Salted Caramel Granola Bars

Salted Caramel Granola Bars
After I finished grad school and had to start repaying my student loans, I decided to set up a deferred payment plan where I’d pay a smaller monthly payment for a few years, and then the payments balloon later. Obviously by then, I’d be rolling in cash from my swanky library job and I’d have a dollar sign shaped pool in my backyard and wash my hair with Fiji water, so this sounded like a good idea to me at the time. However, now that I’m a month away from the increased payments, it sounds like a terrible idea and it threw me into another I’m-paying-for-a-degree-I-don’t-use-wah-wah pity party. Because as much as I want to be one of those people who gives the finger to the past and goes through life with a t-shirt emblazoned with the words NO REGRETZ, I am a person with regretz and that degree has been one of them.

(Sidenote: If I ever start a clothing line, I’m definitely calling it NO REGRETZ. In addition to t-shirts, I will sell bandanas with eagles on them.)

Fleur de Sel Salted Caramel Granola Bar Ingredients
Usually these pity parties end when I realize that practically no one uses their degrees and it’s okay! But this time, it ended with a realization: I’m totally using my degree. I’ve always felt like I tackled food blogging differently than other food bloggers. I’m not really a writer; I’m not going to make you teary-eyed with poignant descriptions of the first time I ate a rutabaga. Blogging about myself usually makes me feel uncomfortable (in fact, I might just delete everything I’ve written up to this point and start over again right now) and while I love to cook, spending more than an hour on a single meal drives me a little bit crazy. So why do I have a food blog? Because I love problems and solutions. Eating a different diet than your friends and family can be full of problems and it’s satisfying to come up with solutions.

That’s why I wanted to be a librarian too. It was satisfying to have someone ask a question and figure out an answer to it. Librarianship and blogging are very different fields, but all the classes that I took to prepare me to be a librarian have also helped me as a food blogger. Taxonomy has taught me how to organize my blog, reference has taught me how to create guides and answer questions, acquisitions has taught me how to build useful content, and management has taught me how to set goals and make plans. Being able to see this makes me feel so much better, and it makes those student loan payments a lot less painful. Well, a little less painful, at least.

Salted Caramel Granola Bar Mixture
Speaking of problems and solutions, here’s one for you. Problem: I want to eat candy for breakfast, but I also want to be a respectable adult. Solution: Salted Caramel Granola Bars. Superlatives give me hives, so believe me when I tell you these are the best granola bars I’ve ever eaten. Chris and I have made and devoured several batches of Nutrition Stripped’s raw caramel and I thought I could tweak it a little bit to make it a good glue for a granola bar recipe. I reduced the amount of oil to make it stickier and took out the honey to make it vegan-friendly. These granola bars are a little bit like Payday candy bars, if Payday candy bars were made with dates and almond butter and maple syrup. They’re chewy, gooey, nutty, and packed with caramel flavor.

I’ve made these with almonds, chia and hemp seeds, and I’ve also made them with raw cashews and sunflower seeds–we loved them both ways. Any nuts you have on hand will work in this recipe and if you’d like to add in chocolate chips or dried fruit, that will work too. As long as you keep the proportions the same, you will have no regretz.

Salted Caramel Granola Bars

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 12 granola bars

Salted Caramel Granola Bars

These salty-sweet granola bars might taste decadent, but they're made with wholesome ingredients. Caramel adapted from Nutrition Stripped's Raw Caramel with Apples.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup (use Grade B if you have it)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond butter
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil (solid, not melted)
  • 2 Medjool dates, pitted and quartered
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds, hemp hearts, mini chocolate chips, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes, or other add-ins
  • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel

Instructions

  1. Combine the maple syrup, almond butter, coconut oil, dates, and vanilla extract in the small bowl of a food processor. Process until completely smooth; the mixture should resemble caramel when it's finished.
  2. Stir together the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour the caramel mixture over the top and use a wooden spoon (or your hands) to combine.
  3. Grease a small square baking dish with coconut oil. Press the granola bar mixture into the dish and cover it with plastic wrap or foil. Refrigerate the granola bars for about 2 hours, or until set. Once set, cut the bars into 12 equal pieces. Store the bars in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze them for up to 2 months.

