Crunchy Low Carb Snack Bars

This will be my last post for awhile. I’ll be heading back to university this Monday and having an actual life!

When a good little low-carber wants something to snack on, she usually reaches for string cheese, sliced veggies, or a spoonful (or five, in my case) of peanut butter. Packaged diet bars and cookies just won’t do. They fail to satisfy the hunger like whole foods. Scary artificial sweeteners and the polyols that accompany them have very unpleasant side effects. Abstain from the “M” word–MALTITOL–if you have a social life and want to keep it. On top of that, a chewy, dry bar encased in a chocolate vegetable oil coating is a big disappointment to the natural food adapted palette. What’s a hungry health foodie to do?

A brilliant gal named Elana came up with a fancy shmancy version of coconut bark, chock full of nuts and seeds, slathered with a blanket of rich chocolate to make your snack time extra special. Spoil yourself rotten with these babies when you can’t look at another cold cut or celery stick. The coconut oil makes them a bit crunchy, tickling your corn chip- and pretzel-deprived taste buds. I cut down on the sugar, de-carbed the chocolate coating, and punched up the flavor with a little twist on the preparation. The testers absolutely flipped for the toasted pecan version. I’d recommend starting there and then following wherever your culinary imagination takes you! There are no hard and fast rules with this wonderfully versatile recipe.

One trick to maximize the lovely flavors of these natural ingredients: Toasting, my friend! Don’t be afraid of somehow “destroying the nutrients” in the nuts. Roasting the nuts can actually improve digestibility. I like to think that our tongue is so well designed that it knows what’s best for us, in the same way that it regulates sodium intake. These bars are even more fabulous with the aromatic, slightly smoky flavor that toasting imparts to the nuts and coconut, so don’t skip this step!

Crunchy and sweet, topped with a layer of smooth dark chocolate! You won’t believe they’re free of sugar and gluten. Promise.

Recipe Notes:
~To toast the ingredients, spread nuts and coconut flakes around a small pan. Pop ‘em in the toaster oven and toast for one cycle on medium heat, watching closely to prevent excess browning of the coconut flakes. You might have to stir them around the pan mid-cycle.
~I buy unhulled sesame seeds for the highest calcium content. Get them at the bulk bin or refrigerated section of your local health food store.
~Non-hydrogenated palm oil based shortening is sold under two names, to my knowledge–Spectrum Organic shortening and Jungle brand shortening.
~I get my nuts, seeds, honey and almond butter from the bulk bin section at the health food store. You can buy as much or as little as you want that way. Just be sure to sample the almond butter for freshness.
~Peanut butter is the cheapest option, but almond butter lends a more neutral flavor. Make your own macadamia nut butter with a magic bullet or powerful food processor. Heat the nuts in the microwave for 20-30 seconds and blend. Macadamia nuts contain enough natural oil to turn into a smooth paste after enough pulsing and scraping.
~If you buy roasted pistachios, rinse the salt off under a colander, pat them dry, and toast them for one cycle under medium heat to crisp the pistachios back up.
~For the 85% chocolate, I alternate between Lindt, Ghirardelli, and Green & Black’s organic. Use whatever brand you prefer–the carb counts are similar.
~DON’T heat the flax seeds or hemp seeds. You want to keep those precious omega-3s intact!

The following is my absolute favorite version. It smells like a Samoa cookie, no joke!

Crunchy No-Bake Snack Bars

Ingredients:
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup golden flax meal (could also use sesame seed meal)
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup almond butter (could also use peanut or mac nut butter)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of raw honey
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons erythritol
1/8 teaspoon of pure stevia extract

Easy Chocolate Ganache Topping

Ingredients:
4 squares of 85% cacao chocolate
2 tablespoons non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening (could also use more coconut oil or organic unsalted butter)
1 tablespoon erythritol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract
1 teaspoon organic heavy cream (or full fat coconut milk)

Preparation:
For Snack Bars:
Powder erythritol in coffee grinder or magic bullet. Toast coconut and nuts in a dry pan over medium-low heat or the toaster oven, until slightly browned. Pulse nut and seed mixture in a food processor just until nuts are chopped. Melt coconut oil and nut butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. Add vanilla extract, honey, erythritol, stevia, and sea salt, stirring until incorporating. Fold into nut mixture. Press into an 8 by 4 pan with a spatula. Quick set in the freezer for 20 minutes. Cut into 6 bars. Store in the refrigerator, covered with a paper towel and plastic wrap.

