Granola bars are the perfect mid-morning or afternoon snack. These copycat KIND bars pack a ton of flavor and a lot of interesting textures – snappiness on the top, chewiness on the bottom, and a lot of crunch in between. They are vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), grain-free (gluten-free), soy-free, refined sugar-free, and can easily be made nut-free.
I care a lot about food labels. If something has ingredients I am not familiar with, I am probably not going to buy it. Paragraphs-long ingredient lists deter me. I quote Michael Pollan’s famous, “If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it” all the time. Actually, I used to. Now I quote Yvette d’Entremont, a popular science blogger, who says, “If you can’t pronounce it, get a dictionary! Go out in the world and learn something.”
The reason I love this quote so much is that many common elements that are vital to us have some of the hardest-to-pronounce names. Tongue-twisters like adenosylcobalamin, ergocalciferol, and phylloquinone are all the chemical names of vitamins. Multi-syllabic words like isoleucine, phenylalanine, and threonine are all essential amino acids that make up protein. Unsaturated fatty acids, such as dihomo-γ-linolenic acid or eicosapentaenoic acid, are both essential to good health. Dihydrogen monoxide? Nothing more than an over-complicated way to say “water”.
So, not all unpronounceable ingredients are bad. Granola bars with a lot of added vitamins, minerals, or even protein concentrates are a prime example. On the other hand, simple ingredient list on a packaged food doesn’t necessarily mean a healthy food.
This brings me to KIND bars, which have a trademarked phrase “Ingredients You Can See and Pronounce” on every wrapper. However, a closer look will reveal ingredients such as soy protein isolates, soy lecithin, tapioca starch, palm oil, and various added flavors. What’s worse is all the added sugar (in a form of regular sugar, glucose, glucose syrup, tapioca syrup, honey, molasses, evaporated cane juice, and/or vegetable glycerin). A lot of KIND bars also contain dairy (in a form of whole milk, milk powder, and powdered yogurt).
With all these ingredients most KIND bars are far from what a truly healthy bar should look like. Of course, we are not going to get everyone to agree on a universal definition of “healthy”. Are KIND bars healthy compared to conventional granola bars or candy bars? Definitely! But are they healthy compared to something like Larabars? Not quite.
Tips for Making Granola Bars
KIND bars come in many different flavors, but usually, it’s a mix of various nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and/or chocolate. This particular recipe relies on three simple ingredients:
- Almonds: whole almonds are quite large (for granola bars), so I like to cut them in half vertically. You could also cut them into slices or use slivered almonds.
- Coconut flakes: there are several forms of dried coconut available on the market – desiccated (ground), shredded (grated), and flaked (shaved). The larger the coconut, the more moisture and fat it contains. Then there is also the option of unsweetened vs sweetened coconut. I prefer unsweetened coconut, always.
- Maple syrup: I know, still sugar, but at least unrefined. I haven’t tried these granola bars with a different sweetener, but I suspect that using honey or brown rice syrup as a substitute might work (since both honey and brown rice syrup are very sticky). You might just need to adjust the amount and baking time slightly.
How to Make Granola Bars
The ingredients are simple, but figuring out how to bake the bars so they have the right consistency took some experimenting. Here is the step-by-step process:
- Mix all the ingredients. Add the almonds, coconut flakes, and maple syrup into a medium bowl and mix until well combined. Make sure the maple syrup entirely coats the almonds and coconut. The maple syrup will have a tendency to sink to the bottom, which is fine.
- Bake. Transfer the mixture into a parchment paper-lined 8 x 8 inch/20 x 20 cm baking dish and press it into an even layer. Really pack the mixture down. Typically, liquid sweeteners in granola bars or candy bars are heated to 260°F/127°C to hold all the ingredients together. There’s no candy thermometer needed for this recipe but you do have to pack the mixture as tightly as possible. The harder and longer you press, the less chance you’ll end up with granola instead of granola bars. Bake the granola bars at 325°F/163°C until golden brown on top and completely cooked through, about 35 minutes. The maple syrup needs to caramelize and harden in order for the bars to hold really well.
- Cool. Let the granola bars cool completely. The bars will be soft straight out of the oven, but will harden once cooled. Once cool, lift the bars out of the baking dish and peel the parchment paper off the bottom of the bars. The top will be a lot like a candy bar – hard and snappy – while the bottom will be sticky and chewy. Cut into individual bars.
Granola Bars Variations
As I already mentioned, KIND bars come in various flavors. The most popular ones are almond & coconut, cranberry almond, peanut butter, dark chocolate & nuts, fruit & nut, milk chocolate almond, raspberry cashew chia, blueberry almond pecan, pomegranate blueberry pistachio, Madagascar vanilla, and many more. Honestly, there are 27 different flavor combinations!
So far, I have tried making the almond & coconut (you can find the recipe below), cranberry almond, dark chocolate & nuts, and fruit & nut. Whichever variation you decide to recreate, just make sure to keep the ratio of dry to wet ingredients the same.
How to Store Granola Bars
- Storing at room temperature: transfer the granola bars into an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 1 month.
- Refrigerating: transfer the granola bars into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 months.
- Freezing: transfer the granola bars into an airtight container, separating each layer with parchment paper, so the bars don’t stick together, and freeze for up to 6 months.
More Granola Bar Recipes
I view KIND bars more as a candy bar or an energy bar than a granola bar. If you’re looking for naturally sweetened (aka no added sugar) granola bars, here are a couple of recipes:
- Muesli bars: simple, soft, and chewy .. these granola bars are only mildly sweet because the only sweetener here is a banana.
- Cereal bars: if cereal bars are your go-to for running out the door, you’ll love this homemade version sweetened with dates. These cereal bars are chewy, a little crunchy, and have a caramel-like flavor.
If you try any of these recipes, please, leave a comment and rate the recipe below. It always means a lot when you do.
Granola Bars (KIND bars)
- Preheat the oven. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 325ºF/163ºC.
- Mix all the ingredients. Add the almonds, coconut flakes, and maple syrup into a medium bowl, and mix until well combined. Make sure the maple syrup entirely coats the almonds and coconut.
- Bake. Transfer the mixture into an 8 x 8 inch/20 x 20 cm parchment paper-lined baking dish and press firmly into an even layer. Bake the granola bars until firm and lightly golden around the edges, about 35 minutes. Allow the bars to cool completely, then cut into 12 even bars.
- Cool. Let the granola bars cool completely. The bars will be soft straight out of the oven, but will harden once cooled. Once cool, lift the bars out of the baking dish and peel the parchment paper off the bottom of the bars. Cut into individual bars.
- Store. Leftover granola bars keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 month. For longer term storage, freeze in an airtight container with a piece of parchment paper in between each granola bar (so they don't stick together as they freeze) for up to 6 months.