Homemade granola bars are one of the BEST discoveries I’ve made in the past year or so. They are less expensive than their store-bought counterparts, more healthy (or at least you can make them as healthy/unhealthy as you so choose), and a heck of a lot more tasty!
Back when I was on the hunt for a delicious, nutritious, homemade granola bar recipe I came across a lot that still had all the ‘un-nutritious’ ingredients I was trying to avoid. And then I finally came across THIS recipe, and after reading through some of the rave comments for them, I decided these had to be worth a shot. And seriously! They’re so good! They’re way better than what you buy in the store, cheaper, a lot more healthy, AND I can have them in my food storage! Is there a down side to this?! …other than that now I will be having to make my granola bars instead of spending two seconds to throw them in my grocery cart? 🙂 But actually, that’s half the fun too! And really it is, because this recipe is so versatile that you can customize it to be pretty much anything you want!
Well, after tweaking this way and that, here is my grand finale granola bar recipe:
- 2 cups old fashioned oats (not the quick oats)
- 3/4 cup wheat germ/milled flax seed combo*
- 3/4 cup coconut
- 1 cup finely chopped nuts (I use about half and half of walnuts and pecans)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup agave nectar (you can use honey instead, but it has a much stronger flavor. I definitely prefer the agave.)
- 1/4 cup peanut butter (if you have nut allergies, you can use 4 Tbsp butter instead, but that makes it no longer shelf-stable)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 3/4 cup dried fruit (I generally use Craisins, but it’s fun to try dried blueberries, dried cherries, etc as well)
(*for the wheat germ and milled flax seed, I just take a 3/4 measuring cup, fill it half way with wheat germ and the rest of the way with milled flax seed. You could also do all wheat germ or all flax seed (especially if you need this to be gluten-free. The wheat germ is the only gluten item in this recipe, so just omit it). Also be sure to use milled flax seed and not the whole flax seeds. I have learned that your body cannot actually break down the shell of a whole flax seed, thereby rendering its healthy attributes useless to you unless the shell has already been cracked in some way. So whether you mill it by hand or buy it milled, just be sure you’re not leaving them whole.)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Mix the oats, nuts, flax seed, wheat germ, and coconut on a baking dish (with sides) and toast them in the oven for about 12 minutes, stirring about half way through so that they don’t get burned.
- While they’re toasting, get a 9×13 glass baking dish and line it with parchment paper (you can use wax paper with a nonstick spray if you don’t have parchment, but be aware that you may end up having to pick wax paper out of your granola bars! -don’t say I didn’t warn you!)
- Put the brown sugar, honey, butter, vanilla, and salt into a saucepan, then turn the heat on to about medium-high and bring it to a simmer, stirring constantly.
- Once it comes to a simmer and the top is covered with bubbles, remove it from heat (you don’t want it to boil for more than about 30 seconds, otherwise you’ll end up with crunchy granola bars). And your grain/nut mixture should be done now too, so take it out of the oven (and you can turn the oven off too… we’re done using it).
- Throw the toasted mixture into a large bowl and pour the melted mixture on top, along with your dried fruit. And mix, mix, mix.
- Mix some more. 🙂 You want to make sure that everything gets coated with the “gluey” syrup.
- Dump your granola mixture into the prepared baking dish. Spread it out as evenly as possible.
- Using another piece of parchment (or wax paper, but again, watch out for sticking), press down HARD all over the top of the granola. You want to compact it together so the bars won’t fall apart when you cut them.
- Wait 2-3 hours, or until the granola has completely cooled.
- Turn the granola onto a large cutting board and peel away what is now the top layer of parchment paper.
- Cut the granola into bars by firmly pressing down with a big cutting knife (not sawing). You can make the bars whatever size you like, but if you make them the general “granola bar” size, you should be able to get 18-22 bars out of this.
- Finally, you can either wrap the bars individually in plastic wrap** so they’re ready to grab and go, or you can just store them in an airtight container (with a piece of parchment placed between any layers).
Ta-da! Homemade granola bars. Enjoy! They’re tasty! 🙂
**P.S. If you want the convenience of ‘grab and go’ but don’t want to waste all the plastic wrap (not to mention the time it takes to wrap each one!), try sticking the bars in the little ‘snack-size’ plastic baggies and then just save them to reuse for the next batch of granola bars. And again, enjoy and have fun!! 🙂
Tips & Tricks
1) Make sure your nuts are finely ground. I put mine in a food processor and get them down to tiny chunks (half of it almost ends up in a powder). Large chunks of nuts will make your granola bars more apt to fall apart.
2) In step #4, turning the heat on after the ingredients are all in the pan is a trick I developed to help keep the sugar from cooking longer than the rest of the ingredients–which would turn the granola bars a bit more crunchy and crumbly.
3) Press down HARD once you’ve got the whole mixture spread out in the pan. I usually press for several minutes to make sure it is completely compacted together.
4) Make preparation time a snap! When you make a batch, make extra batches of the dry ingredients (the ingredients that get toasted) and just put them in a ziplock bag and store in the freezer. Then, the next time you go to make some granola bars, just grab the bag out of the freezer, let it come to room temperature and then continue on as usual with the directions. (And you can just save the bags and reuse them to stock up again when you’re all out of the mixes.) 🙂