This homemade version of Clif z Bars is made with real food ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. These taste just like the grocery store version just less sweet.
A few weeks ago I was strolling the kids to school and suddenly realized I was starving and needed a snack ASAP. So I fumbled around the stroller basket and found a chocolate chip Clif Kid Z Bar – one of Lucy’s favorite packaged snacks.
Just one bite in, I couldn’t believe how sweet this thing was. Definitely sweeter than any dessert I’d had recently. In fact when I got home, I ate another bite of the bar, then a bite of an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie from a batch I’d recently baked, and found that the bar was way sweeter than the cookie. And here I’d been buying these Z Bars thinking they weren’t that bad, as far as packaged snacks go.
So I decided to make my own.
A quick Pinterest search led to a couple of recipes, which I tried but didn’t love. But after playing around with the next few batches, I came up with a recipe that got Lucy’s stamp of approval.
What’s nice about these bars, is that they really do taste like Z Bars, just slightly less sweet. And since they’re made with real ingredients, most of which you probably already have in your kitchen, you can whip them up anytime and feel good about it.
We stored these in an airtight container in the fridge for a week, and they kept beautifully. I bet you could also freeze them – individually wrapped in parchment paper or plastic wrap, then sealed in a Ziploc bag – and just take a few out as you need them.
Next on my to-do list is making the Honey Graham and Iced Oatmeal flavors. Stay tuned!
- ½ cup rolled oats (same as old-fashioned oats)
- 1¼ cup oat flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
- ¼ cup vanilla plant-based protein powder (I used Bob's Red Mill) OR ¼ cup more oat flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ cup applesauce or vanilla Greek yogurt
- ½ cup soy or almond milk (or any milk of choice)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 2 tsp coconut oil, divided
- ½ cup mini chocolate chips, divided
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Spray an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray or rub with a little oil. Line with parchment paper so there's a little overlap on the sides which you can use to pull bars out later.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together oats, oat flour, protein powder, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar.
- In a separate bowl, stir together honey, applesauce, milk, vanilla and 1 tsp coconut oil.
- Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry, then fold in half the mini chocolate chips. Let batter sit for 5 minutes.
- Pour batter into the baking dish and bake 25-30 minutes or until edges begin to brown and middle looks cooked through.
- Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then lift the parchment paper out to release the bars and cool on a wire rack at least 15 more minutes before cutting.
- Once bars are cut, melt the remaining chocolate chips with the remaining tsp coconut oil in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Stir until smooth.
- Pour chocolate mixture into a small Ziploc bag, cut off a tiny tip, then swirl the melted chocolate over the cooled bars.
- Set in the fridge for 30 minutes before enjoying.
- Keep any uneaten bars in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Jessica @ NutritiouliciousMarch 4, 2016 at 11:15 am
I never bought the Z bars after seeing how much sugar was in them. Love that you saw the problem and moved forward with making your own. The ingredient list is spectacular and I appreciate you gave the alternative for not using protein powder as that’s not something I would add for my kids (nor am I big on protein powders myself). Can’t wait to try this recipe!
Sonali- The Foodie PhysicianMarch 4, 2016 at 4:46 pm
I’m really excited about this recipe Amelia because I buy the Clif Kid Z Bars all the time for Sienna! She loves the S’mores flavor but you’re right, they are very sweet. I’ve been on a kick lately, trying to make healthier version of her favorite prepared foods (Just made a batch of chicken nuggets today). Will definitely have to try this one out!
Erin ZMarch 5, 2016 at 4:06 am
Is the protein powder for flavor or nutritional value?
Julie @ Running in a SkirtMarch 5, 2016 at 5:07 am
I really like how simple the ingredients are in this and like you said, you’d probably already have them. That’s my kind of baking recipe.
Alisa FlemingMarch 5, 2016 at 7:31 am
It’s crazy isn’t it – how sweet so many snack foods are?! It seems like Clif brand is one of the worst for sugars, too. I love the ingredients in your recipe, and will definitely be trying it soon! Pinned!
RFCMarch 8, 2016 at 6:12 am
Thank you for this recipe! My kids DEVOUR granola bars, so it would be great to be able to make them at home!
