Saturday, March 31, 2012

Crunchy Granola Bars

Up until a few months ago I was going through box after box of Nature Valley granola bars. They are my favorite, crunchy and sweet, and not fake tasting like so many granola bars out there. Looking at the ingredients list didn't make me feel too bad. Although they are loaded with sugar, they contain mostly natural ingredients which is nice to see. However, it was my goal to make a homemade version that could compete with the crunchy goodness of the store bought kind. Over several months time I tried several granola bar recipes, but none of them would turn out how I wanted them to. They would either fall apart and turn into granola instead of a granola bar, or they were so hard I could hardly cut them, much less take a bite. These attempts were often not the best tasting either. Finally however, I found a recipe that looked promising. It originally came from America's Test Kitchen which made me even more excited. Their recipes almost always turn out great. These granola bars were no exception. They are crunchy and sweet, strong enough to hold up in my lunch box, but not so hard that they break a tooth. They are exactly what I was looking for.


It's a simple recipe that uses ingredients I almost always have on hand. To ensure that these bars are super crunchy, the recipe calls for toasting the oats with oil before forming the bars. I think this is the key step. One of the most difficult parts about making homemade granola bars is cooking them enough so that they get dried out all the way through, but not so long that they start over cooking. Toasting the oats first means that the bars start out dry and crispy, so they don't need to cook as long and start overcooking.

After toasting the oats, all you have to do is pour the liquid ingredients over them, mix it up, and press it in a lined pan. Press down to squish all of the granola together into an even layer, and bake. Nothing to it. I like these bars the best with almonds, but when I made my last batch I was out of almonds, so I just added an extra cup of oats and they turned out just fine. So if you don't have any nuts around, or don't like nuts, just leave them out!

Another key step to making the perfect granola bars is cutting them while they are still warm from the oven, before they harden up and become impossible to cut nicely. I have found that letting the pan rest for 10 minutes works best for me. After these 10 minutes I grab my trusty pastry scraper and cut up the bars (I like cutting the pan into 45 bars, 9X5). Then just let them cool the rest of the way and you have the perfect granola bar.

To be honest, while these bars are delicious, they do not taste like the Nature Valley crunchy granola bars. I still love my Oats and Honey granola bars, but they will definitely just be for emergencies from now on!

Grab your oats

Add the oil and salt and mix to combine

Toast them on a cookie sheet until golden brown

Meanwhile, grab some honey

and combine it with the brown sugar

Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves

Add the cinnamon (if using)
and the vanilla

Pour the liquid mixture over the oats, 
if using nuts add them here as well

Spread the granola on a greased, foil lined sheet pan
and use a spatula to press into a tight, even layer

Bake!

Let the granola cool for about 10 minutes and then
cut them up into bars
(don't wait any longer than 15 minutes to cut or it
will be too hard)

Once cut, let them cool the rest of the way

Break up the bars

Enjoy as many ways as possible!

Crunchy Granola Bars
Adapted from Bakerlady, originally from America's Test Kitchen
Ingredients
  • 7 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole almonds, pecans, walnuts or peanuts 
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (optional)
Directions
Adjust oven rack to the middle of the oven and set the temperature to 375 degrees.

Line an 18 x 13 inch rimmed baking pan with aluminum foil.

Combine the oats, oil and salt in a large bowl and mix until the oats are evenly coated. Transfer the mixture to the baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until pale gold, 20-25 minutes. Remove the oats and lower the oven temp to 300 degrees.

Place the nuts in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Or just chop coarsely with a big sharp knife.
Combine the honey and brown sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and cinnamon (if using).

Combine the oats, nuts, and honey mixture in a large bowl and stir with a large rubber spatula until the oats are thoroughly coated with the honey mixture. Spray the baking sheet (still with foil sling) with non-stick spray then transfer the granola mixture to the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer. Spray a large metal spatula or a square dish with non-stick spray and firmly press the mixture into the pan. Make a flat, tight, and even layer. Bake until golden, about 35-40 minutes.

Cool in the baking sheet, on a wire rack, for 10-15 minutes before cutting into bars, I used a pastry scraper to cut.  Cut the bars all the way through and then allow the granola bars to completely cool. Do not wait longer than 15 minutes before cutting the bars. They harden up significantly as they cool. Any longer and you’ll have a very hard time cutting thru them.

