Healthy Banana Chocolate Breakfast Bars Recipe

When Heidi posted about her friend Nikki’s healthful cookies a couple of months ago, my curiosity was piqued, and the recipe firmly affixed to my mind’s corkboard*.

And as soon as I had a few browning bananas on hand — some might accuse me of letting them overripen on purpose, but that’s just libel and they’ll be hearing from my attorney — I knew just how to put them to use.

I made a few modifications to the original recipe: 1- I used almond butter rather than coconut oil, which I didn’t have. 2- I decreased the amount of chocolate — completely out of character, I know, but I stopped when the chocolate-to-batter ratio felt right to me. 3- I didn’t add the cinnamon because I’m not very fond of the banana-cinnamon pairing. 4- I also omitted the baking powder: there is virtually no gluten in the recipe**, so it didn’t seem like a leavener would have much effect.

Oh, and instead of shaping bite-size cookies from the batter, I simply poured and baked the whole thing in a rectangular dish, and cut it into squareish bars after the fact: it was just easier, and because I knew we’d need a few days to eat our way through them and the fat content in the recipe was not very high, cutting servings as we went would help keep the texture fresh and moist.

And I’m happy to report it was a smashing success: these vegan oatmeal bars (or cookies) call for no sugar, and rely instead on the sweetening power of mashed bananas, and such flavor-bolstering ingredients as dark chocolate and grated coconut. The result is a discreetly sweet, but highly tasty confection that feels like a treat, but can be eaten for breakfast (it pairs well with clementines) without getting the dreaded sugar crash in mid-morning.

~~~

* Actually, I’m lying about the corkboard: to file and organize my digital notes, lists, and recipes, I use this handy Notebook tool for Mac OS X.

** Pure oats don’t contain gluten, but there can be a smidgen in commercial oats that are processed along with other grains. If you can’t have gluten at all, make sure the oats you use are labeled as gluten-free. Edited to add Lin’s comment: “Here in Australia where gluten-free standards are stricter than in Europe, coeliacs have been advised not to eat the so-called ‘gluten free’ oats, as many of us still seem to react to them. They might be ok for people with different reactions – those who’re allergic to wheat, for example. They contain a different peptide to the one found in wheat gluten, but apparently that can still be pretty disastrous for some of us.” So proceed with care.

Healthy Banana Chocolate Breakfast Bars Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Healthy Banana Chocolate Breakfast Bars Recipe

Ingredients

  • 200 grams (2 cups) rolled oats (gluten-free certified as needed) or mixed rolled grains
  • 60 grams (2/3 cup) almond flour (= almond meal or finely ground almonds)
  • 30 grams (1/3 cup) dried, unsweetened grated coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 120 grams (4 1/4 ounces) good-quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 very ripe, medium bananas, about 400 grams (14 ounces) when peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) whole almond butter (substitute olive oil, or slightly warmed coconut oil)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and grease a medium baking dish with vegetable oil.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, ground almonds, coconut, and salt. Set aside. Chop the chocolate so the largest pieces are about the size of a chocolate chip. Set aside.
  3. In another medium mixing bowl, combine the bananas, vanilla, and almond butter, and mash thoroughly using a potato masher. Add the oats mixture and mix well. Fold the chocolate in gently.
  4. Pour into the prepared baking dish, level the surface, and slip into the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, until the top is set and golden-brown. Let cool completely before slicing into bars. If you're not serving all the bars at once, I suggest you cut out only what you need. Cover the rest with foil and keep at room temperature.

Notes

Adapted from Nikki's cookies on Heidi's 101 Cookbooks.

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Healthy Banana Chocolate Breakfast Bars

  • http://smarterfitter.com/blog monica

    Wow, these look superb. I’m always on the lookout for healthful vegan sweets and these fit the bill!

