I have three perpetually-hungry small people living in my home. At the same time, they’re less small now than they used to be (two of them are actually my size or larger now!), and boy-oh-boy do they EAT!
So granola bars make up a big part of our daily lunch and snack routine. Trouble is, granola bars (even the most basic, preservative-stuffed junk-foody ones) can get expensive and add up in a hurry. But ingredients aren’t nearly as expensive. Seriously. Even with the ritzy, all-organic, individually wrapped chocolate chips that were hatched in a unicorn’s nest and hand-picked by fairy kittens, the price of a truly healthy bar that you can throw together in your own kitchen is still cents on the dollar of the pre-fabricated kind.
So! Depending on whether you’re aiming for more of a protein bar, or more of an “energy” bar, feel free to exchange dry ingredients on my list of Easy Substitutes. Don’t like coconut? No biggie. Nut allergies? Easy peasy. Gluten-free? Done! Don’t have fancy schmancy vegan cereal? Use the frickin’ Cap’n Crunch you fished out of the bottom of the box. Snack bars are just one of those foods that thrive on substitutions – they’re just that flexible. Don’t ever let a lack of ingredients get in the way of your channeling your inner Martha!
For this, you do need a food processor. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, and will bring you a step closer to understanding the meaning of life, but also because you won’t have to freaking grind your own oats by hand.
[fancy_header type=”3″]Easy Substitutions List[/fancy_header]
The ingredients on the following lists can be used interchangeably in any of these recipes below. I’m including some links fir the less common products.
- Dried cranberries
- Dried blueberries
- Dried apricots/peaches/apples (chopped)
- Dried unsweetened coconut flakes (or use sweetened in a pinch, just realize it will affect your overall taste and nutritional content)
- Dried prunes (chopped)
- Raw or roasted walnuts/pecans/cashews/almonds/pistachios, chopped
- Dry cereal (I like puffed brown rice cereal, but you can use regular crispy rice cereal, roughly crushed corn flakes, puffed wheat, oat/bran “O”s, or muesli)
- Sunflower seeds
- Flaxseed, or flaxseed meal (depending on texture required)
- Quinoa (rinsed)
- Puffed amaranth
- Pumpkin seeds
- Steel-cut oats
- Rolled oats
- ***and you can substitute partial volumes for chia seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (if substituting chocolate, go easy on the sugar/honey/sweetener)
Pitted dates (chopped) give a lot of body and are the base for several of these recipes. The flavor is not typically featured, so no worries if you’re not a fan – it’s more about texture and nutritional content. You can try substituting part prunes and part dried figs/raisins/dried apricots – feel free to improvise, as long as you maintain the richness and moisture for the bar to hold together.
- Almond butter
- Peanut butter (go for unsweetened, better for you and gives you more control over what you’re doing)
- Cashew butter
- Sunflower butter
- Regular butter (I would only substitute half the nut butter with regular butter at the most, and only in recipes where you are making a base syrup to pour over ingredients to harden – definitely not in chewy recipes)
Of course, there are about a million other substitutions you could make, but this is a good starting points. Be sure to let me know what your favorite substitutions are!
[fancy_header type=”3″]Chewy No-Bake Coconut Fudge Bar[/fancy_header]
- 5 cups pitted dates, chopped
- ½ cup chopped unsalted cashews
- ½ cup chopped unsalted almonds
- 1 ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ c mini chocolate chips
- 2 Tb coconut flakes (in addition to previous coconut flakes)
- Pulse dates in a food processor until finely chopped. Add nuts, scraping bowl of food processor with spatula. Nuts are finely chopped, and mixture is coming together into a ball. Add coconut flakes, salt, and cocoa powder, and continue to pulse until well mixed.
- Line 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, and spread mixture evenly into pan. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips and 2Tb coconut flakes over top, and press into bars lightly with rubber spatula.
- Freeze for 30 minutes to one hour until firm, and able to cut into bars (approx. 1.5x2 inches).
- Makes 35-40 bars (approx. 1.5x2 inches)
- Bars can be flash frozen for another hour, then packed in freezer bags or vacuum packs and frozen for up to 3 months.
