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These crunchy energy nut bars are easy to make and store well for when you need a quick, healthy snack on-the-go. I call them paleo granola bars, and the recipe is grain free and highly customizable to suit your taste.
With the beginning of the new year, I've been looking for healthy ways to keep on track when I'm either short on time or craving something sweet and crunchy. Rather than grab a cookie or a store bought energy bar that will throw your blood sugar out of whack, making these paleo granola bars ahead of time will give you a healthier snack to take with you wherever you need to go.
What I especially like about this recipe is that it is highly customizable. I'm giving you some ideas for what nuts and seeds to use, but once you get a good idea of the consistency of the mixture and the amount of nuts and seeds to use, you'll be able to mix things up and use whichever nuts and seeds you prefer.
How to sweeten the energy nut bars
I also opted for sweetening the bars with a couple of tablespoons of coconut sugar, which is divided up amongst the 16 small paleo granola bars made in this recipe. If you are used to eating commercial granola bars, these probably won't be sweet enough for you. Keep that in mind ahead of time, and you can taste the mixture as you go to get an idea of how much sweetener to add to suit your taste. If you want a sweeter energy bar, you can either add in more coconut sugar, or you can add some more sweetness with other paleo sweeteners.
Watch how I make the paleo granola bars here:
Which sweeteners can you use in these granola bars?
To make these bars sweeter, you can either add in more coconut sugar or add some stevia extract, honey, maple syrup, or even chopped dates and dried fruits. Try not to go overboard on the dried fruits, as they are mostly there for sweetness.
If you don't want to use coconut sugar at all, it is perfectly fine to substitute it with any of those sweeteners instead. If using a lot of a liquid sweetener like honey or maple syrup, though, you may need to lower the temperature of the oven somewhat to allow more cooking and drying time otherwise the granola bars won't get as crispy. This, of course, will depend a lot on the oven you are using and how much honey or maple syrup that you add.
Should you pre-soak the nuts and seeds?
Soaking the nuts and seeds before making these paleo granola bars isn't absolutely necessary, but it will help make them easier to digest, and will give you more of a nutritional benefit.
Nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes have a protective coating that allows them to rest undisturbed until a time when they can effectively germinate. While that protective layer is beneficial to the seeds themselves, it can make the nuts and seeds more difficult for you to digest properly, keeping you from being able to easily absorb all of its available nutrients.
Understanding phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors
Most people who eat a paleo type diet avoid grains and legumes, but many do eat quite a few nuts and seeds. These nuts and seeds have both phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors in their outer coating. Phytic acid can bind with certain minerals (like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc) in the intestines, making their absorption difficult. What is perhaps worse is that they also are known to have enzyme inhibitors in the outer layers that inhibit the process of your digestive enzymes, making it more difficult for you to properly digest those nuts and seeds and anything you eat along with them.
Pre-soaking the nuts and seeds helps remove some of the protective coating, just as it would be removed by the rain water at the time of seed germination.
How to soak the nuts and seeds
Take all of the nuts and seeds and soak them in a salt solution. Generally, I dissolve around 1 tsp. of salt per cup of water, and use a cup or more of water than the amount of nuts or seeds that I'm soaking.
To make it clearer, if you were going to make the following granola bar recipe, you'll be using 3 cups of nuts and seeds. I personally don't presoak the chia seeds because they gel up and are difficult to work with, but you can try it if you like. (Or you can exchange the chia seeds in the recipe for something else if you prefer.)
To presoak them, I'd probably use around 4-5 cups of water.
- Dissolve 4-5 teaspoons of salt into the water and then add the nuts and seeds to it, making sure that all of the nuts and seeds are completely covered with water.
- Cover the container with a cloth or paper towel to keep dust out and then leave it on the counter overnight. (At least 7-8 hours)
- After the soaking time is finished, rinse and strain the seeds using a fine mesh steel colander or something similar.
- Once strained, spread the seeds out in a thin layer on a baking sheet or dehydrator sheet. You will want to dry the seeds and nuts completely because any leftover humidity can contribute to mold formation. If using your oven, use the lowest temperature setting and use a fan setting if you have one available.
Once you have presoaked and dried your nuts and seeds, you can continue with the recipe.
Paleo Granola Bars Recipe (Crunchy Energy Nut Bars)
Paleo Granola Bars Recipe (Crunchy Energy Nut Bars)
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF, using the fan setting if you have one.
- Add all of the (pre-soaked and dried) nuts and seeds to a food processor. If you want to pre-soak the nuts, follow the instructions above.
- Process the nuts and seeds until the bigger nuts have been broken down into smaller pieces, and the nuts and seeds have been well mixed together.
- Add in the eggs, coconut sugar, cinnamon, and coconut oil, along with a pinch of salt. (If you have presoaked the nuts in a salt solution, you may not need to add any more.) Blend all of the ingredients in the food processor until well combined.
- Taste the mixture for salt/sweetness. You can add more sugar, stevia, or honey if needed to suit your taste.
- Spread the mixture out over the bottom of a greased rectangular pan or two square pans. The size of the pan isn't important, but you should try to get a thickness of somewhere under 1cm. The thinner the mixture is, the crispier the bars will be.
- Bake the mixture for 20-40 minutes, depending upon the thickness of your bars. I start checking after around 20 minutes and turn the oven off after the bars turn a golden brown.
- While still hot, unmold the mixture and cut into bars.
- To further dry and crisp the bars, I like to place the cut bars back into the oven on a baking sheet, using the residual heat to help further dehydrate them.
- To store them in a closed container, you should be sure that the bars are mostly dehydrated. You'll notice that they will be crispy and will give a clean break when you bend the bars. If they are chewy or bend and slowly break when you fold them, they have residual humidity that will allow mold formation if stored in a closed container. You can eat them that way if you prefer, but I'd store them in the fridge and try to use them up quickly. The fully dried bars can be stored in a sealed container for several weeks. (If they last that long!) 🙂