Cherries & Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars

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Christina Ross
Christina Ross
I'm a human being on planet earth. I've lived hundreds of lifetimes. In this incarnation I'm here to advance medicine.

Granola Bars. Health food or sugar & fat bombs masquerading as a wholesome snack? The answer quite simply is: it completely depends on what ingredients go into the bars.

I used to buy granola bars at the grocery store without a second glance (or first glance for that matter) at the nutrition label. A few years ago, when I started making a conscious effort to research what was in the food I purchased, I was disappointed to discover that most pre-packaged granola bars are over-processed and filled with sugar. One of my favorite brands of granola bars while growing up – hint: it has “Nature” in the title – lists sugar as the second ingredient, with both honey and brown sugar syrup following close behind for a combined total of a whopping 12 grams of sugar per serving. That’s a lot of sugar for a supposedly “healthy” snack or breakfast, folks. Dessert? Sure. Pre-workout fuel? No thanks.

NameCherries & Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars
Prep Time15 minutes
Cooking TimeNo baking required
Total Time2 hours (includes chilling time)
Servings12 bars
Yield1 8×8-inch pan

Then we come to the multitude of recipes for homemade granola bars. Scour the Internet for said recipes, and I guarantee you’ll find that most call for butter, oil, and at least two types of refined sugar. Are those ingredients really necessary to achieve a delicious homemade granola bar?

I think not.

So I set out to make a batch of granola bars that a) taste fantastic and b) meet my nutritional preferences. I adore the flavor combination of chocolate and dried cherries, but lurking in certain versions of both ingredients is a large amount of – you guessed it – sugar. In order to fulfill my desire for low-sugar granola bars, I used unsweetened dried cherries (found at Trader Joe’s) and Sunspire grain-sweetened chocolate chips [one of my pantry staples; sweetened only with malted grains, these chocolate chips have half the amount of sugar (4 grams per serving) of regular chocolate chips (8 + grams per serving)]. In order to keep the fat content in check I replaced the typical addition of butter or oil with unsweetened applesauce and a modest amount of creamy peanut butter, which yields a pleasantly chewy granola bar.

Cherries & Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars


  • canola oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 Tbsp brown rice syrup (alternately, you could use the equivalent amount of honey, agave nectar, or  pure maple syrup)
  • 1/4 cup creamy natural peanut butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup puffed brown rice cereal
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened & unsulfured dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips


1. Prepare Your Ingredients

Measure out all the ingredients in advance to streamline the process.

2. Toast the Oats

Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).

Spread the rolled oats evenly on a baking sheet and toast them for about 10 minutes or until they turn a light golden brown. This enhances the flavor and texture of your granola bars.

3. Heat the Wet Ingredients

In a medium saucepan, combine peanut butter, honey, coconut oil, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt.

Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring constantly until it becomes smooth and well combined. Remove it from the heat.

4. Mix the Dry Ingredients

In a large mixing bowl, combine the toasted oats, dried cherries, chocolate chips, and chopped almonds (if using).

5. Combine Everything

Pour the warm peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients in the bowl.

Stir everything together until all the dry ingredients are evenly coated.

6. Press into a Pan

Line an 8×8-inch (20×20 cm) square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang for easy removal.

Transfer the mixture into the pan and press it down firmly with a spatula to compact it.

7. Chill and Set

Place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or until the granola bars have set.

8. Cut and Enjoy

Once the bars are firm, lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper overhang.

Place them on a cutting board and slice into your desired bar size.

9. Store

Store your Cherries & Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week or in the fridge for longer freshness.

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