How I Decided to Create Granola Bars

February 9, 2008


Don’t you hate it when you have the best idea and it completely falls flat? Oh, don’t worry, I’m not talking about the granola bars. Those are spectacular—and I’ll get to them. But first, the falling flat thing. I had the fantastic (if I do say so myself) idea to send two recently-engaged friends homemade engagement gifts a couple weeks back. A little treat to say congratulations. After much thought, I settled on what I thought would be the perfect treat: caramels. And, for those that have followed this blog for a bit will know, my first attempt at caramels did not work. Period.


My second go-round at caramels, thankfully, was a success. So, I gleefully wrapped the caramels in their parchment squares, taking particular pleasure in twisting off the ends to seal the caramels. I then did my best Martha and packaged them up in glassine bags with pretty bows. I shipped them off to my friends, one in New York and the other in California, relieved that I could finally show my friends how excited I was for them.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)


Unfortunately, this saga does not end there. I quickly got word from the East Coast that my package had arrived and the caramels were being enjoyed by their recipients. From the West Coast, however, there was … silence. An ominous silence. Knowing my friend as I do, I knew they hadn’t arrived. This suspicion was confirmed when the package was returned to me, squashed and flattened and nearly in shreds, caramel practically oozing out of its pores.


Needless to say, I’ve had it with caramel. Fool me once, shame on you, caramel. Fool me twice, though, it’s shame on me. I was not embarking on another ill-fated caramel endeavor. It was back to the drawing board to come up with a different congratulatory treat. To complicate matters, our newly betrothed friends in California are in the final throes of training for a marathon. It just didn’t feel right to send a big box of truffles or decadent brownies to people running close to 20 miles a day. Thus, these granola bars were born.


I absolutely adore granola and I think a bag or jar of it would make a wonderful out-of-the-blue treat to mail across the country to a friend. But, for this occasion, I wanted something a little more special. So I tinkered around with my granola recipe to come up with these beauties, which I think are infinitely better than any store-bought granola bar I’ve tried. They maintain all my favorite components of my granola—pepitas, dried cranberries, flax and sesame seeds—but they’re in (totally adorable) bar form. I even cut a couple in bite-sized pieces, which worked well. I’d love to tell you more, but there are two pretty bags of granola bars waiting for me on the counter. If they don’t reach their marathon-running, wedding-planning recipients, I just might have to give up.


Granola Bars

2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup pepitas
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 cup whole almonds (or other nut)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup honey*
1/4 cup natural peanut butter*
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)

Preheat the oven to 325. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Next, line a square baking pan (8 or 9 inches) with two perpendicular sheets of parchment paper that are long enough to leave an overhang. The sheets will form a “basket” for you to lift out the sheet of granola, before you cut it into bars.

Combine the oats, coconut, seeds and nuts; spread out evenly on the rimmed baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes. When the oat mixture has been toasting for about 10 minutes, combine the honey, peanut butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and vanilla in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. If the sugar dissolves before the oat mixture is done toasting, reduce the heat to low.

When the oat mixture is done toasting, transfer it to a large bowl and add the honey mixture and fruit; stir to incorporate. Spread the mixture in the prepared square pan, using the back of a wooden spoon or bottom of a measuring cup to press the mixture into the pan and create a smooth, even surface. Bake the granola mixture for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool completely on a wire rack.

Using your parchment “handles,” lift the granola sheet out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, Cut the sheet into one-inch wide bars. Next, cut the series of bars in half, lengthwise. Store in an airtight container.

*Update: I originally advocated a higher amount of honey and peanut butter for those wanting a chewier bar. People seemed to have problems when they increased the amounts of honey and peanut butter, though. So, I’m now only comfortable listing the amounts that I’ve tried with success (i.e. the amounts used for the bars in these photos). I can’t stress strongly enough the need to let the bars cool completely before cutting them with a very sharp knife.


62 Responses to “How I Decided to Create Granola Bars”

  1. Lynn Says:

    Your granola bars look yummy, way better than store bought!

    Who better to send brownies to than people who’re running 20 miles a day? Much better than someone who sits in a cubicle all day.

  2. Christiane Says:

    Oh I love this recipe. Looks fantastic. I can’t wait to make these!!!

