Introduction: Easy Healthy Granola Bars

This recipe is simple, healthy, budget friendly, and endlessly customizable. Crunchy toasty goodness on the outside, chewy fruity niceness inside. What more could you want!

Basically you take three ingredients: condensed milk, rolled oats and shredded coconut, mix it together with whatever fruit and nuts you like, and bingo bango.. granola bars.

Perfect to take to work or school.

They are so much better than store bought, which I find always have too much sugar and not enough fibre and protein. With this recipe you can pack in all the good fibretastic fruits and proteiny nuts you like, and none you don't.

** Because of the sweetness of the condensed milk, there's no need to dump a whole lot of extra sugar in. If you'd like you can replace the sweetened condensed milk with regular, unsweetened condensed milk and they come out very nice. If you want to amp up the sweetness a bit, you can stir in a couple of tablespoons of honey or sweetener into the condensed milk when you warm it up.**

When I make these granola bars I usually grab just what I need from the bulk section of the grocery store, and even with expensive add-ins like dried cherries it rarely costs over $10, which comes out to about 0.60 cents a bar. Not too shabby.

I cut and wrap each bar individually in saran wrap, and freeze for up to 6 months. I pull one out in the morning and by the time lunch rolls around its defrosted and ready for munching.

If you're the kind of person who likes some chocolate in their granola bars, throw in some chocolate chips, or melt some nice dark chocolate with a tsp of oil and dip or drizzle it all over the bars. Let cool until the chocolate is hard, and wrap!

**Update**

I'm just adding this bit in, for anyone who is finding themselves without a can of condensed milk, or find it's too pricey in their part of the world. Thanks to Legomum for suggesting it! Now fair warning, I haven't tried this method out yet, but it makes sense to me!

Home Made Condensed Milk Substitute

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons instant dry milk
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 cup granulated white sugar

Combine sugar and dry milk. Add warm water and mix well. Warm the milk in the top of a double boiler (a metal mixing bowl can be placed over boiling water in a medium saucepan for this purpose). Stir mixture until the sugar has dissolved.

Refrigerate or allow to cool for 15 minutes before using. Keeps for 2-3 days in refrigerator.


Healthy Granola Bars
Yield:  12 bars
Time: 15 mins. prep, 1 hour bake
Cost: <$10 or approx. 0.60 cents per bar

Hardware:

- medium sized pot
- baking sheet
- parchment paper
- wooden spoon
- 8x8 inch square cake pan, greased and lined with parchment paper

Software:

- 1 can (300 ml) sweetened condensed milk
- 2 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1 cup nuts
- 1 cup dried fruit

Optional:
1 cup chopped chocolate
1 tsp oil

Combine + melt for dipping or drizzling over bars.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread out oats and nuts (but not the fruit!) on a cookie sheet.

Toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning the oats around the edges. As soon as it's turning a bit brown and you can smell the toasty nuts, it's done. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat the condensed milk until the consistency is runny. Add in any spices + salt.

Add all of the dry ingredients and stir to thoroughly mix and evenly distribute all ingredients.

Pour the mixture into a 8x8 inch parchment lined baking pan and and flatten with a spatula or the back of a spoon.

Bake for about an hour @ 300  degrees until the mixture looks dry and is not sticky to the touch. It should be just barely starting to brown.

Step 1: Toasty Oats

Preheat oven to 350F (150C).

Spread out oats, coconut and nuts out on a cookie sheet in an even layer.

Don't include any of the fruit, it will just burn!

Toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning the oats around the edges. As soon as the coconut is brown and you can smell the toasty nuts, it's done.

Set aside.

Step 2: Fruit Combination Taste Sensation

Chop your dried fruits into small pieces, and combine them. Here Ive made a mix of sour cherries, strawberries and sun dried apricots.

I like to buy the fruits and nuts for this recipe at a bulk food store, or in the bulk aisle of the grocery store. That way I can get just what I need. Be careful, dried cherries and strawberries and run you around $6/100g which is pretty pricey. But if you consider that 100g of dried strawberries is equal to about a pint of fresh strawberries it doesnt seem quite so crazy.

