Healthy, oat-based and with no added sugar, these chocolate granola bars can be customized to your liking with add-ins for a nutritious gluten-free snack.
Ulysses packs no less than three protein bars every 12 hour shift he works. This is in addition to a full meal and a banana.
Off he goes with his lunchbox in tow like an elementary school kid while I shake my head trying so hard to get him to wean down the protein bar amount.
Sure, everyone needs a protein bar here and there but when you’re eating three a day and they’re not the best ingredient list filled with soy protein isolates, sugar alcohols and the like, it’s a bit extreme.
Not to mention, I’m pretty confident those sugar alcohols don’t do his digestive system any favors if you know what I mean…
So I’ve been on a mission to slowly convert him to eating better snacks.
Things like trail mix, fruit, jerky (like homemade buffalo sauce beef jerky or lamb jerky), easy homemade muffins (like Sweet Potato Bran Muffins or Banana Zucchini Muffins) or, these homemade chocolate granola bars seem like a far better option.
Filled with whole grain oats, healthy fats and protein from chopped nuts and seeds and some natural sweetness from maple syrup, this chocolate granola bar recipe is a far cry from the packaged stuff with a mile long ingredient list he’s currently scarfing down.
WHAT’S IN THESE CHOCOLATE GRANOLA BARS?
These wholesome chocolate granola bars are packed with:
- rolled oats
- dried fruit (I use dried tart cherries in these)
- chopped nuts (use an assortment if you like!)
- cacao powder
- unsweetened applesauce
- maple syrup
- vanilla extract
- up to 1/4 cup of any add-ins you choose (I use chia seeds and cacao nibs in the bars)
HOW TO MAKE CHEWY CHOCOLATE GRANOLA BARS
Assembling the granola bars is as easy as mixing everything together in a large bowl until combined.
Optional: you can choose to toast the oats in the oven on a baking sheet for 8-10 minutes until slightly golden as an extra step. This brings some nuttiness to the flavor of the granola bars. Totally not necessary but a fun extra step for flavor if you have the time.
Once combined, the granola bar mixture is spread into a parchment lined 8×8 baking dish and baked for 30 minutes.
After it cools, slice into 8 bars. Or make smaller squares (think brownie size) and get 16 servings from this recipe.
HOW TO STORE HOMEMADE GRANOLA BARS
These healthy chocolate oat bars will stay at room temperature for 4-5 days.
If you need to store them beyond that, place in an air-tight container or something like a stasher bag and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
The bars can also be stored in the freezer for up to a month.
WHAT DO THEY TASTE LIKE?
If you remember (or still eat!) those Chewy chocolate chip granola bars from the grocery store, these are the healthier, whole food ingredient cousin.
The bars have a nice chewy texture, very similar to these tart cherry oat bars but with a nice crunch from the chopped nuts and a subtle rather than overpowering sweetness from the dried cherries and touch of maple syrup.
If you’re looking for a delicious cinnamon apple flavor, try these Apple Cinnamon Granola Bars instead.
And if you want a breakfast spin to a homemade granola bar, I absolutely LOVE these Grain Free Breakfast Bars.
The best part about this recipe though is how customizable the chocolate granola bars are.
MAKE IT YOUR OWN WITH ADD-INS
While I chose to use dried tart cherries as the fruit in this recipe, you can use whatever dried fruit you prefer. Fruits like:
- regular cherries
are all great choices in the chocolate granola bars.
Another way to customize the recipe is to play around with the 1/4 cup of other add-ins.
I used just 2 tablespoons total of chia seeds and cacao nibs but things like:
- mini chocolate chips
- sunflower seeds
- sesame seeds
- flax seeds
- hemp hearts
are more great options for how to make this recipe your own.
Choose the nut mixture of your liking
Lastly, you can use whatever nuts you have on hand or play around with ones you prefer.
I used almonds and walnuts in the recipe but pecans, hazelnuts, brazil nuts and macadamia nuts are all good choices as well.
I also love this recipe if you’d prefer a nut-free granola bar. The oats and crispy rice cereal make for a great texture!
And my nut free granola recipe is great for loose granola instead of bars!
Looking for a more decadent/dessert like option?
Try drizzling the bars with melted chocolate for a fun spin. Kind of like these vegan flapjacks. Or, you could even dip half the bar in chocolate to mimic lots of the protein bars out there.
Whether you’re making these for your kids lunchbox, your husband’s (who could also arguably be considered another kid…) or for yourself, there’s no doubting the deliciousness of this healthy snack.
Can’t beat a homemade granola bar that’s packed with all these nutritious goodies, chocolate flavor and just happens to be naturally gluten-free and vegan too!
Looking for more great snack options? Try one of these recipes:
Cookie Dough Bars with Chocolate Chips and Tart Cherries
Sweet Potato Oat Bars
Apple Cinnamon Cookie Bites
Cinnamon Cake Bars
No Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Balls
Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Cookie Bites
Homemade Chocolate Granola Bars
- 2 cups rolled oats use gluten-free if needed
- 1/2 cup dried tart cherries *or other dried fruit
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts **any blend you like
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cacao powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds ***optional
- 1 tablespoon cacao nibs ***optional
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper so that it hangs over the edges.
- *Optional – spread oats on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast in the oven for 7-10 minutes shaking the pan occasionally until just starting to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool a few minutes.
- Transfer the cooled oats to a large bowl and add the dried fruit, nuts, cacao powder and salt, stir to mix.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the applesauce, maple syrup and vanilla until smooth.
- Fold in the chia seeds and cacao nibs if using until combined.
- Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish, pressing into the corners and flattening the top.
- Bake for 30 minutes, remove from oven and place on a rack to cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove the bars from the dish by lifting the edges of the parchment paper up and place directly on the rack until cooled completely.
- Cut into 8 pieces and store wrapped tightly or in an air tight container. Bars will keep at room temperature for about 5 days or up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.