Appetizers/ Breakfast/ Desserts/ Snacks/ Vegan/ vegan recipes

Salted Caramel Granola Bars

Salted Caramel Granola Bar Recipe

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 SelSalted 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.

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Salted Caramel Granola Bars

Salted Caramel Granola Bar Recipe

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.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 12 granola bars

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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92 Comments

  • Reply
    Michelle
    February 20, 2014 at 8:33 am

    100% this:” Problem: I want to eat candy for breakfast, but I also want to be a respectable adult.”

  • Reply
    Taylor @ Food Faith Fitness
    February 20, 2014 at 8:35 am

    Okay, I STILL haven’t tried this whole salted caramel thing!
    Yes, you can disown me
    But I do love granola bars. I do love caramel and I kinda love salt A LOT.
    These look perfect! Pinned!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 11:22 am

      Really?! Oh, you definitely need to try it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Kate @ Coffee with Kate
    February 20, 2014 at 8:37 am

    I freaking love your writing and love this post. NO REGRETZ is easier said than done. Nothin’ like a sweet and savory breakfast combo … these look great.

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 11:22 am

      It’s definitely easier said than done! I kind of give the side-eye to people who say they have no regrets ever.

  • Reply
    Shannon @ moveeatcreate.com
    February 20, 2014 at 9:20 am

    Oh man, I hear you and completely can understand the pity party thing. I also do live with regrets from time to time and one of them is often my graduate degree. But, it’s nice to have spaces in our lives and perspectives to help bring us out of that kind of outlook. Salted caramel and granola bars are excellent remedies, in my opinion!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 11:20 am

      It seems like a lot of people have doubts about their degrees! I guess that’s understandable–they’re expensive, time-consuming, and so many of us don’t end up using them.

  • Reply
    Meg van der Kruik
    February 20, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Oh man…I want to eat every granola bar pictured in this post at one time. Salted caramel…GENIUS! Also, sign me up for one if those eagle bandannas. I will wear it proudly with no REGRETZ.

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 11:14 am

      You would totally rock an eagle bandana. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Anele @ Success Along the Weigh
    February 20, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Um, yes please!! I just happen to have some dates that need used. What a shame!

  • Reply
    Melissa @ Nourish By Melissa
    February 20, 2014 at 9:57 am

    What a great solution to the “I want candy for breakfast” problem hahaha looks amazing!

  • Reply
    lisacng @ expandng.com
    February 20, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Love the backstory that accompanies this post! I’m so happy you see the connection between the training for your degree and blogging. I think 80% of your preparation for a job is the experience and the skills acquired. I want to eat this for breakfast every single day.

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 11:14 am

      Yes, it took me a while, but I finally stopped feeling like those 2 years were wasted! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Ronnie Fein
    February 20, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Well, you struck a note with me. I started out as an attorney, practiced, HIGH pay for 5 years and quit to be an impoverished food writer. I use what I learned at law school and at work. Tight writing, more organized, better edits. You never lose that kind of education even when you don’t use it in the way originally intended. And it sure helps when you need to figure out problems in a creative way, which is what designing and creating good food is all about. I don’t get rhapsodic about food descriptions either, but my education taught me to “zero in” and think about what I like. No regretz.

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 11:12 am

      A good friend of mine walked away from a high paying job to start blogging too. It’s very easy for someone like me, coming from a low paying field, to take that leap, so I really admire bloggers who have the courage to go from a successful career to an uncertain one. And it’s interesting to see how we all take our different professional backgrounds and apply them to food blogging!

  • Reply
    Skye
    February 20, 2014 at 10:36 am

    What a gorgeous post. You had me at salted caramel – and then you added an adorable little anecdote too!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 11:05 am

      Thank you! You can never go wrong with salted caramel. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Abby @ The Frosted Vegan
    February 20, 2014 at 10:47 am

    This is SO speaking to me right now. First of all, because I too want candy for breakfast and second of all, because all those illusions of throwing around those dolla billz like no one’s business are EXACTLY how I felt. Adult? I’m going to magically have all the money in the worlllld!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 11:05 am

      Yeah, I had this plan that I would ascend the library ladder to be a director and make a 6-figure salary so OF COURSE I would have tons of money to pay off my loans. Ha ha.

  • Reply
    Katie @ 24 Carrot Life
    February 20, 2014 at 10:53 am

    HAHA I’m totally going to buy one of your NO REGRETZ tshirts. I love these bars as the solution to your problem, which is also my problem. Candy for every meal of the day please!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Yeah, I mean really, why limit candy to breakfast when you can have it for lunch and dinner too?

  • Reply
    Courtney
    February 20, 2014 at 11:11 am

    My daughter is allergic to oats with her FPIES, but we can trial it in 10 more months! I’m seriously counting it down. These would be an awesome little treat for her!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 11:02 am

      You might want to try the raw caramel dip from Nutrition Stripped in the meantime–it is SO GOOD and it can be used in so many different ways. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Nichol
    February 20, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Candy for breakfast is always a hit, though like you I have to do it correctly. Granola bars are the perfect “candy”! YUM! I’m a homemade granola bar freak and will definitely make these. I had to look up fleur de sel, what a fancy word lol.

