Take a hike, store-bought: I'll make my own granola bars

Do you ever stand in the aisle at the supermarket and say, “Hey, I could make that!”

I do that a lot—especially these days, when it seems the price of everything from a box of crackers to a pound of eggplant is starting to mirror the GNP of, say, Algeria. French bread? Sure, I can make that. Chocolate chip cookies? Not a problem. Rotisserie chicken? Light the grill! Granola bars? Uhhhh….

My-husband-the-granola-bar-fanatic is NOT a fan of homemade. Like my dad, who to his dying day preferred Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets to any fresh-baked treat I’d wave temptingly under his nose, Rick casts a wary glance at baked goods that aren’t sealed in plastic. It’s not a food-safety thing. I mean, the man has been known to eat everything from barely cooked moose meat to moldy American cheese, for crying out loud.

No, it’s more a “homemade means you don’t have enough money for store-bought” thing, which seems to be a leftover credo for many of us forced to eat, say, a liverwurst sandwich made on mom’s homemade rye when our classmates were unwrapping a PB & J on Wonder Bread. Some of us, refugees from the convenience-in-a-can 1950s, learned early that store-bought was cool, and homemade was… well, HOMEMADE. Some of us, unfortunately, have never forgotten that lesson.

So, would I dare to suggest a homemade substitute to the store-bought-granola-bar-fanatic? Not a chance, unless I could convince him that homemade doesn’t mean cheap (inexpensive, yes; cheap, no). And maybe find a way to disguise it in gaudy packaging first. But for those of you who actually LIKE homemade baked goods (the vast majority of you reading this, I assume), give these Chewy Granola Bars a try.

And add another “I can make that!” to your list of accomplishments.

img_4914.JPG
I like to gather my “add-ins” first. Today, I’ve chosen diced apricots, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and coconut. You’ll need 2 to 3 cups of your favorite dried fruits and nuts and seeds.

img_4912.JPG
The recipe calls for 1/3 cup of oat flour. If you don’t have oat flour, process quick oats in a food processor…

img_4913.JPG
…till they look like this.

img_4737.JPG
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. This recipe calls for sticky bun sugar, which gives the bars a nicely chewy interior and pleasingly crisp edge. If you don’t have sticky bun sugar, you can substitute butter, corn syrup, and granulated sugar. The results won’t be quite the same, texture-wise, but the bars will be tasty.

img_4738.JPG
Combine the wet ingredients, then add to the dry ingredients, stirring to combine. The mixture won’t hold together; it’ll be crumbly.

img_4739.JPG
Press into a greased 9” x 13” pan.

img_4746.JPG
Bake for about 25 minutes, till they’re bubbly and beginning to brown, especially around the edges. Wait 10 minutes, then loosen the edges thoroughly, and cut into bars. Flop the pan upside-down; the bars should drop out, pretty much in a complete piece. Finish cutting them and separate them completely once they’re out of the pan.

img_4760.JPG
Let them cool completely, then store in a single layer, covered with plastic. Or individually wrapped, if your family just HAS to have that unwrapping experience in order to enjoy a granola bar…

P.S. I can hear this question coming… “Can you do something different here to turn these into crunchy (rather than chewy) granola bars?” No. Crunchy bars start with an entirely different recipe, one that probably includes flour and egg. I say probably because I’ve been dubbing around, but haven’t finalized anything, and probably won’t anytime soon.

Want to try your hand at developing a crunchy granola bar recipe? Here’s where I am right now: 3 cups oats, 1/2 cup King Arthur white wheat flour, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1/3 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 large egg, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 cup each raisins, nuts, and sunflower seeds. 9” x 13” pan, 300°F, 1 hour. My take so far is that they’re a bit too crumbly; not quite sweet enough; and the raisins burned on top. Take it from here, and post your results in comments; we’ll figure this out together!

Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Chewy Granola Bars.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Nature Valley Chewy Granola Bars, 34¢/ounce

Bake at home: Chewy granola bars, 27¢/ounce

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. melissa

    Perfect timing, as I just ran out of my pre-run Ryvita goodness bars, which are getting more and more difficult to find in stores here. And lo! I have all the ingredients you’ve mentioned above, plus a bunch of oat flour, so I’m good to go. Only I’m going to try these with agave nectar instead, as I’m cutting out sugar… thanks!

    Reply
  2. Joyce

    We love granola bars and homemade! The recipe looks so versatile it can turn into different granola bars easily. I will be making these granola bars this week for sure.

    Reply
  3. DanS

    Any suggestions on modifying this recipe to make it vegan? The sticky bun sugar contains dairy and honey, which are not vegan (honey is debatable, but many vegans don’t eat it). The recipe also seems to contain a lot of oil, though coconut oil would probably provide a nice flavor note.

    Brown rice syrup would nicely replace the honey, with a similar level of sweetness. I use brown rice syrup and barley malt (both syrup and powder) for sweetening.

    The issue with the sticky bun sugar is not knowing anything at all about the level of sweetness or other properties of this ingredient, thus making substitutions a mystery. Can someone post a suitable substitute?

    Dan, how about using the substitute offered in the recipe, substituting rice syrup for the corn syrup, and margarine for the butter? – PJH

    Reply
  4. Juliane

    Looks yummy!
    We know home made tastes better, but sometimes we miss the knowledge that comes with that label. It would be great to have a per serving nutritional analysis of these recipes, so we can see how they fit in with the other foods we’re eating that come with labels.

    Thanks!

    Yes, agreed it would be nice… We’re working on getting nutrition statements for all of our recipes. It’s a long, labor-intensive process, but we’re making gradual headway. Thanks for your input – PJH

    Reply
  5. Mary

    What can be added to increase the amount of protein to the recipe without killing the taste (too much)?

    I’ve heard people add protein powder to granola bars – maybe you could substitute that for the oat flour? Never tried it – give it a whirl. – PJH

    Reply
  6. Annette

    In response to adding protein without affecting taste too much, try adding some wheat germ to the dry ingredients. It has 26.6 grams of protein in 1 cup, and is also high in several other minerals and nutrients. You might want to start with 1/4 to 1/2 cup. I add wheat germ to many unexpected things—meat loaf, cookies, also bread dough. You really don’t taste it, much, but it does have a bit of a nutty flavor. I would think it would be great in granola bars. The protein powder would probably work, too. Good luck!

    Reply
  7. Angela

    I am really enjoying all these wonderful posts, especially this one. It brings up that topic of standing in the store aisle and saying “I could make that” and I have tried that with many things, but I still haven’t found a really good recipe for graham crackers and animal crackers. Any ideas? My kids love these treats but they are getting expensive to buy and they have all the preservatives and things that my kids can’t eat. Do you have any recipes for these classics? Thanks for the great recipes and pictures and hints about making all these delectables! I LOVE the garlic knot recipe!

    Angela, you can definitely make good graham crackers at home. Try our Graham Cracker recipe; there’s a chocolate graham cracker recipe there as well. Our whole grain baking book has a slightly different recipe. As for animal crackers – I’ve never figured out 1) how to cut those little shapes, and 2) how to get that very distinctive taste. Anyone out there made them? – PJH

    Reply
  8. keri

    For those looking for nutritional info on homemade goods… I don’t want to advertise for another website here, but there is a calorie counting (free) website out there that lets you cut and paste a recipe in and it will calculate everything for you, no special forms to fill out. You just have to make sure ingredients aren’t too exotic, it seems, and measurements should be standard…

    Reply
  9. Ros

    These look lovely, I am definately going to try these when my kids go back to school, they will make a great healthy playtime snack.