For Ganache Topping:
Powder erythritol in coffee grinder or magic bullet. Melt shortening and chocolate in microwave in for 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Stir in cream, erythritol, and stevia, until mixture is completely blended. Spread over cooled bars immediately.

~4.35 grams net carbs per 1/6 of a recipe

Check out that funky green color! It’s from all the pistachios and pepitas. The flavor is pretty phenomenal, too. Very pistachio-y.

Pepita Pistachio Variation (a.k.a. REPTAR BARS, RAWRR!)

1/2 cup pistachios, roasted
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons pepitas, toasted
2 tablespoons hemp seeds (could use more pepitas)
1/4 cup sesame seeds (could also use golden flax seeds)
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup macadamia nut butter (could also use almond butter)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon raw honey
1/8-1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons erythritol
1/8 teaspoon pure stevia extract

Follow the steps listed above.

~6 grams net carbs per 1/6 of a recipe

  • Gwuinifer

    Ooh, best wishes for the upcoming semester! Maybe while you’re hitting the books I’ll have time to catch up and try every single one of these lovelies you’ve posted! By the way, have I mentioned you have mad photography skills? :)

  • Elizabeth

    d00d, I am so going to make these!

  • Wifezilla

    You had me at 85% cacao chocolate :D

  • Anonymous

    I sincerely hope that you come out with a cookbook. This is the most beautiful blog, and I’m so impressed.

    Thank you for including dairy-free alternatives in some of of your recipes – I’ve noticed that you’re now mentioning suitable dairy-free options for individual ingredients in little brackets next to dairy foods in your recipes – THANKS!

    I’d gladly buy any cookbook you come out with. Especially if it’s one of those ‘gourmet’ ish ones. Like Karen Barnaby’s “The Low Carb Gourmet” – I like these kinds of cookbooks because of the gorgeous photos and the ‘coffee table book’ quality to them.

    Also – I’m very pleased that I can come and read your recipes and be able to stop feeling quite so deprived. I’ll be closing in on goal weight soon – but I’m still going to be ‘low carb’ and ‘gluten free’ – and I can’t wait to start trying out some of your recipes once I’m in maintenance.

    Just fantastic!

    You’re doing a great job with this blog. You need to publish :)

    Sara a.k.a. Citrukiss

  • Kathryn

    Hi Lauren!
    Amazingly, I found the erythritol here in Norway!!! Although, Stevia is a banned herb! So stupid.
    So, I made these tonight and I had to use (gasp) splenda! I have the NuNaturals Stevia waiting at my moms house in Houston!

    Regardless of the added poison, they were FABULOUS!!!!
    Best news was that my sweet diabetic blood was sooooo LOW about an hour after eating these! A true miracle!
    I am LOVING eating low carb! As soon as I get my coconut flour, I will be unstoppable!
    Thanks for the great recipe!

  • Elizabeth

    Well it took me a month, but I finally made these yesterday! This was actually my first time ever using erythritol and I skipped that crucial "powder your erythritol" step. Whoops. I had no idea the stuff didn't dissolve! Regardless, the bars are quite tasty. So tasty that I had to have one again for breakfast this morning. >=] My husband loves them as well. Thanks so much for the great recipe.

  • Lauren

    Kathryn – It is so cool you found erythritol where you live! That’s great news about your blood sugar. Low-carbing is pretty miraculous, eh? I hope you can find the coconut flour. It’s good stuff! :)

    Elizabeth – They do make a great breakfast! So glad you and your husband enjoyed ‘em.

