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The Best Homemade Granola Bars are chewy and soft, packed with protein, and an easy-to-make recipe that is way better than store-bought. My kids love to help make these homemade granola bars and they are perfect for freezing and sending in lunch boxes or for quick after-school snacks!
Homemade Granola Bars
Are your kids back in school yet this year? It feels like the summer gets shorter every year. My kids started 3rd grade and Kindergarten this week and while I thought that would give me more time, I’m still playing catch-up from our busy summer! It’s been blisteringly hot with temps soaring into the 100’s so that the school has had to cancel outdoor recesses. I still can’t bring myself to actually cook much.
As part of our back-to-school prep this year, I decided to make homemade granola bars that we could freeze and always have on hand to throw into lunches or grab for snacks before the kids’ after-school activities. My easy homemade granola recipe is one of the most popular recipes on the blog so I have been meaning to share how to make homemade granola bars for a while now. And I’m so glad I got around to it because honestly, these are way superior to store-bought chewy granola bars.
Aside from toasting the oats and nuts, this is a no-bake granola bar recipe where the bars stay soft and chewy and freeze beautifully.
We made NINE batches of these chewy granola bars, each with a different flavor variation so that we wouldn’t get bored (and because I love experimenting). I love this simple homemade granola bar recipe because it’s so easy to customize it however you like. I brainstormed a bunch of ideas for you below, most of which I have already tried myself.
Even with the ones I haven’t tried, I’m pretty confident after making batch after batch of granola bar variations that they would work well. Once we run out of our granola bar stockpile, I’ll try more versions!
Are granola bars healthy?
I feel like compared to other snack options, granola bars are a good-for you choice, but it might depend on how you want to look at it. Homemade granola bars are healthier than store-bought varieties because you know everything that is going into them. Oats have lots of fiber, which is good for you, and there is protein in the granola bars from the nuts.
But these are also kid-friendly chewy granola bars that are sweetened with honey and brown sugar, so they aren’t the lowest calorie snack you might choose. The upside is they are perfectly portioned to help you maintain control.
How do you get granola bars to stick together?
There are a couple of factors in getting homemade granola bars to successfully stick together. The first is to have the right ratio of oats and mix-ins to honey and brown sugar. The second is to press the bars firmly into the pan.
The oats will absorb the moisture from the sweetener used and I have found that honey and brown sugar help the bars stick together best. If you don’t want to use brown sugar, you could use just honey, but the flavor would be really strong and you would need to cook it down just a bit to increase it’s binding ability.
You also need to press firmly on the granola mixture to compact it into the pan so that it doesn’t fall apart when it’s cut into bars. I find this is easiest by using a piece of parchment paper on top and pressing firmly with my hands to get it nice and tightly packed. But you could also use a spatula, the back of a wooden spoon, or the bottom of a measuring cup instead.
What is in granola bars?
- toasted oats (I like old-fashioned oats best, but you can use quick or instant oats if that’s what you happen to have on hand)
- nuts or seeds (many schools are nut-free so seeds are a great option in place of nuts)
- brown sugar
- kosher salt
How to Make Homemade Granola Bars
- Toast oats and nuts: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, then spread the oats and nuts on a baking sheet and toast them for about 8-10 minutes. This step keeps these from being a 100% no-bake granola bar, but it adds a wonderful toasty flavor that I think granola bars really need.
- Melt butter, honey, and sugar: In a small saucepan, combine the butter, honey, and brown sugar and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, just until the butter has melted and the brown sugar has dissolved.
- Add vanilla and salt to the honey mixture, then pour over the oats and nuts: If you plan to add any sort of chocolate, let this cool for at least 10-15 minutes. It’s okay for the mixture to still be warm and for some of the chocolate to melt, because that will help the granola bar stick together, but you don’t want the chocolate to completely melt while mixing.
- Add up to 1 cup of mix-ins: Gently stir in the mix-ins, being careful not to overmix anything that might melt too much, like chocolate chips or M&M’s.
