Healthier Fruit-Filled Cereal Bars
I love the idea of a fruit-filled, portable cereal bar.
I don’t love the reality of ready-to-eat cereal bars from the grocery store, including the organic, all-natural, “healthy” options.
In fact, I don’t like them at all. Mostly, I find them far too sweet and insubstantial (i.e., I am hungry again in about 15 minutes). Further, what is being added to the cereal layer? No matter the brand, it always tastes weird.
So I made my own version: Blueberry Oat Breakfast Bars.
Why these Blueberry Oat Breakfast Bars Are Worth Making
First things first: these are very, very easy to make.
Second: the recipe has 5 ingredients (excluding water and salt).
Third: the recipe has no added sugar or fat. However, you can add either or both to your liking. You can also add spices and flavoring to suit your tastes. I like flexibility.
Fourth: the bars are also naturally vegan, gluten-free and have 75 calories apiece.
Sound good? Well here’s what you need to make them: blueberries (fresh or frozen (thawed)), oats, arrowroot or tapioca starch, very ripe banana, and flaxseed meal (read on if you cannot have flaxseed meal).
Not to worry if you cannot eat flaxseed meal. The purpose of its addition here is to add some fat, without adding oil, as well as some extra nutrition.
You can sub any number of other ingredients, including equal amounts of almond meal/flour, ground chia seeds, hemp hearts, or other finely ground nuts or seeds. You can also add more ground oats, but the oat layers will be a bit more dense without the added fat.
Banana hater? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered, too. See the recipe notes for using applesauce.
How to Make the Bars
Ok, let’s make these bars. First, make the oat layers. In a food processor, process 1-1/2 cups of the oats into a flour. Next, combine the oat flour with the remaining 1 cup oats, the flax, mashed banana (use super-ripe, mushy bananas for maximum sweetness), 3 tablespoons water, and (optional) salt.
Adjust the Oat Crust/Crumble to Taste
Mix until combined and crumbly. The oat mixture will not be very sweet, which I like. It will have a toasty flavor after baking that suits my breakfast preferences. If you want your oats sweeter, go ahead and adjust. Add a bit of coconut sugar, monkfruit, a keto-style sweetener, or replace some of the water with maple syrup.
Two more options to consider: First, add flavoring(s) to your liking (e.g., cinnamon, cardamom, pumpkin pie spice, ginger, vanilla, almond extract, lemon zest). Second, add some fat. You can replace some or all of the water with the oil of your choice, which will result in crispier oat layers. It’s all up to you!
Make the Blueberry Filling
Now, make the filling. It’s a snap. Coarsely mash the berries with a fork, sprinkle with the arrowroot, and stir to combine.
You can customize here, too: if you want your berries sweeter, add some sweetener. Monkfruit, maple syrup, stevia, coconut sugar, whatever you like. Any given batch of berries can be more or less sweet, so taste and decide what works for you.
I also like to add a pinch of salt, to enhance the sweetness, but it is optional. Adding a drop of vanilla or almond extract, or some lemon zest, is also a fine & delicious idea.
Press half of the oat mixture firmly and evenly into a parchment paper-lined baking pan (8-inches/ 20 cm square).
Spread with the berry filling and crumble the remaining oat mixture on top.
Time to Bake
Bake in a preheated 350F (175C) oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbly. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
Once the bars are cool, refrigerate until they are cold. Use the parchment paper overhang to remove the bars from the pan and cut into 16 squares (or bigger bars, if you like).
These are definitely my kind of breakfast bars.
I hope you enjoy these bars as much as I do! I am sure they would be smashing with other summer fruits, including raspberries, cherries, blackberries, peaches, plums, and apricots.