Snack bars are an essential part of my vegan diet providing a hit of energy through the protein packed nuts and a touch of sweetness from the oats. I started experimenting with different recipes after looking at premade bars like Nakd and 9BAR. A lot of other brands are full of sugar and actually really bad for you, but these brands tend to be much purer (Nakd notable for being a simple blend of 3-4 natural ingredients) but they can be rather pricey. I’ve now come up with a pretty standard formula that I knock up once a week for a few days worth of tasty, healthy vegan snacks.
The basic rule is 1 cup of oats, 1 cup of dates, 1/2 cup of seeds/nuts/dried fruit and 1-2 tbsp agave syrup and/or coconut oil. Depending on what I have in, or what I fancy, my final cup could be any mix including goji berries, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. I’ve also now started sprinkly in some chia or flaxseeds for an additional protein hit. To blend, and add a touch of sweetness (which you’ll mainly get from the dates anyway), I use agave syrup – my go to sweetener and alternative to honey. Coconut milk is also really good as it can add a slight bit of flavour too. I sometimes add this at the processing of the dates stage to help them break down. You can also bind with peanut butter for some nutty goodness.
Don’t be put off by the dates. I used to hate them and to be honest, I still wouldn’t eat them on their own. But noticing that they are common in vegan desserts I started to experiment and realised that they are fantastic for binding and adding sweetness, plus they are full of vitamins A and K which are important for maintaining healthy eyes, skin and bones.
I’ve tried raw and cooked bars – preferring them raw as it keeps the ingredients fresher and is less to do. I’ve tried out bars with quinoa, oats and millet as bases.
The only thing that can be tricky is blending the dates. You definitely need a food processor (not a blender unless it’s super sharp and strong) and a good dose of patience as it will take several minutes. Soaking the dates before processing is an absolute must. At least for 10 minutes but the longer the better as softer dates break down easily. Also make sure you get pitted dates as it can be rather boring, and fiddly, trying to de-pit them all.
The most important thing is that you have a mixture that can bind together but isn’t sticky. As they set from refrigeration be aware that the final bars you roll out will be almost as is once set.
oat and date energy bars
- 1 cup of rolled oats
- 1 cup of pitted dates
- 1/2 – 1 cup of your chosen ingredients (dried fruit, nuts, seeds)
- 1 tbsp agave syrup
- 1 tbsp coconut oil (or another oil)
Soak the dates in room temperature water for at least 10 minutes, ideally longer.
Line a baking tray with some baking parchment that is twice it’s length so that half rolls off one end.
Put your oats and other ingredients in a large bowl. If you are using nuts you might want to cut them into smaller chunks.
Drain and wash the dates and put in a food processor. Blend until they have turned into a sticky paste. This can take up to 10 minutes and you should stop to scrape the mix off the side and also give the blades a little rest. Persevere here – it will blend! If it needs a little help add 1/2 – 1 tbsp of melted coconut oil.
Once blended add to the oat mix. Use a spoon, and a bit of elbow grease, to mix all the ingredients together. Add the agave syrup to help it blend.
Once loosely blended turn it out on to the baking tray and flatten slightly. Fold the other half of the parchment over the mixture and flatten with your hands. Use a rolling pin to flatten it out completely into a square or rectangle, using your hands to mould and straighten the edges. Roll out until it’s about 1/2 an inch thick.
Put in the fridge for at least two hours to allow to set. Once set use a knife to cut into bars – the size and shape depends on what you’d prefer. I usually get about 12 bars out of this (cutting the mixture in half width-wise and then six cuts up and down).