Bethany @ athletic avocadoMarch 8, 2016 at 2:28 pm
I actually by these bars all the time at TJs to bring to gymnastics meets! They are so good, but probably even better homemade!
Amelia WinslowMarch 9, 2016 at 2:43 pm
It’s definitely freeing, because then you can say yes without feeling like you should be offering them something healthier that’s not as convenient for you!
Amelia WinslowMarch 9, 2016 at 2:44 pm
So true. I love the Clif brand and their company story, but their products really leave something to be desired. So sweet and some questionable ingredients!
Amelia WinslowMarch 9, 2016 at 2:46 pm
The protein powder adds some deeper vanilla flavor and sweetness (from monk fruit if you use the Bob’s Red Mill powder) as well as extra protein. I’ve made these both ways (with protein powder and with just oat flour) and they’re equally as tasty. I just prefer a little more vanilla flavor in my baked goods.
Amelia WinslowMarch 9, 2016 at 2:46 pm
Hope you like them! I’m gonna need that chicken nugget recipe from you!
Amelia WinslowMarch 9, 2016 at 2:49 pm
I am not usually a protein powder fan either, Jessica, so this isn’t something I’d normally have on-hand. I’ve always been on the get-your-protein-from-FOOD-train, not just for kids but for everyone. But I will say, the Bob’s Red Mill powder is pea protein, and only has a few ingredients, so I felt comfortable using it here to more closely mimic a packaged bar. Either way though, the bars turn out delicious!
ShannonMarch 16, 2016 at 12:48 pm
I used to eat the brownie flavor all the time! I will have to try to make my own!
Amelia WinslowMarch 16, 2016 at 10:02 pm
Mmmm…I’ll have to attempt that one next time!
TeresaApril 4, 2016 at 12:58 pm
I calculated the sugar content, and it’s looking to be about 10.5 grams of sugar per bar (the same flavor Z Bar is at 12 grams). Do you think if I skipped the honey and reduced the brown sugar (and the mini chocolate chips) that the bars would still hold together? Thanks for the input.
Amelia WinslowApril 5, 2016 at 9:59 pm
I’m not sure about the actual sugar content, I can just tell you these taste much less sweet than regular Z Bars, which is important to me. You can absolutely use less brown sugar. I think the honey is necessary for texture/holding the bar together but feel free to experiment with as little sugar as you want. Let me know how your version turns out.
KristenJune 12, 2016 at 4:39 am
Any chance you can use oilve oil instead of coconut oil?
KellyJune 13, 2016 at 6:16 am
I made these bars yesterday, and they taste great, but are very soft. I have to eat them with a fork because they are too soft to eat with my hands. The only alternative ingredient I used was oat flour instead of Scottish oats. I probably did something wrong, but not sure what it could have been…. Any thoughts?
Amelia WinslowJune 13, 2016 at 2:39 pm
Thanks for letting me know, Kelly. I am not sure what to tell you. I’ll test the recipe again this week to make sure what’s written here is not off. I had success with these numbers but I want to make sure they work for you too!
Amelia WinslowJune 13, 2016 at 2:39 pm
I wouldn’t, simply because of the flavor. But you could use canola, safflower, sunflower, or something flavorless.
HannahJune 15, 2016 at 5:45 pm
I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to find this! I’m a big fan of z-bars, but really can’t afford to buy them on a regular basis. I’ve been searching around for homemade formulas, but the texture never looks quite right. These finally look like they’d make the cut! I’m trying out the recipe ASAP.
Amelia WinslowJune 23, 2016 at 8:58 am
Hi Hannah, I will say the texture is a little more cake-like, less chewy than packaged Z-bars, but my daughter (who tends to be critical of my efforts to make homemade versions of packaged foods) loves them anyway. I will keep testing to see if I can get even closer to the “real” thing.
JessicaAugust 21, 2016 at 11:53 am
I’m so glad to have found this recipe because my kids love the z bars. I just made them as stated using the oat flour instead of the Scottish oats and yogurt in place of applesauce. Mine took a long time (more than 24 minutes) and even then are soft and I think a little under cooked.
I went back to the list to make sure I measured correctly. The taste is great so maybe I need to include some more oats?
