Skip the nutrition bar aisle and make your own date and nut bars at home!
Have you ever tried a Larabar?
Made with just a few ingredients, these nut and date snacks continue to be a popular choice for health conscious snackers.
However, as delicious as this store bought option is, it isn’t the most budget-friendly.
When you think about the ingredients needed, sweet dates and nuts, it makes it hard to spend almost $2 per bar when you can make your own at home for way cheaper (hello bulk bins!).
The first time I made these bars was in college, and I had to use my roommate’s teeny tiny food processor. Looking back I’m not sure why we even had it as its only real use was to chop garlic and onions.
But being a poor college student, you have to work with what you have – and I really wanted these homemade bars.
So, I put the nuts in the processor and pulsed away. So far so good.
But when I added the dates, I made two major mistakes: 1. I didn’t soften the dates before trying to pulse them. 2. I overestimated the power of the tiny food processor motor.
With the lid barely fitting, I kept pulsing, scraping down the sides, and pulsing again, not getting very far. And before I could have any semblance of a batter, the food processor gave out.
Not wanting to spend money to buy a larger, more useful food processor, I gave up my ambitions of making homemade date and nut bites – until I met my husband.
I like to joke that I dated him for his beautiful kitchen stocked with only the best kitchen appliances that a boy’s mom can buy. One of which was a full-sized food processor.
It was a fair trade: he’d let me use the food processor and I’d make an extra batch for him to keep. #relationshipgoals.
Since then, I’ve always had a stock of homemade date and nut bars in the freezer, from chocolate chip to matcha. And while you can get creative with different flavorings, chocolate is always a crowd-pleaser.
This chewy, chocolatey recipe tastes similar to brownies (or even brownie batter), but is way healthier and doesn’t require any baking skills. As long as you have a food processor, you’re set to go!
While I used a combination of almonds and cashews, feel free to use any unsalted nuts that you already have at home or that are on sale at your grocery store. As I alluded to above, I highly recommend checking out the bulk bin section for cheaper dates and nuts.
Unlike many store bought snacks, these don’t contain any added sugars or strange ingredients. Instead, they’re filled with healthy fats and protein from the nuts, and natural sugar and fiber from the dates. Plus, cocoa powder contains disease-fighting antioxidants thanks to it’s high concentration of polyphenols.
While I like to pack these for those 3pm snack cravings, they’re also perfectly acceptable as a healthier dessert option.Print
Made from just a few simple ingredients, these homemade chocolate date and nut bars taste like a brownie that’s actually good for you.
- 1 cup (about 6–7 large) Medjool dates, pitted
- About 1 cup of hot water, for soaking the dates
- 1/2 cup raw almonds
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Optional: up to 1 tablespoon of water
- Measure out ingredients.
- Place dates in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, or until dates are soft. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, place nuts and salt in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
- Add drained dates and cocoa powder to the food processor. Pulse until well combined and the batter holds together. You may need to stop a few times to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. If batter is too dry and crumbly, add water, 1 teaspoon at time, to reach the desired consistency.
- Transfer to an 8-by-8-inch or 9-by-7-inch baking dish and press to evenly distribute batter.
- Place in freezer for 15 minutes, or until slightly firm. Cut bars into 14-16 equal pieces and wrap in parchment paper.
- Store bars in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months or in the fridge for up to 7 days.
- Category: Bars
- Method: No-Bake
- Cuisine: Snacks
Keywords: date, cashew, almond, cocoa powder
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Measure Ingredients and Soak Dates
Measure out ingredients.
Note: any nuts will work, you just need 1 cup total.
Place dates in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, or until dates are soft. Drain and set aside.
Step 2 – Pulse Nuts and Salt
Place nuts and salt in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. The consistency should be almost sandy – you want to stop before it becomes more like a paste.
Step 3 – Add Dates and Cocoa Powder
Add drained dates and cocoa powder to the food processor. Pulse until well combined and the batter holds together. You may need to stop a few times to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
If batter is too dry and crumbly, add water, 1 teaspoon at time, to reach the desired consistency.
Step 4 – Transfer to a Baking Pan
Transfer to an 8-by-8-inch or 9-by-7-inch baking dish and press to evenly distribute batter. I usually use a glass container and don’t have troubles with the bars sticking. However, you can line your baking dish with parchment to make removing the bars easier.
Step 5 – Chill Bars in Freezer
Place bars in freezer for 15 minutes, or until firm enough to cut with a knife.
Step 6 – Slice, Wrap and Store
Remove bars from freezer and slice into 14-16 pieces, depending on how large you want to make them. Wrap each piece in parchment paper and store in an airtight container.
Bars will keep for 1 week in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.
While these bars taste best when stored in the fridge or freezer, they hold up well being in a purse or bag for a few hours.
Plus, when hunger strikes, most of us don’t’ want to spend time deciphering nutrition and ingredient labels to pick out a healthy option. Instead, we tend to grab whatever is the most convenient and be on our way.
By having healthy grab-and-go snacks, you not only save money but also brain power as all you have to do is grab a bar on your way out the door!
Looking for more homemade grab-and-go snacks? We’ve got you covered with these healthier options:
- Healthy Whole Grain Pear Hazelnut Muffins
- Easy Vegan Oatmeal Breakfast Bars
- Coconut Almond Chia Granola
- Chewy Pumpkin Bars
- Harvest Spice Breakfast Cookies
Have you made homemade date and nut bars before? Which flavors are your go-to? We’d love to hear in the comments below. And if you try this recipe, be sure to give it a rating!
Photos by Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on April 8, 2012. Last updated: September 21, 2019 at 20:48 pm.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
The contents of this article have been reviewed and verified by a registered dietitian for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as personalized or professional medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet, or using supplements or manufactured or natural medications.
About Kelli McGrane, MS, RD
Kelli McGrane is a Denver-based registered dietitian with a lifelong love of food. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in nutrition science from Boston University. As a registered dietitian, she believes in the importance of food to nourish not only your body, but your soul as well. Nutrition is very personal, and you won’t find any food rules here, other than to simply enjoy what you eat.