These chewy, soft granola bars are loaded with goodies but none of the bad stuff.
Naturally sweetened, gluten free, and vegan friendly.
With so many ways to change them up, you can make a different batch every week!
Some people love a crunchy granola bar (I do) and some love a soft granola bar (I do). I’ve found a lot of kids prefer the soft kind, so when I started working on this recipe a few months ago, my goal was something that was sweet (but not TOO sweet), soft and chewy (without falling apart) and easy to adapt (no one wants to eat the same kind forever, right?).
These are JUST what we’re looking for. They’re a great afternoon snack or a fun surprise in a lunchbox. After all that testing, here are a few secrets to the best homemade soft granola bars (plus a lot of different variations to choose from)…
1. Choose the right sweeteners.
I’ve experimented quite a bit and I’ve found that brown rice syrup is my favorite base for the sweetener. It’s made from brown rice (really!). It’s sweet but not overpowering and is thick enough to help really hold everything together well. I add 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup or honey (you can use agave or apple honey) to add flavor, but the brown rice syrup will really help hold things together. You’ll also really want to follow the directions and let the mixture boil 3-4 minutes before pouring it into your oatmeal mixture.
2. Vary the texture.
The big thing I’ve learned is that adding some crisp rice really makes the texture much more like what you’re used to in a store-bought granola bar. It keeps things from being too dense, and the crunch is great! If you’re not gluten free, you can go the Rice Krispies route. For gluten free crisp rice, we like Erewhon brand (which we buy at Sprouts, online at Thrive, or in bulk at Amazon).
3. Pack them tightly.
The biggest thing is that the more densely you can pack them into your container, the better they’ll stay together as they cool. If you don’t pat them down at all, they’ll more or less fall apart when you pick them up. If you really pack them down, you shouldn’t have any trouble slicing them into bars or squares.
Beyond that, the most important thing is to choose your favorite goodies! These work really well with things like dried fruit, nuts, or seeds. To change things up, don’t hesitate to add coconut, chocolate chips, or even little mini M&M’s (if you’re not dairy free). I’ve written in a few flavor suggestions into the recipe (see the notes), but here are a few to get you started…
- Coconut Macadamia Nut
- Monster Bars (mini M&M’s and peanuts)
- Apricot Cherry (dried apricots and cherries)
- Pumpkin Seeds & Chocolate Chips
- Coconut Chocolate Chip
- Cinnamon Raisin
- Cherry Pistachio
- Honey Nut
- Chocolate Cherry
- Cherry Almond
The possibilities are nearly endless. You could make a different batch every week for months without running out of flavor combinations!
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The perfect base recipe for soft, chewy granola bars. Be sure to see the notes for a few variation ideas and experiment to come up with your own!
- 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
- 1 cup crisp rice cereal
- pinch salt
- 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
- 2 Tbsp honey or pure maple syrup
- 4 Tbsp coconut oil (you could use butter if you prefer)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup add-ins (raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, candies, etc.)
- Line an 8×8″ baking dish with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine the oats, crisp rice, and salt. Stir to combine well.
- In a small saucepan, combine brown rice syrup, honey, and coconut oil. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring regularly. Boil 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla extract.
- Pour wet mixture over the oat mixture. Add your extras (nuts, fruit, etc.) and stir to combine really well. Press into an 8×8″ baking dish and press down as hard as possible. The more compact, the better.
- Let cool completely (or store in the refrigerator). Slice into bars or squares and enjoy!
- Store extras in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week or the freezer for up to 3 months.
Coconut Macadamia – Add 1/8 tsp almond extract in with the vanilla. Add 1/4 cup shredded coconut and 1/4 cup macadamia nuts for your add-ins.
Raisin Cookie – add 1/4 tsp cinnamon or chai spice and 1/2 cup raisins (or 1/4c raisins and 1/4c chocolate chips) for your add-ins
Honey Almond– use honey for the extra sweeter and add 1/8 tsp almond extract in with the vanilla. Add 1/2 cup almonds for your add-ins.
Cherry Chocolate – add 1/8 tsp almond extract in with the vanilla (optional). Add 1/4 cup chopped dried cherries and 1/4 cup chocolate chips (mini, if you have them) for the add-ins.