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Summer Snack: Gluten Free Granola Bars

Planning on a hike or a camping trip? Feeling barbecue food fatigue? Get your energy back with this delicious recipe for gluten free and very versatile granola bars.

When a recipe is labeled a "favorite" or "the best," a level of high expectation is raised. While this granola recipe may look like any other granola on any grocery store shelf, it is the best granola bar I’ve tested and tasted.

After more than one year's work that included 11 failed granola recipes, and a half hour harassing a local baker about her secret to the perfect granola, I finally found one that I can call my favorite. My vision of the perfect granola bar is that it is crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, all natural (no hidden corn syrup or ingredients I can’t spell), not boring, not too crumbly and not too sweet.

This recipe is what I was looking for: It is crunchy with the right amount of sweetness and pleasantly fragrant with cinnamon, peanut butter and vanilla. There was really nothing to change from the original recipe, but being curious, I still wanted to experience different possibilities and mixtures to make it my own, and I recommend doing the same.

The recipe calls for two to three cups of dried fruits and nuts. In my mix, I used walnuts, dried cranberries, dried apricots, sunflower seeds, unsweetened coconut flakes, for aroma and taste, and flaxseeds for their subtle nutty flavor and abundance of Omega-3 fatty acids.

You don’t have to follow the choice of fruits and nuts to the letter, and that what makes this recipe so versatile. Look at it as a base, a white canvas for you to create your favorite granola bar recipe using the fruits, nuts, seeds and spices you like: Dried cranberries, apricots, raisins, dried cherries, pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut, walnuts, cinnamon, ground clove, coffee extract, almond extract, vanilla, sesame seeds, flax seeds, dried apples or even chocolate chips. As long as you respect the ratio of liquid and dry ingredients to the 2-3 cups of nuts and dried fruits, the possibilities are endless.

If you like granola bars thicker than the one pictured, use a smaller cake pan (explained in the recipe). And if you want to turn this granola bar recipe into a granola you can enjoy in your cereal bowl, wait 10 to 15 minutes to cool and break it down into big or small chunks using a metal spatula.

Warda's favorite chewy granola bars

Adapted from a recipe originally found on Kingarthurflour.com

  • 1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats (for gluten free diet, make sure the oats are certified gluten free)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar 
  • 1/3 cup oat bran 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (total of 10-15 ounces)*
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (I used peanut butter) 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • 6 Tbsp. melted butter (use oil if you're vegan)
  • 1/4 cup+2 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan (for thicker bars) or a 13" x 9" x 2" pan (for thinner bars) in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing firmly to ensure ingredients mold to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this — press down on it.)

Bake the bars for 25-30 minutes (for bigger pan), 30-40 minutes (for smaller pan), until brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the top, too. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked if you press into the center of the pan. But do not worry: they’ll set completely when completely cool.

Cool the bars in the pan on a cooling rack. 

When cool, use the parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars. With a serrated knife (or bench knife) cut the bars into squares. If bars seem crumbly, chill the pan in the fridge for 30 minutes to fully set the “glue”, then cut them while cold. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.

*Suggestions: Dried cranberries, apricots, raisins, dried cherries, pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut, walnuts, sesame seeds, flax seeds, dried apples or even chocolate chips. My mix: 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup flax seeds, 1/2 cup dried apricots, 1 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes. 

Local shopping spots

  • Nuts:  has a sale on organic whole raw almonds ($8.99/lb.), a savings of $2 per pound. has a sale on pistachios, $7/2 containers at 10 oz. each.
  • Dried cherries: Whole Foods Market has a sale on organic dried red cherries ($13.99/lb), a savings of $2 per pound.
  • Pumpkin seeds: Whole Foods Market has a sale on organic raw pumpkin seeds ($4.99/lb) savings of $1)
  • Peanut butter: If you are a frequent consumer of peanut butter, Whole Foods Market has a sale on Santa Cruz organic peanut butter in creamy or crunchy varieties ($3.99/16 oz.). The market also has small individual servings of peanut butter from Peanut Butter & Co. (69c/1.15oz) that are perfect for this recipe. of West Bloomfield has a sale on old-fashion Jif peanut butter in creamy or crunchy varieties, $4/2 jars, 17.3-18 oz. each.
  • Honey: in West Bloomfield and Farmington Hills has a sale on Sleeping Bear Farms honey ($3.49/12 oz.). Whole Foods Market also offers online, printable coupons and you can get $1 off on any one 12-oz. bottle of 365 Everyday Value Organic Wildflower honey.
KP July 06, 2011 at 07:20 PM
I will try it very soon, thank you for all the detailed pictures of each step!
Johanna Porto November 24, 2011 at 03:56 AM
Can you substitute something for the wheat bran? My son has celiac disease, and we can use gluten free oats, but I can't find any gluten free wheat bran!
Timothy Rath November 24, 2011 at 02:24 PM
Johanna, I'm sorry, I might be misunderstanding your question. The recipe calls for oat bran — I think that gluten free oat bran is common.
Johanna Porto November 25, 2011 at 01:56 AM
Gluten free oats are, not oat bran. Where have you seen gluten free oat bran?
Timothy Rath November 25, 2011 at 01:20 PM
Have you tried Montana Gluten Free? I found this via Google: http://www.montanaglutenfree.com/gluten-free-store/product_details.php?item_id=3

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