for about 15-20 minutes at 350F until they are fragrant and lightly golden. This step is not required, the recipe will work without doing this, but toasting the oats really enhances the flavor. It is also important to toast the almonds at 350F for about 5-7 minutes or until fragrant. You can place them on a smaller baking sheet and throw them in the oven with the oats during the last 10 minutes of the oats toasting. Though I must warn you, your kitchen will smell amazing. There could be people lining up at your door asking for that delicious cake you are baking. It smells that good.
Next step, while the oats are toasting, is to melt the oil, heat the peanut butter and line everything up. Then, once the toasting is done, all that is required to do is mix these ingredients together.
One item to note: I originally used rough chopped almonds. Those will work great and add extra crunch, but one issue I found with chopped is it makes the bars harder to cut which can impact the structure of the bars. So now, I use thinly sliced almonds and I use crunchy peanut butter and that seems to work really well. Since these bars are no bake, it is important to remove anything that will break their structure.
Once all the ingredients are mixed, this mixture just needs to be pressed into a pan that is first covered in plastic wrap.
Now, let’s talk about what pan works best. Most recipes call for an 8×8 glass square dish or some rectangular version of glass dishes. I found that spreading the mixture in those types of pans makes the bars too thin and it can cause them to fall apart. Again, that was one of my many mishaps with the bars. So somewhere in the madness of my ruined recipes, my husband had a genius idea of putting these in a bread loaf pan. At first I thought that would make the bars too thick, but it turns out it makes them perfect. They are thicker, but they slice beautifully and you can always cut them again into smaller square bars. All that is required is to line the loaf pan with plastic wrap, with enough overhang to cover then press the mixture firmly and chill for 24 hours. You can also freeze it for an hour and then refrigerate just overnight.
Slice and enjoy!
*Note: To ensure these hold together, keep the bars in an airtight container or bag in the fridge.
- 2 cups gluten free oats
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- ¼ cup melted coconut oil
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup heated natural peanut butter,salted
- 5 dates, soaked in ½ cup hot water
- Optional: 2 T Chia Seeds, 2 T ground flax seeds, ¼ cup chocolate chips, ¼ cup shredded toasted coconut
- Toast oat for 15 minutes at 350 or until golden brown and fragrant.
- Toast almonds for 5 to 7 minutes or until they become fragrant. Mix the oats, almonds, peanut butter, coconut oil, maple syrup and date puree in a large bowl until well combined.
- Press the entire mixture into a prepared loaf pan. Refrigerate for 24 hours.