Paleo Granola Bars

Like a Powerbar, but with more pronounceable ingredients.
Granola bars are traditionally thought of as a healthy food. Their dirty little secret is that most of them are about as good for you as a candy bar, but without all that pesky “flavor.” Energy bars are pretty similar, except that they normally add in a lot of ingredients whose names are used in the semifinal rounds of many spelling bees. Protein bars do a little better on the macronutrient profile, but again, they’re mainly made from things that don’t have a cute colloquial name because they have to be called by their chemical name for legal reasons.

It’s hard to argue with the convenience of a granola bar, though. You’re hungry, it’s there, you eat it, you move on with your life. There’s no heating up pans or chopping up vegetables. So, I wanted to see if I could come up with a paleo version that would taste good, be good for you, and be portable enough to throw in a lunch bag. I used some nuts and fruit, and even threw in some flax seed because everyone keeps telling me it’s good for me. They turned out pretty good.

Miriam has gotten tired of my “store everything in its original bag approach,
and has moved things to more respectable containers since I took this picture.

Ingredients

1 cup almonds
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup flaxseed meal (or almond meal)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dried apples (chopped)
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 tsp honey
2 tsp vanilla extract

Equipment

Large Bowl
Microwave-Safe Bowl
Rectangular Baking Pan
Parchment Paper (recommended)
Food Processor (recommended)

Start by chopping the almonds and walnuts. It’s easiest to chop them in a food processor, but you could crush them or chop them with a knife if you don’t have a food processor handy. This is an unusual situation where you want to end up with different sizes. Some should be almost whole, and some should be almost dust.

You might want to process half the nuts for a few pulses,
and then add the other half for a few more pulses.
That will help make sure you end up with a variety of sizes.

Add the nuts to a large bowl with the flaxseed meal, coconut, and salt. Chop the apples into small pieces and add them to the bowl as well.

I get my dried apples from Trader Joe’s. They have lots of unsweetened, unsulfured dried fruit.

Mix all the dry ingredients to get them evenly distributed.

If you don’t mix the dry ingredients together now, you’ll end up with some bars that are all apple later.

Put the almond butter, coconut oil, and honey into a microwave-safe bowl and heat them for 30 seconds to a minute, until the everything has become more liquid and can be mixed together easily. Add the vanilla extract to the bowl and mix the wet ingredients together.

You need to heat this up so that you can mix it in like a liquid.
When it cools back down, it will solidify again and help keep the bars held together.

Add the wet ingredients to the large bowl, and mix everything together so that the dry ingredients are evenly coated with the wet ingredients.

The mixture will have the consistency of mortar.
Of course, unless you’re a bricklayer, that description probably isn’t very useful.

Add the mixture to a rectangular baking dish lined with parchment paper (if you don’t have parchment paper, grease the baking dish very well before adding the mixture to it.) Press the mixture into the dish as tightly as you can. If you have a second baking dish of the same size, you can put it on top of the mixture and press down on it to help you get everything packed tightly. It is very important to pack everything tightly, or the bars will fall apart. Go ahead and pre-cut the bars now. This will make them easier to cut later.

That isn’t a standard 9×13 baking dish. It’s a little smaller. If you try to use a 9×13 dish, the bars will be a little too thin.

Put the bars into the refrigerator for at least an hour. When they’ve cooled down, remove the whole mass of bars from the pan and cut them along the pre-cut lines.

Notes

  • I like dried apples a lot, so I used them. You could substitute any dried fruit that you like. Just make sure that the pieces aren’t too big.
  • I pulsed the almonds and walnuts a total of about 20 times in my food processor. Some were dust and some were almost whole.
  • I stored these by wrapping each one in foil and putting them in a plastic bag in the fridge. They keep their bar shape at room temperature, but will start to soften if they get hot. I wanted to guard against that by having them cold to start.
  • When I say “press the mixture into the dish as tightly as you can,” I mean go nuts. I put a second pan on top of the mixture and used most of my weight to push down on it to really pack everything tight. The tighter you can pack it, the better the bars will hold their shape.
  • Pre-cutting the bars in the baking pan helps keep them from cracking when you do the final cut after they’ve cooled in the fridge.
  • A standard baking dish is about 9×13 inches. That’s probably too big for this recipe – the bars will be too thin. The one I used is about 8×10. If you’ve got one that’s 9×9, that should work too. If not, you could multiply all the quantities by about 1.5 and use a 9×13 inch pan.
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