(Note: this post was originally published on February 24, 2019. It was one of the earliest recipes on The Rogue Brussel Sprout! It has since been updated with additional photos).
The BEST Homemade Larabars
Have you ever dreamed of making your own protein bars? In that dream, are the bars easy and fast, but also filled with nourishing whole food ingredients? If so, you've come to the right place. This homemade Larabar recipe has been a staple in my kitchen for years. Instead of spending lots (!!) of money on store-bought bars, wasting packaging, and having less-than-fresh ingredients, I'm confident you'll be whipping up your own bars at home in no time.
The best part about homemade Larabars? The flavor variations are endless! You can of course make the traditional packaged flavors, but this Larabar copycat guide will walk you through how to create your own flavors and unique combinations. That means you can make a batch every week all year and never have the same flavor twice.
Are Larabars Healthy?
In my opinion, Larabars are one of the best bars on the market because they contain a very small number of whole food ingredients. There's no added sugar, no preservatives, and no "filler" ingredients. If I ever buy bars at the store, like while I'm traveling, Larabars are my go-to. They have good protein and healthy fats from nuts, and lots of great nutrients and some complex carbs from fruit. They're even better if you make your own since you can get the highest-quality, freshest ingredients and control their proportions.
What Are Larabars Made Of?
Larabars are essentially just dried fruit (mostly dates) and nuts. The dates are what help the bars to stick together. In my homemade Larabar recipe below (which is more of a guide rather than a specific recipe), I'll provide loads of additional flavor powerhouses to use in small amounts including citrus zest, spices, ginger, and chocolate.
How to Make Larabars
The basic concept behind homemade Larabars is to have a 2:1 ratio of "sticky stuff" to "nutty stuff" (see details below for both). You need to achieve enough total stickiness to get them to come together as bars, but you can play with ingredients and flavors endlessly within that rule. I usually do about 3 cups of "sticky stuff" and 1.5 cups of "nutty stuff"; this amount fits nicely into a bread pan and makes 6-8 large bars.
After you choose your ingredients, the rest is easy. Just blitz the Larabar copycat ingredients in your food processor, press it into a pan, and chill. Then cut them into bars or squares and you're done.
The "Rule of Total Stickiness"
For this homemade Larabar recipe, you want to create a mixture that will stick together. I think of this as the "total stickiness" of the bars, and it's important to keep in mind as you choose ingredients. It's a give and take. For example, if you sacrifice some stickiness by adding a ton of chocolate (a perfectly justifiable choice!), compensate by using a stickier fruit. Or, if you use a less sticky fruit mixture, beware of too many non-sticky add-ins. Keep scrolling down for specifics.
Homemade Larabar Flavors
Because you're in control of this Larabar copycat, the sky is the limit for ingredients and combinations. To get you started, here are some of my favorites that I make again and again.
Peanut Chocolate Cookie: Dates, salted peanuts, dark chocolate chunks
Chocolate Ginger: Dates, crystallized ginger, peanuts, dark chocolate chunks
Fruitcake: Dates, dried tart cherries, pecans, orange zest, cinnamon
Italian Inspired: Dried figs, toasted almonds, lemon zest
Okay, now let's dive into the details of this homemade Larabar recipe! I've put together a whole step-by-step guide to walk you through the process.
Step #1: Choose Your "Sticky Stuff"
This is what will make your homemade Larabars stick together. Dates and figs are by far the most effective, but adding other dried fruit in small amounts works too.In order from most sticky to least sticky, here are some options. Note that these all refer to the DRIED variety of the fruit (regular dried, not freeze-dried). Remember that you want twice as much "sticky stuff" as "nutty stuff".
Dates. These work the best. Double check that they're pitted; I've found pits in supposedly pitted dates many times.
Figs. They work almost as well as dates and have such great texture.There are a lot of different types though, and some may work better than others; I've had the best luck with Turkish and Calimyrna.
Crystallized ginger. Super tasty and sticky, but a little goes a long way, so keep it as a small portion of the total.
Tart cherries. Expensive, but divine. They're very tart, so only use a small amount.
Cranberries. Beware of sugar, some kinds are loaded; look for juice-sweetened.
Apples. Not very sticky, so these should only be a small portion of the total.
Mango. Look for unsweetened.Not very sticky, so like the apples, these can't function as the only fruit component.
Step #2: Choose Your "Nutty Stuff"
This is where all the good protein and fat comes from. Working with a 2:1 ratio, you need about half as much of this category as of the previous. Moderately oily nuts work the best; ones that are super oily or on the drier side make a bar that crumbles more easily. You can use raw or roasted, salted or unsalted; pick what works best for your tastes and diet. In order from most to least effective, here are some options.
