Did I tell you that Sundays are a big day for me? Usually I wake up, hit the gym, then head straight to the grocery store. After that I go home and cook until my kitchen is trashed and I can’t possibly dirty another dish. It’s kind of my little ritual.
Of course Sundays are also big because I’m determined to start the week out on a good note. To me, being healthy is a big part of this. I forget the incredibly delicious carrot cake cupcake I ate last week when I was stressed and remind myself that this week is brand new and full of healthy opportunities.
To encourage healthy eating, I chop up celery, cucumbers and carrots for nibbling during the day, but sometimes I need something a little more satisfying. So I decided to make ridiculously good granola bars. With protein powder to keep me full.
I made these last week and was slightly obsessed. So obsessed that I had to give them away to a friend because they I kept finding myself eating more and more out of the pan. I think the whole dark chocolate + cherry + chia seed combo really spoke to me.
I’m actually a huge fan of several brands of protein and/or granola bars. The chewy ones, the nutty ones, the extra crunchy ones. Heck, just give me ALL THE BARS.
Unfortunately buying granola bars all the time gets to be expensive. Oh and then there’s the ingredients in some of the bars… really questionable, right? That’s why I love making my own bars; I know exactly what’s in them.
These healthy homemade granola bars are made with oats, puffed millet (or brown rice crisps), and vanilla protein powder. There’s also a hint of crunchy almond flavor from the nut butter. Mmmmm, you know how I love my nut buttas!
To sweeten the bars, I opted to use a little bit of maple syrup, but honey or agave would also work. The cherries and chocolate add antioxidants and the chia seeds add fiber, omega-3s and an amazing little crunch. CHOMP CHOMP.
To keep these bars chewy, I suggest using quick oats. If you don’t have quick oats available, you can pulse oats in the blender or food processor for 30 seconds.
You guys won’t believe how filling these bars are either! They have 8g of protein and almost 4g of fiber. I love eating them for breakfast when I’m on the go, before a workout, or as a snack.
If you make them (or anything from AK), tag your photos on Instagram #ambitiouskitchen. I love seeing what you guys create!
More healthy snack recipes to try:
Chewy Dark Chocolate Cherry Protein Granola Bars with Chia Seeds
- 1/3 cup natural chunky or creamy almond butter (or peanut butter)
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/3 cup quick oats (gluten free, if desired)
- 1 cup Puffed Millet (see notes for other options)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup your favorite vanilla protein powder
- 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
- 2.5 ounces dark chocolate bar, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon coconut oil
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line 8x8 inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine almond butter, maple syrup and vanilla until smooth and well combined.
Stir in oats, millet, salt and protein powder until well-coated, thick, and sticky. Add in almond milk and stir again.
Fold in cherries, 1/4 cup of chopped chocolate, and chia seeds. (You'll use the rest of the chocolate for the drizzle.)
Pour mixture into prepared pan and use a spatula to evenly spread. Next you'll have to use your hand to press the mixture down VERY firmly. This will help to ensure that the bars stick together well.
Bake for 15-18 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.
To make chocolate drizzle: melt chocolate and coconut oil in a small saucepan over very low heat. Stir until smooth.
Drizzle the chocolate over the bars, then refrigerate for 30 minutes so that chocolate can harden.
Cut into 10 bars. You can also keep them at room temperature or individually wrap & freeze. Enjoy!
If you would like to reduce the calories and/or sugar, then you have a few options: You can use PB2 and sugar free maple syrup. I've actually tried it this way and they come out pretty darn tasty! If you use sugar free maple syrup, each bar only has around 5g of sugar.
Feel free to use your favorite nut butter in place of the almond butter.
Instead of pure maple syrup, you can use sugar free maple syrup, honey, or agave. Please note that honey is not vegan.
If you do not have access to puffed millet, then free free to substitute brown rice crisps, puffed rice, regular rice krispies, quinoa, or even chex. I found my puffed millet in the cereal section at Whole Foods.
If you are trying to make these vegan or gluten free, ensure that all of your ingredients fall into your respective dietary guidelines. For instance, make sure the dark chocolate is vegan.
You can sub any dried fruit you'd like. Also feel free to add a handful of chopped nuts, coconut, or more chocolate!