Oatmeal raisin bars are the perfect lunchbox treat. Mom made hers with all raisins. I often use a combination of dried fruits. In this photo, I used a mix of golden raisins, dried cranberries, and dried tart cherries.

An easy bar cookie recipe, they turn out a little bit sweet, a little bit tart, and a little bit chewy.

Make a simple cinnamon glaze, or leave them plain. They are delicious little squares of chewy fruit baked between two layers of an easy, egg-free oatmeal dough. If you’re a bar cookie fan, don’t miss my angel slices. And for ease of browsing, find all of my cookies and bar recipes in one place. Thank you for visiting!

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A vertical image of two stacked cranberry raisin bars on a small plate, separated by a small rectangle of parchment. There are more raisin bars in the background as well as a turquoise-colred cloth napkin.

Mom’s Raisin Bars, at a Glance

✅Skill Level: Beginner
✅Skills: Simmering Fruit, Making a Simple Crust and Topping
✅Type: Bar Cookies
✅Number of Ingredients: For the Dough: 9, For the Fruit Filling: 6
✅Prep Time: 15 minutes
✅Cook Time: 50 minutes
✅Yield: approximately 32 bars, depending on how you cut them

Jump Straight to the Recipe

Why You Need to Make Mom’s Oatmeal Raisin Bars

If you love chewy fruity goodness and oatmeal cookies, this bar cookie is for you!

An easy oatmeal dough, made without eggs, plus simmered dried fruits in a sticky, thick sweet syrup. Hard to resist!

These bars are also very easy to make, plus they are just as tasty whether you add the cinnamon glaze or not.

One thing I really appreciate about this recipe is the dough is divided: 2/3 gets pressed into the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ pan, and the other 1/3 gets a bit extra water mixed in so it clumps together in blobs that are the perfect size for sprinkling over the fruit.

Pick your favorite dried fruit, or stick with the original and go with all raisins. No matter how you make them, raisin bars are hard to beat!

If you don’t need a lot of instructions, you can go ahead and skip straight to the recipe. Otherwise, read on for step-by-step instructions.

How to Make Them

You may use each ingredient in more than one of the components: the dough, the filling, and the glaze, but this is all you need.

A collage of ingredients for making the dough, fruit filling, and glaze for oatmeal raisin bars.

The ingredient list features staples from a well-stocked pantry, so you will almost always have what you need on hand.

For the Oatmeal Dough

  • butter: Carries flavor, assists in browning, prevents too much gluten from forming. If you made these without butter, they’d be more like thick crackers than chewy bars
  • brown sugar: You can use white, light brown, or dark brown. Or a combo of all three. Provides sweetness, assists in browning, tenderizes the dough and keeps them moist
  • salt: Brings all the flavors into focus. Don’t leave it out. I use Morton’s kosher salt in all my baking
  • vanilla: Rounds out the flavors and brings some complex, floral notes to the dough
  • cinnamon: The main flavoring for the dough. Feel free to use your favorite baking spice mix in place of cinnamon. Apple pie spice, pumpkin pie spice, etc will work as well.
  • all-purpose flour: Gives the dough bulk and provides gluten for structure. If you need gluten-free raisin bars, substitute your favorite gluten-free flour blend, preferably a cup-for-cup variety
  • baking soda: Adds a little lift and neutralizes the acidity in the brown sugar. If you use all granulated sugar, use 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder instead of 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.
  • dry oatmeal: Also adds bulk as well as mellow oat flavor and texture.
  • water: Helps the dough hold together.

