Introduction: Special "O" Bars

Picture of Special "O" Bars

You can make delicious and semi-healthy breakfast bars that are 10 times fresher and half the price of store-bought breakfast bars! This Instructable is highly modifiable, and requires no baking. This is a good recipe to do with the kids.

If you are concerned about keeping these healthy, know that I have done the math on carbohydrates, and following this recipe you are getting a slightly larger bar with the same (or slightly less) than you would get from a commercial cereal bar. Using all Splenda (no sugar) and a little less corn syrup, you will make a lower carb' treat.

Step 1: Go Shopping, Buy Your Supplies.

Picture of Go Shopping, Buy Your Supplies.
This recipe will make one batch, or about 20 bars (you may want to double up and make 40)

  • 1 Box (about 7 cups) - Generic Strawberry Special K Cereal (pictured is "Strawberry Awake" from Wal-Mart)
  • 1 Cup - Splenda Sweetener (see notes below) or Sugar
  • 1/8 - 1/4 Cup - Powered Milk (gives it that breakfast cereal taste)
  • 1 Cup - Light Corn Syrup (one jar is about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 squeezable icing - Not at all healthy, but gives a nice appearance
  • 1/4 - 1/2 Tablespoon - Artificial strawberry flavoring
  • 1/2 bag - Dried cranberries

Total cost in my case = $21.00

Now, I should explain a few things about ingredients ...

Corn syrup is liquefied sugar. It's loaded with carbohydrates. Following this recipe, you will make breakfast bars that are AS healthy as a name brand "Special K" bar (which is not healthy at all). You may modify this recipe, but the less syrup you use the less sweet your bars are. Also, the sticky consistency of the syrup makes these easy to press into bars. Using less syrup will give you crumbling bars. Some have suggested using honey ... which wouldn't taste well here. Also, if you go with honey, check the label. If you are buying the cheap stuff, the chances are it's mostly corn syrup anyway. The bottom line is: I would not suggest using less than 3/4 cup of corn syrup for this recipe.

Splenda is expensive, and may have health risks! You can really use Splenda as you would sugar, and in this recipe you will never taste the difference. In fact, you could cut back and use less than I did - because the cereal is all ready infused with a good deal of sugar right out of the box. But ... because of the cost and possible health risks, you may just want to use real sugar. If you are going to eat more than a few of these in one sitting, use sugar. For more information - see this WikiPedia page -

Cranberries? Yes. Have you ever checked the ingredients on the name brand bars? They use strawberry flavored cranberries. Note that you will be more than doubling the amount that they put into the commercial bars - and these are very good for you.

Powered Milk? It's not really required. I would suggest only using a small amount, if at all. It's well worth it for that hint of a milky taste in the final product. Use too much, and your liquid process will turn into a meringue.

Artificial Flavoring This too can be skipped all together. It will run you about $3.00 for a small bottle. If you use it, use it VERY sparingly. The flavor comes loose when it hits the sugar. Do NOT use any more than 1/2 a Tablespoon. This was an experiment on my part, and I thought the final product was very tasty with the added flavoring.

Icing on a healthy bar? I know someone is going to hit me on this. It's pure sugar. If you don't want to use it, don't buy it. But your final product won't have that Martha Stewart appeal if you don't ice it.

Step 2: Gather the Tools and Equipment

Picture of Gather the Tools and Equipment
You will need the following tools:

  • A large counter or table space (preferably both)
  • COOKING SPRAY (do not skip this, you WILL regret it)
  • A big mixing bowl (that will hold 7 cups)
  • Measuring cup
  • SMALL pot (smaller is less to clean)
  • A wisk
  • Wooden spoon, or spatula
  • Teaspoon measure
  • Big knife
  • Two aluminum pans. (Large one for the product, small one for the processing)

WARNING - Anything involving corn syrup will turn your kitchen into a sticky mess. Whenever possible, clean your pots and utensils IMMEDIATELY after you are done using them.