- Press into a square pan lined with a parchment paper or foil sling: Spraying the foil with cooking spray first helps the granola bars to release better later for cutting. Press the granola bar mixture firmly into the pan using a piece of parchment paper on top and pressing with your hands all the way to the edges to get it nice and tightly packed. Sometimes I like to sprinkle a few more mini chocolate chips or other mix-ins on top and press them in as well, just for looks. Either an 8×8 or 9×9 square pan works for this recipe, although bars made in a 9×9 pan will be slightly thinner.
- Chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours: This helps the bars set up so that they are easier to cut and hold together better. If you find they are too hard to cut, let them sit on the counter for 10 minutes, then try again.
- Cut into bars and store or serve: Remove the bars from the pan by lifting the foil or parchment out and transferring them to a cutting board. Then use a large knife to cut the bars (works so much better than a small knife or cutting them in the pan). The granola bars will keep well stored in an airtight container or plastic ziploc bag on the counter for up to 1 week with pieces of parchment or waxed paper between layers to keep them from sticking, or wrap them individually in parchment or waxed paper and keep them in the freezer in a large ziploc bag for up to 2 months.
Can you freeze granola bars?
Yes, absolutely you can freeze granola bars! I like to wrap the bars individually first with waxed paper or parchment paper, then store in large, labeled ziploc bags so I know which variety of granola bar I’m getting. They freeze well for up to 2 months. To thaw, just pull however many granola bars you want out of the freezer and leave them on the counter for 30 minutes.
Homemade Granola Bar Variations
Peanut Butter with Mini Chocolate Chips (Everybody’s Favorite, right?)
Get a double dose of peanut butter by adding peanut butter chips to a batch of peanut butter granola bars. That peanut butter and chocolate combo is irresistible!
These are a little more involved than most of the other variations because it involves adjusting the base recipe a bit, but chewy peanut butter granola bars are still easy to make.
First, reduce the butter to 2 tablespoons and increase the oats to 3 cups. Add 1/2 cup of peanut butter to the honey, butter, and brown sugar mixture and stir together. Mix in 1/2 cup each of peanut butter chips and mini chocolate chips.
You could also add mini M&M’s for peanut butter M&M granola bars!
Lemon Blueberry White Chocolate
Even though there are fresh blueberries in these pictures, the ones I used in the lemon blueberry white chocolate granola bars themselves were dried blueberries from Costco.
Make the base granola bar recipe as written (I like using pecans best for the nuts in this one), then stir in 2 tablespoons lemon zest & 1/2 cup of dried blueberries. Wait 15 minutes, then stir in 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips before pressing into the pan.
Caramel Cinnamon Coconut Krispie (My favorite!)
I love the warmth of the cinnamon and the extra crunch of the rice krispies cereal in this granola bar variation. They are probably the least showy of all the variations I made, by for me, they have the best flavor.
Decrease the oats in the base granola bar recipe to 2 cups, omit the nuts altogether, and add 1 cup rice krispies cereal. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut, and 1/2 cup caramel bits before pressing into the pan.
Milk Chocolate M&M (Rose’s favorite)
These fun, colorful M&M granola bars are a kid-favorite! I like using mini M&M’s instead of the regular size ones.
Make the base granola bar recipe as written (I used 1/4 cup almonds and 1/4 cup cashews in this variation). Wait 15 minutes, then stir in 1/2 cup of milk chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of mini M&M’s before pressing into the pan.
Seed & Fruit
I love the extra texture from the different types of seeds and the tart bits of dried cranberries.
Make the base granola bar recipe as written (I think either walnuts or pecans go well with the seed granola bars), then stir in 1/4 cup dried cranberries, 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, and 2 tablespoons each of flax, chia, and sunflower seeds before pressing into the pan.
Cookies & Cream
Got any Oreo lovers in your household? These are the granola bars for them!
Make the base granola bar recipe as written except omit the nuts and increase the oats to 3 cups, then stir in 3/4 cup chopped Oreo cookies. Wait 15 minutes, then stir in 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips before pressing into the pan.
