This granola bar recipe has existed for much longer than we’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 10-12 minutes before combining them with the other ingredients. A quick toast in the oven really helps bring out the flavor.
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 Granola Bars
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds (see note 1)
- ½ cup water
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1¾ cups shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- ¾ cup macadamia nuts (raw/untoasted)
- ½ cup almonds (raw/untoasted)
- ⅓ cup melted coconut oil
- ⅓ cup honey
- ¼ cup almond butter (smooth and unsalted, see note 2)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup puffed rice cereal
- 1 cup chopped white chocolate, divided (from a bar or chocolate chips)
- ½ to ¾ cup dried cranberries (see note 3)
- Preheat: Put the racks in the upper- and lower-thirds of the oven; preheat to 350°F (177°C).
- Hydrate chia: Combine chia and water in a large bowl. Let sit 10 minutes to thicken.
- Toast ingredients: Line two baking sheets with parchment. Scatter oats and coconut on one sheet. Scatter macadamia nuts and almonds on the other. Bake until the coconut and nuts look lightly toasted, 10 to 12 minutes, stirring halfway through. One sheet might be done before the other, so just pull it when it's ready. Let cool slightly on baking sheets.
- Wet ingredients: To the chia mixture, add coconut oil, honey, almond butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir until smooth.
- Add dry ingredients: Give the nuts a rough chop. Add oats, coconut, macadamia nuts, almonds, and puffed rice cereal to wet ingredients. Stir until evenly coated.
- Add melted chocolate and other mix-ins: Gently melt ½ cup of the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Pour over the mixture and stir until well combined. Fold in remaining chopped chocolate and cranberries.
- Chill: Line 1 (9-inch) square baking pan with parchment. Transfer the mixture into the pan. Place a second piece of parchment on top. Use your hands or back of measuring cup to firmly pack mixture into pan. Refrigerate until firm (about 1½ hours). Lift the chilled mixture from the pan and cut into bars (see note 4).
- Chia seeds: While any color of chia seed works, I usually opt for white chia seeds here so I don't have to worry about getting a black chia seed stuck in my teeth when I'm out and about.
- Almond butter: If your almond butter is salted, you may wish to add a bit less salt (depending on how salty your almond butter is).
- Dried cranberries: I prefer juice-sweetened cranberries here, which tend to be a bit less sweet. If you're using dried cranberries that are quite sweet, stick to the lower end of the range to avoid over-sweetening the bars.
- Storage tip: Wrap bars or place them in an airtight container. Refrigerate.