Charlotte’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cranberry Granola Bars

15 square chocolate granola bars sit on a blond wooden cutting board

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I’ve filed these granola bars under desserts and sweets in my recipe index.

From Merriam-Webster 


noun  cook·ie  \ ˈku̇-kē \

cookie : a small flat or slightly raised cake

These are cookies. Bar cookies to be more precise. Unlike Big Food I will not market these as energy bars, meal replacements, protein bars, nutrition bars and on and on. However, I can honestly tell you that they taste delicious (maybe a little too delicious!).

I came home from work one night last week and found that my daughter Charlotte had made these. They taste sweet, salty and nutty and have a nice dense, slightly chewy texture.

Charlotte found a granola recipe online but altered it so much—we lacked several ingredients but had others—that she came up with something new. I call this type of cooking “freestyle cooking.” You start with a basic recipe and then improvise and substitute ingredients based on what you have on hand. Cooking this way, you waste less food, you often make delicious discoveries and you sometimes come up with new favorites. Occasionally you make cook a dud, but c’est la vie.

Benefits of Reducing Your Waste

I have to add “your kids learn how to do stuff” to the list of benefits to reducing your waste, which include:

  • You save money. Although I buy the highest quality—and not inexpensive—ingredients, I spend less money than I used to on food because I don’t waste anything, I eat lower on the food chain than I used to and I don’t eat processed food. Processed food is not cheap—in the financial sense, not the quality sense.
  • You eat more delicious food. Wonder bread cannot compare in taste to bread you bake yourself or a loaf of fresh bread you buy loose from the bakery in your cloth bag.
  • You eat healthier food. When you cut the waste, you cut the shiny packages wrapped around food-like substances such as those energy bars, meal replacements, protein bars and nutrition bars and also cereal, frozen entrées, juice, crackers, cookies… You’ll start to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables and other whole foods.
  • You may lose weight. See above.
  • You improve your health. Ditto.
  • You have more fun. Picture shopping at the farmers’ market versus shopping at Walmart for groceries. I know which one I would choose. Cutting your waste also means you will live your life more consciously and for me, that means living life with more joy as well.
  • You may improve your sex life.* By reducing your waste, you reduce your consumption and simplify your life. You spend less time buying stuff and taking care of stuff. You need less money, so you can (hopefully) work less. You free up more time for the people you love—including your partner—and improve your relationships. So, yes, reducing your waste can improve your sex life.
  • Your kids learn how to do stuff. My kids know that if they want cookies, they have to make cookies (or wait for me to make them, which will likely be a long wait). Cookies are the gateway food that motivates children to learn to cook—that’s how it worked with mine at least. First they figure out how to make cookies, then they move on to bread and before you know it, they can make dinner.

*results may vary

And now for the recipe. You can easily vary the type of nut butter, seeds and dried fruit listed in the ingredients. 

15 square chocolate granola bars sit on a blond wooden cutting board

Charlotte’s Granola Bars


  • 1 tablespoon golden or brown flaxseed meal
  • 2½ tablespoons water
  • 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup seeds of whatever type you have on hand (C used pumpkin and flax seeds)
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoons salt
  • ⅓ cup bittersweet chocolate chips or pieces
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ cup unsalted peanut butter
  • ⅓ cup honey (use maple syrup or brown rice syrup for vegan)
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds to press into top


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease an 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

2. Make a flax egg by combining 1 tablespoon of golden or brown flaxseed meal and 2½ tablespoons of water. Set the egg replacer aside for 10 to 15 minutes.

3. In a medium-size bowl, combine the dry ingredients: oats, seeds, cranberries, brown sugar, salt, chocolate chips and cocoa powder.

4. In a large bowl, mix together the wet ingredients: peanut butter, honey or maple syrup, egg replacement, coconut oil, vanilla extract.

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine well. Use a clean hand to get the last dry bits combined if necessary.

6. Press the mixture into a greased 13″ x 9” baking dish. Press down into pan until flat and relatively even. Sprinkle with the sunflower seeds and press firmly into the granola mixture. Use the flat bottom of a dry measuring cup to flatten everything well.

7. Bake at 350°F for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden around the edges.

8. Allow to cool completely. Cut into bars. Store in a glass jar or container at room temperature for up to a week.


1. If using salted peanut butter, reduce the amount of salt in the recipe.

9 Replies to “Charlotte’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cranberry Granola Bars”

  1. Helen Green says: Reply

    These cookies sound delicious! Thank you for posting details of egg replacement, I am not a vegan, I like to cook from the cupboard! Which basically means that I don’t always have eggs! I always do ’freestyle’ cooking, much to the annoyance of my pre teen, who insists we follow the recipe!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you Helen. They are very good. I wish I had one right now… We aren’t vegan either but we run out of eggs often and these tasted so good with the replacement. I used to stick to recipes closely but really enjoy experimenting now (and using up everything!). I think I read somewhere it’s the parent’s job to cook and the pre-teen’s job to be annoyed. Well maybe that wasn’t exactly how it went, but it should :p ~ Anne Marie

      1. yeetus deletus

  2. Spellerberg Corinna says: Reply

    They look fab, will post them to the two students in my family! As for the egg replacement: Do you choose one of the listed or all of them, please?
    Love and thanks

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Corinna. Thanks! My daughter will be happy to hear that. Yes, use all the stuff for the egg replacer. Thanks for asking. I’ll edit that so it’s clearer. ~ Anne Marie

  3. Thanks for this great recipe! They came out perfect.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Marieke, I’m so glad you liked them. I will tell my daughter. She will happy to hear that 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

  4. Hi Anne Marie, thanks for the recipe! I’ve seen coconut oil used in a lot of zero-waste recipes, do you make it yourself or buy it without package somewhere? Also, would you have any suggestions for substitutes for it? Thanks!

  5. […] why I didn’t make myself any snacks. If I had the chance to do it again, I would bring some homemade granola bars or baked goods. I lived on cereal, Scooby-Doo gummy snacks and chips. Not only do I wish I reduced […]

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