Whenever my heart feels heavy, lost, or confused I tend to turn to the kitchen to distract myself. Seeking comfort in food isn’t as bad as those ridiculous diet magazines make it out to be. Food can bring us all together and make us pause to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Sometimes, a big pot of chili and garlic bread, creamy avocado pasta, or warm walnut banana bread is just the thing we need in that moment. Other days, it’s a big kale salad or a juicy basket of strawberries and coconut cream. Monday night, I made pasta with homemade spaghetti sauce while we watched the news. I felt like a zombie as I cooked, but I knew we needed something to settle our bellies.
It’s been an emotional week to say the least. I find myself extra sensitive about everything, trying to make sense of all the loss in this world. I haven’t made any sense of it yet and there’s no feeling of progress made in my mind. Despite this heavy heart, I can’t help but be inspired by all the good out there. The selfless people helping in a time of need. The bravery and generosity going on is a beautiful thing to see. Sometimes I don’t always see the good, but it’s there. Love always prevails.
These banana bread bars were my solution to another comfort food craving yesterday. Think of them as soft, doughy granola bars filled with crunchy walnuts, omega-3 lovin’ chia seeds, and a sprinkling of dark chocolate chips. The wet batter is made up of spotty bananas, a generous scoop of protein-packed peanut butter, a splash of vanilla, and just a hint of sweetener to round it all out. I’ve been enjoying them around the clock, so it’s safe to say they work nicely as breakfast, snack, or even dessert. Your call.
Banana Bread Protein Bars
Vegan, gluten-free, oil-free, soy-free (if using Enjoy Life chocolate)
Email, text, or print this recipe
Yield: 10 bars
- 2/3 cup gluten-free rolled oats
- 1/2 cup raw buckwheat groats*, ground into flour
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 3 tbsp chia seeds
- 3 tbsp mini dark chocolate chips (such as Enjoy Life brand)
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
- 3/4 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 small-medium)
- 1/2 cup natural smooth peanut butter
- 1/4 cup coconut nectar syrup (or brown rice syrup)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350F and line an 8-inch square pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper, one going each way. Tip – to get the parchment to stick to the pan, give the base a spray with olive oil and do this for the next paper too.
2. Add raw buckwheat groats into a high-speed blender and blend on high until a fine flour forms. Whisk all dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
3. Mash bananas until smooth and measure out 3/4 cup. Stir together the banana and all the wet ingredients in a bowl.
4. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir well until combined. The dough should be very sticky!
5. Scoop batter into prepared pan. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the batter and press it down to spread out the batter evenly. You can also remove the paper and wet your hands lightly and spread it out that way. Make sure it’s as even as possible.
6. Bake at 350F for 22-26 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the bread is firm to touch. Cool in the pan completely (I left it for 1 hour) before removing and slicing into bars.
Notes: Raw buckwheat groats are not the same as kasha or toasted buckwheat. Raw groats have a milder flavour than toasted. You can find raw groats online, in some health food stores, or the bulk bins of Whole Foods. I buy mine in bulk from Upaya Naturals online. You might be able to substitute the ground buckwheat for oat flour, but I have not tried this myself. If anyone tries it, please leave a comment and report back.
So hard to keep up with you:) You come up with something awesome all the time. Can I replace peanut butter with almond butter you think. Can’t wait for your book to come out. i think you have the best Vegan recipes. Quick question though: I made your zucchini cake/bread but the bread did not bake inside. I had to throw it away:( Do i need to squeeze the zucchini to get the water out of them before mixing it in? Thanks!!!
Hi Vildan, You are so sweet! Thank you for the kind words. I can’t see why almond butter wouldn’t work (of course the flavour will change though). I’ve never had that problem with the zucchini bread and I’m sorry that happened to you. Did you make any changes to the recipe? My guess is that it just needed more time in the oven – oven temps can vary a lot. try the toothpick test to make sure it comes out clean before removing from the oven.
I actually like the almond flavor better! It’s a more subtle flavor!
Hi sorry to butt in but since the zucchini/walnut bread is sort of a standard in my house, here’s my take on it.
Angela’s temp confused me, I bake it at 180 C for 40 min then cover it with foil for another 20min. That way the bread is baked otherwise it is wet. It’s best eaten/sliced the next day. Also I omit the sugar and add 1 extra TBs of agave syrup and reduce the water in the flaxseed by one. I wasn’t kidding about the healthy vegan. No vegan butter or sugar in the recipes I cook.
