Don't imagine me devouring four granola bars while snapping these pictures. Just don't do that.
I had just gotten back from the gym and was s-t-a-r-v-i-n-g! You might remember how in the winter, (gawd that feels like an eternity ago), I was all into the weight lifting thing. Well, I didn't admit this to you until now, but the summer weather lured me out of the gym, and I didn't exactly miss sweating over dumbbells. So this past week, I finally dragged my self back, and I didn't just go back, I went all hardcore and went to the gym 4, count em, 1-2-3-4 times!!! For someone as exercise lazy as me, that is HUGE. I have already made it to the gym 3 times this week too, and am going to try to go 4 times every week this month to whip myself back into shape with my mental drill sergeant. Who's with me? I'm happy to say my efforts have been paying off as I already lost 1 ½ inches on my waist!
There is just something about being a gym buff and the whole back to school season, that make me want to eat granola bars! My solution? You might have guessed it, MAKE THEM! The best solution always. Especially when they are so easy to make and can be customized endless ways! Just 4 ingredients will get you there, 5 if you want to be all fancy and add chocolate chips or fruit or something fun.
I was inspired by this recipe from the Minimalist Baker. If you haven't checked out that blog, you totally should, they have a lot of super yum recipes, and if you are into the blogging thing like me, a ton of blogger resources. Win win! Their recipe for granola bars contained honey (which isn't vegan), but I really wanted my granola bars to be optimum healthy, and extra sugar just wasn't gonna cut it for my new bulging biceps. (ha!)
I removed the honey, and lessened the oats a bit, and YUM! These things are so delish. They are lightly sweet, chewy while still having the crunch of nuts and oats, and I love adding some dried fruit for a little burst of fruity deliciousness every now and then. Perfect for a snack before the gym or to pack for a school lunch. They do tend to be a little more crumbly than store bought granola bars, so just wrap them tightly or pack them in an air tight container.
Pit the dates. If dates are new to you, all you have to do is to split the date open with your fingers, and pull out the pit. If you find your dates are a bit hard or dry, soak them in hot water for 10 minutes before tossing in the food processor. We want to make sure they are at peak stickiness as they are the main glue for the bars.
Toss those dates in your food processor and pulse until it forms a gooey paste ball. I know, totally delicious sounding. It kinda really is tho.
If you like toasty flavours (and I like toasty flavours), heat your oven to 350F (180C) and toast the oats and nuts for 10 - 15 mins. You can skip this step if you want to keep your bars raw, or if you are just feeling lazy (no judgements!), but toasting will enhance the flavours.
In a small sauce pan, heat up nut butter just until it is heated through and becomes a bit runny. Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix. If you are adding chocolate chips or anything else melty, let the mixture cool a bit before adding them so they don't melt.
You may need to get in there with your fingers to really finish mixing it all up. Be careful, it may be hot!
Once thoroughly mixed, scoop the granola mixture into the pans and smooth and pack the bars down until they are firmly packed into the bottom of the pan.
Super secret tip: You can use two loaf pans, or on 8" x 8" pan. In the photo, I divided the recipe into two bowls and added different seasonings to each so I made two types of granola bars! I know, so sneaky. On the left I have salted cashews and cranberries, on the right, almond blueberry.
Toss them in the freezer to set for a good 20 minutes or as long as you like. When ready to chop the bars, pop them out of the pan and using a sharp knife slice them up into bar shapes.
How to Make Granola Bars (Just 4 Ingredients!)
The basic bars:
- 1 cup medjool dates, pitted
- ¼ cup nut or seed butter, (peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, wowbutter, whatever you like!)
- 1 ¼ cup old fashioned rolled oats
- 1 cup nuts or seeds, (almonds, peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, whatever you like!)
- ½ Cup Extras (chocolate chips, dried fruit like cranberries, raisins, apricots, coconut)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice mix, or salt
Optional step: toasting the oats and nuts (for toasty flavour)
- To toast the oats and nuts (optional), preheat your oven to 350F (180C). Toast the oats and nuts for 10 – 15 mins, until fragrant and golden.
To make the bars:
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper or plastic wrap, and leave excess hanging over the sides so you have little handles to pick the bars up when you are done.
- Add the dates to a food processor and pulse until it forms a gooey paste ball.
- In a small sauce pan, heat up the nut butter just until it is heated through and becomes a bit runny.
- Add the date paste and warmed nut butter, along with the nuts, oats and any add-ins to a large bowl. If you are adding chocolate chips or anything else melty, let the mixture cool a bit before adding them so they don’t melt. Mix well.
- Scoop the granola mixture into the parchment lined pans and smooth and pack the bars down until they are firmly packed into the bottom of the pan. Really pack them down, so they hold together. Toss them in the freezer to set for 20 minutes or until set. Pop the bars out of the pan and using a sharp knife slice them up into bar shapes. Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.
Feature Ingredient: Oats. 288 Days 90 Recipes to go!
These are great and the recipe is so versatile! I didn’t have dates so I used dried apricots and some golden raisins instead. They made a fine paste. I didn’t have quite enough oats so I added flax seed and sesame seed. I used pecans. I added coconut and then toasted oats, seeds, coconut and nuts. I added the vanilla and a Tbl or so of Maple syrup. In other words, this was truly a pantry raiding effort! Result? Delicious!
Jess @ IDTLC Support says
You really made your ingredients work for you, well done!
My family absolutely loves these BUT making the dates into paste is burning up our food processor motor. Has anyone tried using commercial date paste?
Sam Turnbull says
I haven't, but I am sure that should work just fine as long as the date paste is nice and sticky and not too watery. Enjoy!
Making date paste : chop dates in half, then add a tablespoon or two of water to the dates. Microwave in 30 second increments and mash with a fork.
I've tried both recipes (the original from the minimalist baker and your version) and both are fantastic! I'd say, though the original holds together better, I prefer yours in terms of health and taste (the original was a little too sweet for me). I replaced 1/2 the almonds with a mix of chia, hemp and flax seeds and it created a chewy bar that still had all the crunch and flavour!
Mine held together ok, a few bars crumbled and I had to eat them straight away (the tragedy) 😉 but I'm taking these on a trip and hopefully will be able to ration them for the two weeks i'm there (I'm storing mine in the freezer as that's what I did with the other version and it keeps them nice and fresh). Thanks for sharing!
Sam Turnbull says
Glad you enjoyed, Sarah-Beth!
These are so good. I know I say that about everything but seriously. I went on a two week long RV road trip and I took 2 batches of these for roadie snacks. I ate them all. All. Way before the two weeks were up too. And not just as snacks, Id eat then before a run, after a run, for a quick breakfast with a coffee and an apple. I like to use almonds, dried cranberries, cinnamon and nutmeg and vanilla. But really Ive made them so many ways and have always devoured them (I love dates like normal people love chocolate). The possibilities are endless. Now home and in the comfort of my own kitchen, I still have an ever ready supply in my fridge. And I will still eat them. All of them.
OMG... honestly these are absolutely A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! I make these on a weekly basis and they're always a big hit!
Thank you so much for sharing and keep doing what you do best.
Sam Turnbull says
Woohoo!! So thrilled you like them so much, Sara! 🙂