When I worked in an office, store-bought granola bars were one of my very favorite snacks. I kept a stash in my desk drawer and they quickly became an every-afternoon habit. While I tried different flavors, the one I always went back to again and again was the chewy peanut butter-chocolate chip variety. Shocking, right?!
Since I began making a lot more of my favorite packaged foods at home, I haven’t bought granola bars in ages. A few years ago, I made a copycat version of one of those amazing chewy store-bought granola bars with chocolate chips. They were a pretty spot-on recreation, but I wanted to include peanut butter, and I also wanted to eliminate the butter and sugar for a healthier option. This version accomplishes both, and they are absolutely fantastic!
These granola bars steal a page from two of my favorite store-bought “healthy” bars – Clif Bars and Larabars – they use pureed dates as a binder. Sneaky! While I chose to use peanut butter and chopped peanuts, you could absolutely omit the chopped nuts and use a different type of nut butter (or Sunbutter) if you are making them for someone with allergies.
You can keep these at room temperature or in the refrigerator, and I also had great luck freezing these. Once they were cool, I cut the bars, wrapped them in plastic wrap and then placed in a freezer bag – they were perfect! They stayed soft enough that you could actually eat them straight from the freezer.
If only I hadn’t wasted years of eating too-small and too-artificial-tasting granola bars before I realized that homemade granola bars were far superior!
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9x9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, stir together the oats, chopped peanuts, chocolate chips and puffed rice cereal.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the date puree, peanut butter, honey, maple syrup, vanilla and salt until smooth and thoroughly combined. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the oat mixture and fold together with a rubber spatula until evenly mixed.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and, using the back of a wooden spoon, press firmly into an even layer, making it as compact as possible. Bake until the bars are set and beginning to brown around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature before slicing. The granola bars can be kept at room temperature, in an airtight container or individually wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.