Thank you Angela for your recipes. I am not a vegan by the way but my husband is a recent one. Or rather a health addict. However your recipes are so good I’ve eaten quite a few of your recipes. I’ve done so many- Universal salad,red quinoa/ black bean, the X’mas meatloaf one, and I forget the rest. Your tomato soup with red lentil is the best soup I’ve ever tasted.
Thank you for your recipes. They are about the only ones I can bear to cook can’t stand the other vegan recipes I find in books or on the Net.
Hey Clara, Thanks so much for your feedback! I’m sure it will be helpful to others. :) So glad you are enjoying the recipes by the way! Thanks for trying them out.
I couldn’t agree more, Angela. Food can be such a comfort:) I’m also a very sensitive person but I believe it’s better to feel than not too…
Yes I agree….sensitivity can been seen as a weakness in our culture, but it’s not! In the words of Jewel, “I’m sensitive and I’d like to stay that way” :)
I’m very sensitive, love that song, and feel the same way.
I have also been inspired by the strength of the good among us. No amount of evil could ever break that. Your protein bars sound like the perfect comfort food, especially the bits of chocolate. :)
Banana bread is a great comfort food! Especially warm, with some of that maple spread on top.. mmm. I found myself in the kitchen a lot this week as well. While many people found comfort running an extra mile or a half hour longer to show their love and support to Boston, I made a couple amazing meals in my kitchen. My heart goes out to all those affected by this tragedy.
YUMMM! want these right now!
I always turn to baking when I am feeling down/depressed/angry/upset/stressed (you name it). I’m sure it benefits my colleagues to wind me up :-) I have all those ingredients at home so I can see myself hurrying to make these. My prayers are with all those who are affected by this .
Lovely reflections, Angela. As you note, there’s a lot of people in the healthy food world that criticize notions of comfort food and emotional eating, but I think it’s important to honor what your heart needs, and put those needs above the ostensibly “healthier” option. These bars look delicious and grounding. Just what so many of us need this week!
This looks amazing!! Do you think I could substitute protein powder for the ground buckwheat groats?
Hey Joy, To be honest I haven’t had much luck when using protein powder in baked granola bars. I find it tends to come out chalky? Add at your own risk ;) and please let us know how it goes if you try it!
2.5 tbsp of hemp seeds is equal to 7 grams of protein!
great idea :)
Hi Angela – I just made these with awesome bars, but wanted more protein so I added:
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
They came out delicious and not chalky at all, but they were a bit too dry. Next time I’m going to add a full banana instead of half and maybe a bit more peanut butter. Do you have any suggestions on what else I can add to make it more moist? I was also thinking about topping them with your peanut butter drizzle!
I’ve been trying to decide what to do with a bunch of spotted bananas sitting on the counter… thanks for today’s snack :) I only hope buckwheat flour works instead of freshly ground buckwheat grouts! Everything else is in the pantry ready to go when the baby and I get back from our walk/run. Have to take advantage of the sun being out while it lasts :)
Thanks for sharing your heart with us today Angela; you are not alone in your feelings of confusion that’s for sure. I hope to make these bars this weekend and I will try the oat flour if I do!
So yummy. I’m going to try these. Question though – do you know about how long they would stay good? I’d like to make enough to last a good week or so. Any suggestions on that? :)
Hey Melanie, Sorry I missed your question some how!
I’m not sure how long they keep because we polished them off in 2 days. hah. oops. Since they are a baked good I wouldn’t imagine they’d keep fresh more than a few days. They might freeze well, but I didn’t get around to that. Let me know if you try it!
They freeze beautifully! They even taste good frozen.
So glad to see this reply! I just put a double batch in the over and I’m planning to cool, cut and freeze individuals to grab on the go :) Thanks Angela for always being a inspiration!!
When I’m stressed, being in the kitchen and creating, making, seeing what happens and what I come up with is therapeutic and relaxing and needless to say, with this week’s events, I have been feeling unsettled and have spent plenty of time in the kitchen.
Your bars are wonderful. Banana bread, and granola bars, are both faves of mine. Love these!
These bars look absolutely delicious. Definitely comfort food- and definitely delicious sounding. Thanks as always for the beautiful inspiration.
Love the recipe and some comfort food right now is fine indeed. It’s always been a way people come together in my house. Hoping to make these for a girl’s tea party next week in honor of two little girls whose daddy is serving in the military right now. Might make an extra batch to send to my son, who lives in Boston and was one mile from the explosions (so glad he didn’t run this year)!