    Reply
  10. Kristy

    I made these last night-yum! Rave reviews from the family, including my picky 2 year old. Could these bars be frozen? Individually wrapped, maybe? Thanks!
    Absolutely, this is a great way to store these wonderful treats. JD @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  11. non

    “If you don’t have sticky bun sugar, you can substitute butter, corn syrup, and granulated sugar.”

    in what proportions?

    does veg. oil work in place of butter if i want to make this nondairy or is the taste of the butter crucial?

    thanks
    Yes, you can use either veg oil or margarine. JD @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Non, read the entire recipe online, in our recipe section, and you’ll find the exact proportions. – PJH

    Reply
  12. Sarah

    Yum!! Just finished making these and they are great. I changed the recipe a bit, and glad I wrote down what I did so I can duplicate it, I hope. I used a combo of dried cranberries, cherries (a lot of these), pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds and wheat germ for the dried fruit/nut mix. My sunflower seeds have been in the freezer too long, so they aren’t the freshest, and the bars are still great! I didn’t have the sticky bun sugar, so I used the substitution. But I did NOT use the additional 1/3 cup sugar. They are plenty sweet enough for our family. I might even us less sugar the next time. I used Grade B maple syrup instead of honey or corn syrup and it gave the bars a subtle maple flavor.I have tried lots of granola bar recipes through the years, and this one is the best! Winning recipe! Thanks!!!

    Reply
  13. Alissa

    I love this blog! I can’t wait to try these to use my sticky bun sugar. Unfortunately, it got hard. I’ve tried grating it and that is just slow but effective. I don’t have a food processor but am thinking of giving it a go in my blender. I’ll let you know if it works!

    In response to a post a couple back about animal crackers, I thought for sure I bought from KAF a cute little mold (white plastic) that could be used to bake animal crackers or make chocolates. I used it once with the recipe it came with but wasn’t successful. I figured it was just me. So there is a mold out there and a recipe that perhaps just needs tweaked. If only I could find it. Maybe I can use the graham cracker recipe in the mold?

    Alissa, you’re right, we did used to sell this mold. Try calling our customer service team (800.827.6836) or LiveChat with them (link on our home page) – ask if any of them can find that old recipe… PJH

    Reply
  14. keri

    Karen, sorry– I wasn’t sure if I should name the site– I guess this comment will be removed if it’s not appropriate! :)

    http://www.calorie-count.com

    FINE – That’s what we’re all about, sharing the joy of baking. And calorie counting, unfortunately, is something we should all share! — PJH

    Reply
  15. Julie

    I love this recipe. I cannot have the sticky bun sugar cause it has soy in it and I’m allergic to soy, so I use brown sugar in it’s place. And I use old fashion rolled oats instead of instant because I like those better for taste and texture. I will use 1/3 cup wheat germ in place of the oat flour. With the cinnamon and natural peanutbutter, raw honey and melted butter I will use 1 cup of dried fruit to 2 cups of raw mixed nuts and seeds to the rest of the ingrediants and they turn out great. And they are pretty filling and nothing artificial which is fantastic. I’m not vegetarian, I just have a lot of food allergies and it’s really hard to buy commercial made items-I have to make a lot of my own and this was a blessing to find this recipe!! Thank goodness I can have nuts (knock on wood) I cannot wait for a crispy granola bar recipe to try. In the meantime I cannot make these fast enough to keep up!!!

    Reply
  16. Elisabeth

    This recipe looks delicious! One quick question-you’ve been using ground quick oats in several recipes recently…is it possible to grind steel cut oats instead? Thanks!

    Elisabeth, give it a try – you want something that’s soft, though, not gritty. If you can grind them VERY fine, like flour, then yes. But if they’re sandy/gritty/gravelly texture, then no. Rolled oats are steamed and flattened and softened first, so they’re an entirely different texture than steel-cut… PJH

    Reply
  17. Karen

    This is fantastic. It never occurred to me that I could make granola bars. Last year, I created my own trail mix, because I was was diagnosed as allergic to peanuts – try finding a trail mix or granola bar that’s not contaminated with peanuts. And this year I’m on to being allergic to flax seed, too. Thanks, so much for this site!

    Reply
  18. k8

    Another way to get calorie counts is to use recipe software that will calculate it for you. Mine was fairly inexpensive, as software goes, and it taught me some “interesting” things about some family recipes.

