I picked up a box of granola bars at the natural grocery store the other day and was shocked to see a laundry-list of ingredients. Although I could pronounce each one of them, I was confused as to why there were three kinds of sweetener (cane sugar, brown rice syrup and maple syrup), preservatives and added natural flavors despite the fact that almonds and cranberries are flavorful enough on their own. I put the granola bars back on the shelf and opted for a large bag of oats, shredded coconut and a quart of maple syrup — and then I set out to make granola bars of my own.
Although it seems much easier to grab a box of granola bars from the grocery, I promise you that making them at home doesn’t require much effort. Not to mention, the amount of money you save makes homemade granola bars more than worth it. And if that’s not enough, how about the fact that you can easily swap one ingredient for another (without adversely impacting the end result) for straight-up custom granola bars. I’ve provided a handful of options below, but I urge you to play around and get creative. Maybe even invite the kiddos into the kitchen and let them work their magic.
Chocolate peanut butter granola bars: Replace the almond butter with peanut butter; replace the shredded coconut with an additional 1/2 cup of rolled oats.
Blueberry coconut granola bars: Replace the chocolate chips with 1/3 cup dried blueberries.
Chocolate pretzel granola bars: Replace the shredded coconut with an additional 1/2 cup of rolled oats; add 1/4 cup chopped pretzel pieces.
Cherry pistachio granola bars: Replace the chocolate chips with 3 tablespoons chopped dried cherries and 3 tablespoons chopped pistachios.
Superfood granola bars: Replace the chocolate chips with 1/2 cup of a combination of chopped dried blueberries, dried goji berries and pistachios.
Vanilla almond granola bars: Add the seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean to the wet mixture; replace the chocolate chips with 1/3 cup chopped almonds.
You can swap the almond butter for peanut butter, sunflower seed butter, pistachio butter, etc. And if you’d prefer to use agave nectar or coconut nectar in place of the maple syrup, each of those would substitute just the same. If you’re not a fan of coconut, you can replace the coconut oil with any neutral flavored oil then add an additional 1/2 cup of rolled oats in place of the shredded coconut.
Chocolate Coconut Granola Bars
Makes 6 bars
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- 1/3 cup unrefined coconut oil
- 3 to 4 tablespoons pure maple syrup (depending on sweetness level)
- 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup mini vegan chocolate chips
- Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper; set aside.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the almond butter and coconut oil, and cook until completely melted and combined. Stir in the maple syrup and then turn off the heat and set the saucepan aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the mixture to cool.
- Add the rolled oats, shredded coconut, and sea salt to a large bowl, then pour the cooled almond butter mixture over top and mix until oats are evenly coated. Add the chocolate chip and stir to combine.
- Firmly press the mixture into the prepared baking pan and refrigerate for at least an hour. Once chilled, cut into six even segments and store in an airtight container for up to five days. Granola bars will keep best in the refrigerator.
Photo credit: Ashlae Warner