The first time I made my own snack bars was a revelation. I couldn't believe how easy it was—just a few minutes with measuring cups and my trusty food processor and I had a pan full of Instagram-worthy bars ready to fuel my next workout or hangry mid-afternoon office crisis. Seriously folks, stop buying $3 bars and make your own! Local whole foods expert Lauren Chandler of Lauren Chandler Cooks shares this effortless recipe for a salty-sweet bar packed with metabolism-boosting gluten-free oats and almond butter, antioxidant powerhouse cocoa, just-sweet-enough dates, and crunchy quicos (giant Spanish-style crunchy corn nuts you can find at New Seasons or Whole Foods by the cheese counter).
"I love quicos because they have that salty-crunchy thing going on," shares Chandler, "and you only need a few kernels to scratch that itch, so to speak. I like their texture more than other salty snacks—something about the sound when they're hit with the back molars. I appreciate that they aren't made with a zillion ingredients—just the kernels, oil, and salt. In this recipe, there's only a few kernels per bar which balances out the sweetness of the dates and adds unexpected texture."
Cacao Quico Bars
Makes seven 1.7 ounce bars (about the size of a Lara Bar)
1/3 cup quicos (if you can't find quicos, feel free to substitute plantain chips, pretzels, roasted nuts, or another favorite crunchy treat)
3/4 cup gluten-free oats
1 cup pitted Medjool dates (around 10 plump dates)
1/2 cup almond butter
3 tablespoons cacao powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a food processor, pulse the quicos until they resemble coarse sand and small pebbles, then remove and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Add the oats to the food processor and process until they resemble coarse sand. Add the remaining ingredients and process until the mixture sticks together when you squeeze it into a ball with your hands. You may need to scrape the mixture down from the sides of the container.
Transfer to the mixing bowl and use your hands to evenly fold in the ground quicos.
Press the mixture into a 9x9 baking dish and refrigerate before cutting into bars. Alternatively, roll into balls. If the dates or almond butter aren't moist enough for the mixture to stick together, sprinkle in water, a few drops at a time, until the mixture sticks. Store in the refrigerator for a firmer texture. Enjoy the bars on your next hike, climb, run, or sweat session!
Want to mix these up with new flavor combos? Swap the almond butter for another nut butter, dates for another dried fruit, cocoa powder for some protein powder (or even some chocolate cricket flour!), or spike the blend with some cayenne and/or cinnamon...bottom line, have fun playing with your food!