Here’s the deal. I normally don’t get that excited about granola bars. Yes, I eat them on occasion, but more often than not, that choice is borne of necessity. I’m on the go, haven’t had a chance to eat and know I won’t for a while – a granola bar is an easy, (should be) healthy choice. Given that I make all sorts of staple items from scratch, you might think I’ve been making granola bars for years. They seem simple enough right? Oats, some nuts and fruits, stuck all together and sliced into bars. Yes, they seem simple but at least in my experience, that hasn’t been the case. I’ve tried so many recipes from normally reliable sources but found trouble at every turn. Mushy, dry, too sticky, not sticky enough, too full of sugar, and the list goes on. I had nearly given up hope but decided the prospect of a pumpkin spice granola bar was enough to coax me to try again.

After reading about ratios, binders, and more until my eyes crossed, I came up with a game plan, tested it out, and waited nervously to see what the final result would be. I’m pretty sure I heard choirs of angels sing when they came out of the pan intact (yay!), sliced neatly (oh yes!), and had a perfectly chewy texture. The bars are naturally sweetened with dates, honey and maple syrup so there is no need for added sugar, another advantage compared to most commercial bars.

Now, lest the pumpkin spice police get up in arms – I did not actually use pumpkin in these bars. The flavor is so mild that you would need a lot of pumpkin to actually make a difference and the moisture of the puree is something I wanted to avoid for fear of affecting the integrity of the bars. The pumpkin pie spice and pepitas are pumpkin enough for me, but if you require pumpkin, feel free to substitute a few tablespoons of pumpkin puree for the sunflower seed butter. Be warned, they may not hold together as well. Now that I have the base recipe figured out, I’m excited to play around with other flavor combinations and different mix-ins. It is so on. 

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. butter, divided
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • ¾ cups chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup pepitas or pumpkin seeds, shelled or not
  • ½ cup puffed rice cereal
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup pureed dates
  • ½ cup sunflower seed butter
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • 2-3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Directions

  • 01

    Preheat the oven to 325˚ F. Line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the oats to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove to a large mixing bowl. Return the pan to the heat, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and add the chopped pecans and pepitas to the pan. Cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted, about 3-4 minutes. Remove to the mixing bowl with the oats. Stir to blend. Add in the puffed rice cereal, cranberries and raisins and stir gently.

  • 02

    In a medium bowl, combine the date puree, sunflower seed butter, honey, maple syrup, vanilla, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Stir together until evenly blended. (If the mixture is thick and difficult to stir, microwave for about 15 seconds and try stirring again.) Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and fold together until evenly mixed.

  • 03

    Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and press firmly into an even layer. Bake, rotating halfway through the baking time, until the bars are just set and beginning to brown around the edges, about 24 minutes total. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Use the parchment paper to lift from the pan and slice into bars. If necessary, chill in the refrigerator before slicing.

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  • Warm Vanilla Sugar

    These are so lovely Annie! The perfect fall snack.

  • pnwkitchen

    Holy yum! Those look fantastic! I love that they are the same shape and size and consistency as the store bought granola bars we all know and love. That’s tough to do! Kudos. Pinning!

  • This are beautiful! My sister and I love making granola, and these granola bars seem like a perfect next step!

  • Amber

    Yay! I’ve had the same problem with homemade granola bars, so I’m exicted to try these (as soon as I get the sunflower butter) and can’t wait to see what other combinations you come up with! Random question… are the golden raisins more for looks, or do they taste different from their dark colored relatives?

  • annieseats

    I used them initially for looks, but I have found that I actually prefer the flavor and texture of them to the classic dark raisins. I hope you enjoy them!

  • Molly Snyder

    Thank you! I’m with Amber – I’ve had the same problems, and my son has several allergies, so a lot of homemade recipes are still out. If I just ditch the pecans, this recipe is perfect! Looking forward to future combinations…

  • Kerry @ Kerry Cooks

    These look really delicious, thanks for sharing Annie!

  • Diana

    Even though I don’t like pumpkin (and I feel like the only one this time of year) I’m really excited about the possibilities these present. I’ve also had a problems finding a good granola bar recipe and I’ve never been disappointed with any of your recipes. Looking forward to future combinations!

  • Kyle and Sarah Sylvester

    I, too, have had the same issues with homemade bar recipes. I like hearing you say it is “so on!” Please share future granola bar successes as well!! Also, I have never purchsed sunflower seed butter before…where do you have success finding it? Thanks!

  • Tanis Williams

    Where did you find sunflower butter? At a Health Food store? I realky want to try these for a healthy snack!

  • Annabel89

    Oh my goodness these look soooooo yummy!!

  • nhoetker

    Is the date puree something you bought, or made yourself? If the former, can you tell me where you found it? If the latter, can you share how? Thanks!

  • I can’t wait to finally try a winning granola bar recipe!

  • I’ve made granola bars only once and really loved them…but I’m pretty sure they were more like dessert than a healthy snack! Can’t wait to try this healthier version that is filled with fall flavor!

  • annieseats

    Sorry, should have explained that further. I just bought dates and pureed them in my food processor.

  • annieseats

    I think it is pretty widely available in most stores near all the other nut butters. We found it in our basic Indiana grocery store with the peanut butter.

  • annieseats

    You should be able to find it at most stores near the peanut butter.

  • Tanis Williams

    Thank you for your quick reply. So helpful!

  • Amanda

    Do you know about how many dates you used to get a 1/2 cup of the puree? I’m shopping for these ingredients this weekend.

  • Pam

    I was excited to see you post a homemade granola bar recipe. I purchase Kind bars and thought this looked similar to what they would use in their bars, but I liked that I control the exact ingredients. I made them last night, followed your recipe to a tee and they were perfect! I look forward to more granola bar recipes. Thanks Annie! :)

  • annieseats

    Yay! So glad to hear it :)

  • annieseats

    Sorry for the late reply. I think I used about 1 cup of pitted dates to get the 1/2 cup of puree.

  • These look so yummy. I love to make granola this time of year, and was just looking for a fun version for fall. Thanks for sharing.

  • mmm they look just perfect!! so tasty!! gotta try your recipe! ;)

  • Cooking Classy

    I need to try these, they sound amazing!!