Step 3: Creating the Glue

Picture of Creating the Glue

Assuming you have only one measuring cup ... you had better do things in this order.

1) Measure out 1 cup of Splenda sweetener, and dump it into a cereal bowl. Set it aside.
2) Measure out 1 cup of corn syrup, and put it into your small pot.
3) Dump the Splenda on top of the syrup, and turn on the stove.


You need to keep the heat between low, and medium. If you start to boil the syrup, you will end up making butterscotch or caramel flavoring (neat, but bad with strawberries). Once the syrup starts getting hot, get your wisk and start mixing the concoction together. If you jump in before the syrup is hot, you will end up with a ball of dry Splenda in the middle of your wisk. Shake it out, and keep on truckin'. It happens.

If you are going to add strawberry flavoring, I would add that to the pot now.

If you are going to add dry milk, you can add that to the pot now as well.

Keep wisking! If it starts looking foamy, you may have used too much dry milk. That's all right. It will still taste very good, it's just no fun to cook. If you start seeing bubbles, lower the heat!

While that is heating up - get a sink full of soap and hot water. You will need it.

Step 4: Get Your Dry Good Ready

Picture of Get Your Dry Good Ready

Are the kids helping? This step is for them!

Spray down the inside of a large mixing bowl with cooking spray. Trust me.

Dump the entire box of cereal into the mixing bowl. This should equate to about 7 cups. You can measure it out of you are that concerned. But your measuring cup is probably full of sticky syrup in the sink. Go wash that thing!

Stir in your cranberries. About half a bag is good. When you are eating these bars, you think you are eating strawberries. Notice that the cereal uses real freeze dried strawberries. I hate those, but they taste great in these bars.

Watch that sticky stuff on the stove, don't let it start boiling.

Step 5: Add It All Together

Picture of Add It All Together

When hot, this glue stuff is like water. It will begin cooling almost immediately though, so have everything lined up and ready.

1) Spray down the inside of your big aluminum pan (13 X 9 or bigger).
2) Spray down the bottom side of a small aluminum pan (you'll see why).
3) Grab your glue concoction off the of the stove, and pour it evenly throughout the dry mix.
4) Spray a little cooking spray onto your wooden paddle, and begin stirring like a mad-man (or a mad-woman as I will not sexually discriminate against crazy cooking people).

If you feel that it's starting to harden up on you, that's because it is. But you have your pan ready, right?

Step 6: Dump the Mixture Into the Big Pan

Picture of Dump the Mixture Into the Big Pan

Dump the cereal mixture into your larger aluminum pan, and use the wooden spoon to work it all out of the mixing bowl.

Take your mixing bowl to the sink, and dump it into hot water. Now. I mean it. It's sticky. If possible, have a friend, spouse, or child clean that for you now.

Step 7: Compact Your Concoction

Picture of Compact Your Concoction

To give your bars that "commercially manufactured" texture, you need to press them into tight little bars.

With all your mess in that pan, grab the smaller aluminum pan (or a cookie sheet with cooking spray on the bottom) and push down with it. Work the mixture into one side of the pan, and keep putting pressure on the stuff to force it flat. In this process you can determine how "high" you want your bars to be in size (aim for an inch or so).

It will all ready be harding up on you as it cools.

Step 8: Decorate Your Bars

Picture of Decorate Your Bars

For the Martha Stewart types, get some white icing and create a stripe pattern across your bars. Or don't. That's a lot of sugar, and you don't really need it.

Now all you have to do is leave it alone until it cools. Most of the cereal bar recipes I have seen say to put it in the fridge to cool it. I would suggest, leaving it sit out at room temperate for an hour or so. The refrigerator will moisturize your cereal and make your bars stale. Let them cool at room temperature and you will create crispy bars!

If you just can't wait ... put them in the freezer for 15 minutes. That might make them easier to cut. leave them in for an hour, and that will make them impossible to cut.

Step 9: Distribution

Picture of Distribution

It's likely that you will end up a few bars short while packaging them. Especially if the kids are helping you!