  3. JEP Says:

    I cannot wait to make these—no oil or butter, yes!! These sound better than my favorite Kashi Chewy Trail Mix bars!

  4. Madeline Says:

    These look fabulous! I’ve been looking for a great granola bar recipe for some time now. I can’t wait to make these. Oh, and your photos are gorgeous!

  5. Nemmie Says:

    They look so amazing! Fabulous pictures. Hubs is looking for something new for a quick breakfast in the morning, and I think these will do the trick. Thanks bunches for the recipe!

  6. Michelle Says:

    I decided to use this recipe for first shot at making granola bars. Unfortunately, they didn’t hold together, but the resulting granola clusters ROCK!!!

  7. Molly Says:

    I am hands-down the MOST excited for these tasty little treats! I don’t know how many marathon-running, newly engaged couples you know in California but I’m pretty darn sure these are for us! Can’t wait… you’re the best! πŸ™‚

  8. seebeautiful Says:

    You have another marathon runner/couple here that can’t wait to try this recipe! Thanks for sharing. I love your blog and photos!!


  9. Monica Says:

    OH MY GOSH!! You made your fantastic granola into bars?!?! You must have been reading my mind. I need something like this for my hectic traveling schedule in March and April. Make them NOW! Thank you!!

  10. ourkitchensink Says:

    Lynn, Christiane, Madeline, Nemmie, Beth, Monica: Thank you, thank you!

    JEP: These actually remind me quite a bit of the Kashi bars, but these taste fresher and less “industrial” than those. And, as I made them (with the lower amounts of honey and PB), they are not as bendy/chewy as the Kashi bars. I hope you give them a try!

    Michelle: Oh no! Where did they go wrong? You can email me directly at thekitchensinkblog (at) gmail (dot) com — we can try to get it figured out.

    Molly: I am so busted! I thought you’d be too busy running 20 miles to read. At least you already knew that something was en route. Hope you like them!

  11. Angie Says:

    YUMMM!! I wanted to make some granola bars and these look so good….AND healthy! Thanks

  12. Hairy Weisenheimmer Says:

    OMG! Those look beyond yummy! Can’t wait to try them!

  13. […] everyday for a snack. Now that I’m grown and prone to cooking, I enjoy homemade granola bars. This recipe with almonds, flax seeds, and pepitas looks crunchy and delicious. β€” The Kitchen […]

  14. Lemmonex Says:

    I hate coconut–do you think it would be ok leaving them out? Maybe sub more nuts in? Thanks!

  15. ourkitchensink Says:

    Angie and Hairy: Thanks!

    Lemmonex: The coconut is not very prominent at all, so I doubt it would bother you. That said, I think you’d be fine leaving it out. I might sub in more oats, rather than nuts, it its place. I’d worry that more nuts would start to interfere with the “integrity” of the bars.

  16. Lemmonex Says:

    More oats is a great idea. Unfortunately, I hate coconut so much that I cannot even smell it, so I would never bring it in the house. It is just the one thing I cannot eat. Thanks and love the blog.

  17. Vicki Says:

    These are wonderful! Thanks for the recipe.

  18. Shanna Says:

    I tried this recipie using the higher amounts of PB and honey, they turned out hard as a freaking rock! Maybe I pressed them down too much? Frankly, I love chewy granola bars and I think it would have turned out well if I hadn’t baked them at all. The liquid mixture turns to glue when it cools and would probably have held together well.

  19. ourkitchensink Says:

    Shanna: Thanks for letting me know. I’ve made an update to the recipe, above, to address the concerns of you and others.

  20. […] Another granola bar, from The Kitchen Sink. The photos are very enticing, but I’d need to use much small chunks of nuts and such for my guys. […]

  21. goldenhearth Says:

    oh my god
    I have been searching for a granola bar to make at our bakery. We make a really popular granola and i can’t wait to use your recipe as a base to use with my recipe!
    These look so amazing. Your photos are very wonderful and look better than pics i have seen in magazines. I will have to omit the peanut butter due to allergies but i bet almond butter would work too.

    i love your pages!

    golden hearth baking co

  22. Mar Says:

    I made these this morning, and they turned out wonderfully.
    Until I tried to cut them that is. It isn’t that they crumbled or anything, I just can’t cut things well. And I used dried cherries without chopping them so they kind of stuck to the knife and caused problems…
    I’m gonna change them up a bit next time I make them, but your recipe gave me a great starting place. I wish I’d realized before how easy it could be to make them.

