Protein bars may already be on your radar, but you may have also noticed an explosion in the past year+ of “natural” energy bars that boast fewer ingredients and higher nutrient-density. Think LäraBar (started in 2000, focused on unsweetened fruits, nuts and spices with no more than nine ingredients per bar) and Kind Bars (started in 2004, sold in but not owned by Starbucks, focused on all-natural whole nuts, fruits and whole grains–although they do add natural sweeteners and still use soy). As I began devoting a significant portion of my daily snack income to these types of bars, diving into a world of chia and hemp seeds, dates and any type of nut I desired, I realized that I was paying more for some of these bars than the ingredients it would take to make 10.
That’s when I went online, got a bazillion hits for “homemade energy bar”, and began tinkering with my own. Many (most) call for dates, which I love, but frankly, all you really need are semi-dried fruits (moist, sticky) of some sort, to act as a binder, and your favorite seeds and nuts. If you’re looking for specific health benefits, do your research to understand which fruits, nuts and seeds should help you the most for your personal goals. Or, try your own n-of-1 trials and see what works best for your body.
Below is a version I came up with last week as I had extra prunes in my pantry. They’ve been lovely as my “sweet” to accompany my mid-morning coffee.
- 1 cup (dried) prunes
- 1/3 cup chia seeds
- 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 cup hemp seeds
- 1 cup almonds (or walnuts)
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
Place the dried fruit into the food processor and pulse in 10-second intervals until it resembles a paste. You may need to scrape the sides during this process, as dried fruit can be a sticky mess. Then, add in the remaining seeds and nuts and continue pulsing until fully incorporated.
If you don’t have a food processor, first coarsely chop the prunes, then mash with a fork until as smooth as possible. In a separate bowl, add all the seeds and nuts, mixing well. Add in the seed mixture, a bit at a time, to the mashed prunes. Then, mix in the seeds/nuts by hand until evenly distributed.
To form these snacks, you can either roll into small balls with your hands or cut them into bars. To do the latter, place the mixture on parchment paper in a pan, mold into the desired depth, and slice off individual bars. Store in an airtight container.