Pull your bars out of the pan (they should come out easily in one big heap) and lay them onto a cutting board. Get that big knife and start carving them up. You don't have to be consistent if you don't want to. You are aiming for something about 1 X 1 X 3 inches. If you have trouble getting them out of the pan, use more cooking spray or grease next time.

Eat a couple, and find some way to store the rest of them. I suggest sharing them with your family, friends, the work crowd, or whoever is around at the time. You can wrap them in plastic. You can put them in plastic containers. You can sell them on the street corner. You get the idea.

I hope you enjoy making and eating these.

Please share your recipe modifications!


Calico Jack (author)2012-04-15

I don't know if it was with permission or not, but this 'ible has been plagiarized word for word here:

antcity (author)2011-05-13

hate to break it to you but dried cranberries also contain an awful of a lot of sugar. I'm really sorry to pick on you, because you've done a really good job recreating supermarket type breakfast bar, and I'm sure it is yummy, but the only mistake you have made is to mention the word "healthy" there isn't one single ingredient in this that could be considered healthy. So basically you are eating sugar for breakfast. which is fine, if thats what you want, but please consider my intention which is to point out that the public are often mislead about what "healthy" means. I make breakfast bars too, they contain oats, dried fruit, nuts and pureed dates to keep them together. although there is natural sugar in the dried fruit there is nothing added. there is a good recipe in Heidi Swanson's "Super Natural Cooking" that uses rice syrup and crisp brown rice cereal, which are super yum and super sweet.

Quizicat (author)2011-05-12

In keeping with Instructables shouldn't there be some bacon in this?

Lorax98 (author)2011-05-12

Everyone is getting bent out of shape about the Splenda, but it is the Strawberry K that is the real unhealthy in this bar. Way too much sodium, also too much refined carbs, and not enough fiber. Try Fiber 1 instead.

tanntraad (author)2008-04-30

Nice! Eating all sugar for breakfast tho.. "semi-healthy" ;)

oddree (author)tanntraad2008-04-30

Yeah. What was sad was pouring in all that corn syrup. I figured my recipe would come out with a ton more calories. Instead it seemed to break even, which told me that the store bought bars aren't healthy bars either. :-) I'm hoping someone can come up with a healthier substitute for the syrup, which has the same consistency.

slyfox117 (author)oddree2011-05-12

Instead of using a sugar-based binder, have you thought about a fat-based one? I know that doesn't sound as healthy, but using something like almond butter can increase the amount of HDL (good cholesterol) as well as adding some protein, both of which will help you stay fuller, longer. Its part of what makes eggs a good breakfast food.

Just try not to buy stuff with too much sugar added. If you want, Adam's makes a good peanut butter that would probably work really well.

alanabs (author)oddree2011-05-12

Brown Rice Syrup is a perfect substitute for the vile product that is HFCS.

The other suggestion is to sprinkle a little stevia extract as a replacement for a couple tablespoons of sugar.

Basically all the products you listed were from the seemingly healthy food options offered at Walmart, no offense to anyone its just an observation based on the brand names. The better option would be to shop online for organic alternatives. They are usually priced fairly reasonable.

Think about it, where do you want to pay the price. You either pay a little more now, for a greater return - longer richer life - then pay slightly less and get only a temporal sensation from fast food.

djsc (author)oddree2011-05-12

I believe, though I haven't tried it myself, that some people on very restricted carb diets use glycerine to add stickiness to recipes without the calories. It is an ingredient in some store-bought "atkins diet" bars. I think there are also branded low-cal syrups sold for the purpose of things like this, though I would asume they are quite expensive.

ItsTheHobbs (author)2008-08-02

AAA!!!!!!!! No splenda. Thats mostly aspartame, which they used while testing bio-chem warfare, thought it was sweet , and used it. It's also in fire ant poison.

oddree (author)ItsTheHobbs2008-08-03

To be fair here, the FDA has never found any reason to doubt the safety of aspartame use. If you search their archives you will find that they have done several studies to dismiss myths of brain cancer and tumors caused by the chemical. The only possible danger with the sweetener is to those who have high levels of phenylalanine in their blood stream (associated with some genetic diseases). Also, eating mass amounts of Splenda may give you a stomach ache, because it's harder to digest than sugar.