The bars can be stored, covered for up to 2 weeks.

72 comments:

  1. Oooo! I have a chewy-ish granola bar recipe I've been using and I love them, but these crunchy ones look delicious to try! Next time I need to make them, I think I'll try your recipe!
    ~Allison

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love chewy granola bars too! What recipe do you use? I may have to try them sometime too.

      Delete
    2. How are these called granola bars if there's no granola in them?

      Delete
    3. Full Definition of GRANOLA : a mixture typically of rolled oats and various added ingredients (as brown sugar, raisins, coconut, and nuts)

      Delete
    4. I made these today and they turned out great! They will certainly become a staple snack in our house and much cheaper than the usual store-bought kind. As well, I know EXACTLY what went into it. Can see lots of possibilities to change it up a bit but great just as they are.

      Delete
    5. I'm so glad you like them, sounds like as much as I do! I also love knowing exactly what's going into my body. Being informed is so important.

      Delete
    6. I'm the anonymous poster from Feb 22nd at 7:58. I made a second batch and this time I used quick oats, added 1/2 cup of sweetened shredded coconut when I added the finely chopped walnuts. I substituted maple syrup for the honey but still added 1/4 c honey. I omitted the cinnamon and when I packed the granola onto the cookie sheet, I made sure it was really well packed. I was trying to replicate the look of the Nature Valley bars and feel I was quite successful. I brought some to work to share and they were a BIG hit! Everyone wanted the recipe. Thanks so much for sharing this.

      Delete
    7. You're welcome! I'm glad they went over so well. Your tweaks sound wonderful!

      Delete
  2. They turned out great! I brought them to Bible Study for our snack and everyone LOVED them! Thanks for the recipe!
    ~Allison

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yea! I'm so glad you liked them! I still plan on trying your recipe very soon!

      Delete
  3. My hubby's been asking for the Nature Valley granola bars, but I'm too dag on cheap to buy them when I have a perfectly good recipe that made way more for the same price. He said it was too chewy. I'm going to try your recipe next. Yours look crunchy enough to stand up in a cup! and I keep all of these ingredients on hand. Thank you very much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. oh, forgot to ask. :) Can I make several batches at once and then freeze them?

      Delete
  4. Just made these...and they came out really well! I swapped the honey for agave nectar because honey becomes toxic when heated. I think maple syrup would be good too. I used a combo of almonds, walnuts and coconut and butter instead of oil. I don't think they'll last long.
    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you liked them! Your substitutions sound really interesting, I'm glad they worked for you. While I'll stick with the honey and oil, its nice to hear of other people making a recipe their own!

      Delete
    2. honey does not become toxic when heated!

      Delete
    3. According to Ayurveda heating honey to 180 degrees and over turns the honey into a carmel glue like substance that becomes hard to digest. It adheres to body tissue creating Ama (toxins) and becomes hard to cleanse. There are a lot of vitamins, antimicrobials and enzymes that are lost in the heating process too.

      Delete
    4. Hard to digest is a long way from toxic.

      Delete
    5. I wanted to swap out honey just because of the cost. I switched to 1/2 c table syrup (that's cheap maple syrup) + 1/4 c white sugar and about a 1/4 c water to make up for the difference in liquid. The bars are delicious but very crumbly. Luckily, my bf is okay with that and actually suggested eating it in a bowl of milk like cereal. Just an idea :) I think next time I make them I will try half honey, half maple syrup. Or maybe I'll give corn syrup a try.

      Delete
    6. I still used the brown sugar. I just read it over and realised it sounds like I'm swapping brown sugar for white sugar- I'm not. I just read online that if you want to swap maple syrup for honey you should add some white sugar to the mix.

      Oh, and I used Pumpkin Pie Spice instead of cinnamon. :)

      Delete
    7. Unless you're buying raw honey, all supermarket honey (even organic) is heat treated.

      Delete
  5. Hello there!
    I am writing from Germany. I had been looking for a recipe for crunchy granola bars for ages and this one sounded perfect. I just made them this afternoon and they turned out terrific! Thanks for the cool recipe and this nice little blog, I bet I will visit here from time to time. :)

    Greetings,
    Nicole :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by! I'm so glad you like the granola bars, they are one of my all time favorites. Of all the things on my blog I think I make them the most. Come back soon! Auf Wiedersehen!

