Homemade Granola Bars
“My kids will never throw tantrums in public.”
“My daughter will always wear matching outfits.”
“My child will never eat processed junk food or suck down juice.”
You know all those lofty claims we make before having kids? Like a good friend of ours says, “I was the perfect parent until I had kids.” Too true. I am the mom who rips into the box of fruit snacks in the middle of Target, who lets my daughter mix polka dots with plaids, who allows my son to pee under the car in parking lot emergencies. I’m so sorry.
And don’t even get me started on those boxes of granola bars that are so easy to grab. Nutritious? No. Fast? Easy? Yes and yes. Oh, and they also help with those public meltdowns that were never supposed to happen.
Three years ago, I bought a bunch of juice on a great sale with coupons. The added bonus? For every four jugs of juice you bought, you received one free box of granola bars! I normally don’t buy those super-sweet sawdusty rectangles, but free? Why not.
The following week, when hunting around for an afternoon snack, I pulled out one of those granola bars. As I ate it, I thought, “Why am I eating this? I don’t like it. It doesn’t taste good, and I will be hungry again in approximately 8 minutes.” I was eating it because it was free and fast. Those two things only get you so far, though. It was not filling or satisfying or… good.
Granola bars were officially added to my growing list of “Things I Will No Longer Buy in a Box.” To fill their place, I decided it was time to make my own. Shocking, I know. I have tried several different recipes, but finally settled on a variation of a recipe I ripped out of a magazine what feels like YEARS ago.
These bars are slightly sweet, super dense, and chock-full of good things. With a glass of milk, one square makes a filling, protein-packed snack I feel good about eating and feeding my family. We haven’t bought a box of granola bars in three years, and I haven’t missed them one bit.
Making granola bars is very similar to making homemade granola. Once you find the right ratio of fillers (dried fruit, nuts, seeds, etc.) to binders (honey, syrup, peanut butter, etc.), you can mix and match flavor combinations to your heart’s content. (You can also make our no-bake energy bites or homemade larabars for no-bake options.)
Try dried apricots, chopped almonds, dark chocolate, and shredded coconut. Or chopped cashews, mini chocolate chips, and dried cranberries. Or maybe dried mango, flaxseed meal, and coconut. Or…
Thick & Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars
Bars can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for 3 months.
4 1/2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 c. all-purpose flour*
1/4-1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1/3 c. brown rice syrup or corn syrup
1/3 c. honey
2 t. vanilla extract
2 c. chocolate chips, dried fruit, seeds, and/or chopped nuts (check the bulk section at your local grocery store for inspiration!)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Cut a rectangle of parchment paper to line the pan bottom of the pan, leaving several inches hanging over each side to create a sling. Grease the parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, and baking soda.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the butter, water, peanut butter, brown rice (or corn) syrup, honey, and vanilla extract. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated.
- Add 2 cups of chocolate chips, dried fruit, seeds, and/or chopped nuts.
- Press the mixture evenly into the pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Let cool for about 10 minutes before lifting the bars out of the pan with the parchment paper sling.
- Lay on a cutting board and then cut into 12 equal pieces.
*You could easily make this recipe free of gluten! Swap out the flour 1:1 for a good gluten-free flour option and make sure your oats are certified gluten-free.
If you’ve been on the hunt for a good allergy-friendly chocolate chip that actually tastes good, Enjoy Life is an excellent brand! Free of dairy, soy and gluten and no additional garbage preservatives.
Looking for more great uses for oats?
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Megan Denecke says
I have a question is it 2c of chocolate chips, 2c dried fruit, 2c seeds and 2c chopped nuts.
or is it mix everything together to equal 2c? Please let me know at your earliest convenience.
Angela Davis says
Mix of everything to equal 2 cups (not 2 cups of each ingredient).
I just made these and they are okay. I have other recipes I would make before making these again. They came out crumbly on the outside and chewy in the middle. I only cooked them for 16 minutes any longer they would have burned on the edges. I also found the pan suggested to be to small unless you were going for a really thin bar. I’ll give them a three out of five star rating.
