Last week, I snuck off to Atlanta for a magazine conference. And for once, I thought to bring back-up snacks for my travels. They provided sustenance in the mornings, when breakfast ten floors down seemed so far away, and kept me calm when our flight home took a sudden detour from Chicago to Indianapolis during dinnertime.
Eating well, and often, is so ingrained in my daily life that I forget how crucial it is until I leave my kitchen behind for a few days. I rarely mention it here, but I’m hypoglycemic. Skipped meals, simple carbs and junk food turn me into a shaky, miserable, mumbling mess… and if you ask my mother, a monster. I’m at my worst when I’m hungry, and my most cheerful best when I’m well-fed. That’s why this food blog’s motto came to be “celebrating whole foods”.
I tried my first Larabar earlier this year, so I won’t assume that you have experienced one yet. Larabars are “energy” bars made with real ingredients like dates, nuts and other dried fruit or add-ins like chocolate. Their ingredients list is remarkably short, and they are surprisingly delicious for packaged food. Somehow their sum is greater than their parts.
Being a curious person (see also: cheap), it didn’t take me long to try making them myself. I’m glad I did, because these little square snacks made all the difference for my mood during the trip.
I can’t claim to be an expert on Larabar flavors, but I have sampled several of my man’s favorite flavors, like cherry pie and apple pie. He’s the one who got me into Larabars and Trader Joe’s tart dried apricots in the first place. I’ve also tried a few of Larabars’ cleverly named date and nut combinations—cashew cookie and pecan pie—but those aren’t my favorites. The best ones, in my opinion, include some sour fruit and/or citrus zest to counteract the dates’ drab honey flavor.
For this batch, I used dried apricots to brighten up the fruit mixture, which are more affordable per ounce than, say, dried cherries. I chose almonds for the nut portion; their nutty sweetness provided complementary flavors along with protein and substance. Lastly, I added a pinch of sea salt because sea salt makes everything better (from savory dishes to oatmeal, smoothies and chocolate desserts, try it). My version isn’t offered by Larabar, so you’ll have to make your own if you want to try it. Plus, I think mine are less expensive even with organic ingredients.
Final verdict? The apricot-almond version got a thumbs up from my Larabar expert. They gained skeptical approval from my mom, who asked for another when we were sitting on the Indianapolis runway. I shared one with our editor, who has already emailed me for the recipe; another editor asked me if I sell these things. I hope you enjoy them as much as we have. I’m done with the store-bought kind!
- 1½ cup almonds (or other nuts, raw or roasted but definitely unsalted)
- 1 generous cup Medjool dates, pitted
- 1 cup dried apricots (or other dried fruit like cherries, cranberries or dehydrated apples)
- pinch sea salt
- (optional add-ins: small amounts of lemon zest, lime zest, nut butter or cocoa powder)
- Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper or wax paper. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until they are chopped (stop before they start turning into nut butter). Pour them into a bowl.
- Process the pitted dates, dried apricots and sea salt until the dried fruits are mashed into a paste. They may try to ball up in the processor, in which case you'll want to stop and break up the mixture with a spoon before continuing.
- Break up the fruit mixture and add the nuts to the food processor. Process until the chopped nuts are incorporated evenly into the fruit mixture. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish, and use your hands to press it into an even layer.
- Chill the baking dish in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, then use a sharp knife to cut the fruit-and-nut blend into squares or bars (I cut mine into 16 squares). Wrap each bar tightly for individual servings (see notes). These bars should last for a couple weeks at room temperature, but store them in the refrigerator or freezer for prolonged shelf life.
- Recipe created with guidance from The Kitchn and Damy Health.
- For more flavor ideas, check out Larabars' official flavors.
- My parchment paper wrappers didn't stick together well, but looked really cute when wrapped with brightly colored washi tape. Plastic wrap or plastic bags would be easier.
- If you want to change up the shape, try rolling the fruit-and-nut mixture into balls.
- Sorry, I don't know how to make these without a food processor. This affordable Cuisinart food processor is a worthy investment.