Over two years ago, soon after I had my first little peanut, I wrote a post for chicken lettuce wraps that were quick and easy and could basically be eaten with one hand. That’s what was necessary in my house at the time. Now I find that a little funny. With the arrival of peanut #2, even lettuce wraps seem a little challenging. You have to chop things and eat them on a plate. Granola bars are more our pace lately. It’s a stir, bake, and shove in your mouth thing. None of that pesky fork or plate business. But it has enough healthy stuff in there that I can in all good conscience pass one out to everyone and call it breakfast.
But seriously, I’ve been trying to find “the” granola bar recipe for a while now. I used to LOVE granola bars, and I was always buying boxes at the grocery store. But then I realized that most of them were crazy unhealthy, and it put me off them for a while. I started searching for a perfect recipe, but I never got the chewiness that I liked without the “sticky” factor. I found a great peanut butter version that my boys loved, but alas, I’m not as ridiculously enamored of peanut butter as my boys are. So after lots of searching and tweaking, this is what I came up with as the granola bar that I’ve been seeking.
It’s full of good stuff, not just corn syrup and puffed rice. Rolled oats, nuts, and bits of dried fruit, along with a hefty scoop of peanut butter (for the boys, obviously) and coconut oil make for a pretty healthy bar. But it actually tastes good! It’s not overly sweet, and it’s nice and chewy, almost like the center of a good oatmeal cookie. In fact, if you wanted to make an “oatmeal raisin cookie” type granola bar, that would be awesome here. Just add a teaspoon of cinnamon and use raisins as your dried fruit. That’s what I really like about this recipe- it’s easy to change up the nuts, fruit, and even the extracts and spices to make something completely different, so you don’t get bored.
If you're using peanut butter that's not just peanuts and salt (a.k.a. regular old jiffy), and don't like your granola bars too sweet, you may want to skip the brown sugar entirely. Even with my natural peanut butter, I'll leave it out next time- but I like things very barely sweet.
- 4 cups rolled oats
- 1 1/2 cup nuts of your choice
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 1/2 cup dried fruit of your choice
- ½ cup coconut oil
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup natural peanut butter
- ½ cup brown rice syrup (or honey)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a greased 13" by 9" pan with parchment and set aside. Mix oats, almonds, coconut, and dried fruit in a big mixing bowl.
Combine coconut oil, brown sugar, peanut butter and brown rice syrup (or honey) in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until the brown sugar is dissolved and everything is smooth and incorporated. Stir in the vanilla and salt and then pour over oat mixture, stirring until everything is coated and sticky.
Pour the mixture into prepared pan and press down into the pan. Bake for in preheated oven for 20–25 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. It helps a bit if you chill them in the fridge before cutting them, but it's not necessary. Cut into bars (whatever shape and size floats your boat). Wrap bars in parchment paper or plastic wrap and store in an airtight container for up to three weeks.