  23. Patrice Says:

    I will be trying these tonight….my ultimate goal is to replicate the new Kashi cherry / dark chocolate bars….any plans to make a clone of these?


  24. Kate Says:

    I just tried this recipe today and also ended up with granola clusters instead of bars, but they do taste good. I must not have mixed the honey/PB goop in thoroughly enough leading to crumbly parts and overly-hard parts. Quite tasty though and I can’t wait to try different combinations of ingredients. Haven’t made anything like this before.

  25. Withpaint Says:

    I tried these, increasing the honey and p.b. by a little and had no problems…even overbaked them bit and they still came out well. I love these bars. They taste very much like the kind I buy in the health food store. I did not use the coconut since my family is not fond of it.

  26. Shauntel Nash Says:

    I just made this this am for my family, and yum! They turned out excellent!

  27. Hanna Says:

    I made these for my boyfriend and since then he’s been treating me like a queen. One problem though, they didn’t really hold, more like granola clusters, I don’t know what I did wrong? What would happen if I used more honey and PB? Or if I didn’t bake them at all? Hm, hm…

  28. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink Says:

    Hanna: It sounds like you’ve had the same problem as some other commenters. Did you let the bars cool completely before cutting? One of my big blog goals once my exams are over is to tinker around with this recipe and address these issues. That said, I hope you enjoyed your clusters!

  29. Feng Says:

    Excellent recipe! I made these bars and everyone loved them! I didn’t have a problem with the granola becoming clusters instead of staying as bars, but I think the sharpness of the knife and letting the bars cool entirely before slicing is really important for that to be the case. Oftentimes I have to restrict myself from lunging for the knife and slicing myself a piece after I’ve taken whatever it is I’ve baked out of the oven!

  30. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink Says:

    Feng: Thank you! I’m so (so, so, so) glad to hear that people are having success with the bars. And, I agree: sharp knife, decisive cuts & adequate cooling are essential.

  31. Rose Says:

    Thanks for the inspiration!! I just tried a variation of these today. Terrific!

  32. tallstar7 Says:

    OOOOHHHH!! These look amazing! As soon as I get over my current raisin bread obsession, I’m going to have to try them.

  33. Nora Says:

    Thanks for the receipe. This is my first attempt at Granola, heres hoping it goes well.

  34. Terri Says:

    I made these and only few turned into bars, the rest were yummy crumbles. Today I am going to make them again because they were such a great hit. I don’t think I pressed them hard enough. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

  35. Ashley Says:

    I have searched long and hard for a good granola bar recipe and have finally found the PERFECT recipe!! These are delicious, easy and so much healthier than store bought. Thanks for the great recipe! I plan on modifying the original recipe to see what other taste combination I can create.

  36. Ashley: That’s great! So glad to hear. If you have tips for the others who have had problems with crumbles, let us know.

  37. Ashley Says:

    I made this recipe again but substituted tahini for the PB, used apricots (diced) and added cardamom. Awesome!! You need to press the granola into the pan really well and wait until it has completely cooled to cut into in order for it not to crumble. Patience is a virtue!

  38. Ashley: Those additions all sound delicious. I’m having a little infatuation with cardamom at the moment, so that sounds particularly lovely. And I agree completely with your tips about pressing and waiting. I hope they are helpful to others.

  39. Rajani Says:

    hi Kristin, I love this recipe and tried out a different variation of these bars. turned out really nice. love your blog,

  40. Rajani: That’s great to hear! Thank you.

  41. Johnetta Says:

    These granola bars were fantastic the first time I tried them. My friends loved them, also. The second time proved a little problematic because I tried to substitute ingredients when I should’ve stuck to the recipe. They came out crumbly the second time. I will try again, though. Thanks for the great recipe!

  42. Johnetta: I’m happy to hear you got one good batch! What substitutions did you make that cause the crumbly second batch? That might be helpful for others out there to know. Thanks for commenting!

  43. Jeff Feingold Says:

    Delicious but very crumbly. Will try a sharper knife next time. It appears that there is not enough “mortar” binding all the “aggregate”. When you hit an almond it tends to cause a fracture. because the almond tends to loosen or shift because it is not locked into place. Maybe slivered almonds rather than whole?