  • Maeve

    I recall seeing Nikki’s cookies, too, but didn’t think much about them. Your adaptation, however, features things I actually have in my kitchen, and a different ratio that may work better for me. I’m also thrilled about the everything-free nature of the recipe, since I’ve been having to eat that way recently. It is so very difficult to find baked goods that are gluten/flour-free, dairy-free AND sugar-free. While I know this recipe does have some sugar content, I’ll happily fool myself that it’s not too bad because there’s no added sugar. ;)

  • ebra

    I tried the original recipe (aside from the coconut oil which I can’t find around here) and thought the same – too much chocolate. But they vanished regardless. I’ve been thinking of trying it with raisins, as a healthier alternative to the classic oatmeal raisin cookies you find on the Quaker Oats box

  • http://maplencornbread.blogspot.com/ Jennifer

    I’m already in love with these bars without even tasting yet! haha To combo is superb and very healthy (also love your gluten free twist to it :D ) I’m adding these to my to-make list very soon.

    P.S- I purposely over-ripen bananas too ;)

  • http://www.artnbarb.com Barbara

    Hmmm, I don’t care for grated coconut…think I should substitute something else, or just leave it out altogether?

    • amy

      maybe try carrots? I don’t have coconut so that’s what I am substituting.

  • http://www.flavorhub.com Joseph

    Love the fact you used almond butter, one of my favorite items in the kitchen. Too often vegan/vegetarian snacks get packed with the wrong carbs. Good job using natural, unprocessed sugar and plenty of fiber-packed ingredients like the oats and almond meal.

  • Julie

    Greetings from California! The combo of bananas & chocolate is what I’ve been hankering for…yum. Wondering if good ol’ Trader Joe’s almond butter will do the trick?

  • Dawn in CA

    oooh – yummy. I’ll have to give these a try.

  • Maegan

    I’m confused why you omitted the baking powder. You referenced the lack of gluten in the recipe, but baking powder doesn’t need gluten to produce carbon dioxide, just water. Or was there some other reason?

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Barbara – In the comment section of Heidi’s post, someone suggested using hemp seeds instead of grated coconut. Sesame or flax seeds would be good substitutes, too.

    Julie – I’ve never had the almond butter from TJ, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work here.

    Maegan – Sorry if I was unclear: it is indeed water that activates the baking powder, but the leavening effect will only produce noticeable result if the dough or batter has air pockets trapped in an elastic network of gluten (which is really just a type of protein found in wheat), as it does in a regular cake batter. These air pockets will expand from the pressure when the baking powder + water + heat produce carbon dioxide and monoxide, thus producing a puffy texture.

    However, a batter that has no gluten does not have the network of protein to keep air pockets trapped, so the gas will just escape.

    This is just my understanding, though, so if the Harold McGees of this world want to weigh in, they’re most welcome to!

  • Mrs Redboots

    I’ve made something very similar; mine use peanut butter instead of almond butter. And a bit of honey to help sweeten it instead of chocolate – the only chocolate I like isn’t sweet enough!

    UK people can buy coconut oil on the World Foods counter in Sainsbury’s, or in specialist Caribbean shops. I use it to make soap with, not to eat!

  • http://www.spicedish.typepad.com EB

    Anything with the words banana AND chocolate (not to mention healthy!) are destined to be in my face!

  • http://www.katelynsfood.blogspot.com Katelyn

    These look so wonderful. I want to try using almond butter sometime. Could you use another nut butter as a sub as well?

  • Sue

    These bars look really yummy! My son has a nut allergy though. Any substitute suggestions for the almond meal? Thanks!

  • Rachel

    I was just wondering today what to take to a potluck on Thursday. That’s my problem solved, then!

  • http://www.fromsingletomarried.com Tabitha (From Single to Married)

    these look fantastic! Anything that doesn’t have sugar and uses almond butter (love almond butter) is good in my book. Can’t wait to try them! And thanks for the healthy recipe – would like to see more of those on my favorite cooking sites. :)

  • http://the-clever-pup.blogspot.com Hazel

    I’ll try these for my 14-year-old son,whose growing in leaps and bounds.