For the Fruit Filling

  • raisins: The recipe calls for 2 cups total. You can make up that 2 cups with all raisins or a mixture of your favorite dried fruits
  • brown sugar: I prefer the bolder flavor of dark brown sugar, so that’s what I use in this recipe. Since you’re just making a syrup and plumping the dried fruit, use whatever sugar is your favorite
  • water: You can also use a fruit juice like apple or grape. Note you will probably need to reduce the amount of sugar if you use juice instead of water
  • salt: Brings the flavors into focus. Please don’t leave it out
  • cornstarch: Thickens the mixture into a thick syrup so your dough doesn’t get soggy.
  • vanilla extract: Rounds out the flavors. Optional, especially if you don’t have much vanilla in your house

For the Optional Glaze

  • powdered sugar: For sweetness and body. Also, using powdered sugar allows the glaze to set up firmly so the bars are not messy to eat
  • salt: Brings out the flavor and adds dimension. As always, don’t leave it out
  • cinnamon: Brings some warm spice to the glaze
  • vanilla: Rounds out the flavor. Not strictly necessary here, but lovely if you have it
  • milk: Thins the glaze to drizzling consistency. Use any milk, whether full fat, non-fat, or any plant-based milk

Procedure

  1. Mix the dough ingredients.
  2. Simmer the fruit filling and allow it to cool for about 15 minutes.
  3. Press 2/3 of the dough into a pan-sprayed 9″ x 13″ pan.
  4. Spread the fruit filling on in a thin, even layer. The goal is to get a 1-fruit thickness all over the entire surface of the dough, so it will take some patience. See the “more fruit filling” variation if you’d like a bit thicker filling.
  5. Add a touch more water to the remaining dough and sprinkle it in little blobs all over the fruit filling.
  6. Bake and let cool completely.
  7. Whisk up glaze ingredients and drizzle onto the cooled bars.

Visual How-To

The first image shows the dough before adding a Tablespoon of water. Truly, it’s all you need for the base.

You’ll pour 2/3 of your dough into a 9″ x 13″ pan and save out 1/3, mixing in 1 additional Tablespoon of water to that.

The dough is very easy to press evenly into the pan with either your fingers or the bottom of a glass.

A collage of 4 images showing the mixing of the oatmeal dough and pressing it into the pan for raisin bars.

The fruit mixture will look cloudy and odd until it comes to a boil.

This is because the cornstarch will make the liquid opaque until it gelatinizes, thickening the fruit mixture.

Collage of 2 images, one of dried fruit in a pan, and the other with the addition of sugar, water, and cornstarch. The liquid looks tan and opaque before cooking.

Note that 2 cups of fruit will yield a thin layer of fruit across the whole crust.

If you want a thicker layer of fruit, please see “variations,” below.

Note in the upper left how I’m pushing the fruit filling towards the sides of the pan. This is because the bottom of the pan is hottest, and the filling will cool more quickly when pushed to the sides.

You can also pour it into a cold metal bowl to assist with more rapid cooling.

In the top right photo, note that you are trying to achieve a 1-piece-of-fruit thickness of filling all across the bottom crust.

Equipment You May Need

You can bake these in a 9″ x 13″ pan or in a 9″ x 9″ pan. NOTE I handwash these pans just to be safe. They are fantastic pans.

After baking, let the bars cool in the pan on a cooling rack.

Slice them with a pizza cutter or a pastry wheel. NOTE If you make thicker bars, you’ll want to use a pizza wheel.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Variations

A stack of three oatmeal raisin bars on a plate. Each is separated by a tan piece of parchment.
  • For thicker bars: No substitutions needed, and no math. Just make these in a 9″ x 9″ square pan. Bake them at 325F rather than 350F for about 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown all over the fruit makes little bubbling noises.
  • For more fruit filling: Bake in a 9″ x 13″ pan but increase all fruit filling ingredients by 1/2, so you’ll need 3 cups of fruit, 1 1/2 cups water, about 1/3 cup water, 1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch, about 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
  • Citrus-Scented: Rather than using cinnamon, you can introduce bright citrus flavors by adding the zest of either a lemon or 1/2 orange to both the dough and the fruit filling. If you choose to glaze them, leave out the cinnamon, and use either orange juice or lemon juice (or a combination) rather than milk for the liquid in the glaze. Or try my date nut bars that already have orange in the filling.
  • Oatmeal (Any) Fruit Bars: You are by no means limited to just using raisins. The photos in the post are of a version I made with 1/2 golden raisins and 1/2 a mixture of dried cranberries and tart cherries. Other dried fruit options to consider: currants, apricots (snipped so the bits are about the size of raisins), figs, dates, blueberries, apples, etc.
  • Brown Butter (Any) Fruit Bars: Up the flavor ante by browning and cooling the butter called for in the dough. You will need to add a total of 2 1/2 Tablespoons (7 1/2 teaspoons) water when making the base dough. Add the called-for 1 Tablespoon of additional water to the portion of dough reserved for the topping.