I’m sorry I mis typed. I meant the pan was too large.
Emily from Frugal Living NW says
I just made these again to double check the pan size. 9×13″ is correct and will give you a thick granola bar (just like the pictures)! Any smaller and you’d end up with something closer to a really dense cake.
This looks like a wonderful recipe! I have been on the lookout for a good granola bar recipe. I am looking forward to trying this one out!
Can you use instant oats?
These look great! Has anyone made them with almond butter?
Emily from Frugal Living NW says
Yes, almond butter works great, too!
Made these yesterday using the cupcake liner suggestion and I can tell you that I will not be looking for another granola bar recipe again. These are fantastic!
Thanks for the recipe and baking idea.
Mary Catherine says
I made these last night and they are GREAT! I used maple syrup instead of rice syrup, and added in crushed peanut m&m’s, craisins, multi-grain cheerios and raisin bran. Perfect mid-day snack for work. Thank you!!!
Emily from Frugal Living NW says
Glad you found this recipe! That combination sounds delish.
These are great. I have just one suggestion. Forget the parchment paper. I used muffin tins and cupcake papers. No cutting, no dirty pans and they are easy to pack into lunches. It takes a little longer to prepare for the oven, but it is worth the time.
Emily from Frugal Living NW says
Great tip, Anne-Marie! I am going to try this next time.
Thanks for the idea of muffin tins – I have been making these for the last 6 months or so and love them but the cutting is a bit much some times. Next batch muffin tins!
These are great. My daughter loves granola bars as a breakfast, but we are trying to get away from processed foods. I used 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup honey, omitting the corn syrup. I used 4 cups oats and 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour.
Great tips=just how I would like it & good to know it would work.
Made these just as the recipe said and they were gobbled up by all! They taste just like a really yummy and hearty cookie! I wrapped them individually and kept them in the fridge for a week for hubby’s lunches and kids snacks.
I love these. I made them according to the recipe and put in coconut and walnuts as my mix-ins. They are easy & delicious. This morning I served one crumbled over plain yogurt & fruit. Yummy!
Just made these and WOW they are amazing!! I used agave syrup instead of the corn syrup. One thing you could do to make it healthier is use applesauce instead of butter.. These are so delicious though! Taste just like a PB oatmeal chocolate chip cookie i make but these are a lot healthier! Yum!! 🙂
Loved the read! I can relate…
Thanks Emily! I’m looking forward to making these
As a pediatric nurse-I would like to put in a plug that children need somewhat different nutrition than adults do. They are growing and generally- naturally very active (given good opportunities and limited screen time) so need good fats/carbohydrates/protein (not junk food-but this good recipe fills the definition nicely). Sometimes I notice that adults-who are dieting (don’t necessarily want to get me going on that topic!) and avoid fat in their diets assume children should eat the same way. As a result I see many children who are very thin. I actually had to work to get more calories in my son when he was little and used whole milk and butter to do so-which his pediatrician agreed with.
Now this is not the same issue as children who are overweight at a young age because all they eat is junk food-so don’t get me wrong- that is another health issue. I just mention this, because I think in an effort sometimes to be health conscious adults we are applying principles we shouldn’t to children.
I’m a certified childcare specialist (fancy name for an educated/trained certified professional nanny), and it breaks my heart to see kids at either end of the spectrum! I chaperoned my son’s field study today and at lunch time I saw lunches that made me weak. We’re attempting to eat for nutritional benefit only and avoiding the quick and tastes-nummy foods now. Off topic, I made a mental comparison between how we feed our childrens’ minds as well- a kid in my group said he was so excited to see his dad this weekend because he was going to rent and download new video games and went on and on about that, when its obvious he just isn’t spending an time on literacy- his reading comprehension and spelling was atrocious. We can’t just let kids be kids, there has to be a lot of dedication and intent involved.
Thanks so much…sounds great!! Love any recipe that moves people away from the processed junk!!!
