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No-bake granola bars are a great snack that are kid-friendly and perfect for packing into a lunch box. Because the recipe uses clean eating ingredients, you can feel good knowing that your kids will be snacking well!
The kids are heading back to school, and moms everywhere are facing the “what to pack in their lunch” dilemma. The truth is, kids just want a lunch that tastes good and makes them feel like they are “part of the crowd” in the lunch room.
HEALTHY LUNCHBOX SNACKS
Most kids have no idea what lurks in those seemingly harmless packages of sugar and chemical-infested “treats.” And as a kid, they probably don’t care all that much anyway. They just want to be like their friends. Nobody wants to stand out from the crowd at that age. It’s the same way with every generation.
I was reminded of this when I saw Mini Chef watching one of his friends pick through her after-school snacks to get to “the good stuff” first. While it was a healthy treat, I sat there watching him quietly, wishing she would share her goodies with him. It brought back my own school lunch memories so vividly that I just knew I had to come up with a no-bake snack bar that he would love to have in his lunch bag. So I set off to create a really yummy, super-duper delicious, no-bake recipe made with real food ingredients.
This is an easy recipe that makes quick snacks or a quick breakfast using healthy ingredients. It uses cocoa nibs, though you could replace those with chocolate chips if you prefer.
No-Bake Granola Bars – Recipe Options
You have two choices with this healthy snack. Quick oats or traditional oats. You will get a different texture depending on what you use. Quick oats will be more like the commercial granola bars that kids are used to. Traditional oats will be a chunkier, chewier bar.
You also have a choice in what type of nut butter you use. Try peanut butter, almond butter, or even sun butter.
But no matter how you make them, they are a great snack for school lunches and much better than anything you can pick up at the grocery store.
Quick oats – This will give you a finer, chewier texture that is less toothsome. It will give you more of a cereal mixture.
Traditional oats – These will give you a chunkier bar because it will be more of a chunky granola mixture that gets pressed together.
How To Adjust No-Bake Granola Bars
- Oats – You can use either traditional (old-fashioned) oats or quick-cooking oats. The traditional oats will give you a chewier texture, while the quick oats will blend in with the other ingredients more. If you are making these for kids, you might try the quick-cooking oats first. They give a texture that is more conducive to what kids usually like. But if your kids are used to eating whole grains, then the traditional oats will be just fine.
- Nut butter – You can use any type of nut butter (or seed butter) you prefer. In fact, if your child’s school has strict rules for nut-allergy kids, then something like sun butter will work well here, too. Pick the nut butter you like best for flavor. Just be aware that if you choose peanut butter, that will then become a predominant flavor. Almond butter is a milder flavor that will showcase the flavor of your mix-ins more.
- Mix-ins – Mix-ins are what give you granola bars that extra zing. Feel free to play around with what you add here. You don’t have to use the same ones I did. While I love this particular combination, there are many other possibilities out there that would be equally delicious. Try other dry fruits, chopped nuts, dark chocolate chips, or even seeds like chia, flax, or even sesame.
- Sweetener – Using a sticky sweetener like honey will give you a slightly sticky granola bar. I have found that the benefits of the flavor and sweetness level of the honey make a little bit of stickiness worth it. But if you have a child with texture issues or want something that is just slightly less intense in sweetness, you can also use maple syrup. And if you really want to cut down on any stickiness at all, you can use half maple syrup and half dry sweetener such as Sucanat or coconut sugar. You can also use a piece of parchment to really press down on your granola bars without getting your hands sticky. If it sticks together once pressed, it will hold together in a lunchbox.
Tips On Making No-Bake Granola Bars
- Chop – The best texture in a no-bake granola bar happens when your chunky ingredients aren’t too big. Feel free to chop ingredients as needed. This will help the bars stick together better and give them a better texture for eating as well.
- Press – Make sure you really press everything down. Compression is the key to everything sticking together.
- Set – Let the bars rest before you cut them. Give them an hour or two minimum to let everything set and stick.
The No-Bake Granola Bars Pan
The shape and size of your pan will affect the size and even the number of bars you end up with. I’ve noted my pan size above. But if you want more bars that are smaller or thinner, use a slightly larger pan. Just make sure you chop things small and press them really well so they don’t fall apart.
About The Ingredients
Old-fashioned oats – You can also use quick-cooking oats if you prefer them.
Dried cranberries – Fruit juice sweetened.
Mini dark chocolate chips – Or raw cacao nibs
Salt – Add a pinch of salt to truly bring out the sweetness. A little goes a long way.
Virgin coconut oil – It has to be virgin coconut oil so that it will harden when cold.
Honey – Or brown rice syrup
Pure vanilla extract – The real stuff. Not vanilla flavoring.
Raw, creamy almond butter – Or sunflower butter for nut-free
Optional Additions For No-Bake Granola Bars
- Sunflower seeds
- Other dried fruit like raisins
How To Make No-Bake Granola Bars
In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, cranberries, cocoa nibs, and cinnamon. Stir well.
In a small pot, combine the oil, honey, vanilla extract, and almond butter over medium heat. You want to warm this enough to combine the liquids well. But DO NOT BOIL! Stir constantly to avoid any simmering. This warmth is strictly to get everything to combine as well as to make it a bit more fluid for mixing with the oats.
Pour the nut butter into the mixing bowl and mix well to completely coat the oats.
Press the mixture into an oiled or parchment paper-lined baking dish. (Mine -pictured above- was 9 x 4 1/2)
Freeze for 2 hours.
Cut the homemade granola bars with a sharp knife and store them in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 2 months, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap so no air gets to them. Note that by the time lunchtime comes around, these will no longer be frozen and will be perfect to eat at room temperature. (These keep in the fridge for about a week.)
More Healthy Granola Bars
No-Bake Granola Bars
- 2 cups old fashion oats
- ½ cup dried cranberries (fruit juice sweetened)
- ⅓ cup mini dark chocolate chips (or raw cacao nibs)
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch sea salt (optional)
- ⅓ cup coconut oil
- ⅓ cup honey
- 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup raw, creamy almond butter
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, cranberries, cocoa nibs, and cinnamon. Stir well.
- In a small pot, combine the oil, honey, vanilla extract, and almond butter over medium heat. You want to warm this enough to combine the liquids well. But DO NOT BOIL! Stir constantly to avoid any simmering. This warmth is strictly to get everything to combine as well as to make it a bit more fluid for mixing with the oats.
- Pour the nut butter into the mixing bowl and mix well to completely coat the oats.
- Press the mixture into an oiled or parchment-lined baking dish. (Mine -pictured above- was 9 x 4 1/2)
- Freeze for 2 hours.
- Cut bars with a sharp knife and store in the freezer for up to 2 months, tightly wrapped so no air gets to them. Note that by the time lunchtime comes around, these will no longer be frozen and will be perfect to eat. (These keep in the fridge for about a week.)
Recipe from the Gracious Pantry archives, originally posted 9/23/13.