    Not ready to give up on this one. I have a nice bag of crumbs; should be a great cereal!

  44. Kim Says:

    I’ve made these quite a few times and have had some trouble with them crumbling. I made a few changes tonight and they came out so much better (and a little chewier than normal), so I just wanted to share in case this helps anyone else.

    I didn’t have any sesame seeds, so I omitted those. I left out the coconut and replaced it with 1/3 cup of wheat bran (the kind I used is a flour-like consistency, purchased in the bulk bins at Whole Foods). I think this is what really helped to hold the bars together. I made sure to mix the oat/nut/fruit mixture very well and baked it for 25 min at 315F. The only other thing I did differently this time was to use the bottom of a glass to press the mixture down again a little bit AFTER they came out of the oven. I cut them when they were still a bit warm and used a bread knife (just used pressure to rock it back and forth as opposed to sawing it).

    I love this recipe! Thanks!

  45. Stacey Says:

    Can’t wait to try this recipe, the one I’ve been using is awesome but I’m always looking to experiment! I made flax seed granola the other night — pass. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks so much!

  46. Stacey: Let us know how it goes!

  47. Kristin Says:

    I made these last month and they were so fabulous that I am bringing them to the Bake Sale for my kids’ school tomorrow πŸ™‚ Keep up the good work!

  48. nancy Says:

    I made these the first time and they just crumbled upon cutting. The crumble was VERY TASTEY, however. I suspected overcooking was partly to blame.
    The second time I made them I increased the peanut butter and the honey a bit and used slivered almonds instead of whole. I literally kneaded the mix to evenly distribute the warm liquid. I packed them well on parchment in a glass pan, but made them thicker than the first batch, like a Nature Valley Granola bar. I CUT THEM BEFORE I BAKED THEM. And, finally, I only BAKED THEM FOR ONLY 15 MINUTES. NO CRUMBLE PROBLEMs, AND CHEWY TOO.
    I know it sounds like a lot of alterations, but they are minor. Thank you for making your recipe available to use. It is very tasty. I am very excited about these bars and will be making them often.

  49. Vida Soraya Says:

    Beautiful photos and excellent instructions! At home, we’re doing a version with dried mangoes, banana chips and dried papaya for a more tropical flavor. But I love how your granola bars look so tasty just the way they are. Can’t wait to try out your recipe! πŸ™‚

  50. nancy: Thanks for the variations!

    Vida Soraya: I loved the dried mango idea! Mmm.

  51. Kooking Kay Says:

    Thanks for the recipe! I tried it with the following substitutions, but somehow it came out burnt. After it was in the oven at 325 degrees for 20 minutes, it looked too brown so I took it out. It tastes burnt, and doesn’t look like your lovely photos.

    Here were my mods:
    – No Coconut, No Sesame Seeds
    – Sunflower instead of Sesame Seeds
    – Used half Brown Sugar and half White Sugar (because I ran out of Brown)

    Maybe the white sugar caused the browning? Not sure, but I’ll try this recipe again one more time because it looks so yummy – especially with peanut butter.

  52. Anonymous Says:

    I made these yesterday.I was a little bit skeptical after reading all the comments but nevertheless wanted to try it.
    I did not have any pepitas and did not add any coconut.
    I added slivered almonds.
    After they cam out of the oven I wanted to slice them (so tempting) but they seemed to crumble,so let them cool completely and cut them with a sharp knife.As somebody else put it patience is a virtue….truly
    They held their shape very well and they taste soooo……yummy.They are by far the best and close to store bought ones that I have made.
    I will keep making them and Thank you so much for sharing your recipe.

  53. Anonymous: Thanks for the report!

  54. Carly Says:

    kristin, yours look fantastic! i’ll try again today (mine were crumbly and burnt yesterday… oops!) without any tricky agave substitutions and definitely without goji berries. my goodness – if you were ever tempted to try goji berries in this recipe, for heaven’s sake, resist! don’t do it!! they don’t take the heat very well (understatement) and you’ll be left picking out the burnt remains of the once tasty little guys when it comes out of the oven. burnt goji berries, as it turns out, have extraordinarily little appeal to my palate!

    i’m off to go buy some honey… and some other dried fruit πŸ™‚

  55. Carly: Thanks! I hope you do try again.

  56. Hmm. Let’s see what changes I made…

    I used 2 cups rolled oats instead of 2.5.

