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, grain-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. Usually they consist of various nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and chocolate. This particular recipe relies on almonds and flaked coconut. However, you could use any nuts you like and/or add dried fruit. If you like puffed grains, you can add them in as well.
The sweetener and a binder in these granola bars is maple syrup. I know. Still sugar, but at least unrefined.
The ingredients are simple, but figuring out how to bake the bars so they have the right consistency took some experimenting. The most important thing is to thoroughly mix all the ingredients. You want the maple syrup to entirely coat the almonds and coconut. Some of the maple syrup will sink to the bottom of the baking dish, which will create a sticky, chewy gooey bottom. The top will be a lot like a candy bar – hard and snappy.
Once combined, 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 bars until golden brown on top and completely cooked through. The maple syrup needs to caramelize and harden in order for the bars to hold really well.
More Granola Bar Recipes
What I love about homemade granola bars is how flexible they are. You can easily sub what you have on hand (as long as you keep the ratio of dry to wet ingredients the same). The combinations I have tried so far (inspired by KIND bars) are almond-coconut, peanuts-dark chocolate, almond-cranberry, and hazelnut-cherry. Because these granola bars are quite sweet, I treat them as energy bars or candy bars.
If you’re looking for naturally sweetened (aka no added sugar) granola bars, you might enjoy these date-sweetened cereal bars or banana-sweetened muesli bars.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Knife Set (6 Pieces, Utopia, Stainless Steel) | 2. Cutting Board (24″x 18″, Michigan Maple Block, Maple) | 3. Mixing Bowls (Set of 3, Pyrex, Glass) | 4. Baking Dish (3 Quart & 2 Quart, Pyrex, Glass) | 5. Measuring Cup (1 Cup, Anchor Hocking) | 6. Measuring Cups (Set of 6, Bellemain, Stainless Steel) | 7. Measuring Spoons (Set of 6, 1Easylife, Stainless Steel)
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Granola Bars (KIND bars)
- Mix all the ingredients. Add the almonds, coconut flakes, and maple syrup into a medium bowl. Stir until well combined.
- Bake. Preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C. 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.
- 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 3 months.