Chia Energy Bars: A quick and tasty pick-me-up

Fighting the dreaded 3 o’clock slump. We’ve all been there. You can feel it coming. It happens so regularly that it even has a designated time on the clock. Motivation goes out the window, to be replaced with a sluggishness that’s hard to shake.

When this happens to me, and I glance at the clock early enough, preventative measures can usually be taken – i.e., I walk into the test kitchen and scavenge for yummies.

There are those off days, though. The dreaded ones where there are NO TREATS IN THE KITCHEN. It’s enough to have a mild panic attack over. (Yes, I realize we’re spoiled.)

Thankfully, my coworkers love to bake at home and are more than happy to bring in their baked goods to share. On one such sleepy occasion, I made my way through the creative department next door to whine a bit and see what was handed to me.

Jenn Whittingham, our art director and mom of two beautiful little girls, served me one of these magical bars, which I LOVED. I couldn’t stop thinking about them, so I begged her for the recipe. Her version didn’t come with any of the bells and whistles that my sweet tooth is normally looking for, but just like her kiddos, I felt like I was getting a major treat.

These bars are sweet, sweet enough to feel like a dessert and to mask the whole-grain ingredients inside. A win-win situation, if you’re a parent looking to sneak in something a little bit better-for-you.

Looking for an afternoon pick-me-up? Out on a hike and in need of some nourishment? Sending your kids outdoors to play and want to pack along a little treat? These Chia Energy Bars handily meet all of these needs.

First things first – you’re going to want to cook up some quinoa. Read the back of the package on that one, but it’s typically 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of quinoa. You only need 1/2 cup for this recipe, so you’ll have a lot left over. That was my issue when I first made these bars. I solved the problem by making multiple batches of bars and enjoyed the rest for lunch. Win.

Prepped-Pan2Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease or line an 8″ square pan with parchment paper. I use parchment paper in all of my baking, clipping up the sides with mini metal binder clips.

Why, you ask? Simple. I don’t like stressing out about my beautiful baked goods crumbling as I tip the pan upside down, crossing my fingers that it will make it intact as it crashes onto the cooling racks, hopefully with nothing left behind on the pan edges. I love to bake, NOT to re-bake. With parchment, I can simply remove the clips and gently lift my treat from the pan and onto the rack. No stress, no mess.

Version-1-mise3In a medium mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, 1/4 cup golden flax meal, 3 tablespoons chia seeds, 1 large egg white, and 1/2 cup dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, or a mixture (your choice). For the first round, I went with dried cranberries, dried apples, and diced pecans.

It’s really crucial to place everything in the bowl in little piles. I found that to be the case, at least. It’s a pretty lengthy list of dry ingredients, and getting distracted/called away could mean you lose track. Then you have to pick through your ingredients to try to remember. These bars aren’t supposed to be a difficult thing to put together; let’s keep it that way!

Can’t eat eggs? No problem-o. Mix together 1 tablespoon out of the golden flax meal listed above, with 3 tablespoons of water in a separate dish, and allow to rest for 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes gel-like. Ta-da! Substitute this flax mixture for the egg in your recipe.

Version-1-dry-mixedToss everything together until fully combined; set the mixture aside for the moment.

Version-1-wetCombine 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup nut butter (I used unsalted natural peanut butter), 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt* in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and well blended.

*If you’re using salted nut butter, I recommend lowering the salt to 1/8 teaspoon.

Don’t let the mixture boil, just let it get warm and fluid enough to blend easily with the dry ingredients, 2 to 3 minutes.

Pouring-wet-into-dry2Pour the honey mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until everything is coated.

Version-1-Pressing-into-panPress the mixture into the prepared pan.

Finished-Version-1Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until the oats on the edges start to turn golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let the bars cool completely before serving.

Like I said earlier, I had a lot of quinoa to burn through, so I tried out a couple of different variations. I wanted to see how they’d taste with different nut butters. Mainly, though, I was going camping over the weekend and wanted snacks to take along!

ChiaEnergy2Round 2 was made with Skippy crunchy peanut butter. Salted, kid-friendly, and less expensive than the unsalted natural stuff. Because this was the youthful version, I added unsalted peanuts and bittersweet chocolate chips. Also because chocolate makes everything better, right?

ChiaEnergy3Round 3 was made with unsalted almond butter, sliced almonds, and cranberries. It was a different nut (though peanuts are technically legumes), but it held up just as well. Yum!

All baked up in the same amount of time, all tasted delicious, and surprising to me, all seemed to have more or less identical nutritional information.

