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Protein-Packed Granola Bars

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I’m exhausted. Between seemingly non-stop conference calls for work, adding a couple of new gym classes into my rotation, and Aaron talking in his sleep incessantly last night (I have no idea what he was saying, but he was saying it LOUD and unclear), I need a rest day. And for those of you who have Barsculpt classes where you live, try it. I have never hated two pound weights so much in my life, but I was sore in all the right places the next day. I thought people were lying to me when they said it’s addictive, and yet I’m contemplating taking another class today, exhaustion and all.

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I’ve been feeling a little lazy in the kitchen this week, opting to just pour a bowl of cereal or eat leftovers instead of actually cooking. It’s not a big deal, but I usually take it upon myself to pack Aaron’s lunches too so he doesn’t have to rush around in the morning or spend money on takeout at work.

Unfortunately, I don’t think he loved the random hunk of bread or whole avocado I threw in his bag the other day (to make mashed avocado on toast, duh) and I came home to find a small stockpile of Clif Builder Bars on our counter.

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I, personally, can’t stomach the Clif bars. Not because they taste bad (they’re okay), but because I went through a phase a few summers ago where I literally ate a Clif Bar every.single.day. And now they make me nauseous. I’m also not a fan of the soy protein isolate.

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So, I set out to make a bar that’s part granola (my preference) and part protein bar (Aaron’s preference). We’ve been using protein powder with hemp protein in the mix, and even with just a small amount, the hemp flavor is strong. I’m not a fan. Luckily, it was nothing that a large handful of chocolate chips and some smashed pretzel thins couldn’t mask. I was also able to use a little applesauce to cut down on the oil and help the bars keep their shape, as well as a small amount of agave.

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Now, Aaron can stop hiding Clif bar wrappers in his pockets and I can snack on something other than cereal. We both win.

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Protein Granola Bars
Author: Amanda Maguire
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: about 10-12 “granola-sized” bars
Ingredients
  • 1 C. Rolled Oats
  • 1 C. Crispy Rice Cereal
  • 1 C. Crushed, Salted Pretzels (I used pretzel thins because they were what I had on hand)
  • 1/2 C. Protein Powder (I used a custom mix of brown rice, pea, and hemp proteins sweetened with stevia)
  • 2 Tbs. Ground Flaxseeds
  • 1/2 Tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1/2 C. Nut Butter (I used almond butter)
  • 1/4 C. Agave (see note)
  • 3 Tbs. Coconut Oil
  • 2 Tbs. Unsweetened Applesauce
  • 1 Tsp. Pure Vanilla
  • 1/2 C. Vegan Chocolate Chips (optional, but highly recommended)
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine oats, crispy rice cereal, crushed pretzels, protein powder, ground flaxseeds, and salt.
  4. In a separate, microwave-safe bowl, add the nut butter and coconut oil. Microwave for about 30 seconds, until coconut oil has melted and nut butter is drippy. Add the melted coconut oil and nut butter to your dry ingredients, along with the agave, applesauce, and vanilla. Mix until all ingredients are well combined.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips, if using.
  6. Transfer the mixture to your prepared baking pan and use a spatula to flatten the mixture into the pan.
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.
  8. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.
  9. Store in the fridge.
Notes

These granola bars are a little crumbly, much like a Nature Valley type of bar. I found that it helped to pop the pan in the fridge for 20 minutes before I cut them into bars. If you’d like a less crumbly bar, I recommend using brown rice syrup or honey instead of agave.

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  1. The pretzels in this are genius! I bet this tastes a bit like a chocolate covered pretzel 🙂

  2. Totally agree with Sally…was going to say the same thing about the pretzels. I have an aversion to Clif bars too. They’ve just never done it for me. Clif Z bars (the kid ones) though, I could eat like 10 at a time of.

    1. Amanda says

      I haven’t had a Clif Z bar in forever, but I remember really liking the chocolate brownie. I’ve since moved onto KIND bars, but those are hard on the wallet.

      1. Yes indeed they are. I eat them when I travel all the time. AKA..the client is paying for them 😉

  3. Woah, all I can say is wow! These look great! And your photography skills are ah-mazing!

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks, Anna! I’m working on improving my photography. 🙂

  4. I like very few store bought granola bars also, I rarely ever buy them. Once in a while I’ll resort to a larabar if I must but I’d rather snack on some more ‘real food’!

    1. Amanda says

      Have you tried pure bars? Kind of like a larabar, but they’re organic too. I agree though – ‘real food’ is the way to go. 🙂

  5. YUM! I’m definitely making these this week. I’m going to be participating in Emilie’s Clean Food Challenge, and I can’t have processed food, which I think includes protein powder, so I won’t be able to eat them. But, I’m looking for good snacks to make for my husband who needs to munch on stuff constantly throughout the day. He’ll LOVE these. I don’t start the Clean Food Challenge until Monday, so I think I’ll make these tomorrow or Sunday so that I can try them.

    1. Amanda says

      My husband is the same way. I’m very jealous of his metabolism!

      Good luck with the Clean Food Challenge!

  6. Ashlae says

    These look – and sound – so delicious. I can’t stomach Clif bars, either, but only because they contain so much sugar. Happy to see a recipe that takes it easy on the added sugar – cannot wait to try.

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks, Ashlae! Let me know what you think if you give them a try! 🙂

      1. Ashlae says

        I made them – and they were delicious. I even left out the agave 🙂 Perfect pre and post run snack!

