Up until a few months ago I was going through box after box of Nature Valley granola bars. They are my favorite, crunchy and sweet, and not fake tasting like so many granola bars out there. Looking at the ingredients list didn’t make me feel too bad. Although they are loaded with sugar, they contain mostly natural ingredients which is nice to see. However, it was my goal to make a homemade version that could compete with the crunchy goodness of the store bought kind. Over several months time I tried several granola bar recipes, but none of them would turn out how I wanted them to. They would either fall apart and turn into granola instead of a granola bar, or they were so hard I could hardly cut them, much less take a bite. These attempts were often not the best tasting either. Finally however, I found a recipe that looked promising. It originally came from America’s Test Kitchen which made me even more excited. Their recipes almost always turn out great. These granola bars were no exception. They are crunchy and sweet, strong enough to hold up in my lunch box, but not so hard that they break a tooth. They are exactly what I was looking for.
How To Make Crunchy Granola Bars
7 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole almonds, pecans, walnuts or peanuts
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (optional)
Adjust oven rack to the middle of the oven and set the temperature to 375 degrees.
Line an 18 x 13 inch rimmed baking pan with aluminum foil.
Combine the oats, oil and salt in a large bowl and mix until the oats are evenly coated. Transfer the mixture to the baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until pale gold, 20-25 minutes. Remove the oats and lower the oven temp to 300 degrees.
Place the nuts in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Or just chop coarsely with a big sharp knife.
Combine the honey and brown sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and cinnamon (if using).
Combine the oats, nuts, and honey mixture in a large bowl and stir with a large rubber spatula until the oats are thoroughly coated with the honey mixture. Spray the baking sheet (still with foil sling) with non-stick spray then transfer the granola mixture to the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer. Spray a large metal spatula or a square dish with non-stick spray and firmly press the mixture into the pan. Make a flat, tight, and even layer. Bake until golden, about 35-40 minutes.
Cool in the baking sheet, on a wire rack, for 10-15 minutes before cutting into bars, I used a pastry scraper to cut. Cut the bars all the way through and then allow the granola bars to completely cool. Do not wait longer than 15 minutes before cutting the bars. They harden up significantly as they cool. Any longer and you’ll have a very hard time cutting thru them.
The bars can be stored, covered for up to 2 weeks.