This is one killer granola bar.

It’s chewy, bound together with caramel and tastes like a buttered Rice Krispies treat all grown-up with toasted nuts and oats and a little kick of salt.

And it’s only 120 calories a bar. 

I’ve tried SO MANY granola recipes — all of which were either too hard, too crunchy or just fell apart. I even made a spongy batch once with pumpkin puree.

The first time I bit into these chewy granola bars, I did a happy dance, which the kids found pretty funny.

I knew right away…this recipe is THE ONE. The best. The granola bar I’ve been searching for.

I’ve made these bars at least a dozen times since.

It’s not a throw-everything-into-a-pan type bar. You toast the nuts and then the oats with a little butter — only 3 tablespoons in the whole batch.

Then you make caramel.

Making caramel — it’s nothing.

Easy. You don’t even need a candy thermometer.

It’s all in the color.

Also, they’re super versatile.

You can add cinnamon and dried apples or coconut and dried papaya, along with pretty much any kind of nut you like.

They also pack a punch of flavor — buttery and somehow marshmallowy and still fairly low in calories.

So much better than those dry, itty-bitty low-cal bars from the store with the strange bits of “fruit” in them.

I wrap them up individually, good for on-the-go breakfasts and snacks.

And just straight-up tasty shots of energy.

Chewy Granola Bars

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies or whole grain Cheerios (I used the crisped rice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Line a 9X13 pan with foil, allowing extra to hang over the sides (to act as a sling for easy removal). Spray foil lightly with canola spray.

In a large bowl, combine cereal and salt. Set aside.

In large skillet over medium heat, roast nuts, stirring frequently, until fragrant and slightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Combine nuts with cereal in large bowl.

In same pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir rolled oats into melted butter and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Stir oats into nut-cereal mixture. Set aside.

Pour water into a medium saucepan. Carefully pour the sugar into the center of the water in the saucepan (it will mound). The sugar should naturally absorb the water, but you may press down lightly on sugar if necessary so that all of the sugar is moistened.

DO NOT STIR. Cook sugar mixture over medium-high heat, without stirring, until sugar dissolves and the caramel becomes light gold in color, about 8 to 12 minutes. Turn heat to down to medium-low and continue to cook until caramel turns a dark amber color, carefully swirling pan to ensure even caramelization. Remove from heat.

Carefully whisk the half and half into the caramel. Continue to whisk for about 20 seconds, until caramel barely bubbles, then add vanilla.

Pour caramel over oat-nut mixture and, working quickly, mix the caramel evenly into the oat mixture.

Pour granola into the lined pan and press evenly across the bottom. Press mixture down firmly against the bottom. (I use my hands, which I spray with a bit of canola spray, but it’s HOT! You can use a wooden spoon or the bottom of another pan to press mixture into pan.)

Allow granola bars to cool completely in pan on cooling rack.

Once cool, remove bars from pan with foil sling. Cut into 18 bars. Wrap each individually in plastic wrap, if desired, and store in airtight container at room temperature.