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landscape view of a nut free granola bar

Nut Free Granola Bars (Nut-Free Muesli Bars)

If, like me, you send your kids to a nut-free school, you’re going to love today’s recipe for nut free granola bars. 

A lot of schools are strict on nut free food. It helps them make sure that kids with nut allergies (especially peanut allergy) are safe from suffering allergic reactions. But nuts are ubiquitous in healthy snack recipes, so it’s hard to find ones that fit the bill. My nut-free granola bar recipe makes healthy granola bars that my kids love, so it’s great for school snacks.

These homemade granola bars (or muesli bars, as we call them in Australia) have a chewy texture. They’re packed with oats, seeds and fruit, and they’re easy enough to make with your kids and WAY cheaper than store-bought granola bars. Plus, they’re adaptable to all kinds of wholesome ingredients and they hold together really well. They’re a great grab-and-go nut-free option.

I’ve spent years working on the exact process and ingredients for these nut-free bars. I have specific requirements! They need to be compacted well and have just the right amount of chew. And they have to be comparable to bought bars, so my kids actually want to eat them (instead of rejecting them as ‘Mum’s weird healthy bars’). I’ve gone deep into the weeds! There’s a lot of detail below about exactly how I make my bars. If you’ve felt ‘blah’ about your own efforts to make homemade muesli bars before, I hope this will help.

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Choosing ingredients for nut-free granola bars

Making your own nut-free granola bars allows you to control the quality and avoid preservatives and additives often found in store-bought bars. Plus, customizing the recipe to cater to specific food allergies or preferences means everyone can enjoy them without worry.

The ingredient list for these chewy granola bars is flexible. You can change them up to include different whole grains, fruits, seeds or chocolate chips. And though I swap out nuts for protein-packed, allergen friendly seeds, if you aren’t making muesli bars for a nut-free school you could include nuts. 

Grains for the best homemade granola bars

a bowl of different grains

The recipe below uses straight up oats. Swapping out some of the oats for other wholegrains gives different flavor profiles. I’ve used rolled barley, millet and small amounts of buckwheat groats in my granola bars, and enjoyed them all. You just need to stick with roughly 50% oats and 50% ‘other’, if you want the texture of your granola bars to be chewy and dense.

If you’d like to swap in other wholegrains, go for it; I recommend rolled or softer grains rather than very hard ones. I wouldn’t, for instance, recommend whole wheat berries unless you feel like risking a trip to the dentist.

Half the oats (or other grains) go in the food processor to be ground into a coarse oat flour. You want it to be something between quick oats texture and fine oat flour; some bigger bits are welcome but you need some finer-ground stuff to make the mixture stick together well. This is key to getting bars that are easy to cut and to hold; using 100% whole rolled oats makes bars that are more crumbly and don’t hold together properly. I find this especially important when the bars are going to get slung around inside a kid’s schoolbag! 

Seeds for nut free granola bars

My kids like sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds (aka green pepitas) in their bars, so that’s what I use. They add a protein hit and a crunch while ensuring the bars are safe for those with nut allergies. Switching out a couple of tablespoons of the seeds for chia or sesame seeds makes a nice change.

If you have no need to exclude nuts from your bars, you can sub in the same volume of chopped nuts to replace the seeds.

dried raisins and apricots adding to a mixer of seeds

Flavor inclusions

Raisins and dried apricots are the inclusions I most often put into our homemade muesli bars here. But the same flavors all the time gets boring when you make a batch of granola bars every week or two!

Swap out the raisins and apricots in the recipe for other dried fruits (dates, figs and cranberries are some favorites). Or use chocolate chips or even a handful of shredded unsweetened coconut. Coconut and cranberry granola bars are DELICIOUS, although I recommend no more than a quarter cup of coconut in the mix. Too much coconut sucks up moisture and can make the bars dry and crumbly. 

How to make your granola bars stick together

Commercial granola bars frequently use invert sugar. It’s a liquefied version of table sugar with a different chemical structure but the same nutritional properties. It doesn’t crystallize in the same way as regular sugar, and it helps baked goods remain chewy or soft.

Invert sugar is not readily available to home cooks and you won’t see it in many recipes. But if you’ve made granola bars at home using regular crystalline sugar, you’ll notice they come out crumbly and crunchy rather than chewy. 

We’re going to overcome the issue by using a good amount of honey in these bars, as well as regular white sugar.

All honey and the bars will be too soft and bendy, to the point of breaking when you pick them up. All sugar and they’ll be crumbly. A little of each, and a touch of water? That’s the sweet spot (pun unintended but always welcome!).

a close up view of nut free granola bar showing grains and dried fruits

Melted butter in the mix gives the granola bars balance, good texture and a great flavor. I use unsalted butter and a pinch of sea salt, but if you only have salted butter at home just skip the salt. 

Mixing up the bars

The full recipe for these nut free granola bars is in the recipe card below; read on for the step by step and extra tips before you head down there. 

To start, line a baking tray with parchment paper, and leave enough overhang to lift the bars out later. You can use any 9×13 baking pan with a depth of at least an inch, though I prefer a pan with sharp corners rather than rounded ones. My absolute favorite pan for almost all bar cookies and sheet cakes is this 9×13 inch USA pan; it’s sturdy and doesn’t warp in the oven, and gives lovely clean-edged corner pieces. 

Put your honey, sugar, butter and water into a pan over low heat and let it all melt together. Give it a stir every now and then, and another good stir when the butter and sugar have melted so it’s a smooth, uniform mixture. 