  • Anonymous

    these sound amazing, something i must try making, before i do i just wanted to know whether when measuring the coconut oil you mean 1/4 cup of oil in its liquid form?

  • ms. v

    these are the best snack bars OF ALL TIME! I can’t even believe how good they are.

    hahaha, I hope you’re not sick of the gushy comments yet!

  • Metqa

    hey Lauren, someone else loved your bars and made some tweaks. Here’s her comment:
    “My 25-year-old niece loved them, but I didn’t like the amount of coconut oil in them, so I altered the recipe. I cut the oil down to about a TBSP. and added an egg and some canned pumpkin and some miller’s bran. Then I baked them for about 20 minutes at 300. They are much more portable this way (no messy melting oil)”

  • Rachel

    oh. my. god. I just made these and they are amazing. Taste JUST like a Samoa cookie. Better, even! How do you come up with these recipes? I am very, very excited and am going to make another batch to freeze for later.

    Thank you!

  • Keri-Ann

    Lauren,

    I made these today for tonight (goin' fishin with friends) and had to try one first. OMG they are AWESOME!!!! I'm very happy i made a double batch to have some throughout the week!

    I gave a taste to my husband, too and HE even loved these! (usually doesn't like a lot of my low-carb creations…lol)

    anyways – thanks! btw, i'm IndyChick on LCF. :)

    LOVE your site!!!

  • hobby baker

    My dear, these are ridiculously good! I will be hard put to keep them around for the next few days for my folks to try, which is why I originally made them. I used cashew macadamia nut butter. Wow. Great job modifying Elana's recipe. I'll be looking for more of yours since I won't use agave. TY TY TY!

  • Tina

    This looks so delicious! :)
    All the ingredients in it look great– and good idea to make this with unsweetened shredded coconut!
    I've been looking around online for these so I can make low cab snacks also. :)

    Really like your blog

    thanks!!

  • Anonymous

    Hi,

    Concern # 1: Erythritol
    Sugar alcohols (also known as polyols) like erythritol are regulated as either GRAS or food additives. Despite the name, sugar alcohols are neither sugar nor alcohol.
    They vary in sweetness from about half as sweet as sugar to equally as sweet. They’re frequently combined with other low-calorie or artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame-K, neotame, saccharin, or crystalline fructose.

    The reason sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than sugar is because they are not completely absorbed in your body. However, this fact has certain drawbacks, none of which are good.
    High intakes of foods containing sugar alcohols can lead to adverse physical symptoms like abdominal gas and diarrhea. Some polyols are clearly worse than others. Sorbitol or mannitol-containing foods, for example, are so potent they must display a warning on their label stating "excess consumption may have a laxative effect."
    But erythritol may offer an explanation to the many reports of ill after-effects, such as:
    Diarrhea
    Headache
    Stomachache

    Basically, you cannot win. I've tried :( there is no such thing as a truly healthy sugar substitute. Often times you end up substituting one bad ingredient for another. Even if you are not causing an insulin reaction you may be harming your body in other ways that we are not aware of.

    You are better off just lessening the amount and using date sugar, maple sugar, honey, evaporated cane juice, xylitol or stevia.

    Sorry to be a debby downer.

  • Lauren

    Hello Anonymous,

    Thank you for sharing your opinions regarding sugar alcohols. Sorry to hear that you cannot tolerate sugar alcohols. I can handle small amounts of erythritol just fine. It varies from person to person, of course. For diabetics, real sugar is sometimes not an option. Sugar alcohols can be the next best thing if you tolerate them without unpleasant side effects. :)

    ~Lauren

  • Anonymous

    Whoa this looks delicious, specially 'cause I loved chocolate. In fact my grandpa who is always visiting
    Viagra Online made excellent recipes with chocolate. That's why I love him ha ha.

  • Anonymous

    You say to use flax seeds in the recipes notes but flax meal in the ingredients. Which one should I try?

