The Only Formula You Need to Make the Best Healthy Homemade Granola Bars

By: Breana Lai, M.P.H., R.D. , Test Kitchen Manager

There are plenty of good options in the granola bar aisle at the grocery store, but some are loaded with added sugar. Homemade granola bars are super-easy to make—and you can control the ingredients and keep added sugar to a minimum. Using this granola bar formula, you can pick your favorite combination of nuts, seeds, fruit and flavorings. If you're a parent, this is a no-brainer healthy kids' snack to pack for school or camp. Make a big batch at the beginning of the week and have healthy grab-and-go snacks all week long. Try one of our favorite flavor combos or make up your own.

Related: The Best Granola Bar Recipes for a Healthy Snack

Basic Granola Bar Recipe

Active Time: 20 minutes | Total Time: 1 1/2 hours

To make ahead: Individually wrap and store at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Equipment: Parchment paper

Makes: 2 dozen bars

3 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup crispy brown rice cereal

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups Good Stuff (see below)

2/3 cup brown rice syrup or corn syrup

1/2 cup Nut or Seed Butter (see below)

1 teaspoon Flavoring (see below)

 

Here are the 4 steps to the best healthy granola bars:

1. Prep Your Pan.

Apricot-Sunflower Granola Bars

Pictured Recipe: Apricot-Sunflower Granola Bars

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and leave a few inches overhanging the sides to create a sort of sling to remove the granola bars. This technique also keeps the bars from sticking and you don't have to scratch the bottom of your pan to cut them out.

Lightly coat with cooking spray.

2. Mix the Dry Ingredients.

Banana-Peanut Granola Bars

Pictured Recipe: Banana-Peanut Granola Bars

The base starts with rolled oats (for gluten-free granola bars, be sure to buy gluten-free oats), brown rice cereal and a mix of nuts, seeds, fruit, coconut and/or chocolate. Cut larger dried fruit into 1/4-inch pieces, otherwise the bars could fall apart. Toast your seeds and chopped nuts to give them more flavor.

Combine 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, 1 cup crispy brown rice cereal and 1/4 teaspoon salt with 2 cups total add-ins (aka. Good Stuff) in a large bowl.

Good Stuff

Dried fruit (chop into ¼-inch pieces if large):

• banana
• blueberries
• cherries
• cranberries
• dates

Chopped toasted nuts:

• almonds
• cashews
• hazelnuts
• macadamias
• peanuts
• pecans
• pistachios

Toasted seeds:

• flaxseed
• pepitas
• sunflower

Other add-ins:

• mini chocolate chips
• unsweetened shredded coconut

3. Hold It Together.

Cherry-Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Pictured Recipe: Cherry-Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

A sticky combination of brown rice syrup and nut or seed butter glues the bars together. We tested several other sticky sweeteners, including maple syrup and honey, but found brown rice syrup held the bars together the best. The nut or seed butter adds a bit of extra stickiness plus a bit of protein.

Combine 2/3 cup brown rice syrup, 1/2 cup Nut or Seed Butter and 1 teaspoon Flavoring in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds (or heat in a saucepan over medium heat for 1 minute). Add to the dry ingredients and stir until evenly combined. Transfer to the prepared pan and firmly press into the pan with a spatula.

Nut or Seed Butter:

• almond
• cashew
• peanut butter
• sunflower
• tahini

Flavorings:

• coconut extract
• vanilla extract
• ground cardamom
• ground cinnamon
• ground ginger

4. Bake 'Em Up.

Blueberry-Cashew Granola Bars

Pictured Recipe: Blueberry-Cashew Granola Bars

Whether you choose chewy or crunchy granola bars, both will be soft when they come out of the oven but will firm up as they cool.

For chewy granola bars: Bake until barely starting to color around the edges and still soft in the middle, 20 to 25 minutes.

For crunchy granola bars: Bake until golden brown around the edges and somewhat firm in the middle, 30 to 35 minutes.

Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Using the overhanging parchment, lift the bars out of the pan onto a cutting board (they will still be soft). Cut into 24 bars and let cool completely without separating the bars, about 30 minutes. Once cool, separate into bars.

Our Favorite Flavor Combos to Try

Cranberry-Almond Granola Bars

1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup each almonds and pecans
1/2 cup smooth almond butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Banana-Peanut Granola Bars

1 cup chopped dried banana
1/2 cup each macadamia nuts and unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp. ground ginger

Apricot-Sunflower Granola Bars

1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup each unsalted pepitas and sunflower seeds
1/2 cup smooth sunflower butter
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Date-Pistachio Granola Bars

1 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup each chopped hazelnuts and chopped unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup tahini
1 tsp. ground cardamom

Blueberry-Cashew Granola Bars

1 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup chopped unsalted cashews and flaxseed
1/2 cup smooth cashew butter
1 tsp. coconut extract

Cherry-Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

1 cup chopped dried cherries
1/3 cup each chopped unsalted almonds, mini chocolate chips and unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup almond butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Which Is Healthier: Granola Bars vs Trail Mix?

Related: What to Look for When You're Buying a Healthy Granola Bar