Homemade Granola Bars (nut free!)
Since my daughter is allergic to peanuts and has recently developed a granola bar addiction I decided to try to make my own so I can control what goes in them and have a fun activity for us to do together.
After lots of internet searching I landed on Ina Garten’s recipe since the reviews were great, it seemed simple and amazingly enough it had less fat than many others I found. I made a couple modifications right off the bat to leave out the nuts, use the dried fruit we had in the house and they turned out AMAZING! They flavor is deep and rich, extremely satisfying. They are easy to make and Sofie (29 months old) had fun making them with me. I had two pieces for breakfast this morning with my coffee…much more satisfying than any store bought bar. They also look so good you can’t help but want to eat them. The trick will be resisting eating too much at once! With a couple more tweaks, I think these will be a regular in our kitchen. They did come out a little hard this time (I decreased the cook time below) and I want to experiment with cutting back on the sugar since they were sweeter than they really need to be and I’d like to up the protein and other good stuff. See my notes below for ideas I’m mulling over. I may also try to cut down the butter…but maybe not, with no nuts and cutting out some sugar I think the 3 tablespoons can stay. I’d love to hear your variations!
Taken this morning before enjoying some for breakfast (w/ my iPhone).
Homemade Nut-free Granola Bars
- 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
- 1 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, loosely packed
- 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I actually used sea salt)
- 1 cup chopped dried fruit (I used dried cherries and cranberries)
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips/chunks
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper. Butter the pan very well to insure the bars come out easily. A 9 by 13-inch pan works too if you don’t have an 8×12.
If your wheat germ isn’t toasted, put it on a baking sheet and throw it in the oven for about 3 mins (while it is preheating) to toast up and then set aside. Be sure to set a timer of watch them closely, they can burn easily if left in too long.
Toss the oatmeal and coconut together on a sheet pan (you can use the same one you toasted the wheat germ on, no need to wash!). I poured the oatmeal and coconut into measuring cups and Sofie would dump them onto the baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. The toasting coconut will smell amazing! Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ and cinnamon. Here is another great place for a little one to help, I mixed everything up and then let Sofie mix (really just move the spatula around on the surface) for another minute.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dried fruit and chocolate and stir well. Sofie was in charge of the measuring cup with the fruit and chocolate, slightly less went into the mixture after her snacking while I prepped the sauce but I had added extra knowing she wouldn’t be able to resist.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Press the mixture very firmly and evenly into the pan. Using your fingers to press down on a spatula works since the mixture will still be very warm, or if you can take the heat wet fingers work best. My daughter wanted to help press so when it was basically done I let her press down with the bottom of the measuring cup we used for the oatmeal so she didn’t come in contact with anything too warm, or messy. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until light golden brown (though if your chocolate melted it may look a bit brown to start so just go by time). Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours (or even over night) before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.
Notes & Updates
We try to use organic ingredients as much as possible. This time, the only ingredient I couldn’t find an organic version of was the wheat germ. So I settled for an “all natural” one.
I originally cooked my bars for the entire 30 mins as suggested in the original recipe, which was too long. While incredibly delicious, they were quite hard. So I changed the cook time to 20-22 mins in this version using a 9×13 pan.
They are still on the sweet side, so next time I’m going to reduce the sugar a bit and may try a combo of honey and molasses. I love honey but may mix it with agave or brown rice syrup or barley malt syrup which take longer for your body to breakdown.
Continuing to up the nutrition and well roundness of the bars. I’m considering trying versions with flax, chia or hemp seeds and perhaps even some protein powder. For fruit I want to try goji berries and blueberries.
If you can eat nuts and want to include them I’m sure they’d be a great addition. You can add 1 cup of sliced almonds (or any chopped nuts) and decrease the oatmeal to 2 cups and the coconut to 1 cup. My favorite nuts are almonds and pecans.
Molasses: I tried a batch where I swapped out half the honey for molasses. While I generally love molasses, I don’t love it in this recipe. For me, the flavor was too strong and thus overwhelmed many of the other more subtle flavors that make these bars great.
Berry Mix: I tried it with a bag of mixed dry berries (cherries, cranberries, blueberries and strawberries) and I prefer it with just cherries and cranberries. The strawberries are on the sweet side for me.
Cooled oatmeal mixture: I just made a couple batches for a bake sale and ended up having to let the oatmeal, coconut mixture cool before I mixed in the sugar syrup and chocolate/fruit. I now know I prefer it when you can mix everything in together while everything is warm. The chocolate melts a little bit more giving the entire bar a nice chocolaty flavor throughout.
Pretty packaging: These are great for a bake sale or as a homemade gift. See how I package them up in my “Fit for a bake sale” post.
Food Network ( I recommend you take a look at the reviews, lots of great ideas and tweaks for the recipe)