Notes

If you're using a different type of salt, start with a smaller amount and add more to taste. Because fleur de sel flakes are larger than table salt crystals, using table salt will result in a much saltier granola bar.

You can use a combination of different ingredients for the 1/4 cup of add-ins. I've made these with 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds and 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, and also with 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds. As long as the amount totals 1/4 cup, you're good.

Because these bars are held together with caramel, they need to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer so they don't fall apart.

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Kiersten Frase

About Kiersten

Kiersten is the founder and editor of Oh My Veggies. She loves cooking, trashy reality shows, and Hello Kitty. Kiersten also blogs about blogging at kierstenfrase.com.   Read more from Kiersten →

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Comments

  1. says

    The only plus of me doing this MD/PhD thing while realizing that I love food way more than medicine is that it’s FREE. And I do hope it will help me in the long run no matter what I end up doing “in real life”. But I think you can probably apply skills learned in most graduate school programs to blogging in some way. So cheers to that! And to these bars! So in love. You had me at salted caramel.

    • Kiersten Frase says

      I completely fell into food blogging–I never, ever thought this was something I could do professionally. It’s weird how that happens, isn’t it? But I think having these different professional backgrounds makes our blogs more interesting because of the perspectives we bring.

  2. says

    Ok, so eating candy for breakfast is wrong? Lol! But seriously now, if someone told me I was allowed to eat something that was totally healthy and tasted like Payday … well, I’d be all over that!
    You let me know when you start that clothing line – I’m all about NO REGRETZ :) After all, the decisions we made yesterday make us who we are today.

    Super cute post – loved reading! And pinning!

  3. says

    Oh, boy! Now, why didn’t I think of this??? McKel’s Raw Caramel is seriously one of my favorite recipe finds this year, and in granola bars-now that sound amazing!!! Love your post too & I can totally relate to the problem/solver thing :-)

  4. says

    I did something similar with my graduate loan – that first big payment was such a shocker. You have my deepest sympathies. I really like what you say here about your approach to food blogging though – as an accountant, I can totally get where you’re coming from about finding solutions. Plus I want to eat one of these granola bars right this very second.

    • Kiersten Frase says

      Yeah, it sounds like such a good idea at the time, doesn’t it? :) I can afford the payments now (and I definitely couldn’t back then), but it’s still a lot of money to pay every month. :/

  5. says

    OMG I felt like you were writing this post specifically to me. I’m just finishing grad school and my student loan payments are coming in about 6 months. I’m so scared, broke, and yet excited because I’m moving away from my field (Translation Studies) but diving deeper into food blogging. I also have been afraid that I’ve poured 2 years of effort into a superfluous degree that I don’t need, but you’re totally right. It’s influenced the way I write, the way I speak, and the way I approach food (with feminist, cultural-based, or ideologically challenging perspectives).

    I also love this because I too want candy for breakfast but the health-nut in me is like NO. Looks delish. Love your blog <3

    • Kiersten Frase says

      I have a very clear memory of sitting on the couch in my apartment and crying when had to start repaying my loans. Even though I’m not really feeling the whole payment plan thing now that it’s ballooned, in the end, I’m still glad I did it because there was no way I could afford $500 a month back then. But it’s true, everything you do brings you to where you are today and food blogging (and things related to it, like writing, recipe development, etc.) is definitely a viable career option, even if people give you strange looks when you tell them what you do for a living.

