These nut-free granola bars pack well and are perfect for the lunchbox (or purse!). They can also be made gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan and don’t require any special ingredients.
I’ve been looking for the perfect baked granola bars for years. I feel like today’s recipe is it!
As much as I love no-bake granola bars like these Coconut Chocolate Chip Granola Bars or Banana Granola Bars, they don’t usually transport well. Some no-bake recipes can’t even be kept at room temperature.
The below recipe yields bars that aren’t super soft like the no-bake ones, but they aren’t 100% crunchy. They’re in this perfect place in-between.
With this recipe, there are no issues. Except how addictive they are.
These granola bars are headed in the direction of dessert-like. They’re definitely not the super healthy kind, which often doesn’t taste like much, nor do they taste like cardboard.
They’re pretty dangerous. Don’t make these unless you have someone to share with or you have a bit of self-control!
For those of you with kids back at school, these nut-free granola bars are perfect (and so is this Nut Free Trail Mix). They’re peanut-free, nut-free and seed-free and are perfect for the lunch box.
If your kids can bring nutty treats to school, these Cashew Chocolate Chip Cookie Larabars, Apple Pie Larabar Bites and Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Energy Bites are great options!
A lot of nut-free granola bar recipes use sunflower seed butter in place of the peanut butter or other nut butter. You don’t need to buy that or any other special ingredients for these bars.
Even if you don’t have kids or your kids aren’t going to school yet, you have to try these if you love granola bars. They are really the best I’ve ever had.
They use coconut oil so they’re also naturally dairy-free. I haven’t tried them with butter but I know it wouldn’t be a direct sub.
Coconut oil is 100% fat and butter is 80-82% fat. That 20% makes a big difference in some recipes.
So I’d recommend using another neutral-tasting oil instead of butter. A light olive oil, canola oil or grapeseed oil would probably work well.
I’m excited to try out some different variations! I’ve used cinnamon and raisins and loved that version just as much as these chocolate chip granola bars. For another cinnamon raisin oaty treat, try my Raw Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Dough Bars!
The chocolate chips are sprinkled on top of the bars after baking. They’re not mixed in the unbaked granola mixture because you have to use a bowl, glass or something similar to press down the bars after they come out of the oven. You’d have a big mess if you were smooshing melted chocolate chips.
After you press them down, you wait a bit and then you cut the bars. You can add the chocolate chips before or after cutting.
The chips stick better if you add them before cutting. The bars will have chocolate on their edges from using a chocolate-smeared knife but unless you’re serving these to company or taking photos of them, I don’t see why that’d matter.
If you want them to be super neat, like in the photos, you need to add the chips after cutting. Then I let them melt a tiny bit on the bottom of the chips and press down lightly on the chips. That helps them stick better.
I really feel like granola bars aren’t forgiving. You can’t make changes to the recipe without affecting how well they hold together.
So I really recommend not making subs or changing anything! But I’ve still answered all the questions I could imagine people might have about this recipe.
Can I use something other than oats?
I find that other types of flakes don’t absorb the same as oats. So I wouldn’t recommend it.
Can I omit or use something in place of the crisp rice cereal?
I wouldn’t recommend omitting it. Then you’d have too much of the wet mixture.
Anything you substitute won’t be an exact sub. Whatever it is won’t absorb liquid just the same, meaning how well the bars hold together would be affected.
If you absolutely can’t use the cereal, omitting it would be preferable to trying to find a sub.
What can I use instead of oat flour?
I’ve never really found a direct sub for oat flour. Some say coconut flour sometimes works but without trying it myself, I can’t recommend it.
I think that coconut flour absorbs a lot more liquid than oat flour, which would result in drier and more brittle granola bars.
But don’t be put off by oat flour! You can easily make it with oats.
How do I make oat flour?
You put some quick or rolled oats (not instant nor steel cut) in a food processor, high-powered blender like a Blendtec or Vitamix, or an electric coffee grinder until it’s very fine and powdery.
My favorite way for small amounts is the coffee grinder. For this recipe, you’ll probably need to do 2 batches. But it only takes about 5 seconds per batch.
The nut-butter jar of a high-powered blender is also great. Both the coffee grinder and then blender get the oat flour really fine.
If you have a large food processor and not a mini one, you’ll probably need to grind a much larger amount of oats than you need for this recipe to get it to grind the oats finely enough. The oat flour won’t be as fine as with the other two methods but it’ll still work for this recipe!
You should add enough oats to cover the food processor blade. You’ll likely have enough to make this recipe and these amazing banana pancakes, which has been a reader favorite for many years. They’re the perfect use of old bananas!
