My grandmother Mimi passed along quite a few traits to me, her only granddaughter. I inherited her eyes, her name (hence the ‘e’ at the end of Kathryne), her sweet tooth, and her love for pecans, among others. I mentioned this in my cookbook, but Mimi’s family owned a small pecan tree farm, so she enjoyed a lot of pecans in her long life.
When the recently-formed American Pecan Council asked me to develop a recipe featuring pecans, the answer was easy. “Challenge accepted!” I came up with these pecan granola bars, which are bursting with warm, sweet, delicate pecan flavor.
I started by toasting the pecans on the stove (I’m not turning on the oven unless absolutely necessary this summer). Then, I whipped some of those fragrant toasted pecans into pecan butter, which is so good. If you haven’t tried it yet, you have been missing out.
Add some maple syrup, cinnamon, oats, and chopped toasted pecans, and you’ve made a batch of wholesome and delicious homemade granola bars. I even pressed pecans into the top to highlight their supreme pecan-ness. You can skip that step if it seems like too much trouble, but I think they’re cute that way.
I haven’t heard much about pecan nutrition in the past, probably because the council didn’t exist yet to spread the word. While all nuts have their own merits, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that pecans contain the highest amount of heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory flavonoids of all nuts.
Pecans are also rich in monounsaturated fats, which are the same beneficial fats that you’ll find in olive oil and avocados. Compared with most other nuts, they’re higher in fiber and lower in carbohydrates, which means that these pecan bars will keep you fueled for a while. All great news for pecan lovers!
Pecan Granola BarsCourse: SnacksCuisine: American
These homemade pecan granola bars are a delicious snack or breakfast! Store them in the freezer and you’ll always have a wholesome snack ready when you need it. These bars require an hour-long rest in the refrigerator to set. Recipe yields 16 small (2-inch square) granola bars.
1 ¼ cups pecan halves (5 ounces)
2 cups quick-cooking oats (or old-fashioned oats, pulsed briefly in a food processor or blender to break them up)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon fine sea salt (if using regular table salt or salted nut butter, scale back a bit)
1 cup homemade pecan butter* or creamy almond butter or peanut butter
½ cup maple syrup or honey
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- Line a 9-inch square baker with one strip of parchment paper, cut to fit neatly across the base. The parchment paper will make it easy for you to slice the bars later.
- For maximum flavor, toast the pecans: In a medium skillet over medium heat, toast the pecans, stirring frequently (don’t let them burn!), until they are nice and fragrant, about 4 to 7 minutes. Transfer them to a cutting board to cool. Set aside 16 of your prettiest pecan halves for garnish, then chop the rest. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, cinnamon, and salt, and stir to blend. Set aside.
- If you have made pecan butter for this recipe*, add the maple syrup and vanilla to your food processor or blender and blend to combine. If not, in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, measure out 1 cup nut butter. Top with ½ cup maple syrup, followed by the vanilla extract. Whisk until well blended. (If you must, you can gently warm the liquid mixture in the microwave or on the stovetop.)
- Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Use a big spoon to mix them together until the two are evenly combined and no dry oats remain. Add the chopped pecans and stir until they are evenly dispersed. The drier the mixture, the more firm the bars will be, so stir in extra oats if the mixture seems wet. Conversely, if you used a super thick nut butter, you might need to drizzle in another tablespoon of honey to help it all stick together.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared square baker. Use your spoon to arrange the mixture fairly evenly in the baker. Cover the bottom of a flat, round surface (like a short, sturdy drinking glass) with a strip of parchment paper (see photo) and pack the mixture down as firmly and evenly as possible. Press the reserved pecan halves into the surface to create 4 even rows and 4 even columns (see photo).
- Cover the baker and refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight. This gives the oats time to absorb moisture so the granola bars can set. When you’re ready to slice, lift the bars out of the baker by grabbing both both ends of the parchment paper. Use a sharp chef’s knife to slice the mixture into 4 even rows and 4 even columns (these “bars” stick together better in a square shape).
- For portability, you can wrap individual bars in plastic wrap or parchment paper. Bars keep well for a couple of days at room temperature, but I recommend storing individually wrapped bars in a freezer-safe bag in the freezer for best flavor. They’ll keep for several months in the freezer.
- *PECAN BUTTER NOTES: My recipe for pecan butter conveniently yields the exact amount you will need for these bars. If you will be making pecan butter for these bars, you will need a total of 3 ¼ cups pecan halves.
- MAKE IT VEGAN: Use maple syrup instead of honey.
- MAKE IT GLUTEN FREE: Use certified gluten-free oats.