Upon hearing that March 1st was Peanut Butter Lover’s Day, this peanut butter lover started eagerly jotting down ideas of what to make. Though many desserts popped into mind, I wanted something “everyday” and on the wholesome side. These peanut butter oat bars fit the bill and use ingredients that I keep on hand in abundance: lightly salted peanut butter, oats, flax seeds, and good-quality lite coconut milk.
Using my dad’s favorite cookie flavor as my guide, cinnamon raisin oatmeal, I whipped up a batch of thick, chewy, and positively scrumptious squares that somehow reminded us of a Clif Bar combo (Peanut Butter meets Oatmeal Raisin) … only way, way better. Unlike Clif Bars, these peanut butter oat bars have a simple pure ingredient list, lower sugars, more nutty goodness, and are completely soy-free.
Irresistible Dairy-Free Peanut Butter Oat Bars
I decided to experiment with a couple of drizzle options when making these peanut butter oat bars, one low sugar maple-cinnamon peanut butter icing (pictured above) and one “traditional” peanut butter icing (thickly piped below). Though they are soft and pipe-able as shown in my images, both set up when chilled, offering a little extra Clif Bar-like appeal. Since some ingredients can effect the results of these peanut butter oat bars more than others, I thought I would address them:
- Peanut Butter: I did use an all-natural peanut butter when creating this recipe – Trader Joe’s Creamy Salted Peanut Butter. It is a very soft peanut butter, almost a little runny at room temperature, and quite spreadable when refrigerated.
- Dairy-Free Milk: Using just milk alternative or juice can make bars more muffin-like. As mentioned, I use lite coconut milk, which adds just enough liquid and richness to keep the recipe very bar-like, dense and rich. Yet it is a pure ingredient that adds less than .5 gram of fat per bar! In a pinch, you could substitute coconut milk creamer or dairy-free milk beverage.
- Sweetener: I test baked goods with both organic brown sugar and coconut sugar, the latter produces a mellower, slightly less sweet flavor. If using coconut sugar, I recommend blending it with the oats and flax seeds into a powder and adding with the dry ingredients. Brown sugar gives a more “classic” taste. If you want to use brown sugar, but want it a little less sweet, just lightly pack the sugar.
Special Diet Notes: Peanut Butter Oat Bars
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, tree nut-free, soy-free, vegan / plant-based, and vegetarian.
For peanut-free peanut butter oat bars, use almond butter (if tree nuts are okay for you) in place of the peanut butter. For nut-free, use your favorite seed butter. Keep in mind that sunflower seed butter will yield the most “peanutty” results, but it may react with the baking soda to produce a greenish hue. This is totally safe, just not the most appealing!
- 1¾ cup regular rolled oats (certified gluten-free, if needed), divided
- 2 tablespoons flax seeds
- 1¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda (high altitude: use ¾ teaspoon over 3000 feet)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup lightly salted peanut butter
- ½ cup packed brown sugar or coconut sugar
- ½ cup lite coconut milk (I use So Delicious Dairy Free Lite Culinary Coconut Milk)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
- ⅔ cup raisins
- Peanut butter icing drizzle (optional, see notes below)
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line an 8x8-inch baking dish (see note in post above) with parchment paper or grease and flour it.
- Place ¾ cup of the oats and the flax seeds in a spice grinder or food processor and whiz into flour, about 60 seconds.
- Add the ground oat mixture to a medium bowl with the remaining whole oats, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
- In a mixing bowl, blend the peanut butter, sugar, coconut milk, maple syrup and vanilla, with a hand mixer or by hand, until combined and smooth. Stir in the oat mixture, it should be the consistency of a thick but slightly sticky cookie dough. Fold in the raisins.
- Scrape the dough into your prepared baking dish, and with lightly damp hands, firmly and evenly press the mixture in.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly brown around the edges and beginning to pull away from the sides ever so slightly. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before cutting (can even chill first).
- If using parchment paper, pull the bars out onto a cutting board to cut (otherwise cut in the pan). Cut into 16 bars (cut in half, cut each half in half, turn the pan 90º and repeat). They are a little crumbly to cut but actually hold together quite well, particularly if stored in the refrigerator.
- If opting for an icing drizzle, add one of the options below to a plastic bag and seal. If too runny, chill the icing in the baggie for 10 minutes. Snip a small corner from the bottom of the bag, and pipe the icing onto the bars as desired.
Simple Peanut Butter Icing: Whisk together 2 tablespoons lightly salted peanut butter, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, and 2 teaspoons coconut oil.
Nutrition Note: These bars are cut smaller than Clif Bars (about ⅓ smaller). You can cut them larger for a closer equivalent to Clif Bars in over all nutrition.