Cranberry cashew breakfast bars
Cranberry, cashew & coconut granola bars
These soft and chewy breakfast bars are great eaten as a snack or as an easy breakfast on the go. They’re super portable, gluten-free & dairy-free, and can be easily prepared in advance. With no refined sugars, they derive their sweetness from a banana and half a spoonful of honey.
PREP TIME: 10 MINS
COOK TIME: 15 MINS
TOTAL TIME: 35 MINS
These versatile little bars are packed with slow-release, filling ingredients. They’re great to have on hand for anything from hiking and long-distance running to long car journeys, or simply as a fun breakfast at home.
Are they healthy?
People are slowly waking up to the fact that shop-bought granola bars tend to be stuffed with refined sugars, palm oil and whole host of other nasty ingredients – as well as being ridiculously expensive.
It’s much less of a headache to make healthier homemade versions, as you can control what goes in them. To keep the sugar content down, you can:
- Sweeten only using banana – as this is much less calorie-dense than adding sugar or honey
- Reduce the dried fruit – as this is far higher in sugar concentration than fresh fruit. You could, for example, mix fresh raspberries and blueberries into the pre-baked mixture instead, which would substantially reduce the sugar content
Having said this, the essence of a granola bar is very dense in calories, even if you reduce the amount of sugar in them. This is because the bulk formula consists of oats, which are high in carbohydrates, and some form of nuts and oils, which are both high in fat and calories.
This really isn’t an issue if you’re able to just have 1 or 2 bars at a time as an occasional breakfast or snack. However, it’s worth being clear that this is not a food conducive to long-term weight loss, if eaten regularly or in large quantities.
The ingredients for these granola bars can be roughly divided into four camps. You have a few different bulking agents; ingredients that help stick the whole thing together into solid bars; sweeteners; and optional yummy flavourings.
- Natural peanut butter: helps stick everything together (and generally makes everything 100 times nicer). You could, however, get away with omitting if you needed to make these nut-free
- Egg – helps bind the mixture up as it bakes in the oven
- Coconut oil – as above! I prefer using coconut oil instead of butter or margarine because of all the good fats and other health benefits that go with it
- Gluten free oats – the main bulking ingredient. If possible, opt for jumbo rolled oats to give a chunkier texture, although you could use instant oats if preferred
- Desiccated coconut – I’m a huge fan of anything coconut and am always finding excuses to add it into different things. It has a really subtle taste you won’t really notice it too strongly. It also helps give these granola bars a really nice texture
- Banana – probably the main magic ingredient in this recipe so don’t omit it unless you have to! Make sure to use a really ripe banana and mash it into a chunky puree. The sweet banana taste comes through really well in the cooked bars
- Honey – adding just a little bit gives some extra sweetness. You can sub out for maple or agave syrup, or omit completely if you’re trying to keep the sugar content down
- Cashews & dried cranberries – I really like this combo as a flavouring but you can totally customise to whatever you have on hand. Swap out for a pairing of walnut and chopped dates, or toasted almonds and cherries for a bakewell spinoff. To reduce the sugar content, try mixing in fresh raspberries and blueberries into the mixture instead of the dried fruit
- Vanilla essence – just to add that little extra something
- Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F and line a 6-inch square tin with non-stick baking paper
- Mash the banana – in a microwave-friendly bowl, chop the banana into rough chunks and microwave for 1 minute. Then use a fork to mash into a chunky puree
- Mix with the wet ingredients -in a large mixing bowl, mix the mashed banana, peanut butter, honey, vanilla essence, egg and coconut oil, until well combined
- Add the dry ingredients – fold in the oats and desiccated coconut, then tip in the cranberries and cashews and give a few rough stirs until well distributed throughout the mixture. The consistency should now be quite thick and difficult to stir, but still spreadable
- Press into the tin – scoop the mixture out into the tin and press flat into an even layer with the back of a metal spoon
- Bake for 15 mins, or until a pale golden-brown colour on top
- Score the surface of the baked mixture with the tip of a sharp knife, dividing it into approximately 9 square bars. Leave to cool in the tin for 45 minutes, then lift it out along with the baking paper
- Serve and store – cut down the score lines to separate the bars and serve while still slightly warm. Keep any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Coconut – the desiccated coconut flavour is really quite mild in this recipe, however for those who really want to avoid it, there are plenty of easy substitutions. Add an extra 3/4 cup (40g) of rolled oats, or swap it out for a cup of ground almonds for a more nutty flavour
Cranberry – quite honestly, any dried fruit works wonders if cranberries aren’t your jam. Try sultanas, raisins, dried apple pieces, apricots, chopped dates or any mixture of these
Cashews – again, the majority of nuts would be delicious here, from walnuts to pecans or almonds. Similarly, feel free to change up the peanut butter for almond or cashew butter instead
Chocolate – I don’t trust myself around the stuff, but these bars would be delicious with some dark chocolate chips thrown in. Or, if you lean to the sweeter side, some white chocolate chunks. Simply add them into the mixture along with the fruit and bake as normal
Spices – I stuck with a bit of vanilla essence for the base recipe, but a couple of teaspoons of ground cinnamon or mixed spice would be a great way to change it up a bit
Seeds – Add a bit of extra protein and texture with a few sprinkles of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
These bars will keep in an airtight container for at least 1 week, so they’re great for making in advance. Beyond this they might start going a bit stale. In case you want to keep any leftovers for much longer, they’re also freezer friendly.
To freeze properly, wrap the bars individually in baking parchment or aluminium foil, and then seal in a tupperware container or ziplock bag. Keep for up to 2 months in the freezer. To defrost, just leave them out on the kitchen counter for 30-45 mins.
Cranberry, cashew & coconut breakfast bars
- Mixing bowl
- square baking tin
- 1 medium banana
- 1 cup (60g) natural peanut butter
- ½ tbsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 1.5 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 1 medium egg
- 1 cup (50g) gluten free rolled jumbo oats
- 1 cup (100g) desiccated coconut
- 1 cup (100g) dried jumbo cranberries
- ½ cup (50g) cashew halves
- Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F. Line a 6-inch square tin with non-stick baking paper (if not using a non-stick version, grease the outward-facing layer of the paper)
- In a microwave-friendly bowl, chop the banana into rough chunks and microwave for 1 minute. Then use a fork to mash into a chunky puree
- Transfer the banana to a large mixing bowl and add in the peanut butter, honey, vanilla essence, egg and coconut oil. Mix together until well combined
- Fold in the oats and desiccated coconut, then tip in the cranberries and cashews and give a few rough stirs until well distributed throughout the mixture. The consistency should now be quite thick and difficult to stir, but still spreadable
- Scoop the mixture out into the tin and press flat into an even layer with the back of a metal spoon. Transfer the tin to the oven and bake for 15 mins, or until a pale golden-brown colour on top
- Remove from the oven and score the surface of the baked mixture with the tip of a sharp knife, dividing it into approximately 9 square bars. Leave to cool in the tin for 45 minutes, then lift it out along with the baking paper. Cut down the score lines to separate the bars and serve while still slightly warm. Keep any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.