Peanuts. Definitely the best texture and they're budget-friendly.
Cashews. They work almost as well as peanuts, although they're a lot pricier.
Almonds. Because they're on the drier side, they don't work great, but you can use them if you have a lot of other sticky stuff, i.e. all dates or figs, or if you combine multiple nut types.
Pecans. I love pecans so much, but they're a little bit too crumbly and oily to excel here. Same as above, they can work with the right ingredients.
Sunflower seeds. I haven't tried this, but I think they would work if you have a nut allergy
Step #3: Choose Add-Ins
You can add in some other tasty bits to your Larabar copycat. Just keep in mind that it will effect the overall consistency of your bar, so keep the total amount relatively small, especially if you have a less sticky fruit mixture.
Chocolate. Obviously! Just made sure to add it toward the end of the time in the food processor so that it doesn't melt. I prefer dark since there's a lot of sweetness coming from the fruit.
Chocolate covered espresso beans
Coconut. I've found that finely shredded coconut works best; look for unsweetened.
Step #4: Choose Additional Flavors
These are the flavor bombs that will really make your bars unique, and thankfully they won't affect the texture much since they're generally used in small quantities.
Espresso powder. I always have this on-hand for baking, and it's so good in these bars. Instant coffee works well too.
Matcha powder. Especially good when combined with ginger.
Step #5: Make Your Larabar Mixture
Now you're ready to make your bars. If you have any chocolate, set it aside for now. Otherwise, put all the Larabar copycat ingredients in a food processor. It will take several minutes of processing, depending on what ingredients you've chosen. Keep running the food processor just until the mixture starts to make big clumps. Try to avoid over-processing because the nuts will release their oils and your bars will become oily (in which case they're perfectly fine to eat, just a little messy).
Now, grab a spoonful and assess your mixture. First, is it tasty? It's not too late to add a pinch of salt or a little more citrus zest. Does it stick together? You should be able to roll a ball of it between your palms; if not, give it more time in the food processor. If you can't roll it into a ball now without having it fall apart, your bars won't stay together. See the photos above and below, which show how the mixture should naturally want to clump together.
At this point, add in any chocolate or a last handful of nuts that you want to keep in larger pieces and pulse the food processor a few more times until you've reached your desired texture.
Step #6: Press and Chill
Line a baking dish with waxed paper. I prefer to use a bread pan, which is just the right size for ~3 cups of "sticky stuff" and ~1.5 cups of "nutty stuff". An 8x8 baking dish is also a good option if you have more mixture than that and/or if you want squares instead of elongate bars.
Dump the mixture in and press it down firmly, leaving no gaps or air holes. The harder you press, the better your bars with stick together and maintain their shape. Chill the mixture for at least a couple hours or as long as overnight.
Step #7: Slice
Carefully remove the bars from the baking dish and transfer to a cutting board; you should have a big square or rectangle that is nicely stuck together and not crumbly. Slice the mixture into long, thin bars or squares, making them as small or large as you wish. I usually make 6-8 bars if I've used a bread pan, and 9 or 12 squares if I've used a square baking dish. Your decision might depend on how thick your bars have ended up and how much you want in a single serving. Store the completed bars in an airtight container; they'll keep in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a few weeks.
What if Your Homemade Larabars Don't Stick Together?
Occasionally, you may end up with a mixture that doesn't stick together well. If you're having trouble getting your mixture to stick, NEVER ADD LIQUID. It will be a mess because the liquid will not mix well with the oils from the nuts. If you have extra dates, try adding them first. You can also try adding a spoonful or two of nut butter. If you still can't get the mixture to come together in the food processor, it will make an excellent crumble to put on top of yogurt or ice cream.
Most importantly, learn from it as you move forward. You probably violated the "rule of total stickiness". Maybe you added too much chocolate, or you didn't have a high enough portion of dates/figs, or maybe the pecans were just too oily. Adjust accordingly next time and you'll have well-formed bars.
I can't wait for you to try this homemade Larabar recipe. Homemade bars are less costly, fresher, waste no packaging, and can be made in infinite flavor combinations. They make for such great portable snacks, especially for hikes or long travel days. Varying the flavor combinations keeps them exciting and even seasonal.
Most importantly, please leave a comment below! I'd love to hear (and I expect lots of other people would like to hear) about the exciting flavor variations you've created.
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
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With just a few simple ingredients and 15 minutes, you can create your own homemade Larabars. This guide walks you though everything you need to know to make infinite flavor variations, use the best ingredients, and save money too.