And yes, they sweeten ant poison. Because ants preferred it two to one against vinegar flavored poisons. ;-)

wsecomp (author)oddree2011-05-12

In any case, aspartame and sucralose are both bad for your body. Splenda/sucralose is a chemical-based sugar derivative. If you aren't going to use plain sugar, then Stevia (natural sweet herb) is another alternative for dry sweeteners. If you don't HAVE to have a dry ingredient, honey or molasses are better for you.

In fact, if you have allergies that magically appear after it rains or in the Spring, find a LOCAL source of honey and/or bee pollen. Your body will start developing antibodies and readjust your histamine level.

ItsTheHobbs (author)oddree2008-08-03

Yes, but I prefer not to use things that would have been used or in any of that.

eviloverlord (author)ItsTheHobbs2010-06-04

Splenda is sucralose, not aspartame.

PattiAtti (author)2010-08-15

I have seen many comments about the artifical sweetners but I have found it interesting that the the 'corn syurp' was called liquid sugar??? It is true that corn syurp is all carbohydrates but not sugar from sugar cane. It is made from corn which in not good for you either as artifical sweetners. I agree with the people who mentioned the agave sweetner which does not effect your blood sugar and much healthier. Agave is a syrup and should do just fine in keeping the bars together. I use it to make granola and in and on pancakes and many other baked goods. It is wonderful does not have any fake taste at all. I am going to make a batch of your bars next week...with agave though...they look yummy.

joey2542667 (author)2008-08-29

just made them. THANK GOD FOR COOKING SRAY!!! I am waiting for them to harden ill report back to say how they taste in an hour or so...

joey2542667 (author)joey25426672008-08-30

hmmm... I think I might have messed am up because the "glue" was a clear color instead of white. does anyone know why this happened?

oddree (author)joey25426672008-09-01

It's okay for it to be clear. The only reason mine appeared so white in the pictures was because of the amount of powdered milk I used. The color is not really noticeable (one way or the other) once the bars harden up.

joey2542667 (author)oddree2008-09-01

well for some reason they didnt taste all that great...

Toffy (author)2008-08-29

Hey Folks, if you don't like to use the Artificial Sweetners, use India's Sucanet. It is not refined, or treated, and is really tasty. Although, the calories will change. I found it doing an online search. You can also use Raw Sugar,Turbinado. I think it is great you posted the instructable. Kudos to you.

Toffy (author)Toffy2008-08-29

adding: Your instructable is great and I will try this recipe with Splenda, and another batch with the Sucanet. The Sucanet has a molasses flavor and is different, but very good. I have made a butter cookie with using the Sucanet in place of white sugar, and the entire batch was eaten in one night. My Husband and Son loved them. I know I don't like the bitter taste of the Stevia. Been there done that. Nasty. And it is quite expensive. Good Job on this one. By the way, if you purchased all the ingredients for this as it appears you did. And you have leftover Splenda, flavoring,Corn Syrup etc. You would (next time) figure out the cost differently as $21.00 is horribly expensive for one batch of bars. You would figure out the cost per the recipe amount used...then the cost of each item...reducing the actual cost. If what you bought of everyting for this recipe is 21.00, and you can make 2 recipes then your actual cost for each batch is $10.50. And we all know one can of Spray oil last 6 months or longer under normal use so I would only add in a couple cents for that. Just an example to make a point for the cost factor for new cooks out there.

oddree (author)Toffy2008-09-01

That's a good point on the amount spent. One box of Splenda will make several batches of bars as will the cooling spray. You can also stretch the dried cranberries a bit as they are a bit pricey. I also noticed that Aldi's now sells a Strawberry Special K' knock off. It was just a tad bit cheaper than the Wal-Mart brand so I will probably try it for my next batch.

mollytea (author)2008-05-02

you could use agave syrup instead of the corn, perhaps. looks good!

