These easy one-bowl nut-free granola bars are so tasty and filled with chewy dried cranberries and dark chocolate chips. They make for a healthy school safe snack that's fully plant-based and gluten-free.
It's finally the back-to-school time of the year! Yeah! BUT, nut-free plant-based lunch boxes are such a challenge, aren't they? I use nut butter in sweets so much as it brings natural fats to the recipe and has a sticky nature that helps things hold together.
I have done my peanut butter rice krispie treats and vegan almond butter blondies using a seed butter instead to make them nut-free and although it worked out pretty good, I now wanted to make a recipe that's made nut-free up front, no substitutions necessary. So, to make these bars completely free of nuts, I used a pumpkin seed butter that not only brings the essential stickiness, but also added amazing flavor.
And no wonder they are so good. They are packed with chewy tart cranberries, dark chocolate chips, sweet vanilla and lightly sweetened with maple syrup. They make for a softer kind of granola bars, which I prefer since our kids are still young, but still are composed with different textures that makes them super fun.
So, wether you have school age kids running around in your house or not, make your next snacking session much more delicious, nourishing and healthy!
Why you will love these nut-free granola bars
- Easy and quick one-bowl recipe.
- Fits many diets: dairy-free, gluten-free and oil-free.
- Makes for a nourishing breakfast, snack or even dessert!
- Safe for nut-free schools and daycares.
- Healthy alternative to store-bought granola bars.
- Made with wholesome ingredients and high-in-fiber.
Ingredients you'll need
- Pumpkin seed butter: important sticky ingredient, but also adds lots of healthy fats and extra plant protein.
- Vegan milk: adds moisture to the rolled oats, which helps the bars hold together after baked.
- Maple syrup: acts as a binder, but also sweetens the bars in a healthy way.
- Vanilla extract: brings amazing flavor in these bars.
- Rolled oats: bulk ingredient, adds lots of fiber to the bars plus a nice chewy texture.
- Pumpkin seeds: they add a crunch and extra nutrition.
- Chia seeds: once soaked in the milk, they swell and help the bars stick together. Also add lots of healthy omega-3 and fiber.
- Dried cranberries, dark chocolate chips: yum!
How to make them
This is such an easy recipe! All the ingredients go in one bowl, then bake. Not much hands-on and great for meal-prep.
Before you get started, pre-heat your oven and cover a 8 x 8' square baking dish with parchment paper.
Step 1- Combine the ingredients
In a large bowl, add the pumpkin seed butter (stir well in the container first) with the vegan milk, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Use a whisk to stir so the pumpkin seed butter dissolves nicely into the liquid.
Then, add the oats, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips and dried cranberries. Stir well.
Step 2- Press
Pour the mixture over your prepared baking dish and spread everything nicely over the whole dish so it is even. But most importantly, PRESS on the mixture. It might take a minute, but use the back of a large spatula or the bottom of a glass and squeeze all the ingredients in as tight as you can. Make sure to also flatten the edges.
Step 3- Bake
Bake the bars until nicely golden brown, about 25 minutes.
Step 4- Cool down and cut
Once baked, let the dish cool down at room temperature for a few minutes and then, transfer to the fridge. The bars need to set first before you cut and eat. If you cut right away, they won't hold as well.
Once fully chilled, then cut the bars INSIDE THE SQUARE DISH. This will also help not to break them while cutting. Once cut, pull on the parchment paper to take them out.
Watch how to make them
What kind of oats to use
You really want to be using a thicker kind of oats to make these bars. Look for either old-fashioned or rolled oats and avoid quick cooking oats.
Thicker oats will soak the moisture better to create a bar that holds well plus provides more interesting texture. I used the rolled oats from Bob's Red Mill. Also, use a certified gluten-free oats if necessary.
Which pumpkin seed butter to use
Pumpkin seed butter is not always easy to find, especially the healthy kind. I usually make my own pumpkin seed butter using a food processor. It is really not that hard and you can make a larger batch and freeze some for later.
You can also buy some online, like this pumpkin seed butter from Jiva, if you don't want to make your own seed butter.
In any cases, be aware of the ingredient list. It can be challenging to find a pumpkin seed butter made without any additives and/or sugar.
Can I use sunflower seed butter instead
I also tried this recipe using the sunflower seed butter from Once Again and it worked out good too. Although I preferred the flavor from pumpkin seed butter, I found that the bars were holding pretty well together using sunflower seed butter as well.
Tips to make them hold well
These granola bars are healthy and homemade, which can make them more gentle. But here are a few tips on how to make yours hold well:
- Be sure to take some time to flatten and tighten the bars before baking them. Use the bottom of a glass if needed.
- Let the bars completely cool down in the fridge before cutting, this is essential! They need to rest so the oats soak up on the moisture and chilling them will firm up the seed butter and maple syrup, which will create a sticky base for everything to hold nicely.
- Once fully cooled down, then cut the bars right into the container. It contains the mixture in a tight space and prevents the bars from breaking up while cutting.
Variation to the recipe
- Add some spices: I love these bars with vanilla flavors, but feel free to add some cinnamon, pumpkin spice mix, cardamom, etc.
- You can use different dried fruits such as dried cherries, blueberries, apricots or simply raisins. Chop the dried fruits in smaller pieces if necessary.
- Use other kind of seeds than pumpkin seeds, such as sunflower or hemp seeds. You could also do a mixture of a few seeds if you want.
I recommend to keep them in the fridge as they will stay fresh longer. You can cut the bars and pile them in a container so they are ready to go. Separate them with layers of parchment paper if needed to prevent them from sticking together.
Again, these bars are homemade and thus, more fragile, so be gentle when packing them to go.
Can I freeze them
You can freeze these bars too. Make sure to cut them ahead and even, pack them individually. Add them frozen in lunch boxes in the morning so they will defrost for a snack later.
Other nut-free sweet treats you might like
- Vegan apple bread
- Nut-free peach muffins
- Beet and chocolate muffins
- Vegan strawberry mufffins
- Lemon shortbread cookies
- Vegan raisin zucchini muffins
- Nut-free chocolate oatmeal bars
Try these bars next
- Strawberry chocolate bars
- Vegan blueberry cheesecake squares
- Pear and cinnamon oatmeal bars
- Vegan millionaire shortbread
I hope you enjoy this nut-free granola bars recipe as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Nut-Free Granola Bars (Gluten-Free and Vegan)
- ¾ cup vegan milk - soy or oat, choose nut-free
- ½ cup pumpkin seed butter
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries - or raisins
- ⅓ cup chocolate chips
- ⅓ cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- Pre-heat the oven to 350º. Line a 8 x 8 square pan with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine the vegan milk, pumpkin seed butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Whisk well so there are no pumpkin seed butter clumps anymore. Then, add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.
- Transfer to the prepared pan, press using a spatula or the bottom of a glass (it needs to be super tight and make sure to press the edges too!) and bake for 25 minutes.
- Let cool completely in the fridge before cutting (and cut while still in the mold, they will keep their shape better).
- The secret to make these bars hold well is: 1- press tightly before baking, 2- cool completely in the fridge before slicing and 3- slice right into the baking dish to contain them when pressing with your knife. Don't skip on these tips!
- I love to make my own pumpkin seed butter when making this granola bar recipe. You can use sunflower seed butter too, although I found the overall taste better when using pumpkin seed butter (personal preference).
- Store the bars in the fridge so they stay fresh longer (4-5 days). You can also freeze them for up to 3 months.
- Feel free to swap the dried cranberries for other dried fruits such as blueberries, raisins, apricots or cherries. Chop them if too large so they are about the same size as the chocolate chips.