I’m one of those people who wakes up most mornings and either heads out for a long run or to the gym for some heavy weight lifting. I’m also one of those people who can’t exercise with a belly full of food, which creates all sorts of problems when I’m mid run (or squat) and the hunger pangs strike, rendering my body pretty much useless. My solution to the problem was simple – a homemade oat bar packed with just enough good stuff to get me through my workout and tide me over until breakfast.
These things are far from a store-bought granola bar and my fiancé would roll his eyes at me if I handed him one of these and called it that. They’re not crunchy or sticky or overly sweet, but the texture is perfect and the flavor combinations are essentially endless. Did I mention they’re also vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, and they don’t contain any artificial flavors or preservatives? Win.
If you don’t want to use rolled oats, you can use any flaked grain of your choice (spelt, kamut, etc.). The same goes for the nuts – walnuts, pecans, or pistachios would substitute just fine (and pistachios would make for some exceptionally beautiful granola bars). If you’ve got an aversion to dates (as it turns out, a lot of people do), you can either substitute 1.5x dried unsulphured apricots or raisins at about 1 1/2 packed tablespoons for each date. If you’d prefer a super sweet granola bar (I like mine just barely sweet) replace 1-2 tablespoons of the non-dairy milk with equal amounts of maple syrup (or agave nectar, coconut nectar, etc.).
The add-ins are totally optional and can be customized to fit your needs. Just keep them at about 1/2 cup total, give or take a couple of tablespoons. I always add cacao nibs and some type of dried fruit for a bit of flavor and texture. And lately I’ve been on a coconut kick, so I added some of that, too. For protein-packed oat bars, replace 1/2 cup of the oats with 1/2 cup of protein powder of your choice. You’ll also want to add 2 tablespoons of liquid sweetener (maple syrup, agave nectar, etc.) to the mixture to help balance out the chalkiness of the powder. This would be in addition to the two tablespoons of sweetener if you wanted a sweeter bar.
Easiest Goji Berry + Cacao Nib Oat Bars
Makes 8 bars
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup raw almonds
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Small pinch of sea salt
- 10 medjool dates
- 4-6 tablespoons non-dairy milk
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped goji berries
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 3 tablespoons cacao nibs
Line a loaf pan with parchment paper; set aside. In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the oats, almonds, cinnamon, and sea salt into a fine meal. Add the dates and pulse until a crumbly mixture starts to form. Add the non-dairy milk, 1 tablespoon at a time – for crumbly oat bars, add only 4 tablespoons; for chewy oat bars, add the full 6. Just make sure you add enough liquid so that the dough sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Transfer the base to a large mixing bowl and stir in your add-ins of choice. For this particular oat bar I used goji berries, shredded coconut, and cacao nibs; but feel free to add whatever you’d like. Dump everything into the mixing bowl and mix with your hands until combined. Press the mixture into the prepared loaf pan then chill in the freezer for 30 minutes. Once chilled, cut the bars into 8 even segments and transfer to an air tight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to six weeks.
- 1/4 cup chopped dried mango + 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/4 cup chopped dried cherries + 1/4 cup cacao nibs
- 2 tablespoons hemp seeds + 1/2 cup chopped dried unsulphured apricots
Photo credit: Ashlae Warner