I've long been a firm believer that, when done right, homemade granola bars are superior to store-bought. You get more bang for your buck, you can tweak a recipe to fit your family's needs, and you don't have to worry about any of the unpronounceable ingredients often found in the packaged varieties.
There's a big difference, however, between a great homemade granola bar and a subpar one. These bars are the former; I actually cannot stop eating them! They're sweet and salty, chewy and crunchy, and honestly just downright delicious. I've never felt that passionately about a bar from a box.
Here's how I make the easiest no-bake granola bars, perfect for eating for breakfast or packing as a snack.
My Tips for Healthier Granola Bars That Don't Fall Apart
A lot of homemade granola bar recipes use a mixture of melted butter and brown sugar to bind oats into bars. For a bar with less refined sugar and saturated fat, I opted for a mixture of dates and honey, which naturally sweeten the bars and help hold the oats and seeds together. Warming both ingredients with sunflower seed butter and olive oil makes for a creamy, just-sweet-enough binder.
Oh, and we can't forget about my fun little secret addition: a bit of dark chocolate. When melted, it acts just like glue. I discovered this by total accident when my chocolate chips melted as I folded them into the warm sunflower seed butter mixture. The bars with the melted chocolate held up perfectly, while the ones with the chips crumbled more easily.
For added insurance, be sure to line your pan with an overhang of parchment or foil so that you can grab onto it when you're ready to slice the bars. Pack the mixture in very tightly, and freeze until solid.
How to Customize This Bar to Create the Perfect Snack
The sunflower seed butter: Sunflower seed butter is great here because kids can bring these to a nut-free school. You can, of course, substitute your favorite nut or seed butter, such as almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter, or tahini.
The extra-virgin olive oil: I love the delicate flavor olive oil gives to these bars, but canola oil or coconut oil would be fine substitutes.
The honey: For a vegan version, swap in pure maple syrup. You can also use agave, although it will result in a slightly sweeter bar.
The seeds: I like a combination of roasted, salted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and sunflower seeds for both texture and flavor, but you can use all of one if that's your preference. Feel free to also swap in sesame seeds or chopped nuts, such as almonds or hazelnuts.
Easy No-Bake Chewy Granola Bars
Makes 18 bars
Prep time: 20 minutes
unsalted, sugar-free sunflower seed butter (such as SunButter)
dried Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
chopped bittersweet chocolate (about 1/2 cup), or 1/2 cup chocolate chips
extra-virgin olive oil
roasted, salted pumpkin seeds
roasted, salted sunflower seeds
flaky sea salt, divided
Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Line the pan with 2 crisscrossed pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. Coat the parchment or foil with spray.
Combine the sunflower seed butter, dates, chocolate, olive oil, honey, and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir, pressing with a rubber spatula to flatten the dates a bit, until the sunflower seed butter and chocolate are melted and the mixture is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
Place the oats, pepitas, sunflower seeds, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the flaky salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. Pour in the sunflower seed butter mixture and use the rubber spatula to press and fold until the oat mixture is evenly moistened (the mixture will be thick; you may need to use your hands).
Transfer to the prepared pan. Using a flat-bottomed measuring cup, press the mixture into an even layer, spreading all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon flaky salt. Freeze until cold to the touch and very firm, 40 to 45 minutes.
Using the paper or foil overhang, lift the slab out of the baking dish onto a cutting board. Cut into 18 bars. Wrap each bar individually in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. Alternatively, refrigerate the bars in an airtight container.
Storage: Refrigerate the bars for up to 1 week.
Using raw seeds: If you start with raw, unsalted pumpkin and sunflower seeds, roast at 350°F until lightly golden, about 10 minutes first. If you would prefer not to buy both, you can make these with all pumpkin or all sunflower seeds. Add 1/4 teaspoon more flaky salt to the bars.
Using nut butters: Creamy, sugar-free nut butters can be substituted for sunflower seed butter.
Vegan granola bars: To make these vegan, use maple syrup instead of honey.