Healthy baked oatmeal bars are naturally-sweetened and maple flavored for a delicious and filling breakfast recipe. Easy to customize with fresh or dried fruit and nuts, these bars are great for snacks, too!
I'm no oatmeal connoisseur, but this is how I like to eat oatmeal in the mornings.
A bowl of plain oatmeal is fine, though sometimes I'm not feeling that mush texture so much. Breakfast bars that use oats (like coconut quinoa granola bars) are good too, though I prefer an extra-chewy and kind of crunchy bar like that for a snack instead of breakfast.
These healthy baked oatmeal bars are the perfect in-between. Soft and semi-chewy while holding their own in bar form, they're a wonderful meal-prep breakfast recipe that can stay at room temperature or in the fridge/freezer for whenever the craving strikes.
How to make baked oatmeal
At its simplest form, you'll mix up the dry ingredients, add the wet, and then give everything a stir then bake until the bars are set. Let them cool all the way before slicing them so they hold their shape better, then store in an air-tight container until ready to dig in.
The ingredients are fairly straight-forward, but do pay attention to the type of oats. We're using old-fashioned oats here, otherwise known as rolled oats. They soften beautifully in this healthy baked oatmeal mixture and result in a breakfast baked oatmeal bar that isn't too chewy, but doesn't fall apart, either. Since quick or instant oats have already been processed, they'll break down and likely become mushier than you'd want if you use them here, so they're not right for this recipe.
One tip in relation to the bananas: beat them well by themselves before adding to the recipe. Three very ripe bananas add a ton of moisture and some flavor and sweetness to this baked oatmeal. I love adding them to make baked goods healthier, however I'm not a fan of bigger banana chunks in whatever it is I'm making.
My solution? Add the very ripe bananas to a bowl by themselves and beat using a hand mixer until creamy and just about all smooth. You can see about finagling one of your mixing bowls to do this without creating something extra to wash, but I find this quick step worth adding to the dirty bowl count.
The bananas will blend in seamlessly when added to the recipe along with the rest of the wet ingredients.
What makes these bars healthy baked oatmeal?
Baked oatmeal doesn't necessarily sound indulgent, but I was a bit mystified happening upon baked oatmeal recipes that contain a stick (or more) of butter and a cup (or more) of sugar per batch.
If you've been reading around these parts for a while (in which I say thank you) you'll know that I don't diet, restrict food groups, or follow any eating plan other than a loosey goosey "everything in moderation, including moderation".
So while I would never say no to a breakfast because it has butter and sugar, I'd rather combine my oatmeal with butter and sugar in the form of true blue oatmeal cookies than a quasi healthy-sounding baked oatmeal breakfast situation.
Here though we're getting a fair amount of sweetness from super ripe bananas. Coupled with one-quarter cup of maple syrup, these healthy baked oatmeal bars are just sweet enough to satisfy for breakfast. These two ingredients also provide a ton of moisture, eliminating the need for any butter to be added to the recipe.
Maple is one of my favorite flavors in baked goods, but adding enough maple syrup to something in order to taste a bold maple flavor would likely be waaaay too much liquid (and sugar!) for my liking.
Enter maple extract! One teaspoon does the trick in providing warm maple flavoring without throwing off the balance of wet and dry ingredients. It's become one of my favorite ways to liven up baked oatmeal.
I haven't had trouble finding maple extract in my regular grocery stores, though it isn't the most popular extract out there so your experience may vary. This is my preferred variety which is available online (less than $4 and the bottle will last for awhile!). It has a pretty strong scent so be warned, but it mellows out in recipes.
How to store baked oatmeal
You've got a few options. These bars will stay for several days at room temperature in an air-tight container. I make sure the bars are cooled completely before closing the lid so all of the condensation is out of there. Excess moisture won't be their friend.
Otherwise I'll wrap them in foil and refrigerate, or wrap them and place in a sealable plastic bag in the freezer. Then on busy mornings I'll heat a bar in the microwave until slightly warmed and dig in. I haven't found freezing and reheating them to mess with the texture at all.
Recipe notes: healthy baked oatmeal bars
- See above on baked oatmeal storage tips.
- Go to town on the nut and dried fruit mix-ins! We love pecans and dried cherries, but almonds and dried cranberries or walnuts and dried apples or blueberries are also great. There's wiggle room on the quantities, too.
- Looking for other recipes for using your maple extract?
Healthy Baked Oatmeal Bars
- 3 cups old-fashioned oats
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 large overripe bananas, mashed (about 14-15 ounces total)
- 1 cup milk, any variety
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon maple extract
- ½ cup pecans, chopped (or your preferred nuts)
- ¼ cup dried cherries, chopped (or your preferred dried fruit)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9" x 9" baking pan with parchment paper, with enough excess alongside opposite sides so that you can more easily pull out the bars to slice them when they're done. Spray the pan, including the bottom and sides with parchment, with cooking spray and set aside.
- Add old-fashioned oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt to a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
- Add bananas to a medium bowl and beat using a hand mixer until creamy and mostly smooth.
- Add mashed banana, milk, eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla and maple extracts to the bowl with the oats. Beat together until combined evenly.
- Stir in nuts and dried fruit.
- Pour out mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the edges have browned and the center is set. Let cool in the pan before carefully removing and slicing.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer
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