Amelia WinslowAugust 23, 2016 at 6:55 am
Thanks for the feedback Jessica. After reading your and some other comments, I went back and tested these extensively and have updated the amounts and baking time to yield a more consistent result. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave me a comment – I really appreciate it and hope to deliver a recipe your family really loves!
KatieOctober 10, 2016 at 6:47 am
Hi Amelia, thank you for this recipe. I live in Norway, so I haven’t ever tasted a Z-bar, but I was just wondering if you could provide any more information regarding how fluid the batter is meant to be and how soft these are as a finished product. Mine have just come out the oven- the taste is great, but they are incredibly soft, more cake-like. The batter was quite runny, not like other granola type bars I’ve made before. Is this how they’re supposed to be? Might you be able to post some pictures of the consistency of your batter, for example? Thank you!
Amelia WinslowOctober 12, 2016 at 2:04 pm
Hi Katie, Thanks so much for your feedback and I’m sorry the bars didn’t come out as you expected. I recently tested this recipe again and made some tweaks to help address the issue of the bars not staying together well enough, and to adjust the baking time. I hope the result of this revised recipe is more what you’re looking for. And thank you for your time and feedback!
Amelia WinslowNovember 3, 2016 at 11:40 am
Hi Kelly, I wanted to let you know that I made the recipe as stated again and realized there was in fact a typo in the amounts listed. The amount of oat flour should actually be 1 1/4 cups (1 1/2 cups if using oat flour instead of protein powder). I’m so sorry for the mistake! I hope you’ll try them again, and if so that you enjoy the result. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, I really appreciate your time.
RitaJanuary 31, 2017 at 4:07 pm
I was super excited to find your recipe for make your own z bars. My kids love them. Just like you I never realized how sweet they were until I tried it recently. I made this recipe today alittle scared that my 4 kids including 2 very picky eaters might not like them. But to my surprise they all 4 gave them a thumbs up and do did I. Much less sugar in this recipe. Thank you!
Amelia WinslowFebruary 7, 2017 at 10:52 am
Hi Rita, I’m so glad you and your kids enjoyed these! It makes me even happier to know they got the “picky kid” seal of approval 🙂
MikeMarch 5, 2017 at 6:17 am
They were good but not like z bars, these were too much like brownies. I followed the recipe exactly, I may cut down on the baking soda and powder next time.
Amelia WinslowMarch 8, 2017 at 12:03 pm
Sorry they weren’t as you expected, Mike. If you tweak the recipe and have any preferred versions, feel free to post those here so we can all give your version a try too.
BerniceApril 18, 2017 at 1:22 am
My kids will love this HOMEMADE CLIF KID Z BARS! I will try this tomorrow for sure. Thanks for this article Amelia!
ChristineSeptember 26, 2017 at 6:59 am
Thanks for the delicious recipe. You are correct that they have a bit more cake/muffin texture. They taste better to me than the cliff kids bars. And at a fraction of the cost. My girl doesn’t like chocolate so I omitted that. Perhaps i ll make a white icing like the oatmeal flavoured ones next time.
Amelia WinslowSeptember 27, 2017 at 3:19 pm
Glad you liked these, Christine. I’ve made them with raisins and added the icing drizzle and those were a hit too!
ElishevaOctober 22, 2017 at 1:40 pm
Amelia, happy I found you…hoping to try many of your recipes — soon!
Keep up the good work 👍,it’s hard work finding the balance between happy eaters and healthy eaters!! I agree our children should be taught healthy eating habits that should stick with them as they grow and eventually have to fend for themselves 😉
Amelia WinslowOctober 25, 2017 at 12:25 pm
Thanks, Elisheva. I’m glad we are connected and can now share ideas 🙂
JenJanuary 14, 2018 at 12:38 pm
Trying these today, but will definitely need to come up with the brownie version; those are my boys’ favorite!
NicoleApril 8, 2018 at 7:51 am
Did you ever end up making the iced oatmeal kind? My daughter adores them but doesn’t like chocolate!
Amelia WinslowMay 4, 2018 at 12:38 pm
Yes! I’ve made the iced oatmeal ones, but haven’t perfected the recipe yet. The spices are hard to mimic, but you can get close pretty easily. I’ll publish it soon!