Lemon Poppy Seed No-Bake Energy Bars

Chef Katie Simmons
Recipe by
Chef Katie Simmons

Poppy seeds are frequently used in Purim confections. In Entree to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora, ReformJudaism.org food editor Tina Wasserman explains that poppy seeds are symbolic of the many lots cast by Haman (in the story of Purim), and the promise God made to Abraham to spread his seed throughout the world – the very antithesis of the annihilation Haman planned. In Israel, many Purim foods are prepared with poppy seed in keeping with this promise. 

These no-bake bars are a delicious way to include some healthy snacks in your Purim goodie baskets. They combine almonds, dates, and whole grain oats with fresh lemon, shredded coconut, and poppy seeds. They're gluten-free, oil-free, and vegan. After Purim, they're great for pre-workout snacks!

1 cup almonds (4 ounces)
1 1/2 cups dried dates
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lemon, zest (and juice from only half the lemon)
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded coconut flakes, unsweetened
2-4 tablespoons water, as needed

Yield: 24 bars

To make the bars

  • In a food processor, combine the almonds and dates. Purée until well-chopped and starting to stick together. This might take a good 1-2 minutes, depending on the dryness of your dates.
  • Add the vanilla, lemon zest and juice, poppy seeds, oats, and salt. Purée until the mixture starts to come together. While the food processor is running, stream in 2 tablespoons of water. Remove the lid and feel the bar mix to check the consistency. (You want the mixture to be sticky and clump together.) If the mixture is too dry, place the lid back on and stream in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach this consistency. Note: I usually end up using about 4 tablespoons of water.
  •  Add the coconut flakes and purée just 2-3 seconds to incorporate.

To press and set your no-bake bars

  • Line a 9×9 square pan with plastic wrap. Place the bar mixture into the pan and use your fingers to press it all the way to the edges. Cover the top with another layer of plastic. Place another 9×9 pan on top and weigh it down with a couple of heavy cans.
  • Place the pans in a freezer for 1 hour.
  • When the bars have set, remove them from the pan.  Cut into 24 bars and enjoy!

Chef Katie Simmons' Tips

  • Unrefined: There’s no cane sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, or other type of refined sweetener in this recipe. Whole dates are used to provide natural sweetness. Dates are loaded with fiber, which helps your body regulate blood sugar and satiety better than any refined sweetener or syrup .
  • Truly Raw? Almonds sold in the US are pasteurized, for food safety reasons, meaning they aren’t truly “raw.”  You can swap them out for raw nuts like brazil nuts, macadamia, or cashews.
  • Maximize the Lemon Flavor: Use the zest of the entire lemon for maximum lemon flavor.  A microplane works best for removing the zest without getting any of the bitter parts of the peel.

    Classically-trained Chef Katie Simmons is a personal chef in Chicago. Her journey to cooking has been a winding path from Kentucky to backpacking in New Zealand through culinary school at Kendall College and working for Whole Foods Market.  Her own frustrations of being an overweight fitness professional finally led her to embrace a plant-based, vegan diet.