  • http://pithyandcleaver.blogspot.com maggie

    ooooh. Cookies for breakfast! Now I can get behind that!

  • http://www.deelishdish.typepad.com DD

    Yum yum yum! I’m all about that combo :)

  • http://ginevramezzo.blogspot.com/ Ginevra

    These look delicious. I’ve made a similar (nonvegan, with more protein) bar from Alton Brown’s recipe, which called for peanut butter, but I subbed sunflower seed butter so it’d be nut-free, and it worked great. There’s a brand called Sunbutter that I think is in a lot of US grocery stores, and I used the Trader Joe’s version. Hope this helps!

  • http://www.theitaliandish.blogspot.com The Italian Dish

    Wow, I’ve made those cookies of Heidi’s many times. They are my favorite and now I’m going to try these, too. Thanks!

  • http://thecanberracook.blogspot.com Cath the Canberra Cook

    This may seem off the wall, but is there any substitute possible for the banana?

    Could you use apple or pear puree, or is the additional starchiness of the banana required?

  • http://scratch.typepad.com Rachelino

    Aha! Now I have a way to get rid of the almond butter that my husband doesn’t like! Merci.

  • http://onehungrysoul.blogspot.com Lael

    I have spotty brown bananas calling my name right now! I’ve been eyeing Heidi’s recipe for these cookies ever since she posted it, but I like your modifications a lot too. I’ll have to give it a try!

  • Narelle

    Yummy! May I ask where in Paris you can buy Almond Butter …and while I have you …buttermilk?

    thanks again for your great blog and books! and will let you know when that corned meat is cooked!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Katelyn – In most recipes, nut butters are interchangeable; it’s the case here, as well.

    Sue – You could just omit the almond meal, and perhaps up the oats and coconut a little bit to make up for it.

    Ginevra – I’ve never seen sunflower seed butter here; I’ll have to look for it!

    Cath – I’m not sure if you’re asking this because you don’t like bananas or because you can’t eat them. In any case, sure, feel free to experiment with another fruit purée (apple and pear, but also mango or fig) — note that it should be a thick one, with little water content, just like bananas. You might want to cook the purée down a little to evaporate some of its moisture.

    Narelle – Nut butters can be found at organic foodstores in Paris (such as Naturalia, Biocoop, La Vie Claire, etc.). And buttermilk doesn’t exist as such in France. You can either make your own, or buy kefir, which is another type of fermented milk (available in supermarkets, by the bottles of fresh milk).

  • Kelly

    What size is a medium baking dish? Square like a brownie pan? Or rectangular like a sheet cake? I’m hoping to make these asap. They look great!!!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Kelly – Mine is a square dish, a bit larger than an 8-by-8-inch brownie pan, but a brownie pan should do. A large 9-by-13-inch dish would be too big.

  • http://eatingthroughsf.blogspot.com Kasey

    These sound delicious (and I also read about Heidi’s friend’s cookies thinking the same thing). But one item holds me back: the coconut! Think it can be omitted entirely?

  • http://www.wearenotmartha.com Sues is not Martha

    I’m always looking for unique breakfast ideas…and I always seem to have rotton bananas around. So these look perfect!!

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-1240-Boston-Family-Foodie-Examiner Leah Klein

    This recipe is intriguing. I think I’ll have to try it. I had no idea oats were gluten free…I was always told they were extremely glutenous.

    My daughter loves clementines. Maybe this will be a new breakfast treat!

    Thanks.

    Leah

  • http://thecanberracook.blogspot.com Cath the Canberra Cook

    It’s simply that I personally utterly loathe bananas. I’m not a picky eater. Other than bananas and durian, I will eat pretty much anything short of insects. I feel so jealous of people enjoying their banana breads and breakfast bars and pancakes, and their easy-peel fruit, but for me bananas simply evoke nausea. Yes, I’m weird.

    Thanks for the tip on thickening the other fruit purees. I’m tempted to try this with pears.