I’ve also heard of substituting Lyle’s Golden Syrup in place of the corn syrup. Not sure how much healthier it is but no GMO 🙂
The 1/2 cups each of butter and peanut butter hold a lot of calories. And there is a full cup of sweetner between the honey, brown sugar, and syrup. They look delicious, and certainly having fresh ingredients is better than all the preservatives of pre-made bars. I would easily feed them to my kids who need all the calories they can get!
True! 🙂 I think we often assume that just because it is called a “granola bar,” it is instantly health food (kind of like oatmeal cookies). I would consider these a great, occasional treat/snack. However, given the choice I would feed my kids homemade bars over store bought ones any day of the week.
And yes, there are many options for lightening or cutting back on the sweeteners. Totally up to individual tastes and diets!
Another recipe. http://www.skinnytaste.com/2011/06/low-fat-chewy-granola-bars-with-pecans.html
this one says low-fat and low-cal. I like that it uses apple sauce and cinnamon.
This sounds like a great recipe! I also ran the ingredients through a nutrition calculator and it came up with really high calories, even without adding in the chocolate chips (http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp). I can’t figure out exactly what makes it so high cal…but they still sound amazing and delicious. I may have to make them anyway. 🙂
If you use the caloriecount.about site (I posted link above). I gives an A-F grade on each ingredient. Nice to help figure out what is bad. Butter got an F in this one. Hmm. Maybe if you use a butter substitute??
Sue O says
Butter=bad is an out-dated opinion. Throw PC to the wind and eat butter, I say!
I do too-because I figure it is natural, and you do need some natural fats in your diet. The substitutes are ingredients that I have no idea what they are !!
So maybe I just do not get it but corn syrup is not the same as high fructose corn syrup and I am not sure what brown rice syrup is but she did give you some alternative. what is so bad about corn syrup?
Corn Syrup in general is bad because most of it is made with genetically modified organisms.(GMO’s).
The problem with GMO’s are they take a seed, put it in a lab and add additional organism’s to it. The organism’s they add are so they can spray the tar out of it with pesticide’s and herbicides and the plant (corn) won’t die. You get a nice healthy dose of plant poison with your corn. Soy is a really bad one too.
Although I can’t believe I am going to reference the Huffington Post, this article is appropriate.
Totally agree with you. Wanted to comment that you can buy organic corn syrup, so it is possible to make this recipe without worrying about the GMOs. Wholesome Sweeteners makes a nice organic corn syrup and you can buy it on Amazon.
Sue O says
I’m sure you could substitute more honey instead of the corn syrup. Recipes are only suggestions, anyway!
Thanks for this info too-I had no idea there were alternative corn syrups.
you had me until *corn syrup* – that is the main reason we don’t eat packaged foods anymore.
try substituting it with blackstrap molasses.
Thanks-I had the same question.
I was curious about the nutritional facts on this, so i copied the recipe and pasted it into a calorie calculator.
This is the results.
Serving Size 121 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories 376Calories from Fat 193
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21.5g33%
Saturated Fat 11.8g59%
Total Carbohydrates 42.4g14%
Dietary Fiber 1.8g7%
Vitamin A 6% • Vitamin C 0% Calcium 6% • Iron 7%
Too high caloried for me to eat but will bookmark this for my children. Looks yummy! Currently down 41 lbs and would not want to ruin my diet 😉
Can you tell me what website you use to get this information? I’ve been looking for one. Thanks.
I just copied and pasted the recipe. Sometimes it will ask you to clarify an item. Like peppers…what kind?
Could you substitute molasses or agave for the brown rice or corn syrup? I have those two items on hand and the corn syrup seems to be the only thing I’m missing from your recipe. 🙂
I would try the agave. Maple syrup should work, too, although the bars might be a bit more crumbly.
Ya, I made these today and I was low on honey, so I used maple syrup for half of it. and for part of the corn syrup. The flavor was awesome, but they were more crumbly than I’d hoped. I’m looking forward to trying hazelnut or almond butter for the pb next time around…I think there are lots of options that will work here.
I used molasses instead of corn syrup and they turned out great. Also substituted crunchy for creamy peanut butter.