These Homemade Granola Bars Are Just Plain Delish
If you’re a parent, you probably never leave home without a snack to thwart your kiddo’s hunger (and a hunger-induced tantrum). Fresh fruit and string cheese are great choices, but sometimes you need something with a little more staying power. Enter homemade peanut butter granola snack bars!
Packed with fiber, protein, and flavors kids love (full recipe below), these yummy homemade bars only require 20 minutes of active work—less time than it would take you to go to the store and buy a box of packaged granola bars. They’re also easy to “personalize” with different nut butters, natural sweeteners, and favorite add-ins like dried fruit, nuts, and seeds.
Note: These bars are an at-home snack, as all KinderCare® Learning Centers are nut-free zones. For an allergy-safe version, substitute sunflower butter for the peanut butter and replace almonds with more dried fruit. Although coconut isn’t actually a nut, some people who are allergic to tree nuts are also allergic to coconut, so be sure to talk to your doctor before eating it.
These hearty handfuls are made from a perfect marriage of ingredients: Oats, dates, almonds, sunflower seeds, and coconut provide the heft of the snack while a sauce made from peanut butter, coconut oil, and maple syrup “glues” it all together.
Begin by measuring the oats, dates, almonds, and sunflower seeds into a medium bowl and then thoroughly mix together. You’re about to pop this mixture in the oven, so save the coconut for later—delicate coconut can go from lightly-toasted and tasty to burnt bleh in a flash.
Pour the mixture onto a large baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, mixing occasionally. Toasting the oats, nuts, and seeds deepens their flavors and gives them a satisfying crunch.
After ten minutes, pull the sheet from the oven and add the coconut. Give it all a quick stir and then bake for another 3–5 minutes or until the mixture is a light golden brown.
While the mixture is baking, combine and cook the peanut butter, coconut oil, and maple syrup on medium heat until melted and pourable, occasionally stirring.
When the mixture is done baking, remove it from the oven and return to the bowl. Pour the sauce over the top and stir well.
Transfer the mixture to a baking dish lined with parchment paper and start packing it down. Really put some muscle into it, as this process will keep your solid bars from morphing into crumbly granola when you cut them. We suggest starting with a wooden spoon, rubber spatula, or your hands; then place a piece of parchment paper on top and use the bottom of a drinking glass to finish the packing process.
Put the baking dish in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Once the mixture has set into a nice firm block, simply remove it from the dish, slice, and snack away.
In our centers, we embrace family-style eating—encouraging children to serve themselves teaches important social skills like passing items, sharing, being patient, and saying “please” and “thank you,” and it helps them listen to their own bodies and hunger cues. Sure, there will likely be some spills when children take the lead, but also a lot of smiles.
These bars are great on-the-go, but they also make a scrumdiddlyumptious (and healthy) at-home weekend snack or quick breakfast. Place a platter of them on the table along with fresh fruit, yogurt, or milk and let your little ones dive in!
The best way to ensure your bars hold their shape is to store them in the freezer until you’re ready to serve them—like most homemade granola bars sans corn syrup, they are prone to crumble when warm. Using peanut butter and packing the mixture nice and tight before placing in the freezer will help, or try substituting stickier brown rice syrup for the maple syrup.
PEANUT BUTTER GRANOLA BARS
Yields: 9 squares
Total time: 10 minutes prep/10 minutes cooking/30 minutes setting
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 3/4 cup chopped dates, packed
- 3/4 cup sliced raw almonds
- 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1/4 cup maple syrup (or honey, agave nectar, or brown rice syrup)
- Optional: 1/4 cup additional dried fruit, such as cherries, blueberries, cranberries, or golden raisins
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8-inch baking dish with parchment paper, leaving extra paper hanging over two opposite ends, and set aside.
- Add the oats, dates, almonds, and sunflower seeds to a medium bowl and thoroughly mix together.
- Pour the oats mixture onto a large baking sheet and bake, occasionally stirring, for 10 minutes. Briefly remove the baking sheet from the oven, add the coconut, and stir—then continue to bake for 3–5 minutes or until the mixture is a light golden brown.
- While the mixture bakes, combine the peanut butter, coconut oil, and maple syrup in a small saucepan and cook on medium heat until melted, occasionally stirring, for about 3–4 minutes. When the sauce is thoroughly mixed together and pourable, remove it from the heat.
- When the oats mixture is done baking, remove the sheet from the oven and pour back into your medium bowl. Add any additional dried fruit to your oats mixture, and then top with the sauce. Stir well to combine, using your spoon to mash the dates—make sure they are evenly distributed, as they help the bars stick together.
- Transfer the mixture to your prepared baking dish and use a wooden spoon, rubber spatula, or your hands to spread it evenly and start packing it down. Lay another piece of parchment paper on top and use a drinking glass (or similarly-shaped object) to press down on the mixture and firmly pack it in place. It’s important that it’s packed well or the bars will crumble when you cut them.
- Place the baking dish in the freezer for at least 30 minutes so that the mixture can set. When ready to eat, remove from the dish using the parchment handles and cut into squares or rectangles. Enjoy!
Note: To keep the bars fresh, store them in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 2–3 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.