I usually have a hard time finding a snack bar for my son as he is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. Also, most snack bars contain so much sugar that they seem just another form of sugary candy. Therefore, I often make sweet treats for lunch box at home using whole grains–often without any processed sugar. It is just as important for kids to eat healthy, specially the right amount of salt, sugar, and fat, as it is for us (more on this later). This no-bake chocolate granola bar is made without any processed sugar and added fat. This bar is a hybrid between a sweet treat and energy snack. It almost tastes like a brownie, but boasts of a healthy ingredient list. The best thing about this bar is that it takes only 15 minutes to make and there is no cooking process involved. And, by the way, this bar is great for your lunch box as well.
This granola bar recipe was created in ten meager minutes in a moment of need. A few weeks ago, my son attended a basketball camp. The second day he asked for something sweet along with the usual lunch, salad, etc (pic above)–(ahem) thirty minutes before I was going to drop him at the camp. So I raked my brains and pantry to put something together quickly. Guided by (flavor) intuition and pantry staples I could find, I whipped up this granola bar. Those hastily put together no-bake chocolate-oat granola bars were not as picturesque as the one in the pic above. But my son loved it and took a couple every day and this recipe now is a part of my lunch-box recipe repertoire.
A note on using sprouted quick oats for the healthiest no-bake chocolate-oat granola bar
(the information on using sprouted oats added October 27th, 2019)
Oats contain high amount of phytates–a natural substance that stores phosphorus in plant seeds. Most grains–cereals, legume, and beans contain phytates. The downside of consuming grains without removing phytates–especially if you rely heavily on grains in your diet, like I do–is that they can obstruct the absorption of a few essential minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Cultures that rely primarily on grains, have figured out the ways to remove/reduce phytates from grains. Oat is particularly high in phytates and sprouting is one of the best ways to considerably reduce phytates in oats.
Since we are going to use raw oats in this energy bar, it’s best to use sprouted oats, especially if your diet consists primarily of grains. Since I couldn’t find sprouted oats both at my regular grocer store or my co-op, I buy these at Amazon.com. I have tried sprouted oats from both One Degree Organic and Pure Living Organic (no brand affiliation) and they are both good.
You need just six ingredients. The base of this granola bar is quick oats. If you have traditional oats at hand, no worries, just use those instead of quick oats. If you follow a gluten-free diet, you can use gluten-free oats.
The combination of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds works really well as the latter balances the slightly bitter flavor of sunflower seeds. If you are not allergic to nuts, you can also use the combination of walnuts and sunflower seeds.
For sweetener, Medjool dates are always my favorite as they tend to be meatier than the other varieties. Therefore, if you are using any other variety, you may need to use more to get the same flavor. For the liquid sweetener, I often use maple syrup, but you can replace it with date syrup or honey. The key ingredient to get that favorite brownie flavor is a good quality cocoa powder. Please, please (I know I am writing “please” twice) make sure that you use pure unsweetened cocoa powder and not something that looks like cocoa powder. Also, don’t forget to add vanilla extract to the list of ingredients.
The first time I made this no-bake chocolate-oat granola bar, I added everything together in the food processor as I was in a hurry. But the second time, I added dry ingredients first followed by dates, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. The second method resulted in better taste and texture. Start with oats, followed by seeds, cocoa powder, dates, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Once the mixture starts to scoop up in the food processor, it’s time to take it out onto a parchment (or wax paper)-lined small cookie tray.
Smooth out the mixture on the cookie tray and score the no-bake chocolate chip granola bars in desired shape and size. Try to make at least 8 bars from one recipe.You can also top the bars with a medley of pumpkin and sunflower seeds. You can remove the bars from the cookie sheet and store in an air-tight box right away; or after scoring the bars you can refrigerate them for 10 minutes for easy removal. These bars will be good in refrigerator in an airtight container for 8-10 days and on counter top (at room temperature) for 4-5 days. But since it’s summer, I like to store mine in refrigerator. Enjoy!
No-bake Chocolate-Oat Granola Bar
- 1 cup (51g) quick oats, sprouted (using sprouted oats highly recommended, but can sub with regular kind*)
- 1/2 cup (60g)sunflower seeds** (raw)
- 1/2 cup (60g) pumpkin seeds** (raw)
- 1/4 cup (22g) cocoa powder (unsweetened, pure)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 4 dates** (preferably medjool dates)
- 4 tbsp (59 mL) maple syrup (can sub with date syrup or honey)
- 1 tbsp (7.5g) sunflower seeds (raw, for topping, optional)
- 1 tbsp (7.5g)pumpkin seeds (raw, for topping, optional)
- Process the quick oats in a food processor till grainy in texture. Add 1/2 cup sunflower seeds and 1/2 cup pumpkins seeds and pulse a few times till well-mixed with and about the same texture as processed quick oats. Add cocoa powder and pulse 2-3 times to mix it with the oat and seed mixture.
- Add 4 dates and pulse again to mix the dates with the dry mixture. Then add maple syrup and vanilla extract and pulse till the mixture bunches up around the central blade.
- Take the mixture out in small cookie tray lined with either wax paper or parchment. Press it to spread evenly in the desired thickness. Score the bars on the cookie tray with a butter knife. If you are going to use sunflower and pumpkins seeds as a topping, you can spread on the flattened mixture and press gently till they stick.
- You can cut the granola bar in desired shape and size right after pressing, but it is usually much easier to do this step if you refrigerate the scored granola bars for 10 minutes. You can store these granola bars in an airtight container for up to 8-10 days in the refrigerator or up to 4-5 days at room temperature. Enjoy!