Less expensive dried fruits are raisins, cranberries and apricots. Dried apricots are also very high in iron, so I always like to throw those in.

Less expensive nuts are whole unsalted almonds, or peanuts.


Favourite Combinations:

- Cashew + Dried Cherry + Cardamom

- Pistachio + Dried Apricot + White Chocolate Chips

- Peanut + Dried Strawberries +  4 tbsp Peanut Butter
(melt the PB in with the condensed milk. It tastes like PB&J and the strawberries taste like gummy candies!)

- Dried Apple + Raisin + Cinnamon
(tastes like my favourite little packets of Quaker oatmeal)

- Smarties + Honey Roasted Peanuts + Crushed BBQ Fritos
(amazeballs)

- Almond + Dried Cranberry + 70% Dark Chocolate

Or just buy 2 cups of trail mix and toss it in! It'll be great!

Step 3: Mix & Bake

In a large saucepan, heat the condensed milk until the consistency is runny. You're not cooking it, just warming it up so folding in the dry ingredients will be easier.

Add any spices like cinnamon or cardamom you would like and stir it into the condensed milk now, that way it will be evenly distributed.

Add all of the dry ingredients, including your chopped dried fruit, and stir to thoroughly mix and evenly distribute all ingredients.

Spoon the mixture into a 8x8 inch parchment lined square cake pan.

Flatten down the mix. If you don't flatten down the mix very well, your granola bars will fall apart more easily. I like to place a sheet of parchment or wax paper over the mix and flatten it down well with my hand or using the flat bottom of a glass. That way your hands don't get all sticky.

Bake for about an hour @ 300  degrees until the mixture looks dry and is only slightly sticky to the touch. It should be just barely starting to brown.

Step 4: Finish!

When your granola bars have cooled, invert pan over a cutting board and peel off parchment paper.

Slice into 12 bars.

If you cut your bars before they are fully cooled they could be a bit crumbly, but you can just press them back into bar shape with reasonable success.

At this point you can keep them in an airtight container for about a week.

I like to wrap mine individually in cling wrap and freeze. In the freezer they are good for over 6 months.

If you're the kind of person who likes a chocolate dipped granola bar, here's how:

Chocolate Dip'n Drizzle

1 cup good quality white or dark chocolate, chopped
1 tsp oil (anything but olive oil)

Melt in a microwave, 20 seconds at a time, stirring often, until melted.

Dip each bar and place on a sheet of parchment or wax paper until cool and hardened.


Comments

author
FreudianLemur (author)2012-09-02

I tried making these and they're delicious (I love the dried cranberries, but they're so expensive)! It'd be great to take a batch to a party, but some of my friends are vegan. Do you know of a good substitute for the sweetened condensed milk? I've read online and one option seems to be sweetened cream of coconut. Do you know if this would work in the same way, or do you think they'd all fall apart? Or do you know of any alternatives?

author
karalalala (author)FreudianLemur2012-09-02

That is interesting! I'm thinking.. maybe cream of coconut, because it's very thick has a higher fat content, with a little bit of honey for stickiness.. could probably work great. I'm going to try that out actually, I'm really interested in Vegan substitutes

author

Honey would not work for a Vegan substitute (animal by-product) but agave syrup can do the trick!

author
FreudianLemur (author)karalalala2012-09-04

I've had a look in all my local stores and I can't find any, so I'm gonna try making my own out of coconut milk. I've had a look and it seems that 2 cans of coconut milk and half a cup of sugar is the standard recipe (roughly the same as making your own condensed milk it seems).

author

I tried it, and it worked perfectly! They still have that great chewy texture, and the coconut taste isn't at all over powering (I've been using chopped almonds instead of shredded coconut because I don't like the texture). And this way you know exactly how much sugar you're putting in. The only downside is it takes quite a while to reduce (I reduced it to about a third of it's initial volume in about an hour and a half).

author
karalalala (author)FreudianLemur2012-09-05

Thats amazing! Now I have a tested Vegan version of this recipe. Thanks so much!

