In case any question remains, I love power bars: energy bars, granola bars, protein bars, bars Bars BARS! They are such a convenient way to fuel up on the go (anytime, anywhere), so easy to make, and endlessly versatile. Making them at home is such a whopping savings, too, satisfying my inner cheapskate.
It should come as a no surprise, then, that I’m still working on new bar ideas; these no-bake, trail mix granola bars are the latest product of my bar-obsessed imagination. They are lower in added sugar (3 tablespoons of maple syrup for the entire recipe) and overall calories (145 per bar), but also higher in protein (more than 6 grams a serving) than most granola bars, but still scrumptious.
They even have chocolate chips.
Kevin packs his lunch on most days, as well as post-workout snacks (he works out before heading to the office) and he expressly asked if I could make some bars with a healthy balance of carbs and protein that fit the latter category.
He also requested that they not be too weird. Shoot! And I was thinking of doing a spirulina bar (no, not really)…He knows me so well.
So I played around with ideas for a granola bar, and reformulated a no-bake granola bar, adding some great visuals, crunch and flavor with nuts, seeds, dried fruit and a smattering of chocolate chips. To keep the calories and sugar from the dried fruit in check, I used one of my favorite homemade bar tricks: reserve some of the stir-ins for pressing into the top of bars. It gives the visuals and taste sensation of a bar that is loaded with stir-ins when (every bite has goodies), in fact, they are kept to a minimum.
Doesn’t it look as though these bars have heaps of nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate chips?
Two more tweaks were made, one minor, one major. The former was a simple swap, replacing a small portion of the oats with crisp grain cereal (e.g., crisp rice, quinoa crisps, or even popped amaranth). This gives the bars extra textural appeal and keeps them from tasting too dense.
As for the major tweak? In place of regular peanut butter to help “glue” these no bake bars in place, I used peanut butter protein powder (PB2 and PBFit are the most common options). This is a type of protein powder, yes, but is just defatted peanuts (i.e., what remains after most of the peanut oil has been removed) that are then pulverized into a powder (a little bit of sweetener and salt is added, but completely naked versions are available, too: e.g., PBTrimmed, PB&Me and TrueNut). When the powder is mixed with water or milk, it is, essentially, peanut butter, but with a fraction of the fat, but all of the protein.
If you do not wish to use peanut butter powder, I am happy to report that regular peanut butter works, too! You’ll find the option in the recipe. You can use other creamy nut or seed butters, too, to suit your nutritional needs.
I hope you enjoy these as much as everyone at my humble abode! I am going to have to make a second batch today 🙂
- ⅔ cup peanut butter powder (e.g., PB2 or PBFit; see notes for using regular peanut butter)
- ½ cup milk (nondairy or dairy)
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- large pinch of fine sea salt
- ⅓ cup chopped nuts or seeds, divided
- ⅓ cup chopped dried fruit (e.g., cherries, raisins, apricots, figs), divided
- ¾ cup quick-cooking oats (see note if you have old-fashioned oats)
- ⅓ cup crisp grain cereal (e.g., crisp rice cereal, crisp quinoa cereal, popped amaranth)
- 2 tablespoons miniature semisweet chocolate chips
- Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. Lightly spray or grease exposed sides.
- In a large bowl, stir together the peanut butter powder, milk, maple syrup, vanilla and salt until blended and smooth.
- Set aside HALF of the nuts/seed and 2 TABLESPOONS of the dried fruit; add the remaining nuts/seeds and dried fruit, as well as the oats and crisp grain cereal to the bowl. Stir until well blended (mixture will be stiff). Scrape dough into prepared pan.
- Loosely press dough into an even layer in pan. Evenly sprinkle with top of the dough with the chocolate chips, reserved nuts/seeds, and reserved fruit. Very firmly tamp mixture into pan (use a second loaf pan or a measuring cup to do this). Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- Use paper liner to remove bars from pan. Cut crosswise into 7 equal bars.
Peanut Butter/Nut Butter/Seed Butter Option: If desired, substitute ½ cup of creamy peanut butter, or other nut/seed butter, in place of the peanut butter powder & milk.
Sweeteners: If not strictly vegan, feel free to use an equal amount of honey in place of the maple syrup.
Oats: Quick-cooking rolled oats work best in this recipe; they are the same as old fashioned oats, but they have been roughly chopped (that's why they cook faster). If you have old-fashioned oats, simply place them in a food processor and pulse 1-3 times to coarsely chop the oats.