Swap it for this mostly Paleo Bar made from foods you actually recognize.

Every spring I bake my own energy bars for my family’s outdoor adventures. This year however, I opened my old recipe book and realized that my standby bar was not at all Paleo-friendly, full as it was of oats and peanut butter.

So we decided to inaugurate the Fit Nation Test Kitchen and make our own, grain-free FN dream bar that the whole family would think was a treat. Here were my requirements in making this recipe:

  • Energizing: My Bar needed to have refueling power, meaning protein, a bit of sugar (but not a pound) and some fat.
  • Easy: I’m a home cook with few fancy devices, so I didn’t want to buy more than a couple new ingredients and no new gadgets. All I needed for this recipe was my food processor and a pan.
  • Yummy: I’m too old to eat gross food. I would rather eat a bite of heavenly goodness than a mouthful of hellish healthy stuff. This is why my recipe includes chocolate. You can feel free to omit it without any effect on the recipe. (But really, why would you want to?)

I based the bar on a date/walnut combo I found while traveling in the Middle East. Traditionally, these amazing cookies—called ma’amoul—also have pistachios, and the whole thing is wrapped in shortbread. The flavor combination in this Paleo Bar, with the added crunch of sesame seeds, is no shortbread cookie, but it is a pretty good stand-in. Medjool dates are relatively easy to find in natural food stores, and super easy to pit. Cranberries give the recipe a tasty zing and have the highest antioxidant load of nearly any fruit. The walnuts, meanwhile, give the whole operation a meatiness along with the highest plant-based omega-3s of any nut.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 cups raw walnuts
  • 6 large medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 Tbs nut butter—cashew or almond (I used cashew)
  • 3 Tbs raw honey
  • ½ Tsp sea salt
  • ½ Tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup raw sesame seeds


  • ¼ cup cashew pieces—or any nut, chopped
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips—the mini ones worked best

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, process walnuts, dates and dried cranberries until it forms a ball or resembles sticky crumbs—you should be able to press the mixture easily into a shape. Add the nut butter, honey, salt and cinnamon. Process until combined.

Remove dough and mix in the sesame seeds by hand—do not process. You want the nice crunch the seeds provide. Divide the dough in half.

In a greased 8×8-inch pan, press half the dough into the bottom. If the mixture is too sticky, work with wet hands. Sprinkle a layer of the chocolate pieces and cashews on top. Top with the rest of the dough, spreading evenly to cover the chocolate/nut filling.

Refrigerate until set and cut into bars.

  • For bite-sized snack bars: Incorporate mini chocolate chips and chopped sesame seeds by hand, mixing well. Working with wet hands, form mixture into balls and chill as above.
  • Flavor boosting tip: It takes and extra 10 minutes and uses a couple sheet pans, but roasting the walnuts and sesame seeds in the oven (separately) adds a rich caramel flavor.