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 11:01 am

      You will love them! ๐Ÿ™‚ You can use any salt you have on hand, but add it to taste so the bars don’t end up too salty.

  • Reply
    dishing up the dirt
    February 20, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Nope, not using my degree either. Most people go to college so they don’t have to farm. I wish I had all of my money back!!! These granola bars on the other hand sound absolutely wonderful!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 11:00 am

      Ha! I know, I always tell my husband, “They should forgive your student loan debt if you don’t use your degree,” and he’s like, “Um, I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.”

  • Reply
    All Natural Katie
    February 20, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    These sound delicious! Close to the granola bars that I usually make, but I like the variation and saltiness. Will add to my “to make” folder.

  • Reply
    Holly
    February 20, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    I am still trying to figure out how to use my degree too (engineering). Somehow it doesn’t jive in my current job of “mom” and “food blogger for fun”. One of these days I’ll work it out but until then I will eat candy for breakfast if it looks and tastes like these granola bars!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 10:58 am

      Baking is a such science (much more than cooking, which tends to be pretty forgiving), so I think having an engineering background would definitely impact how you approach it!

  • Reply
    Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    February 20, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    I adore salted caramel, these bars are perfection!

  • Reply
    seasonal veg head
    February 20, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    You had me at salted caramel! I’m definitely making these ASAP! And as many, I too am not using slash using my degree…sociology. Your words are reaffirming! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 10:55 am

      My husband has a degree in sociology too! He also doesn’t use it at all. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think the only people I know who use their degrees are teachers and people who majored in business or a science!

  • Reply
    Natalie @ Once Upon a Cutting Board
    February 20, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    I definitely think your training has helped you; you have such an organized blog with great attention to detail along with all the other things you mentioned! And I’m sure your degree has helped you in many other ways beyond your blog as well; at least that’s what I’m telling myself my degree will do too! I had no idea you could make caramel out of those ingredients; these granola bars sound amazing!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 10:54 am

      Thank you! For a while I was doing freelance web taxonomy work (AKA organizing websites), so I’m really obsessive about how my blog is organized. ๐Ÿ™‚ And I’m sure that no matter what you end up doing, you’ll find some use for what you learned in school. I think it sometimes takes a little time to realize that though!

  • Reply
    Angie (@angiesrecipess)
    February 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    I too would enjoy these granola bars as breakfast without filling guilty at all! They look super, Kiersten.

  • Reply
    beachmama
    February 20, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Oh my, oh my! These are SO right up my alley!! Thank you, thank you for this delicious recipe!

    Regarding your diploma regret . . . at some point in life you’ll likely look back and realize your path included school and getting that degree for some greater purpose. At 59 years of age I’ve finally figured out that had I eliminated any one of my ‘mistakes’ I wouldn’t have learned what I needed to learn ~ I wouldn’t be who I am. So now I focus on the future, on what I want 100% . . . I never look back with regret . . . it’s truly astounding how that has changed my life.

    This is a friend’s blog who is working hard to pay off her Harvard law degree at 4441 years old. I think you’ll like her perspective. She’s recently gone vegan. I think you two would have a lot in common . . . http://chasingsimpledreams.com/2014/02/18/getting-rid-of-my-debt-part-12-recap-and-wowwww

    • Reply
      beachmama
      February 20, 2014 at 2:13 pm

      HA! not “4441 years old” . . . 41 years-old ; )

      • Reply
        Kiersten Frase
        February 22, 2014 at 10:47 am

        Well, sometimes it can FEEL like you’re paying off those loans until you’re 4441 years old. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for your comment–I do think I’m getting to the point where I can put all this into perspective and see that my education was valuable, even if I’m not using it how I thought I would. And thanks for passing along your friend’s blog too!

  • Reply
    Mimi
    February 20, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    LOL! Reading the beginning of your post reminded me of this scene from We’re the Millers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dRZoBO-NwA

  • Reply
    Grace @ Earthy Feast
    February 20, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Kiersten, don’t delete what you wrote. I love your writing! I don’t like writing about myself either so I don’t really do it and always end up deleting half my post. Anyway, you’re totally using your degree – every experience and thing you’ve learned make your blog yours and it’s awesome. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Here’s to student loans and these caramel bars – yum!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 10:39 am

      I have deleted and rewritten so many posts too! My feeling is that the primary focus of a food blog should be the food, so while it’s fun to write posts like this once in a while, I don’t ever want this blog to be about me. I am not interesting enough to pull that off. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply
    Katy
    February 20, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    I sometimes get those same feelings about writing about yourself. The great thing is, when you do people connect much more and leave a comment like I’m doing ๐Ÿ™‚ Great post Kiersten, and I love the problem and solution for eating candy for breakfast.

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      February 22, 2014 at 10:34 am

      I’m glad I’m not the only one! I’m not comfortable with the whole blog about myself thing, which is why I decided to have a food blog instead of a personal blog. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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