[fancy_header type=”3″]Copycat Kind Bars[/fancy_header]
One of my favorites (and definitely one of my kids’!) – a firmer nutty bar, crunchy, with a sprinkle of sea salt and dark chocolate. I follow Monica’s recipe from TheYummyLife.
[fancy_header type=”3″]Maple Nut Bars[/fancy_header]
- 1½ c roasted cashews
- ½ c roasted almonds
- ½ c quinoa, rinsed
- 1 c unsweetened coconut
- ½ c steel-cut oats
- 1 c coconut flour (may substitute almond flour for part of this)
- 1 c pitted dates
- 1 c almond butter
- ½ c maple syrup
- ½ c honey
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ cups baking chocolate, chopped
- 1 Tb coconut oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place almonds, cashews, and coconut in parchment paper-lined 9x13 inch baking pan, and roast for 10 minutes, stirring once with wooden spoon halfway through.
- Pulse half of nut mixture in food processor until finely chopped.
- For other half of nuts, chop coarsely.
- Pour both coarse and fine nuts into large bowl, and add oats, quinoa, and coconut flour.
- Pulse dates in food processor until finely chopped, and add nut butter, syrup and honey, cinnamon and vanilla, until mixture comes together into a ball.
- Add nuts and pulse just until ingredients come together.
- Press into parchment paper-lined 9x13 inch baking pan, and freeze for one hour, until firm.
- Once firm, place chocolate and coconut oil in microwave-safe bowl, and microwave in 30-second increments, mixing well with rubber spatula to avoid burning.
- Once chocolate is melted, pour over bars and smooth.
- Place in freezer for another 10-15 minutes, until chocolate is firm, then slice into bars of about 1.5 x 1.5 inches.
- Makes about 40 bars
[fancy_header type=”3″]Chewy Berry Granola Bars[/fancy_header]
- 1 c puffed brown rice
- 1 c rolled oats
- 1 c dried blueberries
- 1 c dried cranberries
- 1 c golden raisins
- 1 c unsweetened coconut
- ½ c sesame seeds
- ½ c chia seeds
- ½ c sunflower seeds
- ½ c pumpkin seeds
- 1 c almond butter (may substitute peanut butter or sunflower butter)
- ½ c honey
- ½ c brown sugar, packed
- ½ c brown rice syrup
- ½ tsp salt
- 6 teaspoons butter
- In large bowl combine puffed rice cereal, oats, dried fruit, coconut, and seeds.
- In saucepan over medium-low heat, stir together almond butter, honey, brown sugar, brown rice syrup, salt and butter.
- Stir continuously with wooden spoon until butter melted and ingredients come together into smooth syrup – do not allow mixture to boil, or it will harden.
- Add syrup mixture to dry ingredients and stir quickly until well combined.
- Press into 9x13 inch baking pan lined with parchment paper.
- Chill in freezer for 30 minutes until firm, then cut into squares.
- Makes about 35 squares
[fancy_header type=”3″]Chewy Chocolate Coconut Rice Bars (No Bake)[/fancy_header]
- 8 cups puffed brown rice cereal
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut
- 2 Tb butter
- 3 Tb almond butter
- 4 Tb coconut oil
- ¾ cups brown rice syrup
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ c chopped dark chocolate
- 1 Tb coconut oil
- Place puffed brown cereal and coconut into large bowl.
- In saucepan over medium low heat, melt remaining ingredients, stirring until smooth.
- Do not allow syrup to boil, or it will harden.
- Pour syrup over mixture in bowl, mixing until all dry ingredients coated.
- Press into 9x13 inch baking pan lined with parchment paper, and place in freezer for 30 minutes until firm.
- In 30-second increments, melt chocolate and coconut oil in microwave, stirring with rubber spatula to avoid burning.
- Spread top of bars with melted chocolate, and place in freezer for 30 minutes until firm enough to cut into squares – do not allow bars to harden too much, or they will shatter when trying to cut.
- They freeze well after they have been cut into squares.
- Makes about 40 squares