I love breakfast, but 90% of the time I don’t eat it. On the weekends we’ll cook up a big breakfast...sausage, bacon, potatos, eggs, pancakes, waffles, crepes... But that’s when we have the time to make and enjoy it.
Most weekdays, breakfast is something you scarf down between cups of coffee, getting kids fed and dressed, washing your face, and preparing for the day.
Thats why I don’t usually bother, or more often, simply forget to bother. 11 o’clock rolls around, I realize I’m starving, and I just eat an early lunch.
So I started to think about ways I could have a more convenient, homemade, easy-to-grab breakfast option. That’s how I came up with these apple oatmeal breakfast bars.
My first trial run turned out simply too delicious, more like an oatmeal cookie. So I did some work trying to make them more nutritious, swapping in applesauce for some of the fat, bumping up the oats, and including diced apples. That helped make them more passable as “breakfast,” the most important meal of the day (!), and that’s the main recipe you’ll find below.
Since then I’ve made many more batches. The second variation I tried was a Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat breakfast bar. You’ll find that recipe in the Variations section down below. The key discovery here was that substituting peanut butter for the butter works really well. It adds more protein, more flavor, and I would say definitely makes them more healthy. I also found that using oat flour (make it by pulsing oats in a food processor or blender) instead of regular flour works, and makes them gluten free, and that much healthier! These may have been the favorite variation, probably because we could feel good about eating them—oh yeah, and the chocolate.
The other variations I’ve tried are listed below. Whenever you substitute classic baking ingredients with “healthy” alternatives, you will wind up with textural differences. For instance, the Honey Toasted Coconut breakfast bars you’ll find below didn’t hold together as well, probably because coconut flour (simply ground coconut) and honey don’t offer much in the way of structure. But they were delicious; they tasted like a Mound bar.
I wanted to make the Almond Cranberry bars (find below) with almond butter, but didn’t have any on hand. Since peanut butter worked so well in the Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat version, I don’t see why almond butter wouldn’t work here.
I encourage you to use the recipe below as a good starting point to make variations of your own inspiration. And share your discoveries in the comments!
These bars hardly last a day on the counter whenever I’ve made them, but one time I did manage to snag a few, wrap them in plastic wrap, and pop them in the freezer. They defrost well, making them a great make-ahead item for a quick on-the-go breakfast throughout the week. (Just a note: the peanut butter & the yogurt drizzles you’ll find below don’t set hard, so if you plan to wrap & store these bars, probably leave off the drizzle.)
apple oatmeal breakfast bars with peanut butter drizzle
[for the bars]
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 oz) butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar (can reduce to as low at 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup applesauce
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (I use old fashioned; quick oats will work too)
1/2 cup peeled and diced apple (about 1 small apple or 1/2 a medium sized apple)
[for the peanut butter drizzle]
2 tablespoons peanut butter`
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
Using a mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add applesauce and egg and beat on low speed until it comes together, then increase to medium and beat until well combined, about 1-2 minutes.
Add flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon to the mixer and stir on low speed until it just comes together. Finally, add in oats and apples, mixing on low until they are evenly distributed.
Shape the batter into 8 roughly 1/4-cup sized logs and place them on the prepared baking sheet. It’s a little sticky and soft, so just move quickly and use a light hand! Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes.
Prepare the peanut butter drizzle: Whisk together peanut butter, powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon of milk. Add another tablespoon of milk if the mixture is too thick. When the breakfast bars come out of the oven and are cooled, drizzle the peanut butter glaze on top.
notes & substitutions
butter: can substitute 1/4 cup peanut butter or 1/4 cup coconut oil. I imagine almond butter would work really well too. Just keep in mind that these substitutions effect the texture of the final result, but they will all taste delicious.
sugar: can reduce the sugar to as low as 1/4 cup. Sometimes I add 1 tablespoon of molasses to give the bars more flavor and depth. You can also substitute white sugar or honey for the brown sugar in equal measure. Just remember that substitutions, like honey, will effect the final texture! But they will still be delicious.
flour: I’ve made variations (see above) substituting almond flour/meal, coconut flour and oat flour for the all-purpose and they all turned out well. Bonus: they are gluten-free! Make oat flour by putting a few handfuls of oats into a food processor and blitzing until they are a powder.
applesauce: although it’s tempting, I wouldn’t recommend using any more than the recipe calls for. A small amount can add moisture to baked goods, but it’s a delicate balance. Because of the pectin in apples, adding too much applesauce can end up absorbing moisture and drying out the bars.
chocolate peanut butter oat: Swap out the butter for 1/4 cup peanut butter, use 3/4 cup oat flour instead of all-purpose flour (I make oat flour by blitzing up oats in a food processor), and swap out the diced apple for 1/4 cup (roughly 2 oz) of chopped dark chocolate. When the bars come out of the oven, sprinkle them with more chopped chocolate, or drizzle them with some melted dark chocolate.
honey toasted coconut: Swap in 1/4 cup coconut oil for the butter, and 1/3 cup honey for the brown sugar. Swap in 3/4 cup of coconut flour for the all-purpose flour. Substitute 1/2 cup toasted coconut for 1/2 cup of the rolled oats. Sprinkle the bars with some more coconut before putting them in the oven to bake. (These bars a verrrry soft, so be forewarned! They hold together better when fully cooled.)
almond cranberry breakfast bars with yogurt drizzle: Use 3/4 almond flour or meal instead of the all-purpose flour, and 1/2 cup dried cranberries instead of the diced apple. For the yogurt drizzle, whisk together 1/2 tablespoon yogurt and 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar.