Nature Valley Granola Bar Flavors Ranked Worst To Best

If you haven't cracked into a Nature Valley two-pack and watched crumbs fly everywhere, have you really granola bar-ed? These snacks border on mindful eating, though the inclusion of sugar keeps them just shy of being considered a true health food. Per its website, Nature Valley is the original granola bar, turning its crunchy cereal into a cookie-like bar in 1973 for snackers to enjoy on the go. Considering the other options found in vending machines and snack boxes, Nature Valley offers a delicious possibility among a wilderness of chips and candy. 

Though the company has experimented with the form over the decades by adding variations as well as novelties like near-total peanut butter log-style peanut butter Boppers in the '80s, the basic version is a snacking classic. The original bar comes in a collection of flavors that maximize the theme of a more wholesome form of comfort food. 

We tried the whole lot to determine which flavors are tops and which might be flops. We discovered that although there's not a bad bar to be found in the bunch, some selections certainly stand out as being tastier than others.

9. Pecan Crunch

There's only so much you can do with nut flavors when it comes to incorporating new dimensions into a granola bar. Pecan crunch is a prime example of how a recipe can sound inspired in the brainstorming stage but come up short upon execution. There's nothing offensive or off-putting about folding this relatively innocuous nut into the basic batter. And maybe that's the problem: The pecan aspect is too basic to be noticed among the other elements. 

A very light layer of pecan can be detected, though it's so subtle when paired with the roasted oat flavor that it's practically lost from bite to bite. While the effort to keep the new features on the natural side is understandable, sometimes they blend in too well and fail to add anything special.

Being as unexciting as pecan crunch is, it's still a decent bar, as worthy a choice as a plain granola bar if there's nothing else available. To make better use of them, consider breaking up the bars into crumbs to use as a pie crust alternative to using graham crackers or cookies. You'll have a flavorful base for a bigger dessert that puts these unimpressive bars to better use.

8. Oats 'N Dark Chocolate

Adding dark chocolate bits to a Nature Valley granola bar turns out to be a fun twist, as proven by oats 'n dark chocolate. The chips are a happy discovery amid the crispy oats, like an edible treasure hidden in every bite. There's also a bit of cocoa in the bar itself as the darkness of the bar confirms. However, the volume is turned down low enough that the flavor almost doesn't register. Instead, it stays in the background, hoping to be noticed rather than rising to the occasion. Dark chocolate should never be this shy.

The big ask here would be for more chocolate bits, and maybe even more cocoa, just to seal the deal in an unmistakable manner. Instead, we get a slight ramp-up of what a regular granola bar has to offer. To improve on