Back-to School Granola Bars

In many parts of the country school’s already back in session, which means it’s time to stock up on lunch box treats and after-school snacks. If granola bars are one of your regulars, check out our recipe. In fact, it’s so simple that once the pan is prepared most school-age children could make them with little or no supervision. But how do the bars taste? All the kids I’ve shared them with give big thumbs up!

Granola Bars with Almonds, Chocolate, and Dried Cranberries
Serves: Makes 16 bars (or 24 if you're trying to be extra good!)
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup wheat germ
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • ½ cup of semi- or bitter-sweet chips or chunks (about 3 ounces)
  • ½ cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven until 325 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9-inch baking pan with vegetable cooking spray. For bars’ easy removal, line pan bottom and up the two sides with a 9- by 18-inch strip of heavy-duty foil. Grease foil with vegetable cooking spray.
  3. Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Turn into prepared pan and pat down until firmly packed. Bake until golden brown about 30 minutes. Transfer pan to freezer to cool. When firm, use foil handles to remove bars from pan. Remove foil and use a long, sharp knife to cut bar into 24 1- by 4-inch bars. Can be stored in an airtight container up to 1 week.
  4. Gluten free variation: Although they’re not quite as firm as the bars with wheat germ, they’re every bit as good. To make them, follow recipe for Granola Bars with Almonds, Chocolate, and Dried Cranberries substituting ½ cup rolled oats that have been finely ground in a food processor for the wheat germ.


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  1. Sharon says

    I have always been a big fan of granola bars…until I started checking out the ingredient list of the back of the box. Many brands are chock full of sugar, corn syrup, and preservatives. Making your own bars gives you control over what’s in them, and it also saves you money!

  2. Maggy says

    For me, a girl-on-the-go, granola bars are the perfect breakfast or mid-afternoon snack, but they’re often expensive or full of unpronounceable ingredients. These granola bars as simple, easy to make and will give your family a week of healthy snacks.

  3. says

    I just found your website. Great recipes Pam. The granola bar recipe will be a big hit with my family. I am always looking to make homemade snacks for the kids as I am trying to let them find out that I can make snacks just as good and without sugar and artificial ingredients as the store bought stuff.
    Here’s to good lunches for the kids. Thanks.

  4. RJ says

    Ha ha…well, I actually have not been able to eat a granola bar since I was pregnant with my first child…7 years ago. 😉 I think this might finally help me get back to enjoying them!! :-) Speaking of back to school…have any great school lunch ideas for a 7 year old??

  5. Jennifer says

    I don’t have any wheat germ on hand, will the recipe turn out if I leave it out or is there something that could be substituted for it?

  6. Alice from LA says

    I wonder if flaxseed meal would be a good wheat germ replacement… Think I found my afternoon project.

  7. Rachel W. says

    Do these freeze well for longer storage? I’m guessing they would be fine, but if not, please let me know. :)

  8. Alice from LA says

    Awesome, Janet – thanks! Pam, I just noticed the recipe says 24 bars, but your video says 16. :) Asked my daughter what flavor she’d be if she were a homemade granola bar – looks like chocolate chip and honey roasted peanut is my first version. Thanks for the great recipe!

  9. Pam says

    And Alice,

    As you can tell, we debated back and forth about the yield. We’re always trying to keep calorie counts down, but I’m guessing most people are going with 16! Maybe I’ll just change it and give everyone permission to make it serve 16 : )

  10. Kate C says

    I’m never sure if ‘rolled oats’ are the old-fashioned kind or quick oats (not instant though!) Which do you mean here? I imagine both would work ok, but I’m curious which you tested. Looking forward to making these tomorrow after I go to the store. I’m pregnant and usually go through a couple bought granola bars every day for snacks, and yes, the ingredients on the boughten ones… (unless you’re willing to pay an arm and a leg for special ones!) thanks for the recipe!

  11. says

    Love this recipe – it’s so nice to know what you’re actually eating. And as a complete aside, all three of you have really awesome hair in this video.

  12. Kesa Summers says

    These are a hit with both my picky kindergartner and my vegetarian third grader – score! Since my guys don’t care for dried fruit, I substituted 1/4 cup of flax seed and 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds for the dried cranberries. Delicious and easy! It is a great feeling to know exactly what went into what goes into their lunch boxes. Hope you are all well – thanks for the fab, fun recipe! :)

  13. Shari says

    Rj… hope you get this. I’m a little behind on my blog reading and comments. For some great lunch ideas check out the following blog…
    She’s like the ultimate school-lunch packer. Good Luck!