  • Aiyana

    Mmm… it sounds like a home-made version of those various energy bars I always keep around to snack on! I must give it a try– thank you for the idea.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Kasey – I’ve answered a similar question higher up in the comments, in response to Barbara.

    Leah – As I mentioned in the footnote, many commercial brands of oats are *not* gluten-free, so proceed with caution.

  • http://not-so-desperate-yugowife.blogspot.com Sandra

    Hello Clotilde,
    do you think it would be ok to use not so ripe bananas? I don’t think I can wait for mine to go brown!

    Thanks,
    Sandra

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Sandra – Just ripe bananas should suffice (the result will be a bit less sweet as bananas get sweeter as they ripen) but I would advise against using bananas that still have a bit of green at the tips — it’s worth giving them a couple more days in a brown paper bag.

  • Elana

    I made Heidi’s cookies a few weeks ago and really loved the flavour, but had trouble getting them to form a cookie shape–they didn’t hold together very well. I like the idea of making them into bars AND of using almond butter to make them a bit richer and more protein rich. Thanks for the idea!

  • http://iheartkatiecakes.blogspot.com/ Katie

    Oh no, look what you’ve done!

    I have a few bananas I’m purposely ripening in the kitchen as we speak. I originally had them earmarked for a banana bread but now I’m torn!

    What is a girl to do :D

  • http://glutenfreeincleveland.blogspot.com dana aka gluten free in cleveland

    wholesome + banana + chocolate. You really can’t loose. Add to that coconut and you’ve got a really lovely snack. Actually, come to think of it, you could probably cut these up into “bar” form for a great gluten free, vegan breakfast bar on-the-go, yes?

  • Kristine in SB

    Clotilde: great idea to make bars instead of cookies with this recipe. We love the recipe from Heidi’s site.

    Your explanation of gluten and leavening agents needs a little more investigation. Gluten free baking uses and requires leavening such as baking powder and/or baking soda. The almond flour and oats in the original recipe can and do hold the trapped gas from baking powder. I make other bars with only oats and oat flour and the leavening makes a difference. You may want to try it next time. Kristine

  • Pcollier

    I made these (from the original recipe and found them a bit bland.
    If you have a sweet tooth and don’t have hugely ripe bananas to hand I would put in some honey agave or maple syrup. Bit of a waste to use all these nice ingrediants for such a blah flavour! Probably my cooking but hey if it helps anyone!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Dana – They could work as on-the-go breakfast bars, though I should note that they don’t hold their shape quite as firmly as commercial breakfast bars.

    Kristine – Thanks for your note. You know, I’ve actually tried the recipe with and without the baking powder, and there was no noticeable difference between the two.

    But the whole thing has left me a bit puzzled and I should like to get a clearer understanding of the relationship between baking powder, gluten, and alternate proteins. I may submit it as a topic for Hervé This’ molecular gastronomy workshops!

    Pcollier – I agree with you: it is up to each baker to decide, based on his/her taste and the bananas used, whether a touch of sweetener is needed or not.

  • Lin M

    Hi Clothilde

    Here in Australia where gluten-free standards are stricter than in Europe, coeliacs have been advised not to eat the so-called ‘gluten free’ oats, as many of us still seem to react to them.

    They might be ok for people with different reactions – those who’re allergic to wheat, for example. They contain a different peptide to the one found in wheat gluten, but apparently that can still be pretty disastrous for some of us.

    This is a wonderful blog, btw. Your writing and recipes are sublime.

  • http://www.freedomyears.com/ foods to lower cholesterol

    Hey this is great! Who says no one could have chocolates for breakfast? LOL

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Lin – Thanks for adding this; I’ve edited the footnote to include your words of caution.

  • http://www.eatingthroughsf.blogspot.com Kasey

    Hi Clotilde-

    Thanks for pointing me in the right direction :) I’ll definitely be sure to give that a try!

  • http://www.merisi.blogspot.com Merisi’s

    This recipe’s so tempting that I wished I had a couple of overripe bananas in the house! I would think that by using almond instead of coconut oil you also created a healthier recipe.

  • http://www.eastvillagekitchen.com Lauren

    These look amazing! Can’t wait to try in my own kitchen. Thanks.

  • Stephanie

    I’m really looking forward to trying these bars — Merci!

    My husband has celiac disease, so I’m always looking for new gluten-free recipes.

    I wanted to write in response to the Australian comment. In Canada (where we live), our federal department of health, Health Canada, has said it’s generally OK for celiacs to eat uncontaminated oats. (That means oats not contaminated by processing or growing next to a field of wheat.)

    I know oats still might not work for every celiac — like my very sensitive mother-in-law — but we carefully tried uncontaminated oats. . .And my husband can eat them!

    Needless to say, this has opened up many more baking possibilities for me! So I just wanted to encourage the celiacs out there to research and consider (very carefully) trying gluten-free oats . . .

  • Aiyana

    Ok, so my kitchen isn’t super-healthy: I used sweetened coconut and generic peanut butter instead of almond. They are yummy! I may seek out a non-vegan version because I think it will hold together a little better with an egg in the mix, but the flavor is a definitely a winner!

  • http://www.mealmakeovermoms.com/blog Janice

    I had four overripe bananas on my counter earlier this week and was heading out to meet with my “blog consultant” Susan Getgood and decided to bring these treats to our meeting. Susan, my coauthor Liz and I all loved them! Thanks for another yummy option for using up those browning bananas.

  • Lin M

    Thank you Clothilde! There was an article about this in the latest magazine of the Australian Coeliac Cociety by our leading coeliac researcher, Dr Bob Anderson.

    When they give GF oats the all-clear, I will stuff myself silly with porridge and oatcakes, and try this delicious sounding recipe.

  • Erin

    I just made these late last night. I did not have almond meal so just added extra coconut and oats. I also only had dark mint chocolate which I used. They turned out great! So easy and lightly sweetened. I think next time I’ll substitute nuts for the chocolate.

    Thanks!

  • Astrid , Curacao

    I have made these bars twice already. The first time I followed the recipe. I gave them as a treat to the teenagers in my school. We all liked them, but wanted them a little sweeter. The kids also told me they preferred milk chocolate over pure.
    The next time I used milk chocolate, added sesame and flax seeds and 1/4 cup of molasses. That did the trick. They were delicious!
    I did not use the almond butter, but used canola oil. Next time I will use peanutbutter.
    I love your book, Adventures in Paris, I made a whole lunch for my collegues and they loved everything, the chicken sandwiches, the savory cake , the bean salad and the Z&C cake.
    Greatings from the other side of the ocean.

  • Carol

    These are in the oven as I write. I had a big handful of dates I didn’t know what to do with, so I chopped them and they replaced the chocolate. I used Jean Hervé cashew butter and added a bit of honey, since my husband is a bit of a sweet tooth :-). The batter was soooooooo delicious I really had to be careful not to eat the whole thing ! Thanks a lot for this recipe, I think it will turn out wonderful.

  • msue

    I made the Peacamole and had just the right amount of almond butter left to make this recipe.

    These bars are scrumptious – not a whit too sweet, and the lovely banana and chocolate are really satisfying. You could easily substitute dried cranberries, etc., for the chocolate – something I’ll try next time.

    They may be conceived as a breakfast bar, but it would make a good quick lunch bite, especially if you had some yogurt or a piece of fruit to accompany the yummy bar.

    Sooo good.

  • Sarah

    I am shocked that you don’t use one of the gourmet recipe applications for mac! Why use circus ponies instead? I say this because I am on the hunt for a new recipe application myself. Thanks for your awesome blog!

  • tian

    hi cz,

    i halved the recipe but couldn’t achieve the browning like in your pic.

