I’ve been on the search for healthy bars that don’t cost $4 a piece, and when I do find bars with key ingredients, like chia, they always have some sort of syrup coagulator or preservative. So I decided to try making my own – and I think I’ve found something nearly perfect.
These come from a girl who was once a professional granola bar-maker, a calling she found because she was frustrated with the long list of ingredients in bars, even in stores like Whole Foods. These bars are straightforward, use simple ingredients, and call for no refined sugar or added syrup. There is a small, optional addition of chocolate that I love and Derek is indifferent to. It’s about two squares of chocolate for the entire batch of bars.
I found this recipe to be very precise, and my results were just as she described. This is simple, so I hope you find a moment to try! They freeze well and are fine right out of the freezer, too.
1. Dates are key. No substitutions. And medjool dates are best.
2. If you don’t have hemp seeds you could add well chopped sunflower seeds or chia seeds (my favorite).
3. It’s important that the nuts are well chopped before adding to the food processor, or the grinding will be too uneven (you’ll get flour too quickly while still having some un-chopped nuts).
4. If you don’t want to add the chocolate, you can simply leave it out and replace with 3-4 tablespoons of nuts (be sure to chop and process them as specified below).
5. Instead of coconut, you can sub another 1/4 cup of hemp seeds and 2-3 tablespoons of chia seeds instead.
1 3/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup well-chopped raw nuts (a mixture works well – almonds/walnuts/pecans)
12-15 medjool dates, pitted (may need a few more; err on the side of chewy)
3 tablespoons softened unrefined coconut oil
1 tablespoon thick nut butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup finely chopped dark chocolate
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
9×9 baking pan
1. Preheat your oven to 300° F.
2. Place oats in your food processor and process for 5-10 seconds until ground into a course meal. You still want some whole oats to remain. Transfer to baking sheet.
3. Place chopped nuts in your food processor and turn on until finely chopped. You want about 1/2 course meal and 1/2 small bits. Place on a baking sheet with oats and toast for 10-15 minutes, stirring once, until lightly toasted. Remove both and let cool for at least 10 minutes.
4. Increase oven to 350° F and line a 9×9 cake pan with parchment paper.
5. While toasting the oats and nuts, wipe out your food processor. Place the pitted dates in your processor and turn on until a smooth paste forms. This takes about 30 seconds – 1 minute. They’ll go from chopped, to a large ball, and finally smooth out into a smooth paste. You’ll end up with 1/2 heaping cup. Scrape sides as needed. You may want to start off with 15 pitted dates to make sure you have enough for binding. Date size and plumpness can vary, so it will be best to have a little extra. (Because of the size of dates available to me, I needed 18 of them.)
6. Transfer the date paste to a large mixing bowl. Stir/mash in the coconut oil, nut butter, and vanilla until well combined. Add the cooled oats, nuts, coconut, chocolate, hemp, cinnamon, and salt. Mix together with your hands until fully incorporated. The mixture will look crumbly but should hold together when squeezed. If it feels *very* soft and gooey add 1/4 cup more oats.
7. Empty mixture into your lined pan and spread evenly to the edges and corners. Place a piece of parchment over top and firmly press down with your palms until well-compacted and fully smooth from edge to edge. Be sure the corners well packed. It helps to get above the pan and put your weight into it. Press as firmly as you can. Bake for 8 minutes.
8. Remove and let cool for 1 hour. Place the pan in the fridge and let chill for at least 2 hours. Carefully lift one edge of parchment and slide the bars and parchment from the pan to a cutting board (support the bottom with your hand or flat spatula). Chop into bars with a long, sharp knife. Keep tightly covered in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.