  14. says

    What would be a good substitute for the sweetened condensed milk? Honey? I’m lactose intolerant, so that ingredient troubles me. Other than that, this looks like a great recipe!

    • Pam says

      I’d say honey would work, but I don’t think it would be an equal amount as the sweetened condensed milk. Without testing it first, I’d hate to say but based on my experience making granola I’d say honey mixed with a little water might work.

    • Pam says

      Hi Lisa,

      I would say these granola bars are solid but not rock hard and although they hang together, I wouldn’t call them sticky. I think you’re gonna have to make a batch to see for yourself whether they work for kids with braces.

  15. says

    What would be some other good combinations for these bars besides chocolate/almonds/cranberries??

    I have dried apples, cranberries, cherries and blueberries, but I’m not savvy enough to know whether these would taste any good all thrown together.


  16. Gina says

    I used parchment paper instead of foil. I didn’t have to add any non-stick spray and they turned out beautifully. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  17. says

    I’ve been trying to find a recipe that didn’t involve peanut butter as a binder and this is perfect! I made a batch and rather than baking it kept it raw and froze it for 15 mins, cut them into bars and then wrapped them individually and kept them in the fridge! Awesome idea with the condensed milk. Gold stars for you!

  18. Kate says

    I just made a second batch and put them in 2-9x5x3 bread pans *with foil sprayed*. That worked out GREAT. It is the perfect size to get your 16 pieces. 😉 Hubby and kids can’t keep their fingers off of them!

  19. Judy says

    Thank you!! These were a hit with the whole family, and that rarely happens! My 3rd and 5th graders made their own variations (white chocolate+cranberry+pumpkin pie spice+chex; and white & dark chocolate+peanuts+cashews+peanut butter+chex) and they came out great!

    I would like to know if there is a good substitute for the sweetened condensed milk to lower the sugar and calorie content of the bars. I did use the fat free milk, but have not seen one with reduced sugar. Thanks again!

    • Pam says

      Hi Judy,

      Some have talked about using peanut butter, but you’d definitely be increasing the calorie count. Any sticky sweet substitute is going to be as sweet (if not sweeter) than condensed milk. One person has asked about evaporated milk. Without the sugar, this milk isn’t nearly thick (or sticky) enough. I’ll try to work on this at some point in the future, but I’d love to hear what has worked for others who’ve experimented.

  20. Denise says

    I just made these this past weekend, only I put them in the oven then went outside. Fifty minutes later I came back in the house to the sound of the oven timer going off! I thought they were ruined and I was so disappointed, but they were still great! A little browner than yours, but we’re all enjoying them. I plan to make more this weekend, but this time I’ll stay in the kitchen while they’re baking! Thanks for a great recipe!

  21. Shelli says

    MMMM… we made them DAIRY Free for our little food allergy sweetie by using a can of CREAM of Coconut (not milk!) and she and we loved them :)
    we used Enjoy Life mini dairy free chip and dried cranberries too :) wow they were awesome Thanks for the recipe!!!!!

  22. Jo says

    My son has ADHD and I wanted to start making him homemade healthy snacks for school and when he gets home. These are perfect.

    I made them for the first time and needless to say they were burnt on the bottom and around the edges. I only had them in for 20 minutes on 325 degrees. Not sure what went wrong. I did everything exactly and they still burnt. What did I do wrong?

    My son still ate them and loves them. They are very sweet. Is there any way I can cut down on the sweetness? I would like for my husband to try these but I am worried because he is diabetic.

    Any kind of help would be deeply appreciated.

    • Pam says

      Hey Jo,

      In terms of sweetness, maybe you could substitute peanut butter for some of the condensed milk. As for burning,.. no one, including us have had this problem. The only thing I can think of is that either your oven might be running a little hot or you’re using Pyrex-style pan. When it heats up, it retains heat and might result in burning.

      Good luck and keep in touch! Pam

  23. Heidi Schobel says

    Have tried a couple different things for the 1/2 cup of binder — ground flaxseed, salba (from health food store) and protein powder (daughter is a dancer who goes straight to dance from school for 3 hours, four days out of each week). Great healthy snack!!

