While I’m wholly content to leave certain aspects of back to school behind (homework and general social angst, I’m looking at you), this time of year makes me nostalgic for fresh mechanical pencils, unscribbled-upon agendas, and of course the best part of back to school of all: SNACKS! These Banana Bars are the epitome of after school snack stardom and will be the envy of every lunch box. They’re sweet and scrumptious enough to taste like a treat but are made of healthy ingredients. You’ll feel great packing them for your kids (and yourself!) all year long.
Growing up, I primarily ate the lunch served by our school cafeteria. We had one and only one entree choice, and its name frequently ended with the word “surprise.” Thus, the culinary highlight of my day was my after school snack at home.
Back then, my snack cycle was a solid rotation of sugary cereal, Pop Tarts, and Little Debbie snack cakes. Open wrapper. Eat. Repeat.
While I can certainly still can appreciate enjoying any one of these treats now and again, these days I primarily seek treats that are made from less processed ingredients and offer my body nutritional benefits too.
These healthy Banana Bars offer an ideal balance. They are sweetened more naturally with mashed banana and coconut sugar and are 100% whole grain, yet will satisfy any sweet tooth.
A happy handful of chocolate chips certainly doesn’t hurt either!
Healthy Banana Bars — An Anytime Treat
As a nod to these Banana Bars with chocolate chips’ versatility, I found a good reason to eat them at any time of day.
In the morning, I topped one of the banana squares with a generous portion of Greek yogurt and side of berries.
After a workout, I grabbed one right out of the container and munched it while I finished off my water bottle.
After dinner, I replaced the Greek yogurt with vanilla ice cream and—since we are all friends here—more chocolate chips.
As written this Banana Bars recipe is sweet, but not overly so. Like these Strawberry Oatmeal Bars , these Banana Oatmeal Cookies, and honestly the majority of the healthy dessert recipes on my site, they’re well balanced, nutritious, and hit the spot when you need a 3 p.m. pick-me-up or a late night treat.
If you’d like to turn these light Banana Bars into a truly indulgent dessert, you could make them banana bars with peanut butter frosting (Sally’s peanut butter Greek yogurt frosting looks pretty perfect) or banana bars with brown butter frosting (the reviews on this brown butter frosting recipe are stellar).
Honestly though, I give these healthy Banana Bars an A+ just as they are, no frosting or frills required. If you love a good healthy dessert/wholesome snack crossover, I suspect you’ll give them full marks too!
Recommended Tools to Make this Banana Bars Recipe
Banana Bars with Chocolate Chips
- 1 cup mashed ripe banana — about 3 medium bananas
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter — melted and cooled to room temperature
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk — or milk of choice
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips — divided
Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8 inch baking pan with parchment paper so that the parchment overhangs two opposite sides like handles. Lightly coat with nonstick spray and set aside.
Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl. Double check the measurement to ensure you have 1 cup (less will make the bars dry; more and they may not bake all the way through). Stir in the coconut sugar, butter, milk, egg, and vanilla until well blended.
In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients. With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir to combine, stopping as soon as the flour disappears. Fold in 1/3 cup chocolate chips.
Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons chocolate chips on top. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Place the pan a wire rack to cool completely, then using the parchment handles, lift the bars onto a cutting board. Slice into squares of desired size and enjoy!
- Store bars at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days.
- To make dairy free: Use almond milk or coconut milk and replace the butter with the same amount of a vegan butter substitute or coconut oil.
- To make vegan: Follow the dairy-free directions in the note above; For the egg, you can experiment with a flaxegg, but I haven’t tried this yet. If you do decide to play around, I’d love to hear how it goes!
- To make gluten free: Replace the wheat flour with the same amount of a 1:1 all purpose baking flour blend, such as this one.
Nutrition InformationAmount per serving (1 (of 16)) — Calories: 98, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 18mg, Carbohydrates: 14g, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 8g, Protein: 1g
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