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.
Interested in easy banana ice cream? Watch the video —->
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.
Bananas, for the win, once again!
A wholesome 4-ingredient snack bar may seem too good to be true but it's indeed possible. While assembling these bars, I had my doubts — the oat mixture seemed too thick to actually hold together and I couldn't imagine how so few ingredients would result in something tasty — but I was definitely proven wrong. These are simple, humble bars that make for a feel-good breakfast or mid-day snack.
Many of you noted in the comments section that these bars aren't very sweet. They are intended to be a healthy breakfast or snack so actually aren't supposed to be too sweet. Using the most overly-ripe bananas you can find will help bring more natural sweetness to them. If you're still hankering for more, I've added an optional honey yogurt glaze that's drizzled on top of the bars before enjoying — though I suppose that would make these 4-ingredient bars not simply 4 ingredients, but I think it's worth it. Beyond lending sweetness, it adds a little protein to things, which is never a bad thing. If you've glazed the bars, they're best store in the refrigerator, and if left unglazed, they can be kept at room temperature.
- Sheela, May 2018
4-Ingredient Banana Oat Bars
Makes 9 squares
Olive oil or butter
large, very ripe bananas
vanilla extract (optional)
old-fashioned rolled oats
pitted, chopped dried dates
chopped nuts, such as walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, or almonds
Grated nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)
- For the honey yogurt glaze (optional):
whole or 2% plain Greek yogurt
whole or 2% milk
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9-x9-inch square baking dish with olive oil or butter.
Peel the bananas and mash their flesh in a medium bowl. Mash very thoroughly until no large chunks remain; the bananas should be essentially liquid. (You will have between 1 and 1 1/4 cups.) Stir in the vanilla, if using. Add the oats and stir them in. Stir in the dates, nuts, and salt.
Transfer to the baking dish and pat into an even layer. If desired, sprinkle the top lightly with nutmeg or cinnamon. Bake until the edges just begin to crisp up, about 30 minutes.
Place the baking pan on a rack to cool. Meanwhile, if you’re making the glaze, whisk together the yogurt, honey, powdered sugar, and milk in a small bowl. When the pan is cool, cut into 9 squares. Drizzle each square with the glaze and enjoy.
Storage: Bars can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If glazed, store them in the refrigerator; otherwise, at room temperature.
Adapted from Ginger at Friesen Cold.
This recipe was originally published September 2011.