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Master Granola Bar Recipe

Master Granola Bar Recipe

If you’ve ever wondered how you make homemade granola bars, this master granola bar recipe is for you. Make them chewy, crunchy or even no bake.

This is a comprehensive look at how to make granola bars of every type. If you’d like to skip to the bottom line, and then bookmark it for later use, scroll down to the bottom for the recipe! For everyone else, let’s talk granola bar recipes!

If you've ever wondered how you make homemade granola bars, this master granola bar recipe is for you. Make them chewy, crunchy or even no bake!

I make homemade granola bars every month of the year. But when it’s back-to-school time, I kick it into high gear. They’re perfect for breakfast, popping into lunch boxes (I have plenty of nut-free varieties), and just grabbing when we’re running out the door to practice, a game or an urgent I-need-a-special-pen-for-chemistry emergency.

My kids’ favorite granola bar varieties are the kinds that have the most sugar. Crispy and crunchy or soft and chewy, they might have some preferences around the edges. But I know they’re mostly in it for the sweet stuff.

I’ve published so many granola recipes, for the loose stuff and for the bars, over the years that I’ve got it down to a science. Actually, it’s one area of baking where you don’t need a super-strict formula, so I guess it’s more art than science.

When I make granola bars, I find that there are broad categories of ingredients that are largely interchangeable. So I thought I would share my granola bar philosophy with you, if you’re interested. Let’s get to it!

The Mix Ins

If you've ever wondered how you make homemade granola bars, this master granola bar recipe is for you. Make them chewy, crunchy or even no bake!

If you take a look at the photo above, you’ll find the biggest category of granola ingredients, by far: the mix-ins. All of these ingredients are raw (whenever possible) and unsalted. That way, we can flavor them to our liking.

From the top left in rows from left to right, you’ll find:

  • roughly chopped raw almonds
  • roughly chopped raw cashews (buy cashew pieces, though! cheaper and easier)
  • chocolate chips
  • pumpkin seeds
  • slivered raw almonds
  • pecan pieces
  • small, dried fruit (like raisins, dried blueberries, chopped dried prunes or apricots)
  • coconut flakes (I only use flakes in granola and granola bars, not shredded coconut, which tastes like dental floss in granola)
  • chopped peanuts

But you should use your imagination! In no-bake granola bars, since you won’t be baking any of these raw nuts and seeds, you can toast them first. I like to toast nuts and seeds either on a baking sheet in a 300°F oven until fragrant or in a cast iron pan until fragrant.

In crunchy granola bars, raw nuts are first ground into flour before baking with them. It’s amazingly useful in creating a crunchy bar that has the protein and fats of nuts without the pieces.

The Sugars

If you've ever wondered how you make homemade granola bars, this master granola bar recipe is for you. Make them chewy, crunchy or even no bake!

If there’s a way to make granola bars without sugar, I don’t know what it is. Sugar performs tons of important functions in granola bars. At the top of the list is that it holds the bars together when it’s heated. And, of course, it adds sweetness and even some depth (depending upon the sugar).

You can use refined and/or unrefined sugars in granola and granola bars. The more important distinction for baking success comes from whether you’re using liquid or granulated sugars.

Clockwise from the top left in the photo above, you’ll find these sugars:

  • Finely ground coconut palm sugar (ground finer in a food processor or blender) (unrefined)
  • (Normal) coconut palm sugar (a darker color, and a much more coarse grind) (unrefined)
  • Light brown sugar (refined)
  • Pure maple syrup (unrefined)
  • Unsulphured molasses (refined)
  • Honey (unrefined, but not raw)
  • White granulated sugar (the most refined!)

Whenever possible, I use unrefined sugars in granola and granola bars. I feel better about giving them to my children as they have some nutrients and tend to be more satisfying. Plus, they have much more depth of flavor than highly refined sugars like white granulated sugar. And brown sugar is simply white granulated sugar with molasses added to it anyway.

Plus, they have much more depth of flavor than highly refined sugars like white granulated sugar. And brown sugar is simply white granulated sugar with molasses added to it anyway.

The granulated sugars are largely interchangeable in granola and granola bar recipes, and the liquid sugars like molasses, honey and maple syrup are as well. Honey is much thicker than maple syrup, though, and therefore stickier and more useful in holding bars together. Molasses is best used in moderation as it has a very strong flavor.

The most important thing to realize about these sugars is that, to hold granola bars together, the sugars must be heated. In bars that are baked in the oven, that’s how they’re heated. For no bake bars, you must cook the sugars on the stovetop before they do their work in the bars.

Fats and Aromatics

If you've ever wondered how you make homemade granola bars, this master granola bar recipe is for you. Make them chewy, crunchy or even no bake!

Forgive the tortured category of fats and aromatics, which doesn’t quite do this category justice. But I didn’t want the list of categories to be too long, so I went for it.

