Quinoa Coconut Bars

A few weeks ago I was tricked.  Fooled.  Bamboozled.  What made it worse is that it happened in the super-expensive “convenience and grocer” store by  my house, which I only go to in times of dire emergency when I can’t be bothered to drive that extra two kilometers to a grocery store which doesn’t charge $6.00 for two red peppers.  Sigh.

The prices at this place are truly blasphemous, but in their defense they often have some interesting culinary wares.  Such is the crux of my difficulty with this store in particular, and most other stores of a similar nature.  I skulk through the aisles glowering at the privileged divorcees with their well laquered talons and highlighted hair, or the soccer Moms that are desperately trying to live beyond their means, and I mutter comments about friggin’ yuppies, shameful price points, and idiot consumers who create such situations…..and then I go, “OH LOOK!  FIG AND BLACK OLIVE CROSTINI!  WHEEEEE!!!” And I squeal like an ecstatic she-piglet with Valentine’s roses.  

I have not stepped out of this store once without spending $40 or more, despite the fact that I went in to buy, say, a small container of oregano.  It’s ridiculous, and I have nobody to blame but myself.  I am an impulse buyer extraordinaire.  It’s like a force outside of nature compels me as I close in on that last lap approaching the checkout line.  All of a sudden I turn into Grabby McHoardsalot, and in 7 seconds or less my little basket went from $5 to $55.  That’s how I end up with, oh, seven different types of mustard in my fridge.

This particular time, as I was doing my frantic all-hands-on-the-merchandise header, I spied a can of Heinz curried baked beans.  Into the basket!  Organic spelt and seaweed chips.  Don’t mind if I do!!  Quinoa and Coconut Bars (with an unmarked price).  Well golly, how could I refuse?!

How excited was I to bring my organic quinoa and coconut bar to work for an afternoon snack the next day?  VERY excited!  Very excited indeed!!  Then I got the excessively inflated bill and noticed that my Quinoa and Coconut Bar had cost me $6.99.  WTF?!  HOW ON GOD’S GREEN EARTH CAN PEOPLE JUSTIFY CHARGING THAT MUCH MONEY FOR A GRANOLA BAR?!  I am still outraged at this flagrant disregard for reasonable pricing.  Oh, but despite my rage, co-mingling with shame at being enough of a twit to spend that much money on a granola bar in the first place, that’s not the worst part.  The worst part was when I bit into it the next afternoon.

I had just spent $6.99 on a bar of coconut.

Yup.  That’s it.  JUST COCONUT.

Evidently “Quinoa and Coconut Bars” actually referred to quinoa bars and coconut bars, and they must have been all sold out of the quinoa bars.  So I got coconut.  A big old bar of dessicated coconut which stuck to the roof of my mouth in lumps of dry disappointment.

So what do you do in a situation like this?  Do you go back to the store, spitting angry even though it’s your own fault for being a tool and buying exactly what they had advertised and you PAID the exorbitant price?  Or do you go home, pull the quinoa out of your pantry, and make your OWN quinoa and coconut bars?

I make my own.

Quinoa Coconut Bars

Makes 12 small bars or 8 large ones

  • 1.5 cups dry quinoa
  • 2 3/4 cups water
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 cup dried figs
  • 1.5 cups salted cashews
  • 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

Rinse the quinoa 4-5 times in cold water until no cloudiness remains in the water that is discarded.  Put the rinsed quinoa into a medium pot and cover it with 2 3/4 cups of cold water.

Bring the pot of quinoa up to a rolling boil.  As soon as it reaches the boiling point, cover the pot with a tight fitting lid, turn the heat down to minimum, and leave it to continue cooking for 20 – 25 minutes. Remember not to be nosy and lift up the lid!!  Please resist temptation and just let it steam away in peace and quiet.

I love quinoa not only because it has as much protein as chicken, can be bought in bulk for ridiculously affordable prices, has a mild and slightly nutty flavor with that fabulous sprouted texture, but also because it’s so G.D. easy to cook.  If you can make rice, you can make quinoa.

While the quinoa cooks merrily away we can start chopping up our fruit and nuts.  Cut the dried apricot and figs into a 1/4 inch dice.  When you’re cutting up the dried figs, don’t forget to remove that troublesome stem because the tip tends to be really woody.  Nobody wants to break their tooth on a coconut quinoa bar. Give the salted cashews a rough chop as well until they’re in pieces which are mostly in the area of 1/4 inch. 

When the quinoa has finished cooking you can spoon it out into a large mixing bowl.  Give it a nice stir to remove any lumps and clumps, and also to encourage some air circulation to cool it down a wee touch.

Preheat the oven to 325F as the quinoa cools for 10 minutes.

If the quinoa is still slightly warm to the touch that’s okay.  Add in the sweetened condensed milk and give it a good stir.  Follow that with the dried fruits, cashew and coconut.  Toss it around until the mixture is fully combined.

Grease an 8×8 baking pan and scoop your quinoa mixture into it.  Press down firmly to really pack it in there, and try to make it as even as possible.  

Bake the pan in the center of your oven for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the top has just started to get golden (but is still very light) and the edges are gently browned.  Let this cool completely before cutting it into bars.

When you cut the bars, use a very sharp knife and you may wish to dip it in water occasionally to get a cleaner line.  Or, if you’re lazy like me, you’ll just cut away and hope for the best.

These are about as thick as your average brownie, so I tend to cut them into smaller bars – about 12 per pan.  If you like a larger bar, feel free to go for 8.


