Allergy-friendly granola bars are pretty tough to find. Quaker Chewy Bars are all right, but most come with “may contain” warnings—and Special K bars, which work for me, grow old after a box or two. Don’t Go Nuts‘s bars aren’t granola, nor are Enjoy Life‘s; MadeGood‘s are tiny and unsatisfying, and 88 Acres‘s are nearly impossible to find. Pickings are slim, I tell you. Slim indeed.
Are nut-free (just nut-free—not gluten-free or dairy-free or taste-free) granola bars really so ludicrous a request? Apparently, yes.
One brand that works for me, though, is Cascadian Farm. At first glance, the company doesn’t look all that allergy-friendly—plenty of their products contain almonds, for example—but it isn’t all that bad, as far as regular (i.e. not allergen-free) companies go.
I spent a few weeks trying (in such vain) trying to get Cascadian Farm to give me a straight answer on whether they label for shared lines, etc. via email before finally giving in and picking up the phone, at which point I found out that they’ll issue “may contain” warnings for the top 8 allergens (plus sesame, sunflower, and mollusks) if there’s any concern whatsoever of cross-contamination.
I pressed further—a lot of companies will say similar things and then go on to not label for shared lines, for example—but everything I was told sounded pretty promising. Corporate answers can be tough to decode, even when they’re coming from an actual human being on the other end of a phone line—but the gist, from what I gathered, was that Cascadian Farm does label for shared lines, shared facilities, and (according to the representative I spoke with) anything other factors that may be cause for concern.
I’m comfortable, then, with any of their products that don’t have a warning printed on the box (or bag). And their bars—well, a lot of them, at least—don’t come bearing any such warnings, so I guess I have to be on board.
Taste-wise, the bars are nothing special—actually, they’re sort of dull, even as granola bars go—but they’re much, much better than those put out by most decidedly allergen-free companies. My favorite flavor is the Vanilla Chip, made with oats, crisped rice, and white chocolate chips. As a whole, it isn’t particularly flavorful, but the chip-heavy bites really do it for my sweet tooth, which is probably why I find myself coming back to these bars over and over (and over).
Chocolate Chip is very similar, though a little less sweet (duh—it’s the same bar, with the white chocolate swapped out for semisweet) and thus a little less addictive, too. Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan, but it isn’t particularly bad. It’s just not as sugary as I’d like it to be (which is probably a good thing, as reluctant as I am to say so).
To tell you the truth, Vanilla and Chocolate Chip are the only varieties I’ve tried. (What can I say? I’m boring—and these bars aren’t cheap. I’m not exactly going to jump at the opportunity to throw an additional $5 at a box of granola bars that may or may not suck.) Cascadian Farm makes a bunch of other chewy bars, though—Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Dark Chocolate Cranberry Trail Mix, Harvest Berry, Oatmeal Raisin, Peanut Butter Chip, and Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter—as well as a few crunchy bars, protein bars, soft-baked squares, and some loose granola, too. All of the above should be safe, too—provided the box in question is without a “may contain” warning of any sort.
Find Cascadian Farm’s products all over the place: at Target, Walmart, Food Emporium (RIP, my dying friend), ShopRite, Whole Foods, Key Food, Morton Williams, Stop & Shop, and probably a whole lot of other stores, too.