Apricot Cashew Dark Chocolate
The combination of sweet dried apricots, salty cashews, and rich dark chocolate is a match made in heaven!
Make the base granola bar recipe as written (I use 1/2 cashews and 1/2 almonds in this one), then stir in 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots. Wait 15 minutes, then stir in 1/2 cup of dark chocolate chunks before pressing into the pan.
Tropical Coconut Mango
Granola bars get an island twist by using dried tropical fruit and coconut in these granola bars.
Make the base granola bar recipe as written (macadamia nuts are my nut of choice in this version), then stir in 1/3 cup of chopped dried mango, 1/3 cup chopped dried pineapple, and 1/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut before pressing into the pan.
Caramel Apple (Clara’s favorite)
If you can’t find caramel bits, you could chop caramel candy squares into smaller pieces for this delicious twist on one of our favorite Fall desserts.
Make the base granola bar recipe as written (I like using pecans best for the nuts in this one), then stir in 1/2 cup chopped dried apple & 1/2 cup of caramel bits before pressing into the pan.
Even More Chewy Granola Bar Ideas to Try
For any of the ideas below, you want about 3/4 to 1 cup of additional mix-ins.
- White Chocolate Macadamia Nut: This version is inspired by one of my favorite cookies using white chocolate chips and chopped macadamia nuts.
- Cranberry Orange: I would use pecans and add 2 tablespoons orange zest with 1/2 cup of dried cranberries. Dark or white chocolate chips would also be delicious with these flavors.
- Berry White Chocolate: Use 1/3-1/2 cup of chopped freeze-dried strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries and 1/2 cup of white chocolate chips.
- Chunky Monkey: 1/3 cup crushed banana chips, 1/3 cup peanut butter chips, and 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips.
- Andes Mint: Make the base granola bar recipe as written, then wait 15 minutes, before stirring in 3/4 cup of chopped Andes mints or Andes creme de menthe pieces.
- Cookie Butter: Add 1/2 cup cookie butter to the melted honey, butter, and sugar mixture, then stir in 1/2 cup crushed Biscoff cookies and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips.
- Nutella Hazelnut: Add 1/2 cup nutella to the melted honey, butter, and sugar mixture, then stir in 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips.
- Oatmeal Raisin Cookie: Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup rice krispies and 1/2 cup raisins.
More of our favorite recipes that use oats
- 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, peanuts)
- 1/3 cup honey
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix-Ins (Add 3/4 to 1 cup total of any combination of the following)
- miniature chocolate chips
- toasted coconut flakes
- dried cranberries
- miniature M&M's
- chopped Oreos
- white chocolate chips
- dried blueberries
- dried apples
- dried apricots
- caramel bits
- rice krispies
- dried pineapple
- dried mango
- seeds (pumpkin, chia, sunflower, hemp, flax)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Spread the oats and nuts in an even layer on the baking sheet, then bake for 4 minutes. Stir and bake for another 4 minutes until toasted. Remove from oven.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the honey, butter, brown sugar, and salt over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until smooth. Do not let it come to a simmer or boil. Immediately remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
- In a large bowl, combine the toasted oats and nuts with the honey mixture. Stir in any other mix-ins that won't melt like coconut or dried fruit. Let cool for 15 minutes before adding any chocolate chips or mini M&M's.
- Line a square pan with parchment paper or foil, then press the granola mixture firmly into the pan by placing a piece of parchment paper on top and pressing down or using a rubber spatula.
- Sprinkle extra miniature chocolate chips or other mix-ins on top, if desired, and press them in.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours, then let the bars sit on the counter for 10 minutes before cutting into 12 rectangles using a sharp knife.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge or on the counter for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 287 Total Fat: 14g Saturated Fat: 7g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 5g Cholesterol: 11mg Sodium: 100mg Carbohydrates: 40g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 25g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 4g
HAVE YOU TRIED THIS RECIPE?
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