Any athlete knows the feeling: You’re heading out for a run, hike, ride or workout and reach into the pantry to grab an energy bar only to discover there’s not a prepackaged snack to be found. For some athletes, this can cause a mini-panic attack or force a drive to the store. For those who know it takes just three basic components and a bit of time to make awesome (and delicious!) preservative-free energy bars at home, this is an opportunity.
To make amazing homemade energy bars that rival any packaged bar, all you need are these three building blocks:
- Binder: Brown rice syrup, honey, maple syrup, agave and other similar binders are the glue that holds your bars together. Another idea: Combine cherries, dates, apricots or figs in a food processor with a little water to make a fruit paste.
- Healthy Energy Bar Body: Use a nutrient-rich base that adds texture. Typical examples include a grain or another high-fiber product with liquid-absorbing power. Think: wheat germ, wheat bran, uncooked quinoa, ground nuts, toasted oats or unsweetened coconut.
- Crunch: A crunchy texture makes your mind and body feel more satisfied. A crunchy bar feels more like eating a much-deserved, convenient treat instead of energy food. Adding crunchy elements like nuts, seeds, toasted small grains (like quinoa) or cacao nibs, delivers a powerful, nutritious punch and will keep you satiated.
Raid your pantry to hunt down these components, chances are you’ll have them nearby. Add depth of flavor by toasting nuts, seeds and even grains. Combine ingredients in a food processor, adding them at varied times to control your texture. For example, if you like smoother, less-crunchy bars you can fully crush nuts and seeds; if you like more crunch, blend the bars less.)
Here are two recipes to get you going:
Seedy Cherry-Quinoa Energy Bars
- 1 cup chopped almonds
- 1/2 cup raw quinoa
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup dried, tart cherries
- 2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
- 3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 2 tablespoons water
Preheat oven to 350°F and coat 8-by-8 baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on all sides. Toast almonds, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds on a rimmed baking sheet, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 10–12 minutes. Let cool.
Reduce oven temperature to 200°F. Process cherries, brown rice syrup, sea salt and water in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in toasted almond mixture. Press firmly into prepared pan and bake until no longer sticky, 20–25 minutes. Let cool, then cut into bars. Recipe makes 16 servings at 1 bar each.
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 133; Total Fat: 6g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 115mg; Carbohydrate: 16g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 8g; Protein: 5g
Cashew-Sesame Crunch Bars
- 1 1/2 cup cashews
- 6 tablespoons raw sesame seeds
- 5 tablespoons flaxseed
- 1/4 cup wheat bran
- 3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
Preheat oven to 350°F and coat 8-by-8 baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment, leaving an overhang on all sides.
On a rimmed baking sheet, toast cashews, sesame seeds and flaxseed in separate areas, stirring occasionally, but not mixing, until golden brown, 10–12 minutes. Let cool. Set aside 2 tablespoons sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon flaxseed.
Process cashews and remaining seeds with wheat bran, sea salt and cardamom in a food processor until finely chopped. Place mixture in a medium bowl.
In a small saucepan, bring maple syrup and coconut oil to a boil; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Pour over cashew mixture and stir to coat.
Wet hands and press mixture firmly into prepared pan; it will be sticky. Top with reserved sesame and flax seeds; press to adhere. Bake until golden brown, 25–30 minutes. Let cool, then cut into bars. Recipe makes 16 servings at 1 bar each.
Both recipes can be made 2 weeks ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 124; Total Fat: 8g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Monounsaturated Fat: 3g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 112mg; Carbohydrate: 12g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 7g; Protein: 3g