When you hear the words “granola bar,” you probably think of a healthy snack. That can be true, but it’s also true that with the wrong ingredients, a granola bar can end up less healthy than a candy bar. Read the labels of some granola bars in the store and you might be unpleasantly surprised. Many granola bars contain ingredients such as corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and refined sugars while some are just way too high in sugar and/or sodium. Some granola bars may also contain animal products such as dairy and honey. Of course, there are truly healthy granola bars you can buy but you might find it easier, more cost-effective and more fun to make them yourself. When you make your own granola bars, you get to choose the ingredients so they can be as healthy (or not) as you want them to be. Try out all our tips, tricks and creative add-ins to make your next batch today!
1. Start With The Basic Recipe
It’s easy to make your own granola bars. You just make granola and bake them into bars. You can get as creative as you want with ingredients and flavors but there are some basic ingredients that go into most granola bars. The base is usually oats, then you add other grains like quinoa, rice, wheat germ, flour or even crispy cereal. Texture and flavor comes from chunky and chewy foods like dried fruits, nuts, seeds, or coconut. This all gets mixed with some type of sweetener such as dates, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, agave or brown sugar and a type of fat which can be coconut oil, vegan butter or nut butter. Lastly, add flavor with vanilla and spices. You want about 4 cups of granola mix. For tips on making your own granola, check out DIY Granola – Easy and Healthy!
Once you have chosen your ingredients, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and warm the liquid ingredients in a saucepan. Then toss it all together in a bowl. Press the mix into an oiled and parchment paper-lined baking pan and bake it. Let it cool and cut it into bars. That’s it. Anyone can do it and what a fun activity to do with the kids! Let them choose their favorite add-ins, maybe even vegan candies and pretzels, give their creations unique names and brag to their friends about how they made their own granola bars.
2. Use Simple Tips and Tricks
If you want your granola bars more chewy than crunchy, try adding flaxseed meal into the bars. If you prefer crunchy bars, bake them again for 5 or 10 minutes after cutting them.
Sticky ingredients like the sweeteners and some of the fats help the bars hold together. If you use liquids such as vegan butter, use them sparingly. Too much liquid may cause the bars to fall apart. Another way to ensure the bars hold together is to make sure you bake the granola until it is a dark golden color.
As tempting as it is to want to just dig right in, the granola needs to cool completely before cutting it into bars. This could take a couple of hours, so find something to do so you won’t give in and cut them too soon. Store them at room temp, or wrap well and freeze for long-term storage.
3. Make Them Gluten-Free if Desired
Granola bars can easily be made gluten-free. Make sure the oats you use are certified gluten-free and not processed in a factory with wheat or other gluten-filled ingredients. You can also choose gluten-free grains such as quinoa, rice or gluten-free flours. Avoid wheat, barley, and rye (all natural sources of gluten). When choosing sweeteners, be sure to read the labels. Some sweeteners, like certain brands of brown rice syrup, may contain gluten-containing ingredients like barley. There should be no difference in the cooking process of gluten-free granola bars compared to regular granola bars with gluten-based ingredients, so feel free to bake the same way so long as you follow a recipe to get the ratio of ingredients correct.
4. Try Tasty Combinations
My favorite combinations usually include chocolate, coconut and peanut butter. The coconut adds chewiness and I like using crispy rice cereal in my granola, which adds the crunch I love. To make my Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a 9×9 baking dish with cooking spray and parchment paper. In a bowl, combine 1 ½ cups rolled oats, 1 cup crispy rice cereal, 1 cup chopped roasted almonds, ½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut and ½ cup vegan chocolate chips. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup processed dates, ¼ cup agave nectar, and ¼ cup unsweetened peanut butter. Warm it over low heat. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Turn the mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down with a spatula, evenly distributing the granola in the dish. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a dark golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares or bars and store in an airtight container for up to a week. You can also freeze the bars and they will last for months.
Here are some other delicious combinations you might want to try:
- Dark chocolate, dried cherries and almonds – perfect for Valentine’s Day
- Banana, apple sauce, and cinnamon – for a banana bread taste
- Pumpkin puree, pecans, pumpkin pie spice – like pumpkin pie in a bar
- Cocoa powder, almonds and peanut butter – Is it a granola bar or a brownie or both?!
- Cocoa powder, walnuts and peppermint extract – This is my husband’s favorite combo.
5. Try More Vegan Granola Bar Recipes
Are you ready to make your own granola bars? Try these recipes: Chewy Homemade Granola Bars, Best Low Calorie Vegan Granola Bars in Town, Super Quick Granola Bars, Autumn Spice Granola Bars, Banana Granola Bars, Peanut Butter Fit Bars, Heart-Shaped Vegan Almond Coconut Granola Bars, and these Raw “Granola Bar” Crackers. For a smaller snack, try these Fit & Fab Granola Bites and these Chocolate Chip Granola Bites.
As mentioned, any granola mix can be turned into granola bars. Try these granola recipes in your next set of bars: Berry Oxidant Granola, Seeds and Goji Berry Granola, Peanut Butter – Maple-Pecan and Coconut Bacon Granola, Chocolate Granola, Clumpy Banana Nut Granola, and Healthy Plum and Pecan Granola.
Now that you have all the tips and tricks, get in the kitchen and make your own granola bars for yourself and those you love. What are your favorite ingredients in a granola bar? Tell us in the comments.
Lead Image Source: Chewy Homemade Granola Bars