3 Tricks to A Healthy Granola Bar That Actually Tastes GOOD
This healthy bar recipe uses a few special tricks to maximize flavour and make a bar that you actually crave, as opposed to the dusty-tasty homemade bars you might have experienced in the past.
- Toast the oats. This first trick is simple but important. Raw oats taste dusty and feel pasty in the mouth, which is why many homemade granola bars are lackluster. Even baked granola bars, as the majority of the oats are in the middle. You’ll add a ton of delicious toasty flavour to your recipe simply by giving them a turn in the oven before they’re made into bars. The extra step doesn’t even involve much extra time or effort. Simply spread the oats on the same baking pan you’ll use to bake the granola bars and letting them bake to golden brown in the oven while you gather and measure all of your other ingredients. You can even do this as the oven preheats, just keep an eye on the pan to make sure the oats don’t burn.
- Use my secret ingredient. Although unorthodox compared to typical maple syrup or honey options, I reach for a can of sweetened condensed milk to both act as sweetener and binder in my granola bars. Hear me out. Condensed is just milk boiled down with sugar until thick. So you’re adding sweetness, yes, but also adding concentrated milk, which means calcium and protein. The can offers 30 grams of protein to your recipe that honey wouldn’t provide. It also layers the bars with a complex milky, toasty flavour that I love.
- Add a bit of fat. I use a scant 4 tablespoons of butter for 18 bars. It could probably be omitted completely, but even this small amount of fat carries flavour and helps the bars brown in the oven. Feel free to swap in melted coconut oil if you prefer that to butter.
Ingredients in Healthy Granola Bars
- Large Flake Oats. To maximize the healthiness of a homemade granola bar, always grab oats labelled “old-fashioned” or “large flake”. They are simply steamed and rolled flat, whereas instant varieties are pre-cooked and dried. This extra processing means your body has to put less effort into digesting them, meaning a higher glycemic index and faster spike and crash in blood sugar.
- Lots of seeds. I pack my homemade granola bars with seeds to bulk them up with protein while keeping them nut-free for school lunchboxes. Feel free to swap out any of the add-ins for your favourites, just keep the total amount the same.
- Dried Fruit. I used dried cherries because I found them in my bulk section and had them on hand, but feel free to swap in dried cranberries, raisins, or chopped dried apricots. Alternatively, leave them out and simply add another cup of seeds. (If making them for myself, I prefer just seeds/nuts to make them less sweet. My kids like the dried fruit.)
- Sweeten the pot. Mini chocolate chips make them super appealing to both kids and adults alike.
How to Make Baked Granola Bars
Grab your biggest bowl and roll up your sleeves. Making homemade granola bars is simple, and requires little more than a spoon. My kids love making them with me. Here’s what you have to do.
- Preheat the oven. As mentioned above, you can actually let the oats toast in the oven while it preheats, but as it’s imprecise, you’ll have to keep an eye.
- Line a 9×13″ baking dish with parchment paper. The parchment makes a “sling” for lifting the bars out of the pan later, allowing you to lift the whole baked slab out by overhanging paper.
- Melt and cool your butter. Cooling is important if you’re using chocolate chips. If your ingredients are warm, the chocolate will melt, and the bars themselves will be brown. Not a terrible situation, just less cute.
- Measure all the ingredients into your big bowl and stir to combine. Easy peasy.
- Press the mixture into the parchment-lined baking dish. Slightly dampened hands make easy, tidy work of this task.
- Bake until they’re a shade darker. Taking them out while they still look underdone ensures chewy bars, but you can opt to leave them in longer if you like crunchy ones instead.
- Slice into bars and store. I made 18 long and skinny granola bars that look like commercial ones, but you can make them smaller for bite-sized snacks if you like. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days, or pack them into a large freezer bag to store for longer. Pop them into lunchboxes frozen and they’ll thaw within 20 minutes.
- Drizzle them with warm, melted chocolate if you’re taking Instagram photos. Otherwise, you should probably leave this out to keep the “healthy” in the title 🙂
Craving something different? Here are a few other yummy granola bar recipes on the blog:
Easy Healthy Granola Bars
- 3 cups large-flake oats
- 1/2 tsp coarse salt
- 1 10 oz can sweetened condensed milk 300 mL
- 1/4 cup butter or coconut oil 2 0z, 1/2 stick
- 1/2 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup roasted unsalted pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup dried cherries cranberries or raisins
- 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spread oats in a 9x13" metal baking dish and toast for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
- While oats are toasting, melt butter in the microwave for 30 seconds on high power. Let cool to room temperature.
- When oats are deeply golden brown and nutty smelling, spread them out over a cold baking sheet to cool them quickly. Run the hot baking dish under cold water to cool it down, too, then line it with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine cooled oats salt to combine, then stir in condensed milk, cooled butter, seeds, dried fruit and chocolate chips. Dump the mixture into the parchment-lined baking dish then press it down into an even layer (lightly moisten your hands to make it easier). Bake for 15 minutes until edges are a shade darker. They will firm up as they cool. If overbaked, they become crunchier granola bars, which are still tasty.
- Lift the whole slab out of the pan by the overhanging parchment paper and cool on a wire rack, then slice into 18 bars.