I am a child of the 90’s. Totally. I was obsessed with the Spice Girls, the Macarena, Seinfeld, Friends & Strawberry Nutri-Grain bars (in no particular order). Frosted Strawberry Pop-tarts came in at a close second and will therefore get an honorable mention. Just how did big brand America ever convince our parents to give us sugar for breakfast (and feel good about it in the process)? It baffles me. But I loved it. And it created the need for something sweet every day.
Flash forward 20 years & step in amazing, creamy, chewy Strawberry Almond Butter Oat Bars. It’s like my favorite childhood processed snacks made healthy. They’re oat squares held together by healthy fats stemming from almond butter & coconut oil. I attempted a no-egg vegan baked base that held together beautifully, using nut butter as a binder and pure maple syrup as my unrefined sweetener. These oat bars are also gluten free because I used wheat free old fashioned rolled oats. Oats are naturally gluten free, but are often subject to wheat cross-contamination. In retrospect, you could also use Bob’s Red Mill quick oats. The finer texture would help it stick together with greater ease. It would be more of a flour, whereas with old fashioned rolled oats you really do get a lot more of that raw oat texture with every bite.
I developed this recipe on Snapchat, with you guys, and it worked out very well with a few very minor tweaks to the original course of action. Not bad, eh? (14 years in Canada is slowly starting to take it’s course). I’ve actually caught myself using the “eh” here and there and it’s like- wait, what? Did I just say that? And am like yep… you totally did. The other thing about me is I speak very formal English. Almost like, textbook English. My friends find it endearing and funny. It’s like I never take the shortcuts. I have many a “Lost in Translation” story about my early days in this wonderful place.
Back to dessert for now… Because we all love a good, chunky oat square with a ton of fruit to celebrate this bout of warmer weather. These are good hot or cold. I actually prefer them cold, after they’ve spent the night in the refrigerator and have set in beautifully. I like to enjoy them with coffee in the morning as much as with tea in the afternoon or with coconut, dairy free ice cream in the evening. They’re dessert that doubles as breakfast and they’re super nutritious. You’re eating: oats, almond butter, homemade strawberry chia seed jam, coconut oil, pumpkin seeds, toasted coconut & hazelnuts. Yep, that’s all that went into them. And you can easily customize the topping to whatever you like. So let’s do this!
Strawberry Almond Butter Oat Squares
For the Base
- 2 cups + 2 tbsp of gluten free oats of your choice
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond butter (OR peanut OR sunflower butter)
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup or 1/4 cup of raw agave
For the Filling
- 2 cups of fresh, never frozen strawberries
- 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp of pure vanilla or almond extract
- 2 tbsp of pure maple syrup or raw agave. You could do 3 tbsp for a sweeter palate.
- 2 tbsp of chia seeds
For the Topping
- 1/3 cup toasted coconut chips
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts, sliced almonds or pecans
- 1/4 cup sunflower and pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup of raw old fashioned rolled oats
The toppings are entirely your choice! You could also attempt raw cacao nibs, mulberries, dark chocolate shavings, walnuts- whatever you like.
- I like to make the strawberry chia seed jam in advance so I can refrigerate it; and it can thicken & set overnight. I tried this recipe with freshly made jam and it also worked. But If the jam had set, it would be even better! Remember this jam is pectin and cornstarch free and we use chia seeds as a binder.
- Place the 2 cups of rinsed strawberries in a pot over medium heat. Mash them up with a large fork, spoon or potato masher. They need to get sirupy and disintegrate.
- Squeeze the 1 tbsp of lemon juice to bring out their flavor, add the maple syrup and pure vanilla extract. Stir well and cook for about 3 minutes over low heat. Add the 2 tbsp of chia seed and stir well again. Cook for another 5 minutes in medium to low heat. Turn it off and allow it to cool & thicken for at least 5 minutes.
- At this point, turn the oven on to 325 F and line a medium baking pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix 2 cups of oats with the almond butter, coconut oil and pure maple syrup. You can throw in a pinch of cinnamon or pure vanilla powder and it adds nice flavor. Up to you. Mix well with clean hands to form a smooth paste (almost like a dough). Press the oat mixture evenly onto the pan and press down on it. Sprinkle the 2 tbsp of remaining oats to seal any moisture if it seems drippy.
- Using a spatula, spread the strawberry chia seed jam evenly over the base.
- And now sprinkle the topping over the strawberry chia seed jam. It doesn’t have to be heavy, the aim is to cover the jam so it’s sandwiched in between two delicious layers and you get a crunch at the top.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. All ovens vary. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. Always keep them refrigerated in an airtight container to preserve the jam. Enjoy them!! They’re packed with goodness.