If you used to be a fan of the kind of dried fruit and nut bars that rhyme with Cara, these little treats are for you! Although nuts are a no no on the AIP, they’re not necessary to make these portable, take anywhere energy bars, thanks to a nifty little ingredient swap that makes these bars both nut and seed free!
Finding a snack type food that is AIP compliant and that you can keep in your car or purse for when the accidental hangries happen is hard. Those times when life happens and you really should be at home eating dinner already. Or you’re stuck in the MVD line for the second hour in a row because there are two lines to every 400 people. Or it took you way longer than planned to hike around the lake before lunch. Those kind of times. When there really should be some food in your face already, damnit, or you’re about to have some kind of toddler-style meltdown in public. Yeah. Those kind of hangries.
That’s where these Sweet & Tart Energy Bars come in. They don’t have any oils or added sweeteners, so they’re shelf stable enough to cope with being stored at room temperature and aren’t going to melt everywhere. They’re full of dried fruit, some natural carbs from the plantain chips that stand in for the nuts you find in most energy bars and have a smidge of fiber thanks to the unsweetened coconut. In other words, they’ve got no weird, questionable ingredients like you might find in some of the commercially available energy bars out there.
Recipes for most fruit and nut energy bars are date based (which would also work here), but I find those hella sweet and a little cloying in large quantities. Lately I’ve been enjoying dried black mission figs, paired with a few slices of prosciutto, as a snack at home. They’re like a chewy, natural caramel flavor and I really love the fun texture of the dried seeds inside.
This brand is great, since they’re organic and have no added ingredients, which means they’re free from added sugars or unwanted vegetable oils. (Tip: you can buy them for about half the price at Costco!). I decided to use these figs as the base for my energy bars and they work perfectly: they’re just sweet enough!
I didn’t want my energy bars to be super sweet, even though they have a dried fruit base, so I added a mixture of golden raisins and tart cherries to the mix. Both of those additions help introduce a little stickiness from their natural sugars to help hold everything together, but the cherries add a bright, slightly sour note that stops everything from being too overwhelming straight up sugary. If you can’t find tart cherries without added oils, you could substitute in dried cranberries or even some dried apricots. Costco stocks some great dried apricots that are nowhere near as sweet (they’re almost sour) or smushy (technical term) as standard dried apricots and they would work great here, I think.
The great thing about these Sweet & Tart Energy Bars recipe is that you just need to throw everything into a food processor all at once! It might not look like everything is going to come together at first, but it will. Just keep whirling the processor until the ingredients begin to clump up and look like wet sand. At that point, you should be able to take a small amount of the mixture and roll it into a ball that will hold together. If you like a smoother bar with smaller pieces, you can keep processing until the plantain chips and coconut are little flecks throughout the mixture: the texture is up to you!
I will admit that this is probably the first treat type recipe I’ve posted here since about 2013. I don’t eat or post those often! Since this recipe does use a lot of dried fruit and you generally want to keep your fructose intake relatively low on the AIP, these bars are definitely an occasional addition to your diet, not an everyday thing, but they’re great emergency, “on the go” food. I like to cut these smaller than the average energy bar size (2 x 2 inches) so that we get 16 pieces per batch, but you can make them larger if you want a bar size and shape. Instead of mixing the salt into the fruit mixture, I like to sprinkle the bars with a little coarse sea salt at the end and lightly press it into the bars before wrapping them. It makes for a nice combination of sweet, tart and salty, all in one bite!
For people with coconut allergies or aversions: you can omit the coconut flakes if you like, since they’re just there to add a bit of texture and not essential to the integrity of the bars. You could throw in some extra plantain chips, if you like, but that’s not necessary if you don’t want to. You can tinker with this recipe to make it your own, just make sure you keep at least two cups of a “sticky”, high moisture fruit like the figs and raisins to make sure that they’ll still hold together.
This recipe was included in the AIP Recipe Roundtable over at Phoenix Helix!
- 1 cup / 160 g dried black mission figs
- 1 cup / 150 g dried golden raisins
- 1 cup / 150 g dried tart cherries, dried apricots or dried cranberries
- 2 cups / 140 g plantain chips or plantain strips
- 1 cup / 60 g shredded unsweetened coconut (see notes)
- ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ - ½ tsp fine sea salt (see notes)
- PROCESS: Remove and discard the fig stems. Add the figs, raisins and cherries to the bowl of a large food processor and process until all the fruits are finely chopped and beginning to fold in on themselves from the side of the bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients (except the salt, see notes) and continue to process until the plantain chips and coconut are incorporated and the mixture begins to resemble wet sand and begins to stick together. The mixture is done when it sticks together when pinched and can be formed into balls in your hand.
- FREEZE: Line an 8x8 inch (20 x 20 cm) pan with wax paper, making sure there is a slight overhang on two sides. Transfer the fruit mixture from the food processor bowl to the pan and use your hands to press it into the pan to form an evenly thick layer. Use the overhanging wax paper to pick up the entire square of mixture and transfer it to the freezer for 30 minutes. This step is optional, but will make it easier to cut the bars cleanly.
- STORE: Remove the fruit square from the freezer and use a sharp knife to cut it into 8 equally sized bars (or 16 squares). Because these don't have any added oils or sweeteners, they should keep for a few weeks in an airtight container at room temperature with a little wax paper between bars. They'll also keep nicely wrapped up tightly in the fridge for several weeks and the freezer for a few months. I like to cut them into smaller pieces and stash 'em in the freezer for when I want a sweet treat but don't want to destroy my dinner by eating an entire batch.
The amount of salt you add will depend on the saltiness of the plantain chips or strips you use. If your plantains are salted, taste the mixture in the food processor before adding any salt, just in case! Instead of using a fine sea salt, you could sprinkle the tops of the bars with a coarse sea salt of your choice and lightly press it into the bars before cutting and wrapping.
If you're following the AIP, make sure to choose dried fruits that haven't been coated in vegetable / canola / sunflower / safflower oils, as these are not compliant. It's best if you choose unsweetened dried fruits.
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