Bananas are an amazing fruit. All by themselves they can turn into creamy, delicious ice cream, and eaten alone they are a satisfying snack. But they also do wonders in baked goods: Bananas take the place of sugar, eggs, and fat in these wondrously chewy, yummy snack bars.
These bars have no added sugar, you can whip them up in just a few minutes, and they'll take care of breakfast, after-school snacks, and dessert. Amazing? You bet.
These bars come from my brilliant friend Ginger, who got the recipe from her friend, and she can now make these literally in her sleep. Her little boys love them, and they satisfy a mild craving for sweets with simple fruit and oats.
→ See Ginger's recipe:Banana-Oatmeal Bars at Friesen Cold. She adds flax seeds, too, which are a nice twist.
Ginger and her husband are also the creators of MealBaby, a great site for sharing meal sign-ups and registries — check it out!
I added a few more things to Ginger's original four-ingredient recipe. I felt they needed a pinch of salt, and some vanilla, and I dusted a sprinkle of nutmeg on top before baking.
These optional ingredients all add a little extra dimension, but the essential recipe is still really just four ingredients: Bananas, oats, dates, and chopped nuts. (I mean, you could argue that it's just three: I think you could leave the nuts out without a problem.) The bananas hold everything together, and the dates give a little chewy sweetness. The sweetness is understated in these bars; there is just enough to satisfy a mid-afternoon craving.
As you can see these are vegan, and if you use gluten-free oats, they're totally gluten-free, too. They're quite adaptable; if you want a little more sweetness you could add a handful of chocolate chips or cinnamon chips. You could add shredded coconut, too, or raisins.
They last beautifully and hold together in chewy, satisfying bars. Just right for munching on the go in the mornings, or as a high-energy snack before a run.
2 large, very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 cup pitted, chopped dried dates
1/4 cup chopped nuts — such as walnuts, hazelnuts, or pecans
Grated nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)
Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9-x9-inch square baking dish with olive oil or butter.
Peel the bananas and mash their flesh in a medium mixing bowl. Mash very thoroughly until no large chunks remain; the bananas should be essentially liquid. (You will have between 1 cup and 1 1/4 cup.) Stir in the vanilla, if using. Add the oats and stir them in. Stir in the salt, dates, and nuts.
Pat the thick mixture evenly into the baking pan. If desired, sprinkle the top lightly with nutmeg or cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges just begin to crisp up.
Place the baking pan on a rack to cool. When the pan is mostly cool, cut into bars and enjoy with a glass of milk or tea.
Store leftover bars at room temperature. They will keep for about 5 days.
This recipe was originally published September 2011.