Choose Your Own Adventure: 5-Minute, No-Bake Granola Bars

May 16, 2013

Every other Thursday, Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw shares satisfying, flavorful recipes that also happen to be vegan.

Today: A granola bar you don't have to bake, with a recipe that won't tie you down. 

Granola Bars

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Summer is quickly approaching, which means more picnics, hikes, outdoor walks, and other celebrations of the open air. This time of year, I like to maximize my time outside by stocking up on portable, nutritious snacks that allow me to be active without worrying about going inside to eat.

More: Looking for more snacks to fill your backpack? Try Gena's White Bean Dip.

I’m a sucker for sweet, salty snack bars, but tasty vegan ones can be hard to find: many store-bought options are full of dubious ingredients, while recipes for homemade bars often contain honey (which isn't vegan!). For ages, I searched for a granola bar recipe that was vegan, easy to make, and -- most importantly -- adaptable. I've finally found the perfect mix of oats, nuts, dried fruit, and nut butter, and it has become a go-to in my busy student life.


Remember Choose Your Own Adventure books? Let’s call this “choose your own granola bar.” My favorite thing about these bars is that you can add or subtract whatever you want. Not a fan of peanut butter? Use almond, cashew, or sunflower seed butter. Hate pumpkin seeds? Sunflower seeds or cashews will be great, too. Here are just a few ideas for how to modify the recipe: 

  • Add 1/2 cup chocolate chips.
  • Substitute finely chopped dried figs or dates for the raisins.
  • Replace the pumpkin seeds with chopped pistachios, and replace raisins with 1/2 cup dried cranberries.
  • Replace the pumpkin seeds with chopped walnuts, and add 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the nut butter and sweetener mixture. 
  • If you're feeling exotic, replace the raisins with goji berries. 

No matter what, it’s hard to go wrong with this combination. Enjoy it -- and all of the outdoor activities it will fuel you for!

Granola Bars

Five Minute, No-Bake Vegan Granola Bars

Serves 10 to 12

2 1/2 cups rolled or quick oats
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 cup raisins
2/3 cup peanut or almond butter
1/2 to 2/3 cup agave nectar or brown rice syrup (adjust based on how well things stick together)
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

Tell us: what do you like to add to your granola bars?

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The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.


Meghan June 5, 2015
These look yummy! Could you substitute maple syrup instead of agave?
Vicky April 11, 2015
Why would you use brown rice syrup - it's a concentrated sugar source made from brown rice which has been shown to contain worrisome levels of arsenic. Some brown rice in the diet is ok as a whole food source but this is a very processed product. Agave nectar is quite high in it's Fructose content - people started choosing it because it has a lower glycemic index but that is only because of it's higher fructose ratio. I would recommend pure maple syrup as the best choice.
Franca November 27, 2014
I made these a while back and unfortunately they didn't go over very well at my house. They came out to soft, and kind of raw tasting according to my kids.
Darcie H. August 18, 2014
What size pan do you make these in?
Marta September 1, 2013
Hello - I love the sound of these bars, but I wonder what would make a goof alternative to nut butters, in order to make something school-yard friendly? Tahini is the only thing that comes to mind, but I'm not sure it would taste as nice. Any other ideas?
Andrea D. July 10, 2013
These look simple and amazing! I've tried granola bars before with not-so-awesome results... now I have to try yours!
Kaya May 20, 2013
Am I the only one who would want to add some carob or cocoa powder to these? :=)
Lolobelle May 19, 2013
can you give me some idea of the nutritional value of one of these delicious looking bars?
Foodiewithalife May 19, 2013
I love homemade granola bars! This looks the perfect snack for a summer bike ride.

Jennifer W. May 19, 2013
sounds delicious! thanks for the recipe, I have been looking for something like this for a long time, quick and easy. I realize it has nuts already in the butter but being the bad girl I am I would add some pecans or almonds along with dates into the mix.
Marian B. May 19, 2013
Pecans and dates would be awesome!
ortolan May 19, 2013
I think creamy raw honey would be perfect in these if you aren't vegan.
Marian B. May 19, 2013
I've used raw honey in these, and it tastes great! Especially with almond butter + cinnamon.
zosia May 17, 2013
These look delicious, but I am allergic to oats. Do you think something else could be put in their place? coconut shreds? quinoa flakes?
Gena H. May 17, 2013
I'd try quinoa flakes! You may need to adjust measurements and add a bit more of them than the oats called for.
Emilye May 17, 2013
Does it matter whether the peanut butter is the all-natural type or not?
Marian B. May 17, 2013
We've used both -- it's just a matter of preference! The great thing about this recipe is that it's super adaptable.
Tina T. May 16, 2013
Something to consider about agave nectar, it's not as healthy as it's been portrayed. It's 90% fructose, and is low-glycemic because it's processed by the liver, but the high fructose content can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jonny-bowden/debunking-the-blue-agave_b_450144.html.
Gena H. May 17, 2013
Tina, I'm certainly not one to tell you that agave is a healthy food. It is a concentrated sweetener, like all concentrated sweeteners, so there's a time and a place for it! It is, though, a convenient vegan alternative to honey, and less pricey than maple syrup.
Edible B. May 16, 2013
looks delicious Gena! I love the versatility :)
laurenlocally May 16, 2013
Just tasted these in our swanky test kitchen here at Food52 and there were really delicious. Creamy not at all tacky.
Rich L. May 16, 2013
I would toast the pumpkin seeds for more flavor...:-)
Gena H. May 16, 2013
That would be delicious!
copywolf May 16, 2013
Any chance you could use maple syrup instead of brown rice or agave?
Kenzi W. May 16, 2013
You can! I've tried it and they came out great. If you don't follow a strict vegan diet, you can also experiment with honey.
Gena H. May 16, 2013
Yup! Maple syrup will be fine. A little more pricey, but delicious.
Beautiful, M. May 16, 2013
what kind of sweetener and how much?
Marian B. May 16, 2013
Sorry about that -- the recipe has been updated! It calls for 1/2 to 2/3 cup agave nectar or brown rice syrup (depending on how well things stick together).