These homemade peanut butter granola bars (inspired by Nature Valley’s) are the perfect way to satisfy that midday sweet craving. (This article has been updated from its original September 2017 version).
Something happens to me at 3 o’clock every weekday. I get a ravenous craving for something simultaneously sweet, salty, and crunchy. This craving can probably be attributed to the natural energy dip near the end of the workday, when we’re already drained but our brains need to keep going.
But even more than that, crunchy food cravings are apparently indicators of stress – something I accumulate lots of by 3pm. Fascinating, right?
One of my go-to midday snacks are (or should I say, were) Nature Valley peanut butter granola bars. Now, I don’t mean to poo-poo Nature Valley – their bars are by no means the worst on store shelves. But, they do contain soy lecithin – a chemical emulsifier many people are allergic to – and lots of sugar, which is what makes them so cloyingly sweet and addictive. So, I challenged myself to recreate my favorite treat with less sugar and healthier ingredients.
How to Make Crunchy Peanut Butter Granola Bars
These peanut butter granola bars are made with just 6 ingredients. They’ve got old-fashioned rolled oats (a great source of protein and fiber), natural peanut butter, coconut oil (you can use any oil), honey, vanilla, and flaxseed meal (ground flaxseeds), which act as a binder (you can also use chia seeds).
You start by combining the peanut butter, oil, honey, vanilla, and flaxseed meal, and warming up the mixture either on the stovetop or in the microwave. You’re not trying to cook this, but rather briefly warm it up so it’s pourable.
Next, you stir the mixture into rolled oats and make sure every single oat is coated. Then transfer the sticky mixture into a parchment paper-lined baking dish and press it down into an thin, flat layer. Lastly, you bake it for about 25 minutes.
A common problem with homemade granola bars is that they can be crumbly. Unfortunately, this is just the nature of this snack – even Nature Valley bars are known to fall apart in the package. However, there are a couple of things you can do to reduce the crumble factor.
The first is to press the oat mixture into your baking dish as firmly as humanly possible so the oats get packed in super tightly, which helps them stick together.
The second is to cool the bars completely before cutting them. It’s also important to use a super sharp knife and to cut these in a decisive, swift motion.
If you like these granola bars, check out…
- Peanut, Coconut, and Date Energy Balls
- Classic Peanut Butter Granola (with Variations)
- Carrot Oatmeal Cookies
- Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
These crunchy peanut butter granola bars (homemade Nature Valley bars) are the perfect way to satisfy that midday sweet craving.
- 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- ¼ cup honey
- 3 tablespoons natural peanut butter (See Note 1)
- 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil, plus more for greasing the pan (See Note 2)
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal (ground flaxseeds) OR chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Coarse sea salt (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line an 8×8” baking dish (See Note 3) with parchment paper, leaving a few inches of overhang, and lightly grease the paper with coconut oil. Set aside.
- Place the oats in a large bowl.
- In a small pot, combine the honey, peanut butter, oil, flaxseed meal, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Briefly heat over a low flame, stirring frequently, just until the mixture is combined and pourable, 30 to 60 seconds. (Alternately, warm the mixture in the microwave).
- Pour the honey mixture into the oats and stir until they’re evenly coated. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Press the mixture into the dish very firmly to flatten it into a single tight layer. (Use the bottom of a loaf pan, a cup measure, or a firm spatula – greased with a bit of oil to keep it from sticking to the oats – to tightly press in the mixture.)
- Sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the oats look dry and are lightly golden.
- Cool completely in the baking dish (about 1 hour).
- When no longer warm to the touch, lift the bars out of the baking dish using the parchment overhang. Using a sharp knife, cut into 8 bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 7 days.
1 – Feel free to use any nut butter you have – cashew, almond, or even tahini.
2 – I love the layer of flavor coconut oil adds to these bars. If you don’t have any, substitute with olive, avocado, or canola oil.
3 – This recipe was developed with a ceramic baking dish. If you use metal, the bars may take less time to bake since metal heats up faster than ceramic.
- Serving Size: 2 bars
- Calories: 366
- Fiber: 5.4 g
- Protein: 8.8 g
Keywords: granola, granola bars, oats, peanut butter, snack