4-Ingredient Oaty Jam Bars for Better Breakfasts, Happier Days

July 10, 2018

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big, BIG everything else: flavor, ideas, wow factor. Psst: We don't count salt, pepper, and certain fats (say, olive oil to dress greens or sauté onions), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re baking granola-meets-cookie, just-happen-to-be-gluten-free jam bars.

If you’re wondering how in the world a triple-layer cookie—oaty bottom! jammy belly! streusel-y top!—could have just four ingredients, I’ll let you in on a little secret: It’s one dough.

Lots of recipes keep this trick up their sleeve. Think of double-crusted fruit pies. Or Linzer cookies. Or Nigella Lawson’s very smart strawberry cake. One dough does double work and earns infinite brownie points.

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And this one just happens to be gluten-free.

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Top Comment:
“It’s been so hot lately that I’ve been eating mostly cold food for all my meals. What a summer. ”
— Hannah

Nowadays, you can turn almost anything into a “flour,” and often without a mill. Buzz up almonds in a food processor, stopping just before they become butter, and you have almond flour. Give oats the same treatment and you have oat flour.

Photo by Julia Gartland

You could, of course, buy this already made. But there’s a cheeky upcharge: Oat flour costs roughly twice as much as rolled oats and, if you already have rolled oats in the pantry, why not wring ’em for all they’re worth? Such is the Big Little Recipes way.

So back to the dough—it’s mostly oats, one way or another. It’s also brown sugar, which brings malty sweetness, and butter, which brings, well, what butter brings: that something-something feeling, like you’re a cat in the sunshine, or dog in the snow. And don’t forget the salt.

This all comes together in the food processor like (snaps fingers) that. Crumble some on a plate and toss in the freezer, where the nuggets will become a confident streusel, ready to take the oven by storm. In the meantime, press the rest into a parchment-lined square baking dish. Now spread with lots and lots of jam.

Photo by Julia Gartland

What kind is up to you. I prefer something dark, which stands out between the oaty layers. Think blackberry or blueberry or plum. You could toss caution out the window and try another spread entirely, like Nutella, or our cofounder’s version, cashewtella. I haven’t tried this, but what could go wrong?

If you’re an overachiever—you are, aren’t you?—make a batch over the weekend, wrap the squares individually, and freeze for hurried breakfasts down the road. Hopefully there will be a big, strong, strapping cup of coffee closeby.

What jam would you put in these jam bars? Tell us in the comments!

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Hannah July 8, 2020
I used a mix of rhubarb and blackberry jams- it’s a god mix. Also good with a scoop of homemade frozen yogurt on top! It’s been so hot lately that I’ve been eating mostly cold food for all my meals. What a summer.
Posie (. July 11, 2018
Emma, how would these do with some fresh berries mixed in with the jam?
Emma L. July 11, 2018
Fun idea! I haven't tried that, but I think it could work—maybe with a sturdy fruit like blueberries versus something more fragile like raspberries. If you try, let me know!
Dora R. July 11, 2018
Oh dear! I'm trying this and can't wait to share with my family. Thank you 😄