    Reply
  19. Anet

    That’s how it was — homemade meant you couldn’t always afford the wonder bread or baked goodies from the store. (I can tell we’re both from the 50′s era.) But now, I go back to my roots and bake the real homemade foods more and more because they taste better. Thanks for all these genuine homey recipes — I’m trying this one today.

    Reply
  20. Kate

    PJ, for your crunch version, have you tried toasting the oatmeal first? That’s an essential step when I make my homemade oatmeal. It might contribute some crunch.

    Hi, Kate – Yes, I tried it, but maybe I toasted it too much; it didn’t seem to add much to the crunch, but instead resulted in an unpleasant, smoky flavor… Thanks for the suggestion, though – PJH

    Reply
  21. Laurie

    My husband and I are not morning people, so we usually eat a granola bar for breakfast on the way out the door. I thought I would try these instead of our usual Kahsi brand. I used 15 oz of fruits and nuts, the optional peanut butter, and the substitution listed for the sticky bun sugar. I cooked them for about 30 min until they were brown on the edges. But, they didn’t turn into bars. They came out a crumbly and slightly greasy mess instead. They tasted okay, but were definately not bars. How can I fix this problem? I would really rather make them myself.

    Laurie, leave out the optional peanut butter – I think you’ll like them better. – PJH

    Reply
  22. Linda

    The recipe looks great!! I am going to try it this weekend.

    However, I do have a question – What is the difference in “quick rolled oats” and “quick oatmeal”?? In different parts of the country the names are sometime interchangeable.

    Hi Linda – Quick rolled oats are rolled oats that are cut in smaller pieces, thus cooking more quickly. Quick oats are the same thing; different terminology. What you DON’T want to use is instant oatmeal – the stuff in the little packets. – PJH

    Reply
  23. Janet

    In answer to Alissa, I found my recipe for animal crackers, as I had also bought the molds from KAF. This is the recipe that came with the molds (which are quite cute!) As I recall, I made them once. They tasted good, but the texture was not right. I don’t believe I ever tried the recipe again! Maybe someone would like to tackle that problem!

    Wild Animal Crackers
    1 1/4 c. KAF (all-purpose)
    1/2 c. oat flour or finely ground rolled oats
    1/2 c. sugar
    1/4 c. malted milk powder
    1 t. baking powder
    1/2 . salt
    1/2 c. butter, soft
    2 t. vanilla
    1/8 t. Fiori Di Sicilia or lemon oil or 1 t. lemon zest
    3 T. corn syrup
    Preheat oven to 350 deg. F
    In food processor or medium sized bowl, combine the dry ingred. Add soft butter and pulse or mix till crumbly. Add flavorings and corn syrup and process just till the dough comes together. Add 1 T. water if needed to make the dough cohesive. Shape dough into 3/4″ balls and press into ungreased molds. Place molds on baking sheet and bake for 10 – 12 min. Cool in molds for 5 min, then turn onto rack to cool.

    Reply
  24. Andrea

    YAY! This is the exact replica of my favorite Nature Valley bar. Even with couponing, the cheapest I can get these for is 2.29 for 2 boxes after double coupons… I mean, 19 cents a bar IS inexpensive. But given my propensity for preferring homemade to store-bought-who-knows-what-the-heck-half-those-ingredients-are-for granola bars (or bread…or cannoli…or, well, whatever!), I am SO making these this weekend after my son’s first birthday party.

    Which, by the way, I’m using the chocolate and vanilla cake recipe posted a while back. I’m making a Cupcake Catepillar Cake – this way, I can save the cupcakes that aren’t eaten as opposed to half a cake just getting stale on my counter… ;)

    Reply
  25. Robin

    I just made them-with the sparkling sugar substitute-and think they are too sweet. I am going to have to cut something out the next time I make them, maybe the extra 1/3 cup sugar. I am NOT one to experiment on my own-and I don’t want to change the texture. Just lower the sugar content.

    Robin, definitely try them without the 1/3 cup sugar,and let us know how you like them – PJH

    Reply
  26. Cleosa Valentine

    I’ve just finished baking these delicious granola bars. They are very, very sweet, and tasty, but I am a little disappointed in the fact that they never really set up, i.e., you can’t pick one up and eat it like a regular granola bar; it just falls apart. It must be put into a bowl and eaten with a fork or spoon – not a bad thing, just not convenient. What have I done wrong?

