If you aren’t familiar with monkey bars, they are a brownie-like or coffee cake-like treat with the magical combination of peanut butter, banana and chocolate. Kind of like a banana bread but with much more than a hint of peanut butter and chocolate. Yeah, I know… drool. Well, I though it was high time that I attempted a Paleo adaptation of these treats.
I actually started working on this recipe last summer. It’s a recipe that I made a couple of times, with small variations to improve the texture or better balance the almond butter and banana flavors. Then, the recipe got shelved while I was working on The Paleo Approach. So, to celebrate turning in all of my material for the book, I decided to dust this one off for one final (delicious) iteration. The biggest challenge with this recipe was flavor balance. I didn’t want the banana flavor to overwhelm them (as banana tends to do), but I didn’t want to mask the flavor completely either. And I really wanted to keep these sweetened with just banana and semisweet mini chocolate chips, which made balancing flavor and sweetness a little trickier. Well, the end result has my kids’ seal of approval. Actually, my kids devoured them even though they really aren’t that sweet.
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The secret to getting a good almondy flavor is to use a high quality almond butter and almond meal. I used NaturAlmond almond butter and almond flour. NaturAlmond makes hands down the best almond butter I’ve ever tasted (plus they are a local family-owned company and just plain ol’ good people so I love to support them!). NaturAlmond almond butter is a crunchy almond butter which works so well in this recipe too, giving just that wee bit of texture. Their almond flour is fairly coarsely ground, more like a meal and I absolutely love it in baking that can handle that texture (I use it in my yeast-based Paleo bread recipe and it’s great in some cookie recipes too). You could easily make your own almond meal by grinding almonds in a food processor (I would suggest roasting the almonds first to boost the flavor).
If you need a nut-free version, I think these would work with sun butter or tahini in place of the almond butter and ground sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds instead of almond meal… but I haven’t tried.
Oh, and another tip: the riper your bananas, the sweeter these Monkey Bars will be. Also, I used 80% dark chocolate for the chocolate drizzle on top (my family’s taste buds are very adapted to much less sweet treats now). You could use bittersweet or even semisweet chocolate instead if you prefer. You could also double the drizzle recipe and actually do more like a frosting coating over the entire top of the bars instead too.
This is also a great recipe to mix/mash everything by hand. The slightly chunkier texture you get that way compared to using a food processor or mixer is perfect for these bars.
Yield: 20 large squares
- 2 large overripe bananas (ideally so ripe you are thinking about tossing them in the compost)
- 1/2 cup crunchy almond butter
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil, melted
- 1 cup almond meal (you could use blanched almond flour instead)
- 3 Tbsp coconut flour (measure after sifting)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (I like Enjoy Life brand)
- Optional Topping:
- 1 oz dark chocolate (I used 80% Equal Exchange chocolate)
- 1/2 Tbsp butter, lard, coconut oil, palm shortening or ghee (I would only suggest using coconut oil if your interior temperature is less that 74F)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9″x13″ baking pan with coconut oil, palm shortening, lard or butter (or use a silicone pan and skip the greasing).
- Peel bananas and mash with a fork until mushy and smooth. Add eggs, coconut oil, almond butter, almond meal, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix thoroughly to form a batter. Fold in chocolate chips.
- Pour batter into prepared baking sheet, and spread batter out evenly with a spatula or spoon.
- Bake for 17-18 minutes. Let cool. Cut into squares.
- If you are going to do the chocolate drizzle, simply melt chocolate and your chosen fat together. Use a spoon to drizzle over the top. You can let the drizzle harden at room temperature or pop it in the fridge if you’re feeling impatient (I cut squares before drizzling, but you don’t have to).