Coconut Date Granola Bars

Born out of the days of free love and food coops, granola bars are, in a way, a quintessential health food for the modern era.  The concept is simple: mix some whole grain goodness with nuts and dried fruit and smoosh it all together in a portable little package.  However, commercial granola bars are often loaded with sugar and additives, making them a far cry from the guitar-playing, unshaven, sticky oat squares we expect.  And when all you have to do it combine a few pantry ingredients and toss them in the oven, why not make your own?

For these coconut date granola bars, I use a combination of two natural sweeteners: honey and barley malt.  Barley malt is an ultra-sticky syrup made from (duh) barley that’s predominantly maltose, giving it a distinct malty/Whopper flavor. While there is debate about how different sugars affect health and particularly blood sugar, I think the main reason for using them over refined sugars is that they get your body accustomed to a “less sweet” sweet, and, in these bars, the gentle sweetness allows you taste the almonds, coconut and spices.  Don’t worry if you don’t have barley malt; just use the equivalent amount of honey.  Packed with protein from the nuts, fiber from the oats and dates, and good-for-you Omega 3 fats from the flax seeds and wheat germ, this is an elegant update that will boost your energy while satisfying your sweet tooth.

These granola bars make great gifts, particularly for friends who like to work out.  You’ll soon be just as popular as your baker friends.

Coconut Date Granola Bars
yield: 16 bars

1 cup blanched almonds, chopped (or any other nut)
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons barley malt (or same amount extra honey if you don’t have barley malt)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter
pinch of salt
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and edges of a 9×12 baking dish.

2. On a large sheet pan toss together the chopped almonds, oats, dried coconut and wheat germ. Toast in oven, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.  The mixture should be slightly golden and fragrant. Remove from the oven and place in a large  bowl and add the flax seeds.

3. In a small pot, heat the honey, barley malt, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla extract, butter and salt. Let the mixture come to a boil, turn off the heat, and pour it into the bowl with the oat mixture.  Add the chopped dates, breaking apart any clumps, and stir to combine.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and form a smooth, even layer, using a moistened spatula or your fingers. Make sure the mixture is packed down, then bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove and let cool for several hours before slicing into bars or squares.  Wrap individually in plastic wrap to keep your homemade granola bars fresh all week.

18 responses to “Coconut Date Granola Bars

  1. Excellent post thanks for sharing. Food is something I can enjoy all around. If I’m not eating it. I’m reading and looking at pictures about it.

    Rise n Shine Eggs – Breakfast Recipe

  2. These look very tasty–love the coconut, dates, and cardamom combo. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  3. There’s something comforting yet exotic about that combo, isn’t there? Thanks for the encouragement, Elizabeth!

  4. Bonnie Costello

    As someone from the granola generation, I welcome this reinstatement of oats and barely to the top of the food chain!
    Congratulations, Alia!

  5. Hahaha “guitar-playing, unshaven, sticky oat squares.” I don’t want to go to a Phish concert with my granola bars…I want them to be tasty. These sound delicious!

    • Thanks! But I mean, if I had the choice of going to a Phish concert with granola bars and going to a Phish concert without them….I think I know what choice I would make.

  6. I’m going to have to make these for my everest trip!

    • Yes, I know you love these! Urban Chickpea can be your official sponsor. But I think you’ll need a lot of them for enough energy to climb Mount Everest. 😉

  7. Wow, Looks so good. You’ve been busy! I love your choice in foods.

  8. So true. Commercial bars are usually just junk. Thank for sharing a beautiful, healthy alternative!

    • Thanks Charissa! I find commercial granola bars to just be way too sweet as well. These are much more balanced to me, hearty and sweet without being cloying.

  9. These look amazing. Two questions: is there anything I can use in place of wheat germ? (I have Celiac), and could I use the equivalent of coconut or olive oil instead of butter?

    • Thanks Natalie! Yes, you can definitely make them without the wheat germ (I made these as party favor for a gluten-free party I was cooking for and did just that). Just substitute the equivalent of extra shredded coconut or oats or simply leave out. And you can definitely use coconut oil or grapeseed oil (olive oil might give them an off-flavor). If you use coconut oil, just make sure that it’s melted (you may need to heat it) and that all the ingredients are fully combined before it goes in the oven. Otherwise, you might get tiny little coconut oil pieces in the final product. Let me know how it goes!

  10. I loved these!! It was great without the butter and wheat germ. However, my date pieces did get stuck a little bit, so I am thinking of dusting them with a gf flour after chopping them, or using raisins instead. They were very delicious!

    • Awesome Natalie! That’s a good tip for anyone who is going gluten-free and dairy-free (I’ve been making that changes as well, so expect to see more of my recipes leaning that way). Definitely if you want to avoid date stickiness, stick with raisins or even currants or you can try popping the dates in the fridge first–dates are my favorite so I’ll go through hoops to get them in a recipe! 🙂

      • Someone once told me to sprinkle in some of the oats with the dates and they won’t stick when chopping…worth a try!

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