It’s so easy to grab a box of granola bars off the shelf at the grocery store. I always have an eye out for when they go on sale so I can try different brands and flavors.
I’m really kind of stuck on Nature Valley’s Sweet and Salty granola bars, all their flavors. And the Special K Nourish with the dark chocolate chunks – YUM! And don’t get me started on Quaker’s Oatmeal to Go Cinnamon Roll bars! Breakfast!
Convenience in a box. Eat one for breakfast or lunch or carry them in your purse or car. Perfect!
What’s not so perfect is the price tag.
There are five or six granola bars in a box and they cost around $3. Convenient yes. A bit too much money? Also yes.
When I see granola bars going on sale around $2, then I take another look. And probably toss a couple into my shopping cart.
It hasn’t happened in awhile. Could mean I just haven’t swung by the granola bar aisle when I’m shopping, or it could mean the manufacturers aren’t giving customers frequent deals
Over the years I’ve been making my own granola bars and mix and match the ingredients based on what I have on hand.
A granola bar with chocolate chips and pretzels? No problem! I’ve made it.
This is such an easy, flexible recipe. You can add dried fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, and anything else your little heart desires in a granola bar.
The things you absolutely need for this recipe are a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, a can of condensed milk, and three cups of quick oats. Everything else that goes in the recipe is limited only by your imagination and what you have in your cupboards!
For many years I’ve used the Eagle Brand of condensed milk in this easy trail mix granola bar recipe. Is there any other kind of condensed milk?
Actually – yes!
I’ve also used the grocery store brand name condensed milk when I can find it because it’s about a dollar cheaper. A few months ago when I was shopping on Amazon, I discovered Nature’s Charm coconut condensed milk. It was pretty good with a subtle coconut taste. The main difference I noticed is the coconut condensed milk is thicker than the other brands of condensed milk. The next time I make these granola bars, I’ll pour the coconut condensed milk into a bowl and heat up in the microwave for about 30 seconds. You can do that with regular condensed milk too. It just makes it a little easier to pour and mix with the other ingredients.
The easy trail mix granola bars don’t take too long to mix together. Put the oven on at 350 F and it should be at the right temperature when you’re ready to bake the granola bars.
In a mixing bowl I put in the three cups of quick oats. Then I always put a cup of chocolate chips into my granola bars.
I just want to note that it doesn’t make any difference what order you put the ingredients into your mixing bowl. I’ve added the condensed milk at various stages of putting the rest of my ingredients into the mixing bowl, and I find that leaving it as the last ingredient works best for me.
Then I get a cup and fill it with sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. Sometimes I go half a cup each with both, other times I go a little heavier on the sunflower seeds. Sometimes I open the cupboard and I don’t have pumpkin seeds in there at all, so I just carry on without them.
I like coconut in my easy trail mix granola bars, and aim for half a cup to a cup, depending on my mood and the amount of coconut I have in the house. Other times it’ll be half a cup of coconut and half a cup of slivered almonds.
I always add in half a cup of craisins.
If I have pretzels in the house, I’ll break a few of them and add them to the granola bar mix.
So there you have it – mix and match based on what you like and what you have in the cupboard. I add between three and four cups of other ingredients (chocolate chips, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc) to the oats and condensed milk.
You’ll be making a healthier granola bar than what you buy at the store.
And cheaper too! The most expensive part of this recipe is the condensed milk, which is probably coming in around $3. Add another $2 to $3 for the rest of the ingredients. The recipe makes around 20 to 24 bars, depending on how you cut them. You’d have to buy at least four boxes of granola bars at the grocery store to get the same quantity. That’ll set you back at least double what these cost to make!
Spray a 9 x 13 dish with non-stick spray. Tip: Do NOT use a silicone baking mat in the dish.
Once you have the granola bars well mixed, add them to the baking dish and use a spoon or spatula to even them out, leaving a gap of a couple of inches at one end. Don’t worry. Your granola bars do not spread out while baking.
Put them in the 350 F oven for 20 minutes.
At that point, I take a look at them. The trail mix granola bars should be turning a light brown around the edges. This gives you a chewy granola bar. If you like your granola bars a bit more crunchy, leave them in the oven for a few more minutes, maybe another five minutes.
Put them on a cooling rack and after about five minutes, start cutting them into granola bar sizes. I use a pizza cutter. A long knife should work just as well if you don’t have a pizza cutter.
You can just leave the granola bars in the baking dish until they’ve completely cooled. If you need to use that dish for something else, wait a few more minutes to make sure the bars aren’t falling apart, use a spatula to lift them out of the pan, and put them on a wire rack to finish cooling.
When completely cool, I wrap them individually in plastic cling wrap. That’s about the most labor-intensive part of this recipe. If you have a big group of people who’ll be eating them soon, you might be able to skip the cling wrap step.
For singles like me who don’t want to pig out on the whole batch of easy trail mix granola bars, put them in a freezer bag and eat them over the next few weeks. Take one out and let it defrost for 20 minutes or so. If you can wait that long!
Easy, versatile, and cost effective. Healthier granola bars than what you can buy at the grocery store because you control the ingredients.
What do you like in your granola bars?