      2. Amanda says

        That’s great! Maybe I’ll try leaving out the agave when I make them again this week… 🙂

  7. Jules says

    These look wonderful! I have a couple questions: did you use an unflavored/unsweetened protein powder or something that already contained a sweetener of some kind? Also, do you think these ought to be stored in the fridge or would they be OK in the pantry? Can’t wait to make them!

    1. Amanda says

      Great questions! I just updated the recipe to make it more clear. I used a protein powder that’s sweetened with stevia, so if you use an unsweetened powder, you may want to adjust the sweetness. I think the bars will be okay in the pantry for a few days, but I’ve been storing mine in the fridge. Hope this helps!

  8. Yummmm…. these look so good! My husband LOVES Clif Builder’s Bars (and really, any variety of Clif bars), but I’m not really a “bar” girl. I’d much rather have a piece of bread with almond butter or something else of equal calories.
    I need to get on the stick and make some protein bars. I think I would probably be more likely to eat them if it was something that I baked myself.
    Oh- and Vega Health Optimizer is my favorite! I am obsessed with the vanilla chai. Oh, and mixing the chocolate with banana and peanut flour in the vitamix.. good heavens.

  9. I like Clif bars every now and again, but try hard to stick to homemade options. These look fantastic! Bookmarked 🙂

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks, Sarah! I generally think that homemade bars taste better anyway. 🙂

  10. Kim says

    I really can’t even handle the taste of Clif bars, but I can eat ClifZ bars like they’re going out of style. Of course, these bars look WAY better though!

  11. Ar says

    These bars look soooo yummy! And I am on the hunt for a new protein and came across Vega the other day, but the price is way out of my student budget. This site looks awesome, but I’m kindof confused on how much of each protein to put in it. Would you mind telling me what percentage of the pea, brown rice, and hemp you used or would you recommend any other combinations/ percentages?

    <3 Ari

    1. Amanda says

      My husband used the Vega nutrition label to come up with a similar mix – it’s not exact, but it should be pretty close (and it was about $10/lb). Here’s the breakdown:

      10% Hemp Protein
      30% Pea Protein
      35% Rice Protein
      5% Glutamine
      5% Leucin
      5% Iso Leucin
      5% Baline
      5% Flax Seed Oil Powder

      From there, you can choose whatever flavor and sweetener you like (we went with chocolate and stevia).

  12. Ann Waddell says

    Hi Amanda,

    My computer crashed, and I have been offline for a while, but I got a laptop, and am back! Many of your recipes sound amazing (remember, I had a few weeks of recipes to catch up on), but this protein bar recipe sounds especially yummy! I will try it with a few tweaks due to allergies, but this sounds like a great snack. I have been making a nice date nut bread with lots of allergy adjustments,but I don’t want to get sick of it. I want to find more snack ideas, so this sounds like it would fit the bill! I will let you know how it comes out, and what changes I make! Also, there are a few other snack recipes that sound appealing on your website, but this will be the first one to try.

    Warmly,
    Ann

    1. Amanda says

      So nice to hear from you, Ann. 🙂 Date nut bread sounds delicious, but I hear you on wanting to mix things up so you don’t get sick of it. I have a habit of eating the same thing for a week or two and then getting totally burnt out. Good idea to work a few other snacks into your rotation.

      Let me know how you end up adapting the granola bars! I’m already out of them (Aaron ate at least 2/day!), so it’s already time to make a 2nd batch!

  13. I finally found a good recipe!!! Can’t wait to try these, thanks for sharing

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks, Bridget! I hope you like them!

  14. Hey Amanda! I was just reading over these again..going to be making them this week! Will link back 🙂 I highly dislike coconut. Does the coconut oil taste like coconuts at all? Will I be able to taste it? Can I substitute anything for this?

    1. Amanda says

      That’s great! I used unrefined coconut oil, so it does have a fairly strong coconut taste (I LOVE coconut!). I’d recommend using canola or even some melted earth balance – basically whatever oil you like. 🙂

  15. Dominique says

    I love that there are pretzels and rice crispies in this, it’s genius! I made them the other day and brought them to work as a snack and they were fantastic

    1. Amanda says

      I’m so happy to hear that you liked them! I think I need to make another batch for myself. 🙂

  16. Katie says

    My boys love granola bars, but the store bought variety usually have way too much sugar or are too expensive for everyday snack food. I made these today, and they taste fantastic! The kids were thrilled and I love knowing it’s real food:) They were still pretty crumbly even when I used honey instead of agave, though. Do you have any other suggestions to help keep them together so they’re easier to take to school?

    1. Amanda says

      I’d recommend increasing the nut butter and honey to help them hold their shape better. Maybe try 2/3 C. nut butter and 1/3 C. honey. I’ll give that a try the next time I make them to see if they’re less crumbly, but if you try that, let me know how they turn out. 🙂 And thanks so much for your comment – I’m so happy to hear your boys liked them!

  17. Jillian says

    My company/plant manufactures the organic soy protein for Clif, and yes, it is gross. I have to hand it to them though…they are extremely particular about their sources. But still, they were at my plant for a whole day and didn’t even bring samples…

    1. Amanda says

      No samples?! That’s not right. 😉 It’s good to know they’re particular about their sources. I had read about some of their bars use of hexane-extracted soy protein isolate (not organic soy protein, which I know they use in some bars), and that’s a big part of my motivation for staying away from them. That, in addition, to getting completely burnt out on their bars a while back.

  18. Elyse says

    So funny the thing you said about the Clif bars…

    I got a huge variety pack for a smokin’ deal a couple years ago…and then was so busy and working out that some days all I would eat would be a couple of them. I haven’t had one since!

    1. Amanda says

      Yeah, I can imagine subsisting on mostly Clif bars would do that to you. 🙂

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