I’ve rarely met a packaged energy bar I’ve liked.
They are almost always too something — too sweet, too pasty, too artificial-tasting. But, because bars are the ultimate on-the-go nourishment, like just about everyone else in America (judging from the endless number of bar options at the grocery store), I couldn’t live without them. So I started making my own.
Over the years, I’ve played with variations: some cakier, some chewier, trying out different fruits and nuts, and they have always been worth the little effort it takes to make them. The bars are gently, rather than overly, sweet and the flavor of whole, quality ingredients shines. You can taste that they are freshly made, even when thawed from frozen. (I usually wrap the bars individually in wax paper and put them in a resealable freezer bag).
In the past, I had always sweetened my bars with either maple syrup or honey, included some kind of grain and used egg as a binder, but here I took a shot, using only nuts, seeds and dried fruit, and it seems I scored a big hit. Everyone who has tried them loves them! With no added sugar, the bars get their sweetness from dried dates; almond meal becomes the flour; and “chia eggs” (chia seeds soaked in water until thickened) act as a binder.
The bars are slightly chewy with a nutty crunch, and the simple goodness of their ingredients really comes through. I must warn you though, once you try them, you might never want a packaged one again.
Fruit and nut energy bars
These bars — made with dried fruits, nuts and seeds, and with no flour, egg or added sugars — are slightly chewy, with nutty crunch and the lovely flavors of the whole, simple ingredients.
Storage Notes: Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, in the refrigerator of up to 2 weeks, or wrap individually and freeze for up to 3 months.
Where to Buy: Chia seeds and hemp seeds can be found at health food stores, Whole Foods or online.
Oil or oil spray, for the pan
2 tablespoons chia seeds
⅓ cup water
1 cup (95 grams) almond meal
1 cup (150 grams) raw whole almonds
1 cup (125 grams) whole pitted dried dates
½ cup (70 grams) shelled raw sunflower seeds
½ cup (60 grams) hulled hemp seeds (hemp hearts)
½ cup (90 grams) dried apricots
½ cup (70 grams) raisins
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Brush or spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with oil.
In a small bowl, cover the chia seeds with the water, stir and set aside to soak.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the almond meal, almonds, dates, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, apricots, raisins, cinnamon and salt and process until everything is finely chopped. Add the chia mixture and pulse until the everything is thoroughly combined and resembles a coarse paste.
Transfer the mixture to the baking pan and spread out evenly to cover the bottom. (The easiest way to do this is to place a piece of wax paper on top, and using your hands over the paper, press the mixture out evenly; discard or reuse the paper.)
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until fragrant, browned on the edges and lightly browned and set in the center. Let cool completely, then cut into 18 bars.
Makes 18 servings. Nutrition per serving: 170 calories; 10 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat; no cholesterol; 10 milligrams sodium; 16 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams dietary fiber; 8 grams sugars; 6 grams protein.