These are not dessert bars, they are protein packed, healthful, not too sweet and utterly delicious ‘granola’ bars….except that they aren’t granola at all, I just can’t come up with a better name.  I refuse to call them protein bars because I’ve had too many chalky textured chocolate covered versions of utterly unpalatable protein bars.  But that might be what they are, if I was to be honest.

Anyway, dried fruit and nuts – you get the point.  ALSO:  by far my favorite part is that to make the entire batch it probably cost me about $8.00 (guesstimating here, because most of it was from the pantry) as opposed to $6.99 for my bar of crappy coconut.  Take that, “convenience and grocer” store!!!!  Oh, the spite just feels so good.

  • Alison

    I am going to Bulk Barn TODAY! These non-protein bars look amazing, and I’m already picturing lots of healthy breakfasts! And sub-ins! Like dried cranberry! Or maybe some chopped up pineapple rings! Or……oh………little white chocolate chips! Or would those melt? Either way, these look amazing, and I adore quinoa!

  • http://noblepig.com/ noble pig

    These sound so cool and different. I’m a McGrabby too! Love that!

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Choosy Beggar Tina

    Alison – you would totally dig these. They aren’t too sweet but I think you’ll prefer that. And cranberry white chocolate would be a DELECTABLE variation!!!

    Noble Pig – Thank you! As long as we’re McGrabbys of the paying kind, I suppose we’ll do okay 😉

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

    Cranberries would totally do this justice, and add a little bite to the muted sweetness of the coconut.

    Also, I have officially eaten more quinoa this week than in the previous thirty-one years, and I don’t mind even a little bit. Even if it does stick in my teeth outrageously.

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com Kristie

    You darling woman. You keep telling me how to make granola bars, and I promise to keep needing them for long bouts of strenuous movement. I love me some quinoa, but haven’t ever had it in a sweet application. They’re purty, that’s for sure.

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com Kristie

    Two more things:

    1) She-piglet = hilarious. Nice work.
    2) I appreciate so much the spiteful gesture of making your own after being ripped off. Every time we go to a restaurant, every item we might want to eat is thought about and pronounced “something we can make at home better for cheaper.” By the time we’ve finished, I’ve ixnayed the whole menu and we end up getting a salad and feeling bereft.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Choosy Beggar Tina

    Thanks Kristie!! And if you had seen me attacking the pizza Mike brought home last night (note: that might be a status update on how much cooking I’ve done this week, which means that the posts might be a bit threadbare until Monday) you would absolutely agree with the she-piglet comment.

    When I go to a restaurant I TOTALLY do the “we can make it better and cheaper” as well, but usually not until AFTER I’ve ordered (and eaten) half the menu. And then I feel cheated and had. I think your way might be better……..

  • Alison

    Finally made them! Didn’t change much except to add maybe a 1/3 cup of white chocolate chips…..and a bit less cashews. Yu-mee! Even my parents liked them! (And they can be suspicious of foreign grains).

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Woot! So glad you liked the bars!!! Ooh, and the addition of chocolate is NOT something I would fight you on, that’s a great idea.

  • rita

    how to store it?
    in the fridge how long can it last?
    how about freezer or at room temperature?

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Rita – the quinoa bars can be stored in an airtight container (a bit tupperware does the trick!) because they will harden if left in the open air. At room temperature they will keep for about a week, and in the fridge they should keep nicely for about two weeks. If you tuck them in the freezer they’ll be fine for a couple of months.

      This is not a solution which is popular with my inner Sustainability model, but they do keep much longer if you wrap each bar individually. The reason for this is that before they go bad they’ll just go……hard. This is due to oxidation. If you wrap each bar so that the vulnerable edges are sealed and airtight, they’ll fare much better and we’ve had them in the fridge (each tightly wrapped for saran) for at least 3 week…..mostly because the last bar got lost under some apples and I totally forgot about it, but when I found and et it there was no harm done!!!

  • Nina

    Brilliant recipe idea! I have a great love for quinoa so I was very excited to see this. I made this exactly as stated except I used condensed soy milk. I never could get it to form bars. I baked it longer, I covered it with foil and baked it more. I let it sit, I cooled it, I tried everything and every time I went to cut them, it would just crumble. Can you take a guess as to why this happened? And what is the consistency supposed to be like? I can’t imagine it being hard like a “granola bar”. I did end up eating it as it was, the flavors were delish! I’ll have to try this again sometime and hopefully it will be a success for me. Thanks!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Nina – my sincere apologies for the slow response. This came in the day that we went on vacation and it must have totally slipped through the cracks! Okay, so I have never used condensed soy milk, so frankly I have no way to speak with conviction about why your bars did not work. Cooked quinoa has a tendency to get gluey as it is unless you dress the grains so they stay separate, and adding the thick, sweetened protein (regular condensed milk) is enough of a binder. You’re right that the texture is not hard like a granola bar, it is softer like a chewy protein bar. Glad that the flavors were good at least, and good luck next time!!!!!

    • FarmerStina

      A few recipes for sweetened condensed milk: http://www.godairyfree.org/Dairy-Substitutes/Milk-Subs-Sweetened-Condensed/Sweetened-Condensed-Milk-Recipes.html

      As well, you can substitute cream of coconut (not coconut cream or coconut milk) in equal amounts for the sweetened condensed milk, which would work really well in this recipe.

  • Linda

    I cried I laughed so hard.  What fantastic writing!  You seriously described my life when I am at our own corner ‘market’ and Whole Foods up the street.  Love them both, but only use them in dire needs, and then get butterflies and my heart skips a beat when I am there because I am so drawn to the culinary delights they have to offer me!  Thanks for the laugh, and for the recipe!