Oatmeal Raisin Bar Q & A

Can I make these bars vegan?

Yes! Make sure you’re using vegan sugar, and substitute your favorite plant-based butter for the butter called for in the recipe.

Can I make them gluten-free?

Yes. Substitute a cup-for-cup gluten-free flour blend for the all-purpose flour called for. You may need to increase the water by a bit, so if the dough is too dry and crumbly to hold together when you squeeze it, add water, a teaspoon at a time, until it holds together. It’s also advisable to let the dough sit for 30 minutes or so to make sure the flour is properly hydrated, especially gluten-free blends made with rice flour. This helps to avoid the sometimes-gritty texture you can get with gf baked goods.

Can I freeze them?

Yes. It’s best to freeze them before glazing. Wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and foil and freeze for up to 2 months. You can also freeze them in zip-top freezer bags. Make sure to press out as much air as possible before sealing and freezing. Thaw at room temperature before unsealing.

Questions

If you have any questions about this post or recipe, I am happy to help.

Simply leave a comment here and I will get back to you soon. I also invite you to ask question in my Facebook group, Fearless Kitchen Fun.

If your question is more pressing, please feel free to email me. I should be back in touch ASAP, as long as I’m not asleep.

A Note About Measurements

My recipes are almost all written by weight, including liquids, unless otherwise specified.

For accuracy and consistency of results, I encourage you to buy–and use–a kitchen scale.

I promise that baking and cleanup will be so much quicker and easier.

This is the scale that I recommend for home use. I have owned and used one for years.

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07/22/2024 07:15 am GMT

Please Take a Moment to Rate and Review

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A stack of three oatmeal raisin bars on a plate. Each is separated by a tan piece of parchment.

Cranberry Raisin Bars

Jennifer Field
My mom called these bars "cinnamon raisin bars." Feel free to make them with your favorite dried fruit or a mixture of dried fruits.
These little raisin bars make the perfect lunchbox snack or after-school snack. They are a little sweet and a little tart and are a bit chewy.
Whether or not you glaze them, they are lovely with a cup of tea or a glass of milk. These cookie bars are a treat for the whole family.
5 from 3 votes
Tried this recipe?Please give it a star rating!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Rest Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Cookies and Bars
Cuisine American
Servings 20 -36 bars, depending on how you cut them
Calories 180 kcal

Ingredients

For the Oatmeal Dough

  • 4 oz 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 6.6-7 oz 1 cup, packed brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 7 oz about 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats (I just used a measuring cup)
  • 2 Tablespoons water divided

For the Fruit

  • 1.75 oz brown sugar (about 1/4 cup, lightly packed)
  • 8 oz 1 cup water (you could also use apple juice, cranberry juice or whatever sounds good for the water, but you might have to adjust the sugar)
  • 1 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups total dried fruit raisins, dried cranberries, cherries, apricots, etc
  • heavy pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 350F.
  • Spray a 9"x13" baking pan with pan spray. Set aside.

For the Crust

  • Combine butter, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Mix on medium-low speed until you no longer see pieces of butter and the mixture is nice and smooth.
  • Beat in 1 Tablespoon of the water.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking soda and oats.
  • Dump into the mixer and mix on low speed until well combined. Scrape the bowl as necessary.

For the Fruit

  • Combine all the ingredients except the vanilla in a medium sauce pan.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about ten minutes.
  • Remove from heat and, stir in the vanilla.
  • Let the mixture cool for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.

To Assemble and Bake

  • Press about 2/3 of the crust mixture into your pan in an even layer. It should be about 1/4" thick.
  • Spread on the fruit in an even layer. Make sure to take it all the way to the edges.
  • Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of water to the remaining crust mixture and mix well. Drop small "nuggets" of crust mixture all over the top of the fruit layer. You want to see some fruit peeking through, but make sure you get a nice even layer of crumbs.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is firm and deeply golden brown.
  • Let cool on a rack until room temperature.
  • Glaze and let set up before slicing. If you're not going to glaze them, go ahead and slice them. These keep well at room temperature for 4-5 days.
  • Freeze for longer storage.