    other than replacing the chocolate with cranberries and the coconut with equal weight of speltflakes+amarath puffs, i followed the recipe

    it looks more like solidified banana and probably needs more dry ingredients?

    any advice? thanks lots < :

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Tian – It’s a bit hard to diagnose from here (is your oven running as hot as it says?), but I wouldn’t recommend replacing the coconut with spelt flakes and amaranth puffs: coconut flakes bring mostly fat to the recipe, while spelt and amaranth bring mostly carbohydrates, so they’re really not interchangeable. Some sort of seed (sesame or hemp were suggested above) would be a better substitute if you don’t like, or don’t want to use coconut.

  • tian

    thanks for your reply clotilde

    i didn’t think substituting the coconut would have make much diff coz it was only 15 g, but I guess I could be wrong.

    Oven thermometer indicated it was at 180, although hovering more or less 170 at times when I opened the oven to check. I left it baking about 10 minutes longer than your recipe called for

  • Vidya

    Hey Clotilde! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now but this is the first recipe I’ve made so I thought I’d leave a comment. These were great! I did substitute sunflower seeds for the almonds since I was out, and my bananas weren’t very ripe so I added just a tablespoon of brown sugar and some raisins, as well as some extra whole sunflower seeds to the mix. I nearly substituted chopped nuts for the chocolate…but I’m so glad I didn’t. By the way, I’m a student of French and your edible idioms are doing wonders with my exam results!

  • http://www.gluten-free-chocolate.com Ashleigh Kellie

    Very good information. I didn’t know that celiacs in Australia had been advised not to use gluten free oats. Quite interesting. I would really miss them!

  • Clover Eighty Eight

    Thanks so much for a great recipe that I make every few weeks and keep in the freezer. It uses overripe bananas and is a quick wholesome snack or breakfast when I get up late and am in a hurry.

  • http://eastlondonlocal.wordpress.com Zoe

    This has become one of my favourite recipes – I roll them into balls of various sizes to make ‘banana balls’ as I call them, and they make a great snack with a cup of tea.

  • Aisha

    Was just reading the comments on this recipe and saw Narette’s question on buttermilk. I think you can actually find something that is fairly similar to buttermilk and more widely available than kefir. It’s “Laban”, sold in middle eastern/north african food stores in France, or in some supermarkets in the dairy section (often a carton with green decorations, Yorik brand, and Arabic writing on it, or sold in plastic jugs).

  • http://www.spiritmoving.com Selene

    That question about buttermilk was a long time ago – but I’ve been using yogurt (watered down with milk if it’s really thick yogurt) interchangeably with buttermilk for years, and it works very well in baking.

    These bars have become a serious favorite! The only change I’ve made is to add 3 scoops of protein powder (I use one that is whey-based, but if you want to keep it vegan there are plenty of other options). I love the chocolate version the best, but I’ve made it with dried plums & goji berries, and with dried cranberries & raisins. It tends to be just a bit drier without the chocolate (the protein powder is partly responsible for that, I’m sure), but still quite yummy!

  • http://kidscooking.about.com Stephanie

    Just what I was looking for – something sweet, but not too sweet. And yes, chocolate is always appropriate for breakfast!

  • Crystal

    I made this recipe exactly as posted, yet didn’t have a square pan so I used my largest glass pie pan, I have had to increase the temp to 280 and after 40 minutes they still are mushy and soft and not brown. I will have to adjust and figure out how to get them to set up, though I have to say even my boyfriend was impressed when he tried the uncooked batter and I told him there was not butter or added sugar!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I wonder if maybe you misread the oven temperature that the recipe lists? It should be set to 180°C, or if you’re in the US, 360°F.

  • http://www.ehealthycookierecipes.com Red Goose

    Wow what a great recipe. Looks like I have a lot to learn! I will be coming back to your blog more often – have you always found that banana and cinnamon pair well together?

  • Peggy

    Great stuff, I’m smelling it as I type to wait for it to cool down!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Hope you enjoy them!

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