Fat

To make granola and granola bars, you need some fat. Fat is an indispensable flavor delivery system. Plus, it’s responsible for helping the other ingredients to brown without burning when they’re baked. And when it becomes firm again in the refrigerator or at room temperature (for some fats), it helps hold the bars together.

Pictured in the photo on the left above, clockwise from the left, are sunflower oil (any neutral oil will do), virgin coconut oil (clearly the healthiest of the bunch) and unsalted butter. Any fat that’s solid or semi-solid at room temperature will need to be melted to use in granola bar creation.

Aromatics

When I refer to aromatics, I’m talking about salt (which brings out other flavors, including sweetness), vanilla extract, and warm spices like ground cinnamon, nutmeg, even cloves or allspice if you like. For the most part, these ingredients are added to taste.

Egg

Then there’s the humble egg. I like to use an egg in chewy granola bars as it really helps with texture and to hold the softer bars together.

The Bulk

If you've ever wondered how you make homemade granola bars, this master granola bar recipe is for you. Make them chewy, crunchy or even no bake!

These are the ingredients that take up space in your granola bars. They don’t generally have a ton of crunch, and they’re mostly just, well, one form of oats or another.

Oats

First of all, if you’re in the U.S. and you’re gluten free, and wondering if oats are gluten free, well, they are. Now, with that out of the way, it’s very hard to make granola of any kind without oats. You can make Paleo granola, which is loose and not formed into bars, without oats and it’s quite lovely. Bars are another story.

I don’t ever buy quick-cooking oats or oat flour. I just buy certified gluten free (since my family eats gluten free—if you’re not gluten free, buy any oats you like!) old fashioned rolled oats, and process them in a blender or food processor. I process them by about half (in quick bursts) for “quick-cooking oats,” and completely for oat flour.

In the photo above, you’ll find (from the top), old fashioned rolled oats, quick-cooking oats and oat flour. They all started out in my kitchen as old fashioned rolled oats. It makes everything easier, and I never need oat flour to be completely smooth. I expect anything with oats to have some chew.

You can try making granola bars completely without oats (the crunchy granola bar recipe seems like the best candidate). Maybe try replacing the oats with quinoa flakes, for example. But they aren’t very bulky, or very chewy. They tend to “melt” into whatever they are baked with. It’s worth a shot, though!

Puffed Rice Cereal

The final ingredient in this category of “bulk” is crisp rice cereal. I like to buy puffed rice that has two ingredients: rice and salt. If you’re gluten free like we are, I like Nature’s Path Organic brand and Erewhon puffed rice cereals.

You can actually buy salt-free puffed rice cereal and that works, too. But if you ever want to eat some in a bowl with maybe some fruit and milk, be sure to use the type that has a bit of salt.

If you’d like to replace the rice cereal with another crispy, dry cereal, hopefully, you have a better imagination than I do! I can’t think of another cereal that has the same size and pop (snap! crackle!).

Chewy Granola Bars

If you've ever wondered how you make homemade granola bars, this master granola bar recipe is for you. Make them chewy, crunchy or even no bake!

I’m not going to sugar-coat it. Chewy granola bars are made with tons of sugar. (See what I did there?)

The way to keep them soft and chewy? Lots of different kinds of sugars. They’re so incredibly delicious, and they taste much like the store-bought kind of granola bar.

Think of it like eating out at a restaurant. The food often tastes extra delicious for a few reasons. Not only did someone else make it for you(score!), but you’ll find tons more salt, fat and maybe sugar in the food than you generally use at home.

These granola bars are so, so good. But so, so bad. You can make them more virtuous by using unrefined granulated sugar like coconut palm sugar, and unrefined liquid sugars like honey and maple syrup. But sugar is sugar.

Crunchy Granola Bars

If you've ever wondered how you make homemade granola bars, this master granola bar recipe is for you. Make them chewy, crunchy or even no bake!

Crunchy granola bars are the easiest to make lower in sugar. Sugar is a tenderizer, and crunchy granola bars aren’t, well, tender. They’re crunchy! These are my personal favorite type of bar.

I love the combination of oats and puffed rice cereal (the cereal really helps them get and stay crunchy), and I love the relatively low sugar content. You can really taste the other ingredients. The nuts are finely ground, but you can make them yourself. You don’t need to buy already ground nut flours.

No Bake Granola Bars

If you've ever wondered how you make homemade granola bars, this master granola bar recipe is for you. Make them chewy, crunchy or even no bake!

My oldest calls these no bake granola bars the “ones that taste great but are bad for you.” And she’s right. We don’t have to use a candy thermomter and be all precise about it. But to make no-bake granola bars, we cook the sugars until they start to reach a “softball stage,” and then we mix them into the dry ingredients.

I don’t generally make these with any nuts at all, so they’re a great option for a nut-free school or camp. You can use nuts instead of some of the coconut flakes, if you like. These are very, very versatile. But don’t try to cut back on the sugar.

Another favorite variation on these is to add a bit of chopped chocolate 🍫 to the cooked sugars as they’re cooling. Mix until smooth and proceed with the recipe. If you’re going for it, go all the way!