ItsTheHobbs (author)mollytea2008-08-02

Yes, agave is almost the only thing I use.

oddree (author)2008-05-03

NOTE: Do not use Honey. I tried it this morning on an experimental batch. Even a small amount kept the bars from ever hardening. This resulted in mushy batches that I couldn't get out of the pan. :-)

cory.smith (author)2008-05-01

I will say that these things look awesome. I will be making myself a batch this weekend. Very thorough Instructable, excellent job!

Whythisreason (author)2008-05-01

Using Splenda or any artificial sweetner isn't "healthier", it just brings down calories. A lot of these sweetners are potential carcinogenics and there is quite a lot of debate on their "health" aspect.

Healthier to me would be; unrefined cane sugar, molasses, honey or stevia.
Adding nuts to the mix could also help and increases protein content.

Sure get's me hungry though... :)

oddree (author)Whythisreason2008-05-01

Fair enough! If you are going to sit down and eat a pile of these bars, you should *NOT* use Splenda. It seems that Splenda is perfectly safe when you consume it in moderate amounts, but could cause health problems if you eat large quantities of it.

Citing WikiPedia on the topic of "Sucralose" (sweetener used in Splenda) ...

Sucralose has been accepted by several national and international food safety regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives, The European Union's Scientific Committee on Food, Health Protection Branch of Health and Welfare Canada and Food Standards Australia-New Zealand (FSANZ). According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, one can consume 15 mg/kg/day of Sucralose "on a daily basis over a ... lifetime without any adverse effects".[13] For a 150 lb person, 15 mg/kg is about 1000 mg, equivalent to about 75 packets of Splenda or the sweetness of 612 gm or 2500 kcal of sugar.

... it's amazing what you learn in user based communities such as this one. :-) I will modify the recipe with some additional notes.

Whythisreason (author)oddree2008-05-01

If you scroll down to Safety on the Equipped page you can also read additional info on recent studies that do raise some concerns on the health aspect as well as actual weight-gain due to artificial sweeteners.

In addition, there is a lot of info on the "discussion" section on the Sucralose Wiki page. I can recommend to always dive into the discussion tab when trying to form an opinion as it shows many different views on the subject.

I'm not here to debate if we should use artificial sweeteners though...
I do feel there is no need to use these products in the first place.

I can definitely recommend Stevia, although the FDA doesn't...
You can read about it here:
(last page also has some disturbing info on sucralose)


firefletcher (author)2008-05-01

those look amazing!!!! favoutited love this so much.

Ward_Nox (author)2008-04-30

can you use other cerial i tried strawberry specail K when i cam put ):(P

oddree (author)Ward_Nox2008-04-30

I think you can do this with any cereal. This recipe dates back in various forms at least 30 years. It seems that just recently the companies that make the cereal began to cash in on this "hillbilly concoction". ;-) I think it started with Cheerios or corn flakes, mixed with peanut butter and chocolate chips.

egreen767 (author)2008-04-30

If these are as good as the Special K bars that they look like, i have to make these.

oddree (author)egreen7672008-04-30

My family *loves them*. I really just made them for my wife, because she loves the store bought Special K bars. My home made bars were definitely sweeter. But contained more fruit - providing a little more protein, and fiber. But they taste BETTER than the store bought bars!

Doctor What (author)2008-04-30

They look delicious! And personally, I don't care if they are healthy, as long as they taste good. +1

Gjdj3 (author)2008-04-30

Looks tasty!

GorillazMiko (author)2008-04-29

Looks good, nice job. +1 rating. ;-)

LinuxH4x0r (author)2008-04-29

Look delicious!

mikeasaurus (author)2008-04-29

These look really good! What is it with all the instructables for tasty treats? I can see endless possibilities with these! I can't wait to see what everyone else does with theirs!

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