So guess what? If you’ve got picky eaters on your hands, throw some dark chocolate into the mix. If it looks like candy, it must BE candy, right?! Never mind that it’s packed with the good stuff, guaranteed to get them through the day with tip-top energy.

Can you make these bars with sunflower butter? It never made it into testing, but I have to imagine that they’ll hold together just as well. The egg is doing most of the binding here. The nut butter is mostly just for flavor and protein.

There are no magical claims to go along with these bars; I’m not saying they’ll propel you up Mount Washington or push you the final mile on your marathon; that’s on you and your determination.

What they will do is pack up nicely in your backpack while you’re off on your grand adventures. They’ll fill you will a sense of accomplishment that you created a delicious and filling snack that you made yourself from the very finest ingredients.

And finally, Chia Energy Bars store nicely in your desk, ready to fight the dreaded afternoon slump.



Gwen Adams

Gwen Adams grew up in northern New Hampshire, on top of a mountain, surrounded by nature and not much else. After graduating from Lyndon State College in 2010, Gwen sought a career that combined her passion for writing with her love of baking. She found ...


  1. Susan K

    WOW! I’m so excited to find this recipe – I just love the idea of it! Questions: 1) I just got diagnosed with pre-diabetes. Is there a low-carb, low glycemic index, high-protein adaptation for this recipe? 2) A savory, rather than sweet, version of this would also be really good; I don’t have much of a sweet tooth (thanks for the germination of this idea to Terrie, who posted that she had quinoa, but had cooked it in chicken broth, and to Kim, whose husband likes all things spicy!). Is it possible for you to give us a “template” of proportions of ingredients, based on their physical characteristics (crunchy, absorbent, liquid-y or gooey, acts as a binder when cooked, etc.)? My imagination is going wild! Think about the possibilities of using garlic! caramelized onions! dehydrated veggies! savory herbs! seasonings such as Thai or Indian curries, balsamic vinegar, La Victoria Salsa Brava, chutney, fines herbes! Chinese five spice powder!

    Help! My head is exploding with possibilities! ;o)

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      While we don’t have a low carb version, or the template you’re looking for, I will pass both suggestions onto our test kitchen for review! Jon@KAF

  2. Monica

    We consume 40-50 granola bars/week so the thought of making them is daunting. Do you know how it compares cost-wise with purchasing? We try to stay away from the super sugary bars and the soy filled bars which limits our choices.

  3. Janice Kessler

    I’d like to try these, but my husband cannot stand the smell of flax. Even a small amount puts him off. I’ve studied the recipe and I’m not sure whether should add more of something(s) or totally replace the flax. What can you suggest?

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Janice,
      You can leave out the flax, or you can replace it with ground nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds. ~ MJ

  4. Monna

    Just put my first batch in the oven. I licked the spatula, and it is so delicious. I used coucous because none of us like quinoa. For fruit and nuts I used a combination of dried pears and dried bananas (not banana chips), and a pistachio nut blend that included pistachios, almonds, cashewsm and peanuts. I used a whole egg to get more good nutrients (contrary to popular hype, the yellow of eggs is actually good for us), and a combination of creamy peanut butter and almond butter. Anxiously awaiting cooking to be complete and then cool enough to cut and taste.

  5. Virginia

    I’ve made these a few times and they are great. My trainer really likes them as well. We were wondering if we could add protein powder to the recipe?

  6. Gerda

    Hello. I have never made energy bars before and was looking for a good recipe. While the majority of the recipes call for baking, I have found some that do not require baking, or, at most, require dehydrating at low temperatures. I was wondering, are the recipes where ingredients are not heated to high temperatures better? That is, are some nutrients/vitamins lost when ingredients are heated to high temperatures? The no-bake recipes I found usually were more of a fruit-seed-and-nut kind and did not contain oats or flour (and, of course, they did not contain eggs). Is it necessary for oats or flour to be heated up to baking temperatures in order to taste good? Many thanks! 🙂

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Gerda-
      There certainly are both baked and un-baked energy bars and the ingredients will play the major role in deciding whether or not you need to bake the bars. Eggs and flour for example are both ingredients that must be baked to a high temperature due to health concerns. Other recipes that are mostly fruits and nuts stabilized with an ingredient like peanut butter may not require any baking as those items don’t contain the same bacterial contamination concerns. I hope that helps and if you have any more questions, please feel free to contact our Baker’s Hotline at 1-855-371-2253. Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

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