  • Anonymous

    I don't like to use coconut, what could I use instead?

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  • coconut oil

    Wow, great shots. They are really tempting.

  • JCJB

    I saw these a few weeks ago, but I've only just got round to making them… they are A-MA-ZING! I made a few tweaks to the recipe- I subbed organic butter for the coconut oil, sunflower seeds for the shredded coconut, Splenda for the Stevia (we can't get it here in the UK!) and a teaspoonful of orange extract for the vanilla… I was also a teensy bit naughty and added a square of melted dark choc to the nut mixture! They've turned out brilliantly, and the ganache is sublime =)
    Definitely worth the effort, much better than the branded low carb breakfast bars that are on the market, and none of the dreaded maltitol in sight! I've only just discovered your blog, but have already found loads that I'm going to try – have been low carbing since March, and yours are the best sweet recipes that I've found by a mile, thank you :)

  • Anonymous

    Wonderful treats! I didn't have flax in the house, so I substituted NOW when protein powder, which worked very well. Plus I like the extra protein.

    I substituted xylitol for erythritol (just because I had xylitol in the house), and they were sweeter than I might like. Others loved them. Xylitol may have more sweetening power than erythritol.

    I substituted cocoa powder for chocolate squares, adding a touch more coconut oil. Worked great.

    I used peanut butter instead of almond butter, because I wanted the peanutty taste. They tasted just like Butterfingers! Yum.

  • Anonymous

    I know I'm a little behind the 8-ball on my comment, but I finally figured out a way to get your whole recipe printed out so that I could eventually try it.
    I tried these yesterday, and they are both amazing. For the original version I used mac nuts and almonds and peanut butter. They were yummy. Then I made the pepita-pistachio variation, and subbed the pistachios for mac nuts again…can you tell I have alot of mac nuts around?….and because I don't care for almond butter, used my homemade carrot cashew butter, and it was beyond yummy!
    Thank you so much for this recipe. The layer of chocolate ganache is just right and so delicious. And while I have not yet tried your almond joy recipe, this recipe reminded me of the same flavors. Rica.

  • Lauren

    Hi Rica! I am so glad you enjoyed the bars. I hope you get the chance to try the almond joy bars! Using mac nuts and almonds and peanut butter sounds like a tasty variation. :)

  • Anonymous

    Oh my Lord these bar are fantastic. My family and I loved, loved, loved them. Truly delish!

  • http://www.lifeonthefoodchain.com Judy

    What's the weight on your 85% ” chocolate squares.? Are they an ounce each? I have everything on hand, but my 85% chocolate is in a block. There look Luscious!

  • Anonymous

    All I can say is “OMG” these are the best snack EVER! I have been preparing to make them for over a week, dying every day I've had to wait. I wanted to soak and dehydrate the nuts first, which was an ordeal in itself since everyone loved them and ATE THEM before I could make the bars. So, had to do it again. I honestly didn't follow the recipe to a “T”, but, don't see how you could mess these up anyway. They are delicious. Thank you so much for the recipe. This will be an all time staple in my refrigerator from now on!! Will definitely help keep me on the no sugar, low carb pathway.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12992918908739085132 Lauren

    Judy – The bars I use have 8 squares in a 3.5 oz bar. Hope that helps!

    Anon – That's too funny about everyone eating the nuts before you made the bars. How do you dehydrate them? Glad you enjoyed the bars!

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  • http://www.tkjewellery.com Tracy

    These are just delicious! I didn’t add any sugar or substitute, I used raw almonds and added some chopped dried cranberries to the mix. Definitely going to be a regular in my fridge and nest time I make a cheesecake, I’m using this for the base, it would be perfect. Thanks for sharing.

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    • http://www.healthyindulgences.net/ Lauren B.

      Hi, there! I do not list any recipes as explicitly low calorie, but some of them incidentally are lower in calories than their sugar-filled counterparts. If you scroll through the posts, you can check the calorie counts at the bottom. ;)