1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey or brown rice syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract1 1/2 cups (135 grams) rolled oats
3 tablespoons mini chocolate chips (plus a few extra to sprinkle on top, if desired)
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds (I like salted for a mild salty-sweet combination)
Optional: 2-3 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut
Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment or wax paper. (The mixture will not fully cover the bottom of a 9-inch square pan. In a pinch, use a 9-inch round pan. If doubling the recipe, use a 9×13-inch pan.)
Warm the peanut butter and honey in the microwave just long enough to easily stir them together into a smooth mixture, about 20 seconds or so when the ingredients start at room temperature. Add the vanilla, and then stir in the oats, mini chips, sunflower seeds, and optional coconut, making sure to completely incorporate all of the ingredients.
Press the mixture firmly and evenly into the prepared pan. (I like to use the flat bottom of a measuring cup to really press down on the mixture. To avoid sticking, lightly grease the cup or press over a piece of parchment or wax paper.) This will ensure even bars that hold together well. If using, lightly sprinkle additional chips on top of the bars, gently pressing down on them so they adhere.
Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes to set before cutting into squares. For easy cutting, use the paper liner to lift the bars out of the pan and rock a long, sharp knife in a straight line across the bars. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the bars will keep for at least 2 weeks. When using honey instead of brown rice syrup, the bars will be slightly softer when stored at room temperature.
Natural peanut butter may be used although it creates a slightly firmer batter; when using unsalted natural peanut butter, add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.
The primary benefit of using brown rice syrup when making granola bars is that it is stickier than honey and will create bars that are firmer and hold together better. The mixture will be slightly harder to mix when using brown rice syrup but it will come together. I find it helpful to work quickly and use a clean hand to mix the ingredients. Some may also prefer brown rice syrup for it’s slightly less sweet taste compared to honey.
When stirred into the warm peanut butter-oat mixture, the chocolate chips tend to melt– and that’s okay. I have waited until the mixture cools slightly before adding the chips, but it’s harder to fully incorporate them as the mixture cools and becomes firmer. Sometimes, I skip stirring the chips into the oat mixture altogether and simply press 2 to 3 tablespoons onto the top.
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