      Delete
  6. How could I incorporate coconut into this recipe? If I added say a half cup, how much more of the honey sugar mixture do you think it would require to bind properly?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you could probably add half a cup of coconut without changing anything else. That's not a ton of coconut. Sometimes I add a few extra oats, and they don't seem to have a problem binding together well. If you are concerned, I think an extra tablespoon or two of honey can't hurt. I wouldn't think you would need much more than that though. But give it a try, even if they fall apart a little, it will still be tasty! Great idea with the coconut, I may have to try that sometime!

      Delete
  7. I want to make these really peanut buttery---i made these and my kids loved them. would they still be crunchy and sticky if I combined honey and peanut butter instead of honey and brown sugar????? just trying to figure out how to incorporate the pb without the yummy brown sugary/maple syrup taste (not that there is anything wrong that that all :)----

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's worth a try, and sounds quite delicious by the way! I haven't tried it so can't say for sure. I would guess they would be a little less crunchy, and might fall apart a little more, but hey, granola is good too! I'm sure it will be tasty regardless of how well they stick together. If you end up trying it, let me know how it works out!

      Delete
    2. Try replacing the maple syrup with peanut butter, both are binding agents. The one difference you may notice is a slightly oilier texture, which may need more oats to correct. It will be a test to see.

      Delete
  8. I WILL!!! When I made your recipe I thought they tasted JUST like the Maple Brown Sugar Granola Bars from Nature Valley--but the kiddos love the Peanut Butter ones the most from Nature Valley so that's why I was wondering. I will try the peanut butter route and let you know how they turn out :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I wanted to let you know that I made these, attempting the peanut butter route and it was a success and they tasted just like the Peanut Butter Nature Valley Granola Bars!!!! What I did was for the brown sugar/honey dissolve mixture part--the brown sugar part of it I divided half and half into brown sugar and peanut butter, than the normal amount of honey==then dissolve. In addition I put 1/2 cup peanut butter into the whole mixture when mixing it all up together at the end. I also omitted the cinnamon, for true peanut butter heaven. It tasted just like them and my family ate them up. Thank you for this wonderful recipe :) :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. and they were just as crunchy, I should note :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for the update. It sounds absolutely fantastic!! I will definitely give this a try very soon. True peanut butter heaven sounds wonderful! I do love peanut butter so this is great! Thank you so much!

      Delete
  11. Just tried out your recipe and it was amazing! Thank you so much for the recipe!

    http://chilipadiskitchen.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/homemade-granola-bars.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you liked them! Macadamia nuts sounds like they would be delicious in these! I may have to try that next!

      Delete
  12. I've been searching for a crunchy granola bar recipe that is similar to the Nature Valley ones, because I absolutely love them! I'm so excited to try this recipe! Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Made these today with white chocolate chunks and macadamia nuts to simulate the Clif Bars that my kids INHALE! These are a fantastic substitute! Love this recipe and after reading the comments have so many variations to try! Thanks for sharing a great recipe!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you liked them! They are a great base for so many ideas, have fun with it!

      Delete
  14. Do you have a chocolate version of this recipe? My kids love the Oat and Dark Chocolate Nature VAlley bars.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't have a chocolate version, but I think that sounds like a wonderful thing to work on. You could just try adding a bit of cocoa powder to the mixture and see what happens. You never know, maybe it would be great! I'll definitely let you know if I come up with something!

      Delete
    2. I just dipped mine in melted dark chocolate half way! HEAVEN!

      Delete
  15. Thanks for the recipe:-) i add goji berries, chopped apricot kernels, dried cranberries and blueberries, chopped 90% chocolate, sunflower seeds and i also add macadamia nut butter to the brown sugar/honey...worked out great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like some great add ins! I'm glad it worked so well!