Do you have the breakdown of Pro/Cho/Fats?
Hi Shannnon, I linked to the nutritional info at the bottom of the recipe – hope this helps!
These bars looks delicious and seem simple enough to make all the time for a quick protein snack, thanks for sharing as always Angela! ;)
These look amazing! Quick question though, I have nut and coconut allergies over here :( What can I use instead of the walnuts and shredded coconut? Can I use sunflower seeds and/or pepitas and just omit the coconut? Thanks!!
These look great! Thanks for the comfort!!
Yaaaah buckwheat! I am absolutely in love with these. They look so soft + chewy. Can’t wait to try them!
Wow these look amazing! Perfect for a day hiking or any day for that matter!
Love these! Pinned without hesitation!
wow this looks delicious. I haven’t heard of half of the ingredients before but I am definitely in the mood for banana bread!
YUM! Is there anything I could use to replace the buckwheat groats? I would love to make these (esp. since I’m totally gluten free now), but I don’t think I have those on hand.
From what I have read online, buckwheat (although it has “wheat” in its name), is actually gluten-free. Have you had experiences eating it, that suggest otherwise? Like a gluten reaction?
If those bars of yum don’t comfort you, I don’t know what will. I can’t wait to make them. I think I might try a batch with 1/2 cup of mac nuts. Mmmm.
Could oatmeal (ground in the food processor) or wheat flour work in place of the buckwheat? Could I sub. honey for the syrup?
Thank you for your delicious work! My family loves many of your recipes!
Hi Brooke, I would imagine oat flour would work fine as a replacement, but I haven’t tried it. Wheat flour could be too drying. I would also guess honey could work, however it’s slightly less binding then coconut nectar and brown rice syrup so it might be a tad more crumbly. goodluck!
I used oat flour (ground in food processor), and they were delicious! I also used agave nectar because that’s what I had on hand.
I tried it with wheat flour and it worked out very nicely!
I used 1/2 c wheat flour minus 2 T and then added 2 T hemp seed. Otherwise, I followed the recipe and they are delicious!
Perfect! I was just going to ask if I could grind oats and use agave! glad I saw you posted this :)
I used honey (where do you buy coconut syrup? My grocery store didn’t have it…) and it turned out great!!!
Love all your recipes, Angel!
Hey Becky, I usually buy it from here http://www.upayanaturals.com/SearchResults.asp?Search=coconut+nectar&Search.x=0&Search.y=0 or from a local grocery store called Organic Garage. Hope this helps!
I know exactly what you mean about turning to food to distract yourself…I feel like I’ve been cooking more than ever this week :/ These bars looks just fabulous. I’m going to pick up some buckwheat groats in the bulk isle so I can make these beauties ASAP!
I also find being in the kitchen to be therapeutic and allow me to try to process my feelings when tragic events like Boston happen. It’s been an emotional week for everyone I think, but inspiring as well to see the running community reach out in so many ways too.
These granola bars combine two of my favorite things; banana bread and granola. Definitely comfort food at its finest, thanks Angela.
I really like the idea for banana bread in a protein bar. Comfort food and healthy to boot? Count me in. Do you think I could sub maple syrup or honey for the brown rice syrup?
Banana bread in bar form…must try this!!
These look and sound sublime — and they’re the perfect comfort food. I also go to the kitchen when faced with difficult, sad, or scary things; I find that nesting, especially cooking, helps me cope. In the weeks after 9/11, I could only watch Comedy Central and cook. I found myself doing similar things on Monday: I got home from work and went straight to the kitchen.
I also completely agree that love prevails. There have been tons of stories about peoples’ compassion, kindness, and caring in the wake of the bombing, and I’ve decided that *that* is what I want to focus on.
There’s an MLK quote that I used for my post-Boston blog post: “Darkness cannot drive out darkenss; only love can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The best thing we can all do is to choose love. We can help people cope, help them heal once the time comes for that, and be good to each other. When people choose love and compassion, hate and violence — and the people who perpetrate them — don’t stand a chance.
This is such a great idea! They sound delicious and healthy too!
I completely agree, whenever I feel a bit lost I head to the kitchen to soothe and unwind. That’s probably why my fridge is now full of things I baked and cooked Monday and yesterday! These look wonderful and I know my honey will love the banana flavor bars! Thanks for posting, Alex
I cannot wait to try these! I love anything I can make into a bar or a ball, anything bite size… so these will be a welcome addition to me grab-able snacks!! They look divine! Comforting, healthy, and delicious!