    The recipe was followed, using your suggested substitute for the Sticky Bun sugar (using corn syrup). I used Craisins, dried apricots, pecans, and sunflower seeds for my fruit/nut mix-of-choice and baked until lightly browned and bubbly on the edges. After completely cooling they don’t hold together. Any suggestions?

    Hi Cleosa,
    Did you use just corn syrup or did you combine butter, corn syrup and granulated sugar? You do need to use all three and the bars will be a little less firm than with sticky bun sugar.

    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  27. Cleosa

    I followed the substitution exactly, i.e., butter, corn syrup and granulated sugar. Perhaps letting it bake a little longer while protecting it with foil to keep it from browning further might help? Guess I’ll be ordering the Sticky Bun Sugar with my next order :-)

    Cleosa, I really don’t like “forcing” people to buy stuff from us, but it’s a tough situation when we have these specialty ingredients that really do make a difference, and work so well. The substitutes available don’t work AS well, but there you have it; that’s life. Not always perfect! – PJH

    Reply
  28. Lucy

    I made these from the recipe before I read the blog. They differ in the cooling instructions. Blog says to cut & flip out of the pan after 10 min. I followed the recipe instructions which are to cut into bars after 10 min, then cool completely in the pan. They are VERY hard to get out of the pan.
    I also had the same problem Cleosa did in that they were crumbly. Now, however, 2 days later, they are holding together in bars (we just eat them out of the pan until they’re gone.) I think the August humidity is helping to hold them together. I used the sticky bun sugar substitute with sugar, butter and corn syrup. I also subbed white flour for the oat flour.

    Thanks, Lucy – I think they need to come out of the pan sooner rather than later, so I changed the recipe to reflect the blog. The Sticky Bun Sugar helps hold them together, too; the sub. doesn’t work quite as well, but it DOES work OK (or at least it did for me!) Thanks for the input. – PJH

    Reply
  29. Caryl

    I made them using the substitution and thought they were really tasty, but sticky. I am going to make them again using the Sticky Bun Sugar which I will get on my next KAF order. PJ, would it be better to store them wrapped individually in plastic wrap and kept in the freezer, or not?
    If they aren’t going to be eaten up by a hungry horde, immediately, or if you want to keep them for a couple of weeks worth of lunches, then definitely wrap them individually and freeze them.

    Reply
  30. Gayle

    If using sunflower seeds and/or nuts in the recipe, do you recommend using salted or unsalted? (And in the case of almonds, raw or toasted?) Thanks!

    Hi Gayle – Unsalted, unless you have a high tolerance for (or like) salty food. Almonds taste better toasted, but you can get away with plain, too. – PJH

    Reply
  31. k8

    I’ve tried the recipe twice now, and both times I’ve had a lot of trouble. The end product tastes fine, but it isn’t a bar. It’s more of a crumble. I’m not sure what’s going wrong.

    I’ve followed the recipe exactly, but each time I have a horrible time getting the bars out of the pan. A well-greased non-stick pan. The bars are just stuck to the bottom and I can’t scrape them out. Both times I’ve had to soak the pan for a long time just to get it clean again.

    What could be causing the problem? This might easily be my greatest baking disaster in 20 years.

    OUCH! That’s quite a statement… Are you using sticky bun sugar, or the sugar/corn syrup/butter substitute? Parchment paper would cure the sticking. Are the bars themselves REALLY sticky, as opposed to chewy? Are you using the ingredients the recipe says, or substituting? What liquid sweetener are you using: honey, maple syrup (fake or real), or corn syrup? I can try to replicate what you’re doing tomorrow, see what happens… Let me know, OK? We need to get to the bottom of this sticky situation! – PJH

