Feel Good! High Iron Granola Bars [Gluten Free]

feel good high iron granola bars gluten free recipe from the lunchbox season

Since I need to incorporate more iron into my daily fare, I decided to revisit one of our most popular recipes, Chewy Granola Bars, and try to amp up the iron content while dialing down the refined sugar.

The first step was to swap the traditional corn syrup with a mix of blackstrap molasses, which is an iron powerhouse, albeit a bit of an acquired taste, and some lovely organic honey.  In place of our traditional butter [calcium blocks iron absorption], I used a tasty combination of almond butter and mashed bananas. Then, instead of loading the bars with chocolate chips and marshmallows etc., I packed them with iron superstars: pumpkin seeds, cashews, apricots, and dates. To balance out the very distinctive taste of the blackstrap molasses, I added some wonderful spices reminiscent of our turkish sweets from MarchBreACK! 2014. And, to make these bars super crispy for my afternoon tea [I like to dunk!], I took most of them and “twice baked” them à la biscotti. 
High Iron Granola Bars Gluten Recipe The Lunchbox Season
Of course, this shift in ingredients and method created an entirely different breed of snack: a gluten-free feel-good high-iron granola bar that tastes like a spa or health-food store oatmeal cookie. The mix of dates, apricots, cashews and spices puts me in a kind of meditative, lovely place while re-energizing me and [hopefully] building up my ferritin levels!

By my estimation, each of the 16 bars in this recipe has about 3.6 milligrams of iron per serving. That puts a pretty good dent in the daily requirement of 18mg of iron for women 19-50 [27mg for moms-to-be] and gives my spouse and the kids close to half of their daily requirements. By the way, in case you were interested, the RDA for iron upon which nutritional information is based [at least in Canada] is 14 milligrams. So, when you see the “percentage daily value” of iron listed on the side of your blackstrap molasses bottle or your tub of cashews, this percentage is out of 14mg, a number which suits no one at all!. This means that women aged 19-50 need to consume 130% of the RDA of iron to get to their true daily requirement of 18mg, and pregnant ladies need to eat nearly 200%. Meanwhile, luckly dads and kids in elementary really only need to grab about 60% of that mark. 

Here’s a handly little iron chart from the National Institutes of Health 
RDA Iron

The Lunchbox Season's High Iron Granola Bars

Each of these gluten-free bars contains 3.6 mg of iron!
Author: Roseanne Carrara, The Lunchbox Season


  • 1/3 c blackstrap molasses [28.8mg iron]
  • 1/3 c honey [3.2 mg iron]
  • 1/4 c almond butter [1.78mg iron]
  • 2 mashed ripe bananas [.44mg iron]
  • 2 large eggs [1.2mg iron]
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • .5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom [optional nutmeg makes a good swap]
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water [totally optional]
  • 1/2 c almond flour [substitute with pulverized oats if that's more convenient]
  • 2 1/2 c gluten free oats [10.5mg iron - we used Bob's Red Mill]
  • 1/2 c pumpkin seeds [4.2mg iron]
  • 1/2 c chopped apricots [3.25mg iron]
  • 1/2 c chopped cashews [5mg iron]
  • 1/2 c chopped dates [.75mg iron]


  • Heat the oven to 350.
  • Line a 9x13 cake tin or baking tray with a piece of parchment that extends over the 13-in sides of the pan [for easy lifting of the bars] and butter or spray any exposed edges of the tray.
  • In the bowl of a mixer or by hand, combine the molasses, honey, and mashed bananas. [Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl, as the molasses tends to settle quickly to the bottom.]
  • Add the eggs, vanilla, salt, spices, and [optional] orange blossom water, stirring until combined.
  • Add the almond flour [or pulverized oats] and oats and stir until combined.
  • Add the two cups of mixins and stir until well incorporated.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes.*
  • Remove the pan from the oven and allow the bars to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes.
  • With the bars still slightly warm in the pan, slice into 16 equal sized bars.
  • Remove the sliced bars IN THEIR PARCHMENT to cool on wire racks.
  • Now, if the bars look a bit too soft for your liking, or if you just prefer a crispier bar...after slicing [or even after the bars have cooled completely] slide the bars off of the parchment and onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for another 10-20 minutes [or even longer], turning the bars over to bake face-down halfway through your bake.
  • Finish by cooling the bars without their parchment on wire racks.


*The bars are dark, so it is difficult to give a sense of what to "look for" in terms of doneness. You will want crispy but not burnt edges. These bars are also moist, so don't be afraid to bake for a bit longer. Alternatively, you may crisp by double baking as above.

So make a batch and tell me what you think!!!


Comments are closed.