author
iamamomof5 (author)2012-09-09

These were great. I made them to send to school with a couple of my kids. This is the first recipe in which the bars did not crumble and fall into our laps. Even my son who does not like coconut loved them..I did not tell him about the coconut, and he did not notice. I think I'll keep that secret.

author
karalalala (author)iamamomof52012-09-10

Awesome! I'm glad to hear they are kid approved!

author
rosemaryknits (author)2015-08-12

I have made a version of this for years. To one can, I use 7 cups, total, of any combination of pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, oats - all toasted. These bars keep forever.

author
EmilyD7 (author)2015-06-16

author
mystico (author)2014-08-25

I made these as the first of many weekend experiments to improve my 11-year-old daughter's eating habits. Everyone else in the house (my wife, my MIL, and me) loved them! The daughter, not so much. I think I just need to tweak the recipe though, as she just doesn't like raisins. So next time it will be all nuts and seeds and no dried fruit. This recipe is a huge success though and will become a staple in my household. Quick and easy!

author
Roessboss (author)2014-02-02

I made this one with peanut better, ginger, cinamon, and a little bit of flax seed. I like this one.

author
karalalala (author)Roessboss2014-02-03

Mmm super healthy, I like it!

author
july1962 (author)2012-08-30

These do look good, but for those doing Weight Watchers, each bar is 9 points as written. If you use unsweetened evaporated milk instead of the sweetened, it drops to 7 points. Changing coconut to oats, keeps it the same. Leaving out the chocolate makes it 5 points.

author
karalalala (author)july19622012-08-30

Switch the coconut out for oats, use a lower fat nut such as almond instead of something like a cashew, skip the chocolate and use unsweetened condensed milk. It will be healthier.. but not quite as delicious.

author
lordgarion514 (author)karalalala2013-08-29

I know this is late but I just saw this ad it looks awesome.

As far as your suggestions remember that most/all the fat in most nuts is quite healthy. Also if you use coconut sugar which IS rather expensive(you can find it on Amazon for about $4 a pound if you buy several 1 pound packs) but worth it if you are worried about carbs for any reason, such as diabetics and pre-diabetics. Coconut sugar, while technically the same carbs as regular sugar has an absolutely amazing amount of nutrients compared to regular sugar and actually helps stabilize insulin levels, preventing the spikes that all carbs cause(whole grains just cause less than refined carbs, do but still a lot more than fats and protein)
So if you use the unsweetened condensed milk and sweeten with coconut sugar your insulin levels will remain much lower, which helps keep you from getting the munchies later. However I believe WW will still count it as all the same carbs, which is a shame.

Also coconut sugar tastes a lot like light brown sugar with a hint of caramel. So it will taste different, but be much healthier in every way.

author
Sparkytastic (author)2013-01-14

My wife and I just made these last night. The recipe comes out great!
Great 'ible!

author
kizz246 (author)2012-09-17

It looks great! I will definitely try these out, but I have one question first. What size was the can of sweetened condensed milk you used? I think they're about 300 mL (10 oz) in Canada but vary elsewhere.

author
karalalala (author)kizz2462012-09-18

Oops, sorry! Yep I used the 300ml can! I'll add that to the recipe.

author
kizz246 (author)karalalala2012-09-19

Awesome, thanks!

author
kizz246 (author)kizz2462012-10-07

So I went out and got some evaporated milk the other day... These are really good! I added some cinnamon and nutmeg and it tasted just like morning porridge but without the porridge consistency and extra time to prepare in the morning. Awesome.

author
Penolopy Bulnick (author)2012-09-19

This is great! Not only is it a great recipe, but you have a lot of great tips and information thrown in :D

author
legomum (author)2012-08-30

Do you know whether regular evaporated milk would work? I know it's not as thick as condensed, but condensed is extremely expensive here. However, there are recipes for a condensed milk substitute using milk powder, sugar, and water. Maybe I'll try that.