      Delete
  16. I have these baking up right now! I did use coconut oil in place of the oil for toasting the oats... we have a granola recipe that we LOVE around here that uses the coconut oil so wanted to add that in! I also added in some cinnamon chips before baking... house smells amazing and can't wait for them to be done!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Just made these and they're good! A lot of other "crunchy granola bar" recipes called for crispy rice cereal, which I didn't want to use. I love that these are so basic. I used refined/expeller pressed coconut oil in place of vegetable oil, and sucanat in place of brown sugar. I halved the recipe and used a 13x9" pan. I wasn't going to add any nuts, and add the last second I decided to add 1/2 cup of flax seed meal. I got 18 bars from a 13x9" pan - about 1.5" x 4" (cutting into 6 along the 9" side and into 3 along the 13" side). With my substitutions, I calculated that each bar is around 150 calories. Only complaint was that it burned a little around the edges after the minimum baking time, and also it was REALLY hard to cut - though admittedly I can't remember if I waited 10 or 15 minutes (definitely no longer). I removed the foil from the pan onto a cutting board and used a pizza slicer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you liked them! I also didn't like all of the recipes that called for crispy rice cereal and was very happy to find this one, it is so basic which I love. It sounds like you made some nice substitutions that worked out for you, other than being difficult to cut! I usually wait only 10 minutes before cutting, just to make sure they don't get too hard. With your adjustments maybe they just bake up a little harder. But even so, I'm glad they worked for you!

      Delete
    2. Just making these again and the only difference was this time I tried maple syrup instead of honey. I realized that probably the reason they burnt a little the last time was because I halved the recipe! So this time I checked after 25 minutes and they looked pretty golden, but not yet solid, so I gave it maybe 5 more minutes and took them out. Only it still isn't solid :( Guess we're having granola instead of granola bars this time LOL. How long would you suggest baking a half recipe in a 13x9?

      Delete
    3. Maple syrup sounds like a wonderful substitute for the honey. Add in some pecans and you've got a wonderful maple pecan granola bar! As for baking half a recipe, I've only done it once (I was at someone else's house and didn't have a half sheet pan) and if I remember correctly it came out slightly burnt tasting too. Not bad, but not what I was hoping for either. You could try toasting the oats for less time to begin with, maybe 15 minutes. Also, maybe try turning down the oven a little (perhaps 275) and bake the bars for the full 35-40 minutes? Maybe that would help them get nice and solid without the burned taste. It's worth a shot anyway.

      Otherwise, if you don't have a half sheet pan I highly recommend buying one. I use mine all the time for basically everything, including these granola bars. In fact I made a batch just yesterday, yum!

      Delete
  18. I wanted to add my experience with these as well. For some dumb reason I thought toasting the oats in a big pan on the stove would work just the same as the oven. NO! It burns so fast! I didn't put enough honey which didn't make it spread out enough and also I didn't put foil on the pan before baking them. But they STILL turned our great! I did the peanut butter/brown sugar substitution mentioned above and they are tasty. I am definitely trying these out again but actually following directions. But all in all, I am eating one right now as I am typing and I love them. (Even when some oats got burned)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Jana, any thoughts on how to make a "chewy" version of these bars? I would actually prefer they are a little soft and moist. Would a shorter cooking period and/or lower heat help or would I have to modify the ingredients? Thx!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An interesting question... When I found this recipe I was looking for a super crunchy granola bar recipe, and this one definitely fits the bill. It was actually difficult to find a crunchy granola bar recipe, most of the recipes I kept finding were for chewy bars, so I know there are a lot of great chewy granola bar recipes out there. I just prefer my granola bars crunchy. I would suggest doing some internet browsing to find a few chewy granola bar recipes to try.

      If you want to stick with this recipe though, I would try toasting the oats for less time initially, or not at all. Also, you could try cutting back on the oil since the oil really helps the oats crisp up nicely. And finally, cutting back on the overall cooking time would most likely make them less crisp.

      I hope this helps! I'd love to hear how it all turns out!

      Delete
    2. For a chewy bar, try leaving out the baking step. Not 100% sure with this recipe, but I have made chewy bars before using heated honey and peanut butter as the "glue" and NOT baking.