  24. Jo says

    First of all I want to say thank you Pam. I found the culprit who was involved in my granola bars burning. (Problem Solved)

    Since then I have made three batches in which came out great.

    Big hit at the cookout. I currently have requests for ones with raisins, peanut butter and without.

    Also,thank you for letting me know about substituting some sweetened condensed milk with peanut butter. They tasted good and my husband loved them.

    Thank you again.

  25. says

    We just made these this week. They were delicious! I didn’t have dried cranberries or cherries on hand, so I just used a few more chocolate chips. Everyone enjoyed them! I can’t wait to make them again with some raisins in them!

  26. says

    I’ve been making them ever since they appeared in the newspaper. YUM! They lend themselves beatifully to creative baking practices (substitutions). My friends like them so much I added them to the blog on my website (with a tag and reference to you of course!)
    Mahalo nui loa!

  27. Paige says

    I just wanted to say Thank you for a great snack recipe. I have made these 4 times now since reading about them, they are my daughters favorite for in class snack time at school! I also enjoy them as an early morning pick me up as I prepare lunches and snacks for the kids as well. Thanks again!

  28. says

    Just put these in the oven and can’t wait to try them! I linked back to your recipe from my blog – we do a little project twice a month, packing a few lunches for the homeless in our area. I know my three little boys will gobble these up, but we’re going to set some aside for that too!

  29. Marcia says

    I made these, YES they are delicious My husband and 5 year old grandson loves them, too! Better than a store bought ! I will try the peanut butter also. I was wondering if you knew what the nutritional facts would be? i.e. sugar :cond. milk . Thanks ! Your recipes are great!

  30. Erika says

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I found it in the Relish magazine & have made it quite a few times now for some healthier / i know what’s in them snacks. My son loves them but my daughter isn’t sold on them yet. I love them too! Sometimes when I come hom from work.errands/ working out I am ravenous &crave chocolate & these have hit the spot for me. (Have a batch in the oven right now which is what prompted me to write)

    Some things I’ve done to try & switch them up a bit, add even more healty ingredients & also to get my daughter to like them is: added crispy brown rice cereal, dried blueberries intead of cherries, chopped dates, flaxseeds, chia seeds, broken up pretzels. Because I am adding more ingredients I was worried about it becoming more dry so I added some olive oil too. Every option I’ve tried has been yummy! Ialso want to make a batch w/ some unsweetend coconut but both my kids don’t like coconut so need to wait til I can make a batch just for me! Also, I use the mini choc chips so you get choc in every bite but don’t need as much to get it.

    Again, thank you! I would never have thought about making them if it wasn’t for your article. These are so much healtier than the Quaker choc chip gramola bars or the choc chip granola bars from Trader Joes.

  31. Jeanne says

    The are excellent! Thank you for the recipe. I make for my husband to help control his cholesterol. The oatmeal is great for that and I use oat bran rather than wheat germ. For one I had it in the house :) and two, the reason I had bought it is because it lowers cholesterol even better than then oatmeal. As your video states the wheat germ is a binder and the bran has the same consistency so I hoped it would work, and it did. I’ve made them at least 4 or 5 times always with great results. Love the craisins, chocolate chips, and almonds, but have made other combinations that have been great. It has also given me the opportunity to clear out some of the dried fruits and nuts in my pantry and put them to good use. THANK YOU FOR A GREAT RECIPE!

  32. Jeanne says

    Hi Pam, Reading through your comments and for those wanting to use something other than sweetened condensed milk, they what to try Karo syrup. I used the sweetened condensed milk with excellent results. I have another recipe that uses Karo syrup and might work with your recipe. Both are thick, sweet and sticky. I check grams of sugar in each and the sugars are about half in the Karo syrup and for those wanting to avoid milk and do not care peanut butter, this might be a nice option. The calories are slightly less in the syrup, 1 can of the sweetened condensed milk is about 1300 calories, and and equal amour of the Karo syrup is 1200 calories. They are so delicious as is, I will to make the recipe as you posted, however it might work for those wanting to use a substitute. Again, I love this recipe and will be making them often.

  33. Erin says

    I found these on Pinterest and have made these 3 or 4 times know. It is hard finding healthy food that my 2 year old, my husband and I all equally enjoy.

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