I don’t know what it is about bananas but I always feel compelled to buy a huge bunch of them despite the fact that most of the time I eat three or four while the rest sit there and rot. But then I wind up standing in front of the bananas again at the grocery store and telling myself that this time I’ll really eat them all. THIS TIME. I’ll eat two a day! I swear! Yeah, right.
But now, I finally have a good excuse for letting those bananas blacken and it’s all thanks to this recipe. I’d been looking for something with oats that was healthy but still, you know, actually tasted good so when I saw a recipe that had oats and used all my overripe bananas it seemed perfect. But I still wanted it to be healthier so I did some recipe testing. Can I use whole wheat flour? Can I use less butter? Luckily, the answer to both of those was yes. In fact, it turns out you can completely substitute coconut oil for butter and it tastes just as good while giving you lots more health benefits.
Coconut oil is pretty much my new favorite thing. It’s solid at room temperature so it works well as a butter substitute or you can melt it and use it in place of vegetable oils. Refined coconut oil has a neutral taste so it works great for baking, sauteing or roasting. But there’s also virgin or extra-virgin unrefined coconut oil which has a more pronounced coconut flavor. I used refined coconut oil for this recipe, but I think unrefined coconut oil would be fine as long as you don’t mind the coconut flavor coming through.
So yeah. Bananas, oats, coconut oil. All good stuff but I still wanted a snack that tasted like it was treat and not just health food. That’s when I remembered the bag of Caramel Bits that I had picked up at Target a while back. Right next to those was a bag of cinnamon chips. I love caramel and cinnamon together and they both taste great with banana so I threw them into a batch of these bars to see what happened. The result was exactly what I wanted: healthy but also sweet and flavorful. The cinnamon chips mostly dissolved into the bars to make them extra cinnamon-y and the caramel pieces melted into delicious chewy globs. The bars are very moist and cakey but the oats and caramel add a nice chewiness. It almost got to point where it didn’t matter how healthy the bars were because I wanted to eat half of them in one sitting.
This banana oat bar recipe is ridiculously easy to whip up and you can customize it to your own tastes. If caramel and cinnamon aren’t you’re thing, I’ve also made these bars with chocolate chips and they were great. How about chocolate and peanut butter chips? Butterscotch chips? You could mix in your favorite nuts, or add to the coconut theme and mix in some shredded coconut. Oh! How about subbing the banana for pumpkin? I think I just blew my own mind with that idea. I’ll be trying that variation next!
This recipe is so simple you really can’t go wrong so have fun with it!
Caramel & Cinnamon Banana Oat Bars
Dessert, Snack | Servings: 9 to 12
Prep time: 15 min | Cook time: 30 | Total time: 45 min
- 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or twice-sifted whole-wheat flour)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. cardamom or nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 cup refined coconut oil, chilled
- 2/3 cup (about 2) mashed overripe bananas
- 1 egg
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup cinnamon chips
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup caramel bits
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F). Line a 8×8 baking pan with foil; lightly coat it with cooking spray.
- Whisk together the flours, sugar, baking power and soda, spices and salt.
- In a mixing bowl, beat coconut oil until smooth. Add mashed bananas and the egg and mix well.
- Add the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Fold in the rolled oats, caramel bits and cinnamon chips.
- Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking pan. Bake on the center rack of your oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Lift the foil out of the pan and cut into bars.
Store, wrapped in plastic or foil, for up to 5 days.
- If you don’t have coconut oil, use softened unsalted butter instead. I used refined coconut oil because it has a neutral flavor. There are also virgin/extra-virgin unrefined coconut oils which have a more pronounced coconut flavor. I think it would be fine to use either in this recipe but if you don’t want the coconut flavor coming through look for a refined coconut oil.
- I found Caramel Bits (from Kraft) at Target in the baking aisle along with the chocolate chips. (I’ve also seen them at Walmart and several grocery stores.) King Arthur also sells caramel bits if you want to get some online. I got my cinnamon chips from King Arthur, but I’ve seen them at grocery stores or Walmart, too. That said, any kind of chips would work well in these bars so feel free to substitute chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch or any combination of your favorites.
- You can easily double this recipe and bake it in a 9×13 baking pan.