      Delete
    3. paultshafer, this is the recipe I use for chewy granola bars. So, so delicious, and very easy to put together (no baking). They're a little thick in a 9" square pan, so I use a 9x13" pan.

      http://bluefield5.blogspot.com/2014/02/no-bake-nut-butter-chocolate-chip.html

      Delete
  20. Here's a chewy bar I make all the time. I don't add the dried fruit or salt because my kids don't like them and they are still delicious. I hope this helps.
    http://www.wiveswithknives.net/2013/07/23/chewy-granola-bars/

    By the way, I can't wait to try these crunchy bars!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, this was for Jana who asked about the chewy bsrs. I thiught I was replying but I apparently commented.

      Delete
  21. This is exactly the recipe I was looking for! I even wanted to incorporate dried cherries, like you. Am so glad this recipe led me to your blog :-)

    ReplyDelete
  22. this is my first time making granola bars,I used both almonds and macadamia nuts (toasted) as well as raisins. I was going to use coconut but as I intend giving these to friends ,and one has a coconut allergy. so I left it out.maybe next time. As I read comments I thought oh I want chewy bars... so I stopped the cook time at 15 min. let cool about 6 min .Then cut while warm. They still came out crisp! And yummy!

    ReplyDelete
  23. This was a great recipe to try making granola bars for the first time! Always want to do this. After reading all the posts, I added slivered almonds to the oats for toasting, added peanut butter to the honey and brown sugar mixture, and then dark chocolate cocoa powder at the point of mixing it all together. They turned out perfect! Crunchy and delicious! I also used the crumbles on my vanilla yogurt with frozen black sweet cherries...yum!

    ReplyDelete
  24. has anyone ever put peanut butter in these?

    ReplyDelete
  25. I made these last week and I'm so addicted I could eat them all day long. Trying to find time to make more as my supply is running low! Fantastic recipe, thank you so much:)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hi I made these yesterday, and they turned out alright. About a 1/4 of mine crumbled too much (even though I cut them when they were still soft), and even the one that did turn into bars, crumble very easily. Also, is there a way to use less sugar? These have as much sugar as chocolate chip cookies do...essentially 1-1/2 cups worth. Even using natural sugars, this is just too much. Have you ever tried using just the honey? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry about the crumbling. That's happened to me before too, but it all still tastes good!

      About the sugar; I know there is a lot of sugar, that's why I like to tell people that granola bars do not always equal healthy. I have made them with less sugar before, and while they still taste fantastic I have always noticed that they do not hold together very well. It really is only the sugar holding them into their "bar" form. You can definitely make this recipe with less sugar, but I can't guarantee that they'll hold their shape. Still tasty, but not a bar, just granola. But maybe if you play around with it you can come up with something. If you do, I'd love to hear about it!

      Delete
    2. I'm also trying to figure out how to cut down on the sweetness. See, when you boil the sugar, you are effectively making a caramel, which is why we get a nice 'glue' once baked. I don't know how else to make a nice hard 'glue' without sugar! I'm going to try some tweaks where I take out the honey, try making my caramel maybe with some water? See if that works?

      Delete
  27. Wish your website had a "Print" feature so I could just print this out for future use.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry! I would love to have that someday too! Hopefully I can figure it out in the future, but I know very little about building websites!!

      Delete
  28. Do you have a caloric value for these?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nope, sorry, I'm not qualified to do that.

      Delete
  29. I just made the crunchy granola with roasted, salted almonds and dark chocolate chips. I bake mine loose in the pan, crack it into pieces and then bag it in 2 oz servings. The almond chocolate chip version is so delicious I have to hum when I eat it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sounds so delicious! I've always thought about adding chocolate, but haven't tried it yet!

      Delete
  30. How do you store the extras?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I store mine in an airtight container and they do great for several weeks. I have found that if they aren't in an airtight container they can go a little soft. They also freeze pretty well too!

      Delete
  31. I made these tonight and sprinkled a bit of dark chocolate chips on when cooling. They turned out delicious. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  32. I tried these yesterday and didn't change anything, just added shredded coconut. They are awesome! Took some to work and they disappeared quickly and also brought some to my mom. Huge hit! Will definitely make over and over again. Was just wondering if you had the calorie etc? I'm sure I can figure it out just didn't know if anyone had it on hand?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you liked them, they definitely are a keeper! I don't have the calorie count, sorry! You could try My Fitness Pal or some other website to try and figure it out for yourself. That usually works pretty well.

      Delete