While the honey mixture heats up, use a food processor to blend up half of the oats (or other grains) for your muesli bars. We’re also using the processor to chop up the seeds and fruit so they’re smaller, more irregularly-shaped and easier to compact down into dense bar form. 

oats inside a food processor

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl before pouring the hot honey mixture into the bowl. Mix really well, it might seem like it’s not coming together but as long as all the dry bits are well blended with the wet ingredients, everything is just fine. 

mixture of honey and sugar pouring into dry ingredients

​Tip the mixture into your prepared pan, spreading out into a uniform layer and pressing down with your hands.

Then grab a flat-based glass and compact everything down really well. Do not skip this step! Compacting the mixture means you’ll have bars that hold together properly. 

a flat-based glass use to compact the mixture

Don’t overbake your granola bars!

If you want chewy bars, like mine, you need to be careful not to overbake them. The time in the recipe is exactly right for my oven, but I encourage you to watch your own for doneness rather than relying only on time. Bake granola bars until they’re evenly light golden brown on top and still a little soft to touch. 

If you do happen to slightly overbake your bars, they’ll still be great to eat, they’ll just fall more on the crunchy than the chewy side of things. My husband prefers the crunch but he most often misses out because all the kids like chewy bars. 

When your bars are done, let them completely cool to room temperature in the pan.

Cut them into bars or squares using a sharp serrated knife, and keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days. If you won’t eat them all in that time, pop the container in the freezer, where your bars will keep, ready for school lunches and snacks, for up to a couple of months. 

a whole pan of muesli granola

These nut-free snack bars are testament to how a well-executed, simple recipe can beat out more expensive bought options. Whether you’re in need of a quick breakfast, a school snack, or an afternoon pick-me-up, nut free granola bars are the perfect snack for any occasion.

Happy baking, see you here again next time. 

close view of a nut free granola bar

Have you made and enjoyed this recipe? I’d love if you’d be kind enough to rate and review it via the stars in the recipe card, or leave a comment below! Ratings and reviews help other readers to find and know whether one of my recipes will suit them.

Nut Free Granola Bars (Nut-Free Muesli Bars)

These granola bars (or muesli bars, as we call them in Australia) are a snack I always have on hand. They're nut free, so they can go in school lunchboxes, and they're cheaper, tastier and more versatile than any bought bars I've found.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American, Australian, Western
Keyword: granola bars, homemade granola bars nut-free, nut free granola bars, nut free muesli bars
Servings: 24
Calories: 178kcal
Pin Recipe

Ingredients

  • 5 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds the little green pepitas, not the big pale ones
  • 1/2 cup raisins or sultanas
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup superfine sugar caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup clear honey
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt optional, but I think it adds balance

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F/180°C. Line a 9x13inch (23x33cm) pan with parchment paper or well-greased foil and set aside.
  • Put half the oats into a food processor and pulse until they're finely chopped (you're looking for the texture of instant oats or porridge oats). Tip into a large bowl with the whole rolled oats.
    5 cups rolled oats
  • Put the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raisins and apricots into the food processor bowl, and pulse so the seeds are coarsely chopped and the fruit pieces are all roughly the size of half a raisin. You don’t want to chop too finely, but you do want it to mix through the granola bars evenly and easily. Tip into the bowl with the oats and mix well.
    1/3 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup raisins or sultanas, 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • Put the butter, sugar, honey, salt and 2 tablespoons of water into a saucepan and melt together over medium heat. Stir occasionally so it doesn't catch, and so the butter mixes in smoothly as it melts. Take the mixture off the heat when the sugar is fully dissolved and everything has come together in a smooth syrupy consistency.
    1 stick unsalted butter, 1 cup superfine sugar, 1/3 cup clear honey, 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • Immediately pour the hot sugar/syrup over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. It’s going to take a while to get the syrup worked through all the oats, and it’ll seem like there’s not enough wet ingredients to make it come together. Have patience and keep mixing until there are no more dry bits!
  • Spread the mixture out evenly in the prepared pan and compress it down really well with the base of a glass. Don't skip this step, compressing the mixture into the pan means your bars will cut more cleanly after baking. Bake until the mixture is lightly golden all over the top, about 25 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan before lifting out using the paper. Cut into bars with a sharp serrated knife. I put the cooled bars in the fridge for an hour or two before cutting, to get the cleanest cuts.
  • Your granola bars will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days, or in the freezer for 2 months.

Notes

  1. Oats/grains: Swapping out some of the oats for other wholegrains gives different flavor profiles. I’ve used rolled barley, millet and small amounts of buckwheat groats in my granola bars, and enjoyed them all. Stick with roughly 50% oats and 50% ‘other’, if you want the texture of your granola bars to be chewy and dense. I recommend rolled or softer grains rather than very hard ones. I wouldn’t, for instance, recommend whole wheat berries unless you feel like risking a trip to the dentist.
  2. Seeds/nuts: Switching out a couple of tablespoons of the seeds for chia or sesame seeds makes a nice change. If you have no need to exclude nuts from your bars, you can sub in the same volume of chopped nuts to replace the seeds.
  3. Other inclusions: Swap out some or all of the raisins and apricots in the recipe for other dried fruits (dates, figs and cranberries are favorites). Or use chocolate chips or 1/4 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut (no more coconut than that, or your bars will be dry and crumbly).
  4. Chewy vs crunchy: If you want chewy bars rather than crunchy ones, be careful not to overbake. This timing is exactly right for my convection oven, but I encourage you to watch your own for doneness rather than relying only on time. Bake granola bars until they’re evenly light golden brown on top and still a little soft to touch. 

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