You know that afternoon (or after-dinner) itch that has you reaching for something sweet? Yeah, I have that too. I’m trying ever so hard to not reach for something loaded with tons of sugar and empty calories. That’s when I reach for a homemade energy bar. Like other bars you can find in the health-food aisle, these are made with 100% natural, whole-food ingredients. They are also gluten- and dairy-free.
The bars are easy to customize to the ingredients you have hiding in your cupboard and/or your personal preferences. I happen to really like dried cherries and apricots; they add a nice tartness that balances out the sweet dates. The dried fruit, dates especially, helps hold the bars together. I added chia seeds and coconut to these to give them a little more healthy fat and protein (the nuts do that, too). I like cashews in energy bars, but any nut or nut meal would work well too. And while I’m at it, if chia seeds aren’t your thing, you can leave them out entirely, or substitute them with another nut or seed of your choice: sesame, sunflower and raw pumpkin seeds are all good choices.
Energy bars are very simple to make. You will want to use a food processor here. The mixture is pretty sticky and thick, and therefore not ideal for blenders. After the ingredients are finely chopped, check to see if they hold together. If not, you can add a little coconut oil, nut butter or add another date or two, and pulse well.
Pat the mixture into an 8×8-inch square and let it hang out in the fridge or freezer for a bit until it sets up enough to cut into individual bars. It can also be formed into 16 energy bites, which are just as tasty and even more pop-able than the bars.
This makes 16 smaller or 8 big bars. I wrap them individually in waxed paper and they are perfect for tossing into a gym bag or purse. My kids also love these because they taste like amped-up fruit leather bars, making them a great snack to take to the park, pool, hiking or anywhere you might venture and need a little something to eat.
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1 cup cashews (or another nut)
- ½ cup dried apricot halves
- ½ cup dried cherries
- ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 Tablespoons chia seeds
- Place all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blad. Pulse until finely chopped. The mixture should hold together nicely.
- Turn out onto a piece of parchment or plastic wrap and form into an 8- by 8-inch square. Chill until firm enough to cut into bars.
If the mixture is too dry and won't stick together, add a little coconut oil or a few extra dates, or a few teaspoons of nut butter.