These homemade peanut butter granola bars are chewy bars made with oats and honey. Skip the boxed bars and grab these healthy, no bake treats instead.
Granola bars, the Minutemen of breakfast or snack time
You know that feeling of free-floating anxiety, the kind that you can’t quite pin down? For me, it usually comes from a lack of control. And when you’re responsible for the well-being of others (like children), there is so much that’s always going to be out of your control.
Of course, having a refrigerator (or freezer) stocked with all sorts of grab-and-go breakfast snacks doesn’t actually solve whatever is really bothering me. But it does honestly give me a feeling of control.
The older I get, the more I accept that feeling is fact. And having homemade peanut butter granola bars on hand makes me feel like I’m more in control.
These bars not as healthy, of course, as a piece of fruit or, say, a bowl of unsweetened muesli. But the combination of whole grain oats, coconut, protein-packed nut butter and healthy fat from virgin coconut oil means that these bars are way healthier than the boxed kind.
These homemade peanut butter granola bars are chewy as the day is long, don’t require you to fire up the oven, and keep forever in the refrigerator (even longer in the freezer). Like any sort of granola bar, certain ingredients are interchangeable within their particular categories, such as mix-ins (like chocolate chips), sugars (like brown sugar and honey), fats (like virgin coconut oil), aromatics (like vanilla), and bulk (like oats, oat flour and crisp rice cereal).
The art of breakfast and snacking right
Before they head off to school in the morning, I like to make sure that my kids aren’t hungry at all. I know the whole idea of breakfast’s being the most important meal of the day has been debunked, but hunger is distracting. The wait until lunchtime can be long.
When they come home from school, they’re always hungry. I want to make something satisfying available to them. But ever since my kids were little, I’ve been wary of ruining their appetites for dinnertime. It probably isn’t for the virtuous reason you think, though!
Since my kids are (nearly) all teenagers, I’m past the point of expecting that I can expand their palates. They like what they like at this point, and they likely won’t revisit those preferences until long after they’ve graduated from high school.
But a hungry dinner companion is a more forgiving, less picky and overall more pleasant dinner companion. So I want them to eat something filling, but as quickly as possible. That way, they have time to rebuild an appetite before dinner.
Having snacks like these peanut butter granola bars on hand is essential. A granola bar, a piece of fruit or a small yogurt, and my kids are willing to get started on their homework.
I’ll make a double recipe of these and other granola bars or breakfast cookies, and wrap them tightly. When my kids open the refrigerator, they’ll almost always find my stash. Grab … and go.
Ingredients and substitutions
If you have dietary restrictions beyond what is already specified in the recipe, I’ll do my best to help you out in this section. This recipe for homemade peanut butter granola bars is already dairy-free if you use dairy-free chocolate chips, or just leave the chips out.
Peanut butter: I specify a no-stir peanut butter in the ingredients list, which sometimes that causes confusion. All I mean by “no-stir” is the type of nut butter that doesn’t have separated oil at the top of the jar when it’s first opened.
Nut butter that doesn’t need to be stirred is much thicker at room temperature. That’s helpful, especially in a no-bake granola bar. If you’d like to use another no-stir nut butter, like Barney Butter almond butter, I’m confident it would work quite well.
If you’d like to use a simpler, entirely natural nut butter or even a homemade nut butter, you’ll have to experiment. I’m concerned that the bars simply won’t set up. If you’d like to make them without any nut butter at all, please see my recipe for basic no bake granola bars.
Oats: In the U.S., there are certified gluten free oats that are grown on dedicated gluten-free fields and stored in dedicated silos. We use them all the time. I never buy oats that are more processed than old-fashioned rolled oats. For oat flour, I simply grind them in a blender or food processor as finely as possible.
Oats can be replaced in baking. Oat flour should be replaced with quinoa flakes and the old-fashioned oats with beaten rice, but click through the link in the previous sentence for a complete explanation.
Honey: If you can’t have honey or you’d like to make this recipe vegan, you can try replacing the honey with agave syrup or Lyle’s golden syrup. In general, liquid sweeteners should be replaced with other liquid sweeteners of similar thickness, and granulated sugars with granulated ones.
Brown sugar: The brown sugar in this recipe can be replaced with coconut palm sugar, an unrefined sugar. To make sure that it melts properly when heated with the other wet ingredients, try grinding the coconut palm sugar into a fine powder in a blender or food processor first.
How do you handle breakfast and snacks in your house? Even though I’ve been a mom for 16 years, there are definitely tips and tricks that you can share that have never occurred to me. Let’s help each other get through, especially in the mad back-to-school dash!
No Bake Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars
1 1/2 cups (150 g) old-fashioned rolled oats (certified gluten free if necessary)
1 cup (120 g) oat flour (certified gluten free if necessary)*
2 cups (60 g) crisp rice cereal (gluten free if necessary)
1/2 cup (40 g) unsweetened coconut chips
4 tablespoons (56 g) virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup (109 g) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (168 g) honey
3/4 cup (192 g) smooth no-stir peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 ounces miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
*I never buy oat flour or even quick-cooking oats. I just process old-fashioned rolled oats in a food processor or blender either a little (quick-cooking oats) or a lot (oat flour).
Line an 8-inch square baking dish with crisscrossed sheets of unbleached parchment paper, with the paper overhanging all 4 sides of the dish, and set it aside. In a large bowl, place the rolled oats, oat flour, rice cereal and coconut chips, mix to combine well and set the bowl aside.
In a medium-sized heavy-bottom saucepan, place the coconut oil, brown sugar, honey, and salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture liquifies and comes to a simmer. Cook undisturbed for 45 seconds more, and then remove from the heat. Add the vanilla and peanut butter, stirring constantly until the mixture stops bubbling. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, until no longer hot to the touch. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients in the large bowl, pour in the warm peanut butter and sugar mixture and mix throughly. Continue to mix until all of the dry ingredients have been absorbed into the mixture. If adding the miniature chocolate chips, allow the mixture to sit until cool to the touch or the chips will melt completely. Mix the chips until evenly distributed throughout.
Transfer to the prepared baking dish and press very firmly into an even layer. Allow to sit at room temperature until cool and set. To speed the process, refrigerate the dish for about 15 minutes. Place the bars on a cutting board and, using a large, sharp knife, cut into 10 rectangles. Wrap each bar separately and store at room temperature until ready to serve.