Did You Make Any Changes?

Notes

GENERAL NOTES:

If you want thicker bars, use a 9"x9" pan. Bake for half an hour, and then turn the heat down to 325F. Continue baking until the crust is a lovely deep golden brown.
Glaze them as you see fit, but they are fantastic naked, too.
You could always heat these up (or serve straight from the oven) as a kind of dried fruit crisp. In this case, ice cream is advisable.

Glaze Ingredients

If you'd like to drizzle your bars with glaze, here's how to make it:
Whisk together:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • heavy pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or as much as you like)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons milk. Start with 2 Tablespoons and add a bit more as needed to make a nice drizzling consistency
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Use a fork to drizzle the glaze on. Allow it to set up until it is hard before cutting.

Cutting the Bars

These bars are fairly thin and can be a bit of a pain to get out of the pan.
I cut them into 6-8 large sections with a dinner knife right in the pan.
Then, I remove each section with a spatula and them on a cutting board.
Slice each section into 4-6 smaller pieces. I like to use a pizza wheel for this. It makes nice, clean cuts.

Variations

In the photos, I used 1 cup golden raisins, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, and 1/2 cup tart cherries. This is a lovely combination, but you can use any combination of dried fruits you like.
  • apricots (snip them so the pieces are "raisin sized")
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • tart cherries
  • golden raisins
  • "regular" raisins
  • prunes (again, snip so the pieces are raisin-sized)
  • figs
  • dates
  • etc

Storage

Store in a tightly-covered container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Freeze (unglazed works best) in heavy-duty zip-top freezer bags. Press out as much air as possible before sealing. They will keep just fine for up to 2 months. Thaw in the sealed bag at room temperature for several hours or overnight.

Nutrition information is based on slicing into 30 pieces without glaze. Values will increase with larger slices and decrease for smaller sizes.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 180kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 4gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 79mgFiber: 2gSugar: 10g
Keyword cranberry raisin bars, lunchbox snacks, oatmeal bars, oatmeal raisin bars
Did you make this recipe?Please tell us what you loved!

You will love these cranberry raisin bars. I promise. Enjoy them, and thank my mom next time you see her.

Take care, and thanks for reading, y’all.

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10 Comments

  1. This looks like a yummy recipe. I love this method for bar cookies: easy to make & customize, and a snap for GF. Every Christmas I make a slightly richer version with a mincemeat filling. It’s nice to have something so easy on the cookie tray, but nobody has to know that part. ;^)

      1. I just wanted to comment on this recipe.I have recently entered into the world of Farmers Markets.I have been in the “cooking” end of Food Service over 30 years (yes….I’m an oldie), but Bread and Pastry are new territory. I am getting pretty good at Bread and also try to carry”finger foods” for impulse buyers. These bars filled the bill and were extremely popular…Even after all these years….I am learning every day!

      2. I am so happy to hear that, Joan! These are perfect for the market–they keep well and don’t fall apart. Plus, easy to wrap individually! So glad they were a hit–and another “plus:” you can use any kind of dried fruit to keep them even more seasonal:)

  2. I’ve heard about the heat over there. I could use some right here in my office if you don’t mind. The sun’s out and I swear it’s warmer outside than it is inside.

    Love your mother’s oatmeal bars and I hope the 4th celebration was fun. 🙂

    btw.. the stars options are 0 and 1 ?? I chose not to leave a 1 LOL.. seems unkind.

    1. I will gladly send some heat your way, @twitter-138546900:disqus Is there some weird star setting that I’m doing wrong?! I’ll go check. Thanks for not leaving 1 star–you’re a peach! lol

  3. We decided to go out for a movie and food, then we stayed in the rest of the weekend! I love my A/C! Your bars sound delicious, I love cranberries and anything with a delicious crumbly top! 🙂 Hugs, Terra

5 from 3 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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