These crunchy, homemade energy bars combine complex and fast-digesting carbohydrates with whey protein and healthy fats, making them a great way to get energy on the go. Take one with you for a quick breakfast, after-school snack or to fuel your next bike ride, hike or fitness competition.
Before I had kids, I loved to experiment with recipes. Right out of college, I worked as a fitness instructor and a nutritionist at Gold’s gym. Many of my clients were body-builders and fitness competitors trying to gain muscle mass while shedding body fat. They came to me with that goal, and my job was to help them achieve it – in a healthy way. I was surrounded by questions about dietary supplements, meal plans and how to make healthy smoothies and nutrition bars. I spent hours in the kitchen developing recipes to share with my clients. Some recipes were high calorie – for those needing to gain weight – and others were lower in calories, for those with fewer calories needs.
I’m not a trained chef, and I didn’t have any formal recipe development experience. My recipes came to be after a lot of trial and error. I’ll be the first to admit, some of my recipes turning out absolutely inedible. All that time experimenting taught me a lot about cooking, especially how ingredients work together. Today, I’m able to whip up something healthy and tasty in just a few minutes.
This homemade energy bar is one example. I’ve made these bars a lot, and they’ve been eaten by hundreds of athletes. It’s one of the recipes in my book, Fueling Young Athletes, and I’ve also served them to athletes at sports camps. I always suggest these simple energy bars as an easy, on-the-go option when traveling, or as an after-school, before-practice snack. They make a great breakfast bar, too.
How To Make Crunchy Energy Bars
These crunchy bars are made with a combination of complex and simple carbohydrates, whey protein and healthy fats. Those nutrients together provide the fuel needed for both immediate and sustained energy, muscle recovery and repair and the delicious taste.
The first step in making these bars is to gather your equipment. You’ll need an 8X8 baking dish, 2 medium-sized bowls, a spatula, a large flipper spatula (or flat spatula), Parchment paper, cooking spray, a microwave and an oven.
These bars bake at 350 degrees for ~20 minutes, so you’ll want to preheat the oven first. I also suggest lining your 8×8 pan with Parchment paper. This makes it super easy to remove the bars from the pan after cooking.
In one of your bowls, combine rice cereal, oats, protein powder, cinnamon, salt and crushed nuts. I used almonds in this recipe but you can use any nut you like. The nuts can be chopped to any consistency, fine or diced, but you should do that prior to combining them with the other ingredients. Once you have all of those ingredients in your bowl, stir well, and set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the vanilla, nut butter, liquid sweetener and diced fruit. Like with the nuts, you can use any dried fruit you want. I like tropical fruits, like diced pineapple, because they have a distinct flavor that adds a lot to the bar. You can get creative, though, and add dried blueberries, figs, dates or your favorite. After you have those in the bowl, stir a few times, then microwave on high for 30 seconds. Heating the liquids helps them to blend and stir easier with the dry ingredients.
Once microwaved, use your rubber spatula to combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. The mixture will be very sticky, so it’s helpful to spray the spatula with cooking spray to prevent the mixture from sticking. You can also use your hands to stir, if you prefer. Continue to stir until all of the ingredients are moist and you don’t have any powder or dry ingredients left in the bowl.
Once mixed, spread the mixture evenly into the pan. I like to use another piece of Parchment paper to press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan, then I use a large spatula to press more. It’s important to press firmly around the edges and all areas of the pan. This is an extremely important step that you don’t want to cut short. If the mixture isn’t pressed firm enough, the bars will crumble after cooking, and you will wish you put more muscle into it. Believe me, it’s happened to me! Once you have firmly pressed and re-pressed, remove the piece of Parchment paper and make sure the mixture appears tight, flat and even in the pan.
Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for ~15 minutes. For extra crunchy bars, you can leave them in the oven for any extra 5 minutes. When done, remove from the oven and let cool, then refrigerate for one to two hours. Grab the two ends of the Parchment paper to easily remove the bars from the pan.
Use a large, sharp knife to cut into 8 even bars. I suggest wrapping each bar individually in plastic wrap. That way, you can grab a bar and go if you’re in a rush. Store the uneaten bars in the refrigerate so you have a quick snack for the week. If you don’t like to cook, or if you have a lot of people to feed, I suggest making a double or triple batch. You can store the extras in the freezer for future snacks. They taste just as good defrosted.
Give them a try, and let me know what you think
Crunchy, Homemade Energy Bars
- 1 cup rice cereal, dry
- 1 cup raw oats
- 1/2 cup whey protein, vanilla
- 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
- 1/4 cup almonds, diced
- 1/3 cup almond butter
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup diced, dry fruit (any flavor)
- 1/8 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line 8x8 pan with Parchment paper. Cut the paper long enough so that it lays over the sides.
- Combine the rice cereal, oats, protein powder, cinnamon,salt and chopped nuts in a large bowl. Mix well and set aside.
- Place the brown rice syrup, vanilla, almond butter and dried fruit pieces in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds on high. Stir with a spoon until evenly blended.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and use a sturdy spoon to mix. You can also use your hands to stir. Mix well so that everything is moist.
- Once mixed, spread the mixture evenly into the pan. Use another piece of Parchment paper to press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan, then use a large spatula to press more. Press firmly around the edges and all areas of the pan. This is very important because if the mixture isn't pressed firm enough, the bars will crumble after cooking. Once pressed, remove the piece of Parchment paper you used to press. The mixture should appear tight, flat and even in the pan.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool. Once cooled, refrigerate for one to two hours, remove from the pan and cut into 8 even bars. Wrap bars with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze. Enjoy!
- Recipe makes 8 bars.
- Nutrition Facts (per bar): 230 calories, 30 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 12 g sugars, 9 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 120 mg sodium, 9 g protein.
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Not a fan of crunchy bars? You might these chewy crispy peanut butter protein bars.