Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

 In Brownies and Bars, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Gluten Free, Snacks

Gluten free, dairy free Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

Well, so far so good.  We’ve entered the second week of the new year and I’m still baking resolution-friendly fare.  These dark chocolate, cherry granola bars are so delicious, you might forget they’re healthy!  Although, I guess that’s a relative term…

We spent New Year’s in my hometown of Pasadena.  I’m totally biased, but is there a better place to ring in the new year?  No.  The Rose Parade is regal and awe-inspiring, especially if you see it live.  The magnitude and brilliance of the floats is indescribable.  The bands and the equestrian teams are amazing to watch.  And the pageantry…

The Rose Queen and her court are ambassadors of the parade and the city on January 1 (and for the entire year, really).  Young women who lived in the greater Pasadena area are invited to try out for the Court.  And nearly everyone does.

Including me.

I remember arriving at the Wrigley Mansion (the “headquarters” of all things Rose-related) to register and receive my anonymous bib number.  We were asked to walk in front of a panel of judges.  That was the first round.  If invited back for the second round, you were asked to respond to a series of questions posed by the judges.  Each round thereafter became more intense and involved.

I must have had an adequate swagger, as I was invited to return for the second round.  This time, I was to stand in the center of a room, surrounded by judges on three sides while they asked 2-3 questions.

I was told to wait behind a curtain while the young woman in front of me had her turn.  I listened as they asked her two questions: her favorite ice cream flavor and what book she was currently reading.

“Easy peasy,” I thought.  I might be a Rose Queen with these kinds of questions!

Then it was my turn.  The first question they asked was my favorite subject in school.  “English.”

“Why?” they asked.

“I like to read.” It wasn’t compelling, but it was the truth.

Then I got this one: “What is the greatest quality in a friend?”

“Mint chocolate chip?”

Why was I getting these difficult and thought-provoking (for a 17-year-old) questions when the previous girl got softballs?!?!

But, I won’t forget my answer.  I said: “friendliness.”  Face. Palm.

Now that I’m (a little bit) older, I can think of ten different ways I could have answered that question that would have wowed me into the third round.

But, it was not to be.  Which was fine with me.

It meant I could enjoy the parade on January 1 without any of the year-long commitments and appearances.  So, that year, I walked up to the parade with my family and we sat on the curb and watched it.  We waved at the Queen and Princesses, we clapped along with the bands and we “ooh”ed and “aah”ed at the floats.  Just like every year before.

And this year, I was able to take my own kids to the parade.  It brought back such wonderful memories and I was glad to share them with my people.

Gluten free dairy free Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola Bars

  • Prep Time: 15m
  • Total Time: 1h 15m


  • 1 cup packed, chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats, gluten-free if desired
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped, dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut

How To Do It

  1. Soak the dates in boiling hot water for about 10 minutes. Drain, but reserve the soaking liquid.
  2. Transfer the dates to a food processor and pulse until a sticky, consistent paste forms. You may have to add some of the soaking liquid as you go.
  3. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the honey and peanut butter with the date paste.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, almonds, chia seeds, and cinnamon.
  5. Pour the melted peanut butter mixture atop the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  6. Fold in the cherries, chocolate and coconut.
  7. Line an 8x8-inch baking dish with parchment paper.
  8. Pour the mixture into the dish. Using the back of a spoon or a stiff spatula, press the mixture into an even layer, ensuring you reach into the corners.
  9. Refrigerate the bars for about an hour.
  10. Remove from the fridge and lift the parchment out of the dish. Cut into squares or rectangles, as desired.
  11. I wrap individual bars in wax paper and store in the fridge up to a week.
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