What can I use instead of brown sugar or coconut sugar?
I’ve tried these nut-free granola bars with coconut sugar and while they worked, they were indeed more fragile than the brown sugar version. But they were still super tasty and could be transported – just not as well.
If you used white granulated sugar, you’d probably have the same result. It might work but the bars will likely be more brittle and drier.
Can I reduce / omit the sweetener?
Nope. If you reduce it, they won’t stick together like they’re supposed to.
Do they taste like honey?
You can definitely taste the honey but I wouldn’t say the bars are honey-flavored.
I recommend the runny kind of honey because it’s easier to combine. I had no issues with combining it with the coconut oil. Mixing the creamed, firmer kind of honey with coconut oil was difficult.
If you use raw honey that’s crystallized, just warm it up until liquid before combining it with the other wet ingredients.
Can I use something in place of the coconut oil?
Like I said above, I haven’t tried these granola bars with butter but I know it wouldn’t be a direct sub. That’s because coconut oil is 100% fat and butter is 80-82% fat.
That 20% makes a big difference in some recipes. If it were the other way around (recommending a coconut oil sub in place of butter), I’d say to reduce the coconut oil a bit and add a little water.
But for this recipe? I have no idea how butter would do. I’d just go with 7 tablespoons of butter and hope it works.
Or try another liquid oil! I’m guessing olive oil would be fine if you don’t mind olive oil taste. Any other neutral-tasting oil, like canola, grapeseed, etc. would probably work.
Can I reduce the oil?
No. It’s needed to hold it together.
Can you taste the coconut oil?
If you use unrefined coconut oil, then yes! I much preferred them with refined coconut oil for no coconut taste.
How can I turn these into vegan granola bars?
To make these nut-free granola bars vegan, just use brown rice syrup in place of the honey. I much prefer maple syrup as a sweetener so I tried that.
The result was dry and crumbly. The taste was great but they didn’t hold together.
If you really want to use maple syrup, I recommend finding another recipe.
How can I make them gluten-free?
To make gluten-free granola bars, make sure to use gluten-free oats, which you should be able to find in most grocery stores. You also need oat flour, but you can make that using your oats. Also, make sure your crisp rice cereal is gluten-free.
Rice Krispies in the US are not gluten-free due to malt flavoring. I used the Sprouted Brown Rice Crisps Cereal from One Degree Organic Foods. They only use gluten-free ingredients and are not processed in a facility that uses wheat. But they’re not certified gluten-free.
Organic Crispy Brown Rice Cereal from Erewhon (which seems difficult to get at the moment) is certified gluten-free. There are other gluten-free crisp rice cereals that are processed in facilities that also process wheat, so be careful with those.
Can I omit the vanilla?
Yes, but then use the same amount of water. It’s needed for the texture.
Or use maybe half almond extract and half water! I bet that’d be amazing.
That’s it from me! If you try out these nut-free granola bars, I’d love to hear what you think. 🙂
Nut-free Granola Bars (gluten-free, vegan options)
- 4 1/3 cups (400 grams) rolled oats (use GF oats for a GF version)
- 1 cup crispy rice cereal (like Rice Krispies or Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal for gluten-free)
- 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (95 grams) oat flour (please weigh it! It's easy to pack it down too much oat flour) (use GF oat flour for a GF version)
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar or coconut sugar (see post for more notes on coconut sugar)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (285 grams) honey or brown rice syrup for vegan
- 7 tablespoons (98 grams) coconut oil, melted (I prefer refined for no coconut taste)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips for the top (use vegan / dairy-free chocolate chips, if needed)
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line a 9"x13" pan with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (oats through salt).
- In a medium bowl, stir together the wet ingredients (honey, oil and vanilla) until combined. Pour over the dry ingredient mix. Mix until totally combined.
- Press the mixture very firmly into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 23 minutes or until the top has lightly browned.
- Remove from oven and use a glass, bowl, or something with a flat bottom to press down the granola bars and to compact them more.
- The chips stick better if you add them now before cutting. The bars will have chocolate on their edges from using a chocolate-smeared knife but unless you're serving these to company or taking photos of them, I don't see why that'd matter. If you want them to be super neat, like in the photos, you need to add the chips after cutting. See below.
- Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes.
- Remove the bars from the pan (using the parchment paper) and cut them into bars. Add your chocolate chips if you haven't already. I let them melt a tiny bit on the bottom of the chips and press down lightly on the chips. That helps them stick better. If your chips aren't melting at all, stick the bars back in the oven quickly until they're a little warm so the chips will stick.
- Let cool completely. Once the chocolate has hardened, store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.