  6. says

    Completely guilty of always opting for chocolate chip granola bars and other not so healthy granola bar options. I’m sure the healthiness of the granola bar and the unhealthiness of the salted caramel balance out to make it sort of healthy, good enough for me! ;)

  7. says

    Holy shizzz 1) these sound like the most amazing things! Salted! Caramel! Granola bars! Ahh! 2) You are SO FUNNY. If rofl was still a thing, that’s what I would’ve been doing while reading your post. “I’m not going to make you teary-eyed with poignant descriptions of the first time I ate a rutabaga.” <– thank god, because we wouldn't want you any other way ;) 3) I want to join the No Regretz club. Because I literally JUST submitted my application for grad school today and I don't want to regret that!! 4) Can you please install that dollar sign pool someday and post pics? I feel like your blogging career is on track to support that right??

    In any case, glad you finally realized that your degree is totally worth it!! Or mostly worth it! For what it's worth, I think the vegetarian world is much better off for having your blog in it :)

    • Kiersten Frase says

      YAAAY! Good luck with your grad school application! Ignore everything I said about regretting grad school and student loans! I was just kidding. HA HA. Joke! I’m sure you’ll have no regretz and nothing but dollar sign pools in your future. :)

  8. says

    I’m always looking for new granola bar recipes to try, and while I usually prefer the soft-baked kind, sometimes I want a sticky and crunchy one! I also usually try to keep them healthy and low-sugar, so I like that these are sweet but still made with healthy ingredients!

  9. says

    I avoid teary-eyed posts at all costs. I like witty banter and lots of sarcasm. Um, you’re right, is anyone using their degree? Dare I say that I majored in English, a form of liberal arts. The science nerds snear at me. The accountants give me an odd, sideways look of confusion. And doctors…well, they’re in a class of their own. I suppose I use my degree to a certain extent. I mean, I do write. I usually send the bill in and try to forget about it by stuffing my face with sweets. Now, this recipe could definitely have me forgetting all about my loans. Oh, and, I’ll be the first to buy stock in your clothing line.

    • Kiersten Frase says

      Yeah, back then I was all, “Ohh, you’re majoring in business, how BORING.” And now those people are making $100K a year and I’m writing about granola bars. Ha ha, oh man. Ohhhh man. I think blogging is definitely a natural fit for an English major though–you are using your degree!

  10. says

    Wish I could reach through my screen and grab one of those granola bars. Want.one.right.now!!

    When I started reading this post I thought it was unusual that you were talking about yourself (though I enjoyed it!)…and then you said that yourself ha!

    I got fed up with paying monthly payments & interest on my student loans, so one day I said screw it and just paid the entire balance. It was so scary to see my bank account go down a whole lot, but it has felt awesome ever since to just be done with it [because Sallie Mae = the worst!!].

    • Kiersten Frase says

      That is my DREAM. I have $40K in loans, so I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon for me. ;) But good for you for doing that–I can’t imagine how amazing that must have felt!

  11. Estelle says

    Reading your post, I feel lucky to live in France where school is mostly free. Everything is more expensive (food, gas, electricity etc…) and salaries aren’t as high but many of us don’t have to deal with repaying student loans.

    Do you think you could recommend a good substitute for almond butter? I read somewhere that peanut butter could be used but I do not like peanuts and would like to avoid using it. There’s no almond butter available where I live and my blender is not powerful enough to handle a homemade batch. These granola bars sound delicious and I would love to try your recipe.

    • Kiersten Frase says

      Yes, paying off student loans is a huge burden for so many people I know–I wish education was more affordable here! Peanut butter would work as a substitute in this recipe, but it would overpower the caramel flavor, so I wouldn’t recommend it anyway. (The granola bars would be delicious, but they would taste like peanut butter, not caramel!) If you have access to any other kind of nut or seed butter, I’d try substituting that.

      • Estelle says

        No access to any nut or seed butter unfortunately. It’s very hard to be a vegetarian/vegan in France. We’re years behind other countries like Germany, the US, the UK etc… And I can’t afford to buy a vitamix right now.

        So it looks like these granola bars are not for me. :( Unless I can use more coconut oil to make up for the lack of almond butter?

        • Kiersten Frase says

          I don’t know if coconut oil would work–I think the bars might be a little too oily. You might be able to use homemade cashew butter. I know you don’t have a Vitamix, but cashews are softer than other nuts and I’ve been able to make them into a butter in my food processor…

  12. says

    You posted some SWEETS! Eeeee! Exciting. :D These bars look so, so good!

