White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Granola Bars
Delicious homemade granola bars studded with macadamia nuts, white chocolate and toasted coconut. And because of the oats, chia seed and almond butter, these granola bars are healthy to boot! A perfect on-the-go breakfast or snack. Gluten Free. <jump to recipe>
This granola bar recipe has existed for much longer than I've had this blog. In fact, this was the first original recipe that I was brave enough to share with friends. And by "brave", I really just mean I watched silently (partially terrified) as Anguel excitedly volunteered my granola bars up to all our friends. See, prior to this moment, all my kitchen experiments stayed between Anguel and me. I was never confident enough to peddle my goods to others – for fear that someone might not like it. As it turns out, my fears were unfounded – people absolutely loved them! And so, my first foray into "public" recipe creation was over with a rather uneventful finish – one that included a request from our friends to send them home with extras.
What I love about granola bars is that they take well to different flavor combinations. You can easily mix up the types of nuts, dried fruit and chocolate to create endless combinations using the same base. Lately, all this drab, cold weather has me wishing for a tropical vacation. Hawaii to be exact. We spent last year's winter holiday in Hawaii – and I'm constantly dreaming about going back. Since that isn't in the cards (at least not this year), I've settled on channeling my cravings into food instead, like these White Chocolate Macadamia Nut granola bars. And warm weather aside, there's nothing quite like a bite of crunchy macadamia nuts and soft, creamy white chocolate. I also throw in dried cranberries and toasted coconut, because in my opinion, they always make granola bars taste better.
Granola bars have to be up there as one of the most versatile snacks, ever. They're a quick on-the-go breakfast or a perfect snack to get you through an afternoon slump. And these bars are healthy to boot. They're loaded with oats, nuts and chia seeds – providing you with a healthy source of whole grains, fats and proteins. Perfect for when you need a kick in the butt of energy. After locking down this recipe, we now make our own granola bars on the regular. Because as healthy as some store bought bars might seem, most are absolutely smothered with sweeteners and sugars of all kinds…and with some brands priced at $2-4 a bar, they start to add up really quick.
This recipe is an easy one to throw together. There's no actual baking once the mixture is assembled – but I do like to toast the nuts, oats and coconut in the oven for 10-15 minutes before combining them with the other ingredients. It gets them toasted up just right, to really boost the flavors; and personally, I much prefer consuming nuts that have either been soaked or roasted (at home), rather than raw. After a quick trip to the oven, you're ready to combine everything into a large bowl.
The binding agent for these bars comes from a quick and easy chia seed mixture (i.e. some seeds thrown into a bowl of water). If you aren't familiar with chia seeds (Salvia Hispanica), they're small seeds that are either black or white in color. They're also the things in Chia pets – remember those? Chia seeds were traditionally consumed by Aztecs and Mayans, and revered for their ability to expand and hold ~10 times their weight in liquid. These tiny seeds are making a comeback with their "superfood" status. And considering that they're an awesome source of fiber, omega-3, omega-6, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamin and manganese…what's not to love?! Chia seeds are popular for healthy puddings – but they also work great anywhere you need a healthy binding agent in cooking / baking. Since they have a very mild taste, you don't need to worry about them impacting the flavor.
An important step to your granola-bar making process is to really get the mixture packed down into the pan. Be firm with them! Spread out your mixture into a parchment lined square baking pan (ideally 10"x10"). Then, use your hands to press down the mixture down as much as possible – get into the corners, the sides and the center. You're aiming for a very compact layer of granola. If you're diligent with this step, then you'll be rewarded with lovely bars that have just the right amount of hold. I like to spend a few minutes packing the mixture down, to be thorough. A second layer of parchment on top of the bars will help keep your hands clean when pressing on the mixture; and it doubles to cover the bars while they set in the fridge. Give them a couple hours to set before slicing (overnight works too). I like to wrap the bars individually to make them easy to just grab on the run, storing them in the fridge for optimal freshness.
Intrigued? You should definitely give these bars a shot! Once you make your first batch, you'll be surprised at how soon after you'll want to whip up another. It's so easy. Which probably explains why it sometimes feels so right to just throw together a batch right before I climb into bed. There's nothing quite like waking up to an awesome healthy weekday breakfast (or afternoon snack) that requires zero prep on the day of!
WHITE CHOCOLATE MACADAMIA NUT GRANOLA BARS
MAKES 15 BARS (GLUTEN FREE)
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 cup water
3 cups rolled oats (regular, not quick cooking)
1 3/4 cups dried coconut, unsweetened (1 cup shredded + 3/4 cup large flakes)*
3/4 cup macadamia nuts (raw)**
1/2 cup almonds (raw)
1 cup puffed rice cereal (or puffed millet cereal)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup almond butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup white chocolate (chopped bar or chocolate chips)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine chia seeds and water in a small bowl and set aside.
Line two baking sheets with parchment. Add the macadamia nuts and almonds to one baking sheet. Pour the oats and dried coconut on the second baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes. The nuts should be lightly toasted; and the oats and coconut will be golden. Stir once or twice to ensure even browning, and remove when cooked (note: the nuts might be done before the oats / coconut or vice versa).
Give the nuts a rough chop. Place the nuts in a large bowl, alongside the oats and coconut. Add puffed rice cereal.
In a small bowl, mix together honey, melted coconut oil, almond butter, vanilla and salt. Pour in the chia seed mixture, and whisk until well combined and smooth. Pour the liquid mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir until the mixture is sticky and well combined. Add the white chocolate and dried cranberries. Stir to incorporate.
Line a 10" x 10" square baking pan with parchment. Pour the mixture evenly into the pan. Add the second layer of parchment on top – so that it's sandwiching the mixture (it keeps your hands clean). Use your hands to pack down the granola firmly. Once the mixture is firmly packed down (including center and edges), smooth the surface with your hands. Place the baking pan (with parchment layer on top) into the fridge. Refrigerate for ~1 1/2 - 2 hours until set. Cut with a sharp knife (~2" x 2.5" pieces) and store in the fridge.
-*A mix of shredded and flaked coconut is recommended. But, if you'd like to only use one type, go for the shredded as it incorporates into the bar a bit easier.
-**Look for raw, unsalted macadamia nuts if possible. If you are unable to locate them, you may substitute for roasted macadamia nuts. If you use roasted macadamia nuts, add them directly to the mixture (chopped) rather than roasting in the oven.