Banana-Bound Bars

energy bars part 4 · rugged and adaptable, sans animal

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To Each His Optimum

Pepe’s Tri Bars are simple to construct, difficult to destroy, and adaptable to an infinite variety of flavor combinations. Who would need another energy bar? I, for one, and maybe you too—if, or when:

  1. Eggs won’t fly. Serving vegans, or without cold storage? That’s a problem: Pepe’s Tri Bars rely on them for binding power.
  2. There’s a dearth of dates. They’re often expensive, and short of ubiquitous. You might substitute, but you run a risk without this famously sticky fruit.
  3. “The blender” is your biceps. It’s not impossible to make so-called ‘savory cement’ with determination and a fork, but without electrical assistance, the 15-second blend will take 15 minutes at least.

Back to the drawing board: no simple binder could approach the performance of this carefully engineered combination. Or so I thought.

Banana Magic

I was wrong, and the kitchn proved me so. Their 4-Ingredient Banana Oat Bars (and its increasingly complex derivatives1) demonstrate a surprising alternative binder: mashed banana. Just banana! Smooshed with a fork to a TSA-disapproved consistency2. One part of this miraculous substance will bind up to five parts of other energy bar building blocks: the nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and/or rolled oats we’ve dubbed assorted aggregates.

Mash a banana or three.
Mix in five times that amount of... anything you might find in trail mix.
Bake slowly. Chill thoroughly.


Qualitative Comparison

If there’s a tradeoff here, it’s modest. Banana-bound bars may match incredible resilience of Pepe’s Tri Bars—but they come close, holding up wonderfully in field. Without egg, a high-quality protein source is omitted; but protein content depends more on the choice of aggregates. And while the binder in savory cement is neutrally salty-sweet, banana unavoidably contributes its distinct flavor. All in all, small prices to pay for an exceptionally functional bar when animal products are off the menu, the freezer is filling with bananas, or (as is most often the case for the author) you’re sick of cleaning the food processor.

[recipe title=”Banana-Bound Energy Bars” servings=”small batch: ‘part’ = ‘cup'” time=”quick + chill” difficulty=”do you own a fork?” print=”true”]


  1. Mix together:
    • part mashed banana
    • 5 parts assorted aggregates (see note)
  2. Bake: thick & lined, low & slow.
    • Press firmly into parchment lined baking dish to a depth of at least 1″.
    • 300°F for 30-40 minutes.
    • Muffin cups are another option (pictured); halve the baking time.
  3. Cold-cure until thoroughly chilly.
    • Let cool to room temperature.
    • Chill in refrigerator for several hours.
    • After carving, store in the fridge or freezer.

Notesif you need ’em

  1. On banana-mashing:
    • The old adage applies: “The riper the fruits, the better they suits.” 3
    • Use a fork. Be aggressive.
  2. About the aggregates:
    • Mix it up: nuts, seeds, oats, dried fruit—in truly any combination and proportion.
    • Avoid peanuts: their smooth, slick surfaces bind poorly.
    • Beware chocolate: it will get melty-messy in all but the coolest of climes.
  3. Carve carefully:
    • Support the slab as you invert onto a cutting board.
    • Cut bars with firm presses of a large chef’s knife. Serrated sawing is a riskier alternative.

They say you taste first with the eyes, and if you've given this recipe a go, we'd all love a visual nibble. What aggressive improvisation did you apply? Did it succeed brilliantly or fail spectacularly? To show off your marvel (or mess), dust off your smartphone:

Post your pic to Instagram, tagged with
to add your dish to the virtual feast below.
[instagram-feed type=hashtag hashtag="#kitchenminimal" includewords="#BananaBound" cols=4 num=8 showheader=false showcaption=false showbutton=false]

1Eat Your Greens’ Nut & Seed Banana Oat Snack Bars; Oh She Glows’ Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars.
2Somewhere between liquid and gel.
3Not an actual adage. Nevertheless: Ripe is good. Overripe is great. So outrageously overripe they’ve become blackened pouches of banana-juice? If you can overcome your aversion, they’ll work wonderfully.