    I love your positive perspective on your degree. I have a degree in Scandinavian Languages and Literature and honestly… I don’t feel like I’m using it at all. Because I’m not. But hey, I got to do a year abroad in Sweden and I got a scholarship for that so that’s something. :D Oh! OH! And Sweden is where I met my husband.

    Oh my gosh. This post just made me realize how useful my major was. Thank you, Kiersten! :)

    • Kiersten Frase says

      I have another sweet recipe scheduled for this month! I think you and I are the only ones who enjoy when I post sweet recipes. Oh, and my husband. :)

      Meeting your husband is definitely a good thing! See! Before library school, I majored in History, concentrating on African history, as an undergrad. Hooray for niche studies! Someday we’ll go on Jeopardy and kick some ass.

      • says

        Poppycock! I just shared this on Facebook, which means that approximately another 4 people will appreciate this sweet recipe. :)

        And um, the only trivia I’d kick butt in is movie trivia. And perhaps celebrity trivia. And internet memes. Most of my time in college was spent reading ONTD and the forums at Something Awful. I guess I should have been going to parties and doing college stuff? Whoops.

        • Kiersten Frase says

          YOU READ ONTD! I knew I liked you! I tried to ban myself from gossip sites this year by blocking them in my browsers, so then I installed another browser to get around it. Because, uh, obviously that makes more sense than just unblocking the sites, right? Obviously.

          Thanks for the share! :)

          • says

            Hahaha. I love that you did that. And yeah. I just had to quit. It took me 8 years but I finally did it! You can do it, too! :D Or how about limiting yourself to just the roundups? Though the roundups aren’t posted nearly as often as they should be.

          • Kiersten Frase says

            I quit half of my gossip sites, but I need to quit the others. But it’s SO HARD. I literally started reading tabloids when I was in 1st grade. As soon as I could read, I was reading the Enquirer.

          • says

            Haha. Really?! Well good luck with that. I only started my first year of college in 2004. If you try to quit gossip sites, I’ll try quitting copious amounts of sweets (it’s really almost all I eat). We can be cranky and experience withdrawal together! ;)

  13. Daria says

    I’m doing this for sure. I would do it right now, but I’m almost sleeping, and then after eating probably the half of it I would get sugar high, so that’s a no-no for now. But tomorrow definitely!:)

  14. says

    I felt that way about my creative writing degree, which, aside from being able to write well, I felt I never used, especially after I went back to school to study nutrition. Then, when I moved to a foreign country and my language skills weren’t good enough to work in nutrition, I fell back into writing and felt that my nutrition degrees were maybe useless. But now I’m dabbling quite a bit in both worlds and have defined myself as ‘a professional communicator with extensive science based knowledge in food, nutrition, and health’ and I FINALLY feel like the 12 years I’ve spent in post secondary education has been worth while! Who knows where I’ll end up professionally, but for now I feel pretty happy with where I am. And these granola bars! Hot damn! Have pinned to make asap!

    • Kiersten Frase says

      It’s such a nice feeling when it all comes together like that, isn’t it? That’s how I feel now. There are still times when I feel a little bit like, “Oh, I’m JUST a food blogger,” like what I’m doing is silly and self-indulgent and not as important as the work my former classmates are doing. But as long as we’re happy, does it matter? Maybe not. :)

  15. Bianca says

    These faux caramel stole my heart the moment I laid my eyes on it in my food processor, smooth and sweet and heavenly. I just can’t believe it’s vegan! It looks like caramel, it tastes like caramel, and even smells like caramel. I almost couldn’t bear to pour the sauce over the oat mixture. By the way, does your oat mixture look incredibly gooey after adding all the sauce? Mine did, so I reserved the remaining 2 tablespoons for personal use. (Muahahahaha!) Thanks for such an incredible recipe; my breakfast this week is going to rock!

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