Perfectly portable, endlessly versatile, and unquestionably crowd-pleasing, this simple recipe for No-Bake Granola Bars will knock your socks off. Made with 6 main ingredients in 5 minutes, it’s hard to imagine a faster, easier snack recipe for back-to-school season. Bonus points for being refined sugar-free and naturally gluten-free.
Despite not having any kiddos of my own, I’ve always loved when Back-to-School rolls around. Honestly, who doesn’t love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, the potential of a brand new adorable notebook ready to be filled with incredible ideas, or the promise of fall right around the corner?
This incredibly delicious and super nutritious recipe for homemade granola bars was the result of my yearning for a cute packed lunch, complete with a note from my Mom on the napkin. Rather than reaching for packaged varieties that are loaded with added sugars and are far too expensive when you consider what they’re made of, I figured I’d learn how to make my own.
The base of this recipe is mostly made from pantry staples. It's a simple granola bar made from quick-cooking oats, cinnamon, salt, maple syrup, nut butter, and vanilla extract. You then have the option of adding shredded coconut, chocolate chips, nuts and seeds, and even dried fruit.
And, since this recipe doesn’t require the oven, it’s literally no sweat to make! You'll never go back to store-bought after you try this recipe!
As promised, you don’t need much to make these healthy granola bars. Here’s your list:
- Rolled Oats or Quick-Cooking Oats - Oats are arguably one of the healthiest foods around, meaning these sweet treats aren’t just tasty but are also healthy. In fact, the FDA recognizes that the consumption of oats is associated with a diminished risk of heart disease. As if that weren’t enough to love, oats are also loaded with beneficial nutrients such as phosphorus, thiamine, magnesium, and zinc. If you prefer chewy granola bars, opt for rolled (a.k.a. old-fashioned) oats. If you like them more tender, go for the quick-cooking or instant variety. Unfortunately, steel-cut oats will NOT work for this recipe.
- Ground Cinnamon - I feel like cinnamon is a no-brainer for giving these DIY granola bars a warm and cozy flavor. Feel free to experiment with any other warming spices you like, including pumpkin pie spice, apple pie spice, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, or allspice. You can also play with other powdered ingredients like cacao powder, protein powder, or matcha.
- Salt - A touch of salt will wake up all the other flavors of these tasty snacks.
- Maple Syrup or Agave Nectar - Either will work to help bind the oat mixture and give it satisfying sweetness without adding refined sugar. You can also use brown sugar syrup or date syrup if you prefer! Plus, we’re only using ¼ cup for the whole batch, so I think we can consider these low-sugar granola bars, right?
- Nut Butter - Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, pecan butter… the options are nearly endless! In need of a nut-free granola bar? Try using tahini, sunflower seed butter, soynut butter, or even cookie butter instead.
- Vanilla Extract - I love the depth of flavor vanilla gives to these sweet bars. You can use vanilla extract, vanilla paste, or vanilla powder. You can also swap in another extract like almond or lemon to give you a whole new flavor.
Pro Tips For No-Bake Granola Bars
- If you have a serious gluten sensitivity, be sure to reach for a certified gluten-free brand; while oats themselves are naturally gluten-free, many facilities that process oats are at risk of cross-contamination from wheat products.
- Make sure your mixture clumps together easily. If it feels too dry, add a bit more maple, agave, or nut butter. If it feels too loose, add more oats or add-ins (listed below).
- Keep your add-ins small. Adding whole nuts, large pieces of dried fruits, or large chocolate chips to the mix makes it hard for the granola bars to stay together. They can also feel a little overwhelming in a bite — you want to taste the granola, not just the add-in!
- If you want tender granola bars but only have old-fashioned oats on hand, simply blitz them for a few pulses in a food processor!
- Storage - These oatmeal granola bars will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or on the counter for a week. Note that bars stored in the fridge will be much firmer when they come out of the fridge, whereas those stored at room temp will be softer and chewier.
- Consider individually wrapping the granola bars in parchment and/or plastic wrap in the airtight container to make for an easy grab-and-go snack or breakfast option.
How do you harden homemade granola bars? Rather than baking our granola bars to harden them, we’re going in the opposite direction. Chilling the granola bars in the fridge will make them much firmer than if you leave them at room temperature.
Are these granola bars healthy? “Healthy” is a pretty subjective term. Depending on who you ask, the “healthiest granola bars” can mean vastly different things to different people. That said, these all-natural granola bars are loaded with heart-healthy whole grain oats, are refined sugar-free (and are quite low in sugar per serving), are easy to make nut-free and gluten-free, and are super customizable to your personal needs and preferences.
How to Make Granola Bars
In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients (oats, cinnamon, and salt).
Add the wet ingredients (maple syrup, nut butter, and vanilla extract) as well as any optional ingredients (today I'm using sliced almonds, mini chocolate chips, and hemp seeds) and stir until well incorporated.
Transfer the mixture to an 8x8 baking pan lined with parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment paper over top and use the bottom of a glass to pack down the mixture into an even layer.
Refrigerate for 1-2 hours to allow the mixture to set before slicing them into 8 bars.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator (for firmer granola bars) or on the countertop (for chewier granola bars) for up to a week.
Once you have the basics down, you can mix and match your add-ins to create your own version of the best granola bars around. Here are a few ideas:
- Mini Chocolate Chips - If you only have full-size chocolate chips, give them a few pulses in the food processor to make them small enough to prevent the granola bars from falling apart.
- Dried Fruit - Raisins, sultanas, currants, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples, apricots, peaches, banana chips… there are so many tasty options to choose from! Mix and match to your heart’s content.
- Toasted Nuts - Sliced, slivered, or chopped toasted nuts add heart-healthy fats and a lovely bit of texture.
- Shredded Coconut - Opt for unsweetened if you’re concerned about sugar intake.
- Sunflower Seeds or Pepitas - When you’re nut-free, but want some crunch.
- Hemp Hearts, Flax Seeds, or Chia Seeds - These little nutrient powerhouses add protein, vitamins, and minerals in every bite.
A few of my favorite combinations include:
- Lemon Blueberry Granola Bars - Add lemon zest (or lemon extract) and dried blueberries for a bright and sunshiny breakfast bar.
- Coconut Chocolate Granola Bars - Swap in cacao powder for the cinnamon and use mini chocolate chips and shredded coconut as your add-ins. If you also add in almonds and/or almond butter, it’ll taste like an Almond Joy!
- Apple Cinnamon Granola Bars - Dried apples, cozy cinnamon, and any nuts or seeds of your choice make for a tasty fall-flavored snack.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Not only is making granola bars simple and inexpensive, it’s also fun to do. Plus, you get full control over what goes into your and your family’s bodies. Aside from that, this recipe is:
- Quick & Easy - 6 ingredients, 5 minutes. It doesn’t get faster than that!
- Refined Sugar-Free & Naturally Gluten-Free - These are much healthier than most store-bought brands and are cheaper to boot!
- Totally Customizable - Feel free to pick and choose which add-ins you use or customize to make them nut-free or certified gluten-free.
- Kid-Friendly - What kid doesn’t love a sweet, chewy granola bar? Plus, this recipe is simple enough that you can even get the little ones to help you in the kitchen. Win-win!
Let me know if you try out these no-bake granola bars. If you do, I would love it if you left a rating and review below! Make sure you are also following along on Instagram and Pinterest for more food inspiration.
More Vegan Snacks to Try:
- Protein Cookie Dough Bites
- Funfetti Protein Bites
- Strawberry Rosemary Scones
- Frozen Yogurt Bark
- Puppy Chow
- Pigs in a Blanket
- Homemade Popcorn Seasoning