There’s nothing like good food to draw people together, especially at a time like this when all are a little sensitive and disoriented by recent events. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and this delicious looking bar recipe. :-)
YUM! I love the use of oats AND buckwheat… I have big love for buckwheat :)
oh my gosh, yum! i’m going to try these next week with oat flour since i already have it, will let you know how it turns out.
Love you blog so much Angela!! Doyou think honey or would work instead of brown rice syrup? or Maple syrup?
Since I have no gluten issues can I just use regular rolled oats? AND, until I can get to Whole Foods….is there a (common) substitute for the groats?
Also….do you have a good recipe for granola trail bars that are soft, yet will hold together?
I love you so much for saying that sometimes it’s okay to seek comfort in food. I think it’s been driven into us through so many mediums that we shouldn’t eat food if we’re sad/depressed/happy/etc and only eat food because it’s nourishing. In fact, just the other day I was browsing through Pinterest and I found what I believe was supposed to be motivation for losing weight and eating healthy that basically said, from this point forward you won’t eat any white bread, no sugar, no this, no that, food is only meant to sustain your body, it doesn’t matter what it tastes like…
And it made me so angry! Food is so much more that just what goes in and what comes out. Food is social, moral and ethical and can reflect cultural and religious values. Yeah, of course seeking comfort in food regularly can be negative, just like all things can have negative and positive aspects. Anyway, long comment, but it’s refreshing to hear you say it :)
Can’t wait to try this recipe! I have a question about brown rice syrup: is it lower on the glycemic index?
I am going to use buckwheat flour, since I have that and not groats. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Hi Kim, coconut nectar has a low GI (35-40), I believe one of the lowest of sweeteners. I’m not sure about BRS as I’ve read conflicting info about it online. Yes please do let me know how it turns out!
How did the buckwheat flour work?? I found it at the Fresh Market near me, and I was going to try it as well. I have a place in town that has the raw groats- but it is not convenient at all and I am really hoping the flour works!! I need to just make a trip and get a bunch of the groats one weekend, just so I can make all of the great recipes- made the Carrot cake porridge once and loved it!
I made these bars this afternoon. I used Bob’s Red Mill buckwheat flour. I think they came out well. A pinch darker as I expected and maybe a bit stronger in flavor? Overall I was pleased. Thanks for creating the recipes that you do. It’s hard to find gluten free recipes that are whole grain. I read so many recipes that start with something like “1/2 cup cornstarch”. I am gluten free (intolerant and Hashimotos) and I don’t want to replace everything with starch!
I plan on trying more of your recipes. Thanks again!
Wow! You’ve somehow managed to combine all of my favorite flavors into one amazing looking bar. Thank you again! Can’t wait to try these
These look awesome. So much love for all things banana and peanut butter.
Plus, I actually have almost all of these things in my dorm room (minus honey and coconut which I can steal from the dining hall haha) so I can actually make them this week! Keep staying strong during this difficult time. :)
These sound fabulous! Love this idea!
These look like great snack bars. Is the banana flavor very strong in the finished product? I’m not a huge banana fan, so do you think I could sub some apple sauce for part of the banana? Thanks for your thoughts!
Is there something you could sub for the coconut? I just recently ran out and haven’t had a chance to get to the only store around me that sells unsweetend coconut. These look delicious and I’d love to try them. Thank you for the recipe!
Just made these! Delicious! I subbed in carob molasses for the coconut nectar syrup and they turned out perfectly (like all of your recipes). Thanks!
Hey Angela, I know this has nothing to do with the bars but congrats on being featured in the May issue of Women’s Health Magazine! I was reading the “Great Cooking Bonus” piece, saw your name in the credits and thought “Yay! She’s awesome and now she’s in this mag!”. Anyway, just wanted to say that :)
Aw thank you! Glad you spotted it :)
This looks delicious! I love the texture that’s added with the coconut!
this words resonated with me. I see it fitting to share them with you if you haven`t read them already;I hope they bring you some comfort.
“This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness,”
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will.’ ”
That is so beautiful..thank you for sharing!
I’m glad you a chance to check my post!
thank You for always making me strive to be my best possible self from the inside out.
big((Huggss )) from New York.
This looks yummy, although I generally don’t like banana flavour, I can tolerate it if it’s mild. Would you have an alternative for the bananas?