    I meant to use pumpkin seeds, but.. well.. I had been shelling pumpkin seeds I had saved from Halloween.. but erm… my cats apparently decided to play in them and cat fur granola bars didn’t sound appetizing. Instead, I used a half cup Rice Krispies in place of the pumpkin seeds, plus another cup of Rice Krispies to make up for the half cup of oats I left out and to cover half of the dried cranberries, which I decided not to use. So a total of 1.5 cups Rice Krispies.

    I also threw in a spoonful of toasted wheat germ and some organic wheat bran. I didn’t really measure. Just spooned a bit in.

    I was going to use sesame seeds, but the first time I went searching for sesame seeds for some recipe, it took forever to find. The second time proved just as difficult. So I left those out.

    I had originally planned to leave out the cinnamon, but at the last minute I figured, “These have the three main ingredients of my oatmeal cookies: oatmeal, almonds, and coconut. Might as well keep the cinnamon aspect as well.”

    As for the baking, I baked them for 25 minutes at 315ΒΊF. The bars were very crunchy, which I wasn’t expecting. They weren’t bad. Just crunchy. I think maybe next time I’ll try it without baking, or maybe baking for just five to ten minutes to see what texture I get then.

  57. Sarah Says:

    Like many of the other posters, mine came out pretty crumbly.

    I did wait for it to cool completely, and did use a sharp knife, but less a few nice chunks, it just completely fell apart. 😦

    Still delicous, but disappointing! Definitely needs more “glue” to hold it together.. but then if you add more, it gets way too hard! What a dilemma..

  58. Kathy Says:

    Can’t wait to try these! Hubby just went through a major health scare and is trying to recover from congestive heart failure. I’m looking for snacks we can make that are healthy. He can’t have salt, so I’ll have to leave that out, but I have unsalted peanut butter and the rest of it he can have. Okay, I admit I don’t know what pepitas are, but once I figure that out and buy any other ingredients I don’t have, I’m totally making these! Looks like a good recipe for experimenting with different ingredients to create different flavors. I’m so psyched to make these!!! I don’t even care if they turn out as bars or crumbles.

  59. christina Says:

    I HAVE FIGURED OUT THE SECRET TO THESE BARS!!! They are CHEWY! CHEWY! And oh soo good! And the secret you ask, well it turns out that you just don’t bake the bars. Oh, and replace 1 1/2 cups of the oats with rice crispies. If you bake it the sugar that binds everything changes structure and becomes brittle and hard, not gooey. (biochem. student here) I did try baking them, and even a low temp. for a short time yielded the same brittle results. You still need to heat the wet ingredients to create a uniform liquid but that is all. Just add the toasted oats, nuts, dried fruit and anything else to the wet mixture, pack it into a baking tin to set, and then cut when it comes to room temp. They will last a very long time, theoretically. That part has not been tested even though I have not stopped making these.

  60. flavacrisp Says:

    So I have made these bars twice – the first time exactly as the recipe states, the second I did not bake for as long. Both were super yummy as granola, but they didn’t make the best bars. The recipe as it is written made better bars, but they were hard as a rock. The second batch did not stay together at all. So the next time I make these I will 1)roughly chop the nuts first and 2)NOT toast the oats, nuts and seeds first. I think they will bind together better when they are raw. Then I will bake for 20 minutes and see what happens.

  61. Ben Says:

    I never leave comments on blogs but I wanted to let you know that we really like this granola recipe. We tried it today and it worked out great. This is going to be my new breakfast bar in the mornings. No more of those bars that are mostly sugar!

  62. zimmsha Says:

    I loved this recipe. For anyone out there avoiding refined sugars, I replaced the honey and the brown sugar with equal amounts of agave nectar and I used almond butter instead of peanut butter. Also, I didn’t have flax seeds on hand, but I did have chia seeds (why? Don’t ask), so I substituted those instead. this is actually a really flexible recipe and I could see making it with various other grains, nuts and fruits. Thank you so much for being our guinea pig!

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