If you've ever wondered how you make homemade granola bars, this master granola bar recipe is for you. Make them chewy, crunchy or even no bake!

We made it! We talked ingredients and theory, and I loved every minute. What can I say? I’m a wonk.

Anyway, knowledge is power. ⚡️ The more you understand why a recipe calls for one type of ingredient over another, the more you can customize the recipe to your particular tastes and dietary needs. This is the last granola bar recipe you’ll ever need, really. Enjoy!

If you've ever wondered how you make homemade granola bars, this master granola bar recipe is for you. Make them chewy, crunchy or even no bake!
Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 12 to 15 bars

Ingredients

Nuts (almonds, pecans, cashews—chopped or ground into flour)

Bulk (oats (rolled, quick, flour) + puffed rice cereal)

Sugars (light brown sugar, granulated sugar, molasses, coconut palm sugar, honey, pure maple syrup)

Mix-ins (coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, small dried fruit like raisins, chocolate chips)

Fat (virgin coconut oil (melted), neutral vegetable oil, butter (melted))

Kosher salt

Warm Spices (ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg)

Vanilla extract

Egg

Directions

  • For Crunchy Granola Bars, combine 1 cup finely ground nuts, 1/2 cup granulated sugar (coconut palm sugar, light brown sugar and/or white granulated sugar), 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats, 2 cups puffed rice cereal in a bowl and mix. Add 1/4 cup honey, 5 tablespoons oil, a bit of kosher salt and as much pure vanilla extract as you like. Press firmly into a lined quarter sheet pan and bake at 325°F for about 25 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing into bars. For full, detailed instructions, see this post for crunchy granola bars.

  • For Chewy Granola Bars, combine 1 3/4 cups quick oats, 1 cup oat flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar (coconut palm sugar, light brown sugar and/or white granulated sugar), 16 ounces nuts and/or other mix-ins in a bowl and mix. Add 8 tablespoons melted butter,
    1 egg, bit of kosher salt and as much pure vanilla extract and ground cinnamon as you like. Press into a lined 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan, and bake at 325°F for about 25 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing into bars. For full, detailed instructions, see this post for chewy granola bars.

  • For No Bake Granola Bars, combine 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats, 1/2 cup oat flour, 2 cups puffed rice cereal, 1/2 cup coconut chips or other mix-ins (including nuts, if you like) into a bowl and mix. In a small saucepan, place the 1 cup granulated sugar (coconut palm sugar, light brown sugar and/or white granulated sugar), 1/2 cup honey and 1/4 cup oil (virgin coconut oil or neutral oil) and mix. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and continue to cook undisturbed for 45 seconds. Remove from the heat, add a bit of kosher salt and as much pure vanilla extract as you like. Allow to cool until not burning hot to the touch, then pour into the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix to combine and press into an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan. Allow to cool completely before slicing into bars. For full, detailed instructions, see this post for no bake granola bars.

Love,
Nicole

Comments are closed.

  • Luna
    September 13, 2017 at 4:52 AM

    These look amazing! So much better than the bars I always buy from the store!

  • Anna
    September 10, 2017 at 7:52 PM

    I was wondering the best way to store these and how long they last? Thanks!

    • Nicole Hunn
      September 11, 2017 at 8:04 AM

      Hi, Anna,
      Good question! I have 3 kids, so I generally wrap them tightly in wax paper in groups of 3, then in a freezer-safe container (a freezer zip-top bag works great) and store them in the freezer. They keep very well even just in the refrigerator, but when I’m on a tear and make a ton at once, that’s how I keep them for longer storage.

  • Sarah
    September 10, 2017 at 10:25 AM

    Cant wait to try these! Where do you find the rice puffs?

    • Nicole Hunn
      September 11, 2017 at 8:02 AM

      Hi, Sarah,
      I find them in my regular grocery store (usually in the natural foods aisle), and online.

  • Maria O Connor
    September 10, 2017 at 8:35 AM

    I can’t tolerate oats. Has anybody ever tried to make granola bars with any other grains ie rice, buckwheat flakes ?? Please please share as I really miss crunchy granola bars. ☺

    • Nicole Hunn
      September 11, 2017 at 8:02 AM

      Hi, Maria,
      I’m afraid I’ve already given you the only information I have about oats in granola bars! I do have a Grain-Free Energy Bite recipe which you might like.

  • Emily
    September 10, 2017 at 8:23 AM

    I hate to be “that person” by asking this, but can you substitute the puffed rice cereal with something non-cereal? It’s very difficult to find GF cereal where I live, or expensive, and I’d rather just substitute something else in granola bars.

    • Nicole Hunn
      September 11, 2017 at 8:00 AM

      Haha, Emily, thanks for that disclaimer. In the crunchy granola bars, you’re just not going to get that same texture without the puffed rice. But in the others, you could try just using more oats. I’m afraid I haven’t tried, though, so you’ll have to experiment!

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