Soft and Chewy Coconut Cashew Granola Bars
Valentine’s Day came and went with takeout chicken salad sandwiches and a bottle of wine at home. A fancier date night felt tough this year with childcare logistics and, frankly, going out on Valentine’s Day can often be a bummer with fixed price menus and hard-to-get reservations. We’re constantly rejiggering, it seems. So this year, chicken sandwiches by candlelight felt just right. In talking to so many of our friends with young kids, it seems rejiggering is just the order of the day and while I’m generally a fan of planning and to-do lists, I’m getting much better at going with the flow. One of the things that helps is having something at-the-ready in the mornings, so the day’s decision making doesn’t have to include what to make (or eat) for breakfast. It should be pretty simple in the early hours. And lately, simple looks like these chewy granola bars. They’re soft and hefty and feel homemade in the best way possible, and they freeze really well so you can make a big batch and stash some away for those Major Rejiggering Weeks. You know the kind.
I’ve made many a granola bar in my life, and I find they’re much like brownies in the sense that people have very strong opinions about how they like theirs: either you’re camp soft and chewy or camp crunchy, and these are definitely the former. I’ve experimented with many ways to make a much healthier granola bar, decreasing the sweetener and oil as much as possible and the result is often the same: a not-so-tasty pile of granola (not granola bars). So while still packed with healthy whole grains, nuts and natural sweeteners, these are fully stepping up to the plate with lots of almond butter, and a generous hit of coconut oil. If you ask me, good granola and good granola bars need some (good) fat.
For these bars, I partnered with one of my favorite brands, Bob’s Red Mill, and used their organic rolled oats for the base. Bob’s makes so many whole grains and whole grain flours readily available and easy to find — they’re my go-to for everything from oats to cornmeal. In general, I love the combination of cashews, coconut, almonds and honey so those flavors come out big here — but as I discuss in the head note of the recipe, you can use any nuts, seeds or dried fruits you’d like instead.
If you’ve read my cookbook or taken one of my cooking classes, you know that my style of cooking is relatively easy going, and I always love for you to make any adaptations that work better for you or your lifestyle, but I will say there are a few things you really shouldn’t change with this recipe if you want it to work. First, you want to chop your cashews (or any larger nut) pretty darn small or slicing these will inevitably be a bit of a headache. Second, when you’re pressing your mixture into the oiled pan, you want to press quite firmly and really pack it down. This will help it compact and bake into more of a firm bar. Use well-oiled hands or the back of a spatula. I’ll even do a second press halfway through the cook time to continue to compact the mixture, which I’m not sure technically helps them hold together in the long run, but I have a hunch it does. Last, while I know it seems like an impossibly long time to cool, these really do take a good 3 hours to cool completely and firm up. If you try to slice them before that time, they’ll crumble on you. I like to slice these guys long and slim, like the old school granola bars I used to eat as a kid. But you can certainly slice them into squares if you’d prefer. Remember that while they’ll hold together like a bar, they are quite soft, so they’re also great crumbled on top of your morning yogurt, which I’ve been loving lately. Or ice cream. You know, just in case you find yourself rejiggering in the evening as you search for something sweet at the end of the day.
Soft and Chewy Coconut Cashew Granola Bars
- Yield: 16-20 bars (depending on how large you slice)
- Prep time: 10 mins
- Cook time: 35 mins
- Inactive time: 2 hrs
- Total time: 2 hrs 45 mins
These granola bars are soft, chewy and hefty – they feel homemade in the best possible way. As with most granola bar recipes, they’re infinitely adaptable, so feel free to use your favorite nuts and seeds instead of the ones I’ve used here — you just want to keep the proportions of wet and dry ingredients the same. It will be tempting to try a granola bar soon after they come out of the oven, but they really do need at least 3 hours to cool and firm up, so plan accordingly.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9×13 pan with a little coconut oil or your favorite cooking spray. Lay a folded sheet of parchment into the pan so its flaps hang over the edges (this makes it easy to lift the bars out when finished cooling), and grease the top of the parchment, too.
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the honey, coconut oil and almond butter in a saucepan and heat to combine, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and stir well.
In a large bowl, mix together oats, millet, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, coconut flakes, salt and cinnamon.
Pour the warm liquid over the dry ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon (or your hands, which I find easier). Make sure there aren’t any dry bits in the bowl — you want the wet mixture completely incorporated. With lightly greased hands or the back of a spatula, press the mixture very firmly into the prepared pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the edges are a slightly darker shade of golden brown. The bars will still look about the same color and will feel soft to the touch, so you’ll likely think they aren’t done yet. They will firm up as they cool. Allow bars to cool for at least 3 hours. Slice and store in an airtight container. If you’d like, wrap individual bars in plastic wrap and freeze for up to six months (to thaw, take out of the freezer the night before you’d like to enjoy them and set on counter).
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To Talk Porridge
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I've been wanting to try a new granola bar recipe for quite a while and these look perfect! Question: I have a strong miller aversion (weird, I know) so should I sub in more oats or maybe wheat germ? Thanks! Keep up the good work.
Hi, Julie! Since oats will soak up a bit more moisture than millet, I'd sub in more seeds: either sunflower, sesame or pepitas. Let me know how they turn out! Enjoy.
Made these last night following the instructions to the letter, even pressing down halfway through the baking time. Let them cool overnight even. When I started cutting them into bars (actually squares) this morning, they crumbled rather quickly. Managed to get a good bunch out of it but I have a bowl of loose granola (delicious, I must say) for breakfast cereal or on yogurt. The problem is that I don't know what I could have done to make them not hang together. Any ideas?
Hi, Iris. Oh I'm so sorry they didn't hold together for you. Hmm, I tested these twice and didn't have an issue. You didn't do any subs? As you likely noticed, they are on the thicker / heftier side and are definitely meant to be soft (so they will naturally crumble a little while slicing etc). They're not crisp / crunchy by nature, but much softer / chewier. I do know the amount of nut butter is key as it helps bind them and the honey or brown rice syrup is obviously important, too. Leaving them overnight should've done the trick for sure, so I'm stumped.The only thing I can think of is the nuts (cashews) do have to be chopped quite well because if they're too large when you slice your bars they're going to cause them to kind of break apart. I'm not sure if any of that is helpful, but I truly hope you all enjoy the granola from the recipe and I'm so sorry they didn't hold together as they should've for you.
I made them yesterday and they turned out fantastic! I was a bit short on brown rice syrup, so I added just a tiny bit more of coconut oil and hazelnut butter to make sure they'd hold together. We took some for our hike with friends and were well received by everybody. Thanks!
So glad to hear it, Rebeca! And man does hazelnut butter sound dreamy. I will have to try that next time around. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment!
Hi! Do you think we could substitute quinoa for the millet? These sound wonderful!! Thank you!!
Rusti, so sorry for the delay! I haven't tried it but I bet you sure could. Let us know if you try it!
I just made my second batch as it is a hit with my adult children ..I substituted quinoa for the millet as I read it was a very good substitute. It is still cooling but I know it will be just as good.