    OK, I just made them, using corn syrup, melted butter, and sugar in place of the sticky bun sugar. I also cut out the additional 1/3 cup granulated sugar. They went together fine, baked fine. I took them out of the oven, loosened the edges. Waited 5 minutes, and thought I’d see what would happen if I just flopped the pan over, rather than cutting into bars first – would the whole sheet drop out? It did – except for about a 1″ strip along one short edge. So next time, I’d use parchment paper, and would avoid that issue. I also might cut them in half, then flop the pan over. I cut them into bars with a pizza wheel, and now I’m waiting for them to cool so I can see how sticky they are. So I’m sorry, I haven’t really shed any light on your travails… does anyone else have any thoughts? – PJH

    Reply
  32. k8

    I tried the substitution and used the honey as a liquid sweetener. The bars themselves aren’t sticky. The parchment paper sounds like a good solution, one that I should have thought of. I was thinking that maybe the sugar content was too high and that it was crystallizing, especially on the sides. Also, I waited 10 minutes to cut them like the recipe said. Maybe sooner would be better.

    Like I said, it tastes good – we’ve been eating it as cereal or crumbled up in yogurt. I was just shocked at how much it stuck to the pan. It was just a little strange since I normally have good luck with baked goods.

    Yeah, I’ll change the directions to 5 minutes. They’re still pliable then, and easy to cut. I enjoyed one last night; chewy, and very good leaving out the 1/3 cup sugar, so I think I’ll make that change to the recipe, too (I had lots of fruit in mine, which helped sweeten them). Thanks for your input—you’ve helped develop this recipe! – PJH

    Reply
  33. JR

    PJ, Can you give us the nutritional content of the sticky bun sugar? Once we have that, we can use one of the websites or software programs that calculate nutritional value. Thanks!

    JR, I’ll forward this along to the woman in charge of our ingredients nutritionals – see if she can pry it out of the vendor info. Stay tuned- PJH

    Link to our product page for sticky bun sugar, and you’ll be able to click through to the nutritional information. Thanks for your patience- PJH

    Reply
  34. k8

    Dropping the sugar sounds like a good idea. Mine were fairly sweet – I, too, had used a lot of fruit + dark chocolate chunks. Tasty, but almost cloyingly sweet.

    Reply
  35. Melissa

    I made these last month for the first time, using the substitute for the sticky bun sugar, and they came out well-my husband and son really enjoyed them (it didn’t hurt adding a few chocolate chunks either). But, I broke down a few weeks ago, purchased the sticky bun sugar and made them using that last night. What a difference! Even my husband, who was skeptical about the sugar, was surprised. They have a crunchier outside and chewier inside, and hold together much better this time around. Also, I lined the pan with parchment paper to make it easier to take the bars out, because that’s where I had the problems last time. These are definitely a keeper and much better that store bought.

    Reply
  36. Ina

    Can I buy the Sticky Bun Sugar somewhere in a store? I live in Denver, CO. I made the bars last night, using the substitute. Very delicious, but very crumbly and stuck to the pan like crazy. Would like to try them with the S.B. Sugar.
    Unfortunately, we only sell the sticky bun sugar through the catalogue. Try greasing the pan with Crisco or spraying it more heavily. Molly@KAF

    Reply
  37. valereee

    My daughter has been after me to make chewy granola bars for over a year, so this is great. I’ve added the sticky bun sugar to my cart…which now contains 9 items @ a whopping $159! Just waiting for the next discount promo to start, since I just missed one! :D

    Reply
  38. suziq

    I see Janet posted a recipe for Animal Crackers, and had used the Fiori di Sicilia flavoring. Haven’t used that, but thinking of the aroma of animal crackers, I remembered that I had something in my kitchen that had that same aroma. The Lorann brand Princess Cake and Cookie flavoring smells just like animal crackers!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Just about like any cookie – keep them tightly wrapped at room temperature. They’ll gradually dry out, but can’t say for sure how long that’ll take, as it depends on how dry your kitchen is. I’d imagine they’d be good for at least a week, under most conditions. PJH

  39. Elena

    I do trust all of the ideas you have introduced in your post. They are very convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too brief for newbies. May you please lengthen them a bit from next time? Thank you for the post.

    Reply

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *