Recipe: Smoked Almond Snack Bars
This recipe for nutty, KIND-inspired snack bars is for those of you who prefer savory over sweet when the afternoon doldrums have you yawning. They have a smoky barbecue flavor (not too much — just enough!) with lots of crunchy, toasted nuts and seeds to get you through to dinner.
I became obsessed with the idea of savory snack bars after trying KIND’s Hickory Smoked and Honey Smoked BBQ snack bars. The smoky, salty flavors seemed so weird and different at first, but two bites and I was completely hooked. Savory? Sign me up.
Since I can’t decide which KIND bar I like better, these homemade bars are a mashup of the two. The smokiness mostly comes from smoked almonds with some smoked paprika and liquid smoke to lend a hand. Pepitas and crunchy raw millet give the bars some crunchy diversity; you could use puffed millet or sesame seeds as well. Since the smokiness of smoked almonds can really vary, add more or less smoked paprika and liquid smoke to suit your personal taste. You can also use plain almonds and up the amount of the other ingredients to add smokiness.
I really like a strong-tasting wildflower honey in this recipe. If you have some fancy honey sitting around that’s a bit too strong to use in your afternoon tea, now is the time to get it out. It really rounds out the savory barbecue flavor nicely. (But yes, plain honey is just fine, too!)
I highly recommend using brown rice syrup to make these bars. I’ve tried making snack bars with other binders, and nothing works quite as well. You can find it in most natural food stores and at Whole Foods.
Even with rice syrup, making snack bars with the perfect texture can still be a bit tricky. Take the bars out of the pan when they are set, but still a bit pliable. Cut them into bars, but then let them sit on the counter to finish cooling and firming up before trying to pack them up. I always find that they take longer to set up than I expect — I often think I’ve failed with a too-soft batch, only to return hours later and find that they’re perfect. If you run into problems, take a look at the Troubleshooting section at the end of the recipe.
- 1 1/2 cups
smoked almonds (see Recipe Note)
- 1/2 cup
pepitas or pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup
millet, puffed millet, sesame seeds, or a mix
- 1 1/2 tablespoons
chia seeds, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon
smoked paprika or chipotle powder
- 1/2 teaspoon
garlic powder or onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon
salt (use less if your almonds are salty)
- 1/4 cup
brown rice syrup
- 2 tablespoons
- 1/2 teaspoon
liquid smoke, optional for more intense smokiness
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with a sling of parchment and coat the bottom and sides with cooking spray.
Roughly chop the almonds so there are some small pieces, but also some almonds that are left whole. Combine the chopped almonds, pepitas, millet (or other seed), smoked paprika, garlic powder, and salt in a mixing bowl.
Combine the brown rice syrup and honey in a measuring cup and microwave for 30 seconds to make it easy to pour. Stir in the liquid smoke, if using. Pour the syrup over the nut mixture and stir until all the ingredients are evenly coated and quite sticky.
Scrape the nut mixture into the baking pan with a spatula. Spray your hands or a piece of parchment with cooking spray and gently press the nut mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the syrup is bubbling around the edges and there's a touch of toasty color on the lighter seeds that touch the sides of the pan.
Cool the bars in the pan on a cooling rack for 20 to 30 minutes, until they hold together in a solid block when you lift them from the pan, but are still a bit pliable and flexible. (If the bars cool too much and you have trouble lifting them from the pan, put them back in the oven for a few minutes to soften the syrup again.)
Lift the partially cooled bars to a cutting board — you may need to run a paring knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the bars from the pan. Spray a sharp chef's knife with cooking spray and slice the brick into 10 bars. Do not move the bars once you slice them — leave them on the cutting board to cool completely and finish firming up. If any bits fall off, press them gently back into the bars.
If possible, leave the bars on the cutting board for several hours before moving them or packing them up. In my experience, the bars take longer to firm up than you might expect. When ready, you should be able to lift them from the cutting board without the bars bending in the middle or falling apart. (If they do, see Troubleshooting below.)
Store the bars between layers of parchment in an airtight container for a few days at room temperature or up to 2 weeks refrigerated. Bars can also be individually wrapped and kept frozen for up to 3 months.
Finding Smoked Almonds: I often find smoked almonds at farmers markets at the stalls selling prepared foods. You can also find them at specialty markets, like Whole Foods. I'm also rather partial to the Mesquite Smoked Almonds at Trader Joe's.
Using Plain Almonds: If you can only find plain almonds, then definitely include the optional liquid smoke and increase the amount of smoked paprika to 1 teaspoon. Also, toast raw almonds for 12 to 15 minutes in the oven at 325°F before making the snack bars.
My bars are very loose or falling apart: You probably didn't bake them quite long enough. That's okay! You can either put them in the fridge to firm up and then eat them straight from the fridge, or you also can pop them back in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the edges are bubbly again.
My bars are firm, but a little sticky on the bottom: Your bars probably could have baked for another minute or two in the oven, but it's okay. I suggest cutting squares of parchment and sticking them to the bottom — this makes them easier to store and eat. Storing the bars in the fridge will also help them stay firm.
My bars are so firm, they're actually brittle or hard as rocks: You probably cooked your bars a minute or two too long. There's not much that can be done to reverse the process, unfortunately. If your bars are too hard to eat as they are, I suggest chopping them up into small, bite-sized pieces and eating them like granola (or with granola!).