Also, have you tried it with the unsweetened? It seems the sugar would be important for it sticking together.

author
karalalala (author)legomum2012-08-30

It does work well with unsweetened condensed milk, and I usually don't even add any extra sugar to it. However, I don't think it will work with evaporated milk, it's just too watery. I have done a version replacing the condensed milk with 3/4 cup of canola oil and 1/2 cup of honey, and that worked out alright.

author
legomum (author)karalalala2012-09-01

Thanks for the reply! Condensed milk is very expensive here, so I think I will use a substitute. I found one at http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,183,151170-244199,00.html that reviewers says tastes even better in their desserts. A little more work measuring, but no pre-cooking. Another type is here, uses powdered milk: http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,2261,159188-235201,00.html This was the type I'd heard of before. Then I just found another type, using evaporated milk. It's closer to the flavour of condensed, but a little thinner. Cooking might thicken it. http://www.food.com/recipe/sweetened-condensed-milk-substitute-104863

So those who are like me can take their pick!

author
karalalala (author)legomum2012-09-02

Thanks Legomum, thats awesome! I'm actually going to edit that into the recipe, thats excellent.

author
blindinglights (author)2012-09-01

Made 'em!! ...okay, we didn't have rolled oats so I used quick oats and probably more than a cup of chocolate chips... so they turned out way darker than yours, but they're very crunchy & chewy & delicious. Can't wait to freeze them for dorm room snacks!

author

That's awesome! I often make muesli/granola for cereal and once used quick oats instead of rolled and I preferred it. They kind of melt a little bit and become little crunchy clusters of yum. That's awesome you made it and liked it, yay!

author
Goose (author)2012-08-30

That looks so good for a snack for hiking. Can I use regular condensed milk and just add Stevia powder to make it sweet??? Would there be any problems with the volume Stevia powder is very sweet.

author
karalalala (author)Goose2012-08-30

Its the perfect snack for hiking, it's like a little mini meal. I'm ashamed to say Ive never worked with stevia powder at all. My suggestion would be to warm your unsweetened condensed milk in a pot, and add the stevia a little at a time, giving it a taste as you go. The coconut and dried fruit will bring some sweetness with them, so just keep that in mind. Let me know how it goes!

author
Goose (author)karalalala2012-09-01

Thanks Karalalala, I'm going to see if i can make it as soon as I run out of the snacks I still have. I'm going to keep everyone posted on the results.

author
rwlh1950 (author)2012-08-30

Beautiful photography

author
adana (author)2012-08-30

These look fantastic, and your instructions are great. I'll give 'em a shot!

author
arochester (author)2012-08-25

"It has no extra sugar, just the sweetness of the milk, and the dried fruit."

Sweetened condensed milk has sugar added to make it "sweetened".

author
karalalala (author)arochester2012-08-27

That is a fair point. I'm forgetting that sweetened condensed milk is almost 50% sugar. I guess what I meant was, because of the sweetened condensed milk, I'm ot adding in any sugar. I'll make a note about using regular, unsweetened condensed milk.

author
kewpieliz (author)2012-08-26

These sound wonderful! I know I would love them, but my husband won't eat anything with coconut in it. Can they be made without it or is there something that could be used instead of coconut?

author
karalalala (author)kewpieliz2012-08-27

You could replace the coconut with another cup of oats, or ground almonds would work nicely too!

author
Bonnie Barto (author)2012-08-26

Why is it that folks don't think sweetened condensed milk doesn't have much sugar? Yikes. I'd prefer o find a recipe with condensed milk and had my own sweetener and dried fruit in order to control the sugar factor.

author
karalalala (author)Bonnie Barto2012-08-27

These can definitely be made with regular old unsweetened condensed milk and come out just great.

author
ChrysN (author)2012-08-25

Those look amazing!

author
AussieAnglerGal (author)2012-08-25

ii love how easy these are :)
i will have to make them

author
jessyratfink (author)2012-08-24

Oh yum! Such gorgeous photos. I need some of these. :D

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Bio: Professional maker and eater of food. Donuts.. Cheese.. Chocolate.. Beer.. these are a few of my favourite things! @karakabangpow
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