This master Larabar recipe is the secret to making your favorite bars at home with whatever flavors you like, in just minutes. The perfect gluten free snacks!
Why make a homemade Larabar?
Larabars are gluten free, and they’re sold everywhere. They’re a great grab-and-go snack and they’re packed with lots of good fat and simple ingredients. So why would you want to make them at home?
The first reason to make them at home is always flavor. You can customize them any way you’d like, and can just use their flavors as a jumping-off point.
The second reason to make them at home is that, well, they’re better this way. My version is less sweet than the original since I imagine I use fewer dates and more nuts. I think a third reason might be cost, especially if you buy your ingredients in bulk, but I haven’t done the math so I can’t be 100% sure.
We’ve made two of these recipes before (here’s the peanut butter chocolate chip recipe; here’s the chocolate coconut chew), but that was way back in 2014. Since then, I’ve played with flavors many times. The peanut butter chocolate chip is my perennial favorite, but the varieties really are endless.
How to make homemade Larabars
I began these Larabar copycat recipes the same way I begin every copycat recipe: with the manufacturer’s ingredient list. Larabar makes it super easy on their website by listing the ingredients with a photo of each. It’s like they want me to do this (except I know they don’t).
There are only 4 main ingredients in each of these Larabar recipes: nuts, dates, coconut oil, and some sort of mix-in. At least half of them must be included in some form, but you can still swap one flavor for another.
Basically, you’re just pulsing the nuts into crumbs, and then adding dates, melted coconut oil and a mix-in like chocolate chips, coconut flakes, or even more nuts and seeds if you like.
Melted chocolate is also a really great way to add chocolate flavor and structure to the finished bars. For the brownie variety in the recipe below, there are three types of chocolate: melted chocolate, chocolate chips, and cocoa powder. To help the cocoa powder incorporate easily into the mixture without overprocessing, just mix it into the coconut oil first.
Raw or roasted nuts
The first non-negotiable ingredient in every homemade Larabar recipe is nuts. You can make granola bars without nuts, and you can make homemade protein bars without nuts. If you’re nut-free, I’d recommend trying one of those recipes.
Nuts provide most of the structure of a homemade (or store-bought) Larabar. You can substitute any nut for any other nut, within reason, although I’d recommend avoiding all salted nuts. It’s better to control the salt in your bars by using it as a separate ingredient.
Among the nuts that I’ve swapped in all of the Larabar variations that I’ve made and loved are: raw almonds, raw cashews, pistachio nut meats, raw walnuts, and raw pecans (pecans and walnuts are a softer nut, though, so avoid using only those nuts or your bars will be more fragile).
You can save money 💲on nuts by purchasing nut “pieces” rather than whole nuts. We’re just processing them in a food processor anyway. You won’t save money, though, by buying ground nuts. Nut pieces are cheaper, though, since they’re kind of the odds and ends of the manufacturing process.
Be sure only to process the nuts until they resemble coarse crumbs, as directed in the recipe. If you overprocess them, you’ll have nut butter before you know it!
Like nuts, dates are essential to making Larabars. They’re sticky and sweet, and they do a lot of work in these bars.
Other dried fruits, like raisins or dried apricots, just don’t have the same structure as dates. If you used them to make bars, they’d probably be too soft.
You can use Medjool dates, which are the type that I generally use for one reason and one reason alone: they’re sold for a great price at my local Trader Joe’s. In fact, I can buy all of the ingredients (except for the miniature chocolate chips) to make these bars at TJ’s.
You can also use Deglet Noor dates, which are lighter in color and less sweet. Dates do tend to dry out over time, and that can make it more difficult to process them in your food processor.
To remove their pits, just slice them in half gently, without cutting all the way through, and they’ll offer up their pits. If your dates have dried and become at all stiff, just pit them and soak them in hot water for a couple of minutes. Squeeze them out before adding them to the food processor.
You can replace the virgin coconut oil in any of my homemade Larabar recipes with Spectrum brand nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening. You need a neutral fat that is solid at room temperature, and those are the two fats that I know get the job done.
If you don’t like coconut flavor, first, don’t make the chocolate coconut chew variety below. And use triple filtered coconut oil, which has no coconut odor at all.
Cacao butter, which we use to make homemade white chocolate, can also be used, but it’s super expensive. If you’re down, so am I, moneybags. 💰
In the 3 varieties below, the mix-ins we used are miniature chocolate chips, regular-sized chocolate chips that are processed in the mixture, and coconut chips. You really can use any sort of mix-in you like, though.
Mix-ins are mostly to add texture and visual interest to bars. Even adding coarsely chopped nuts would add a different texture. Avoid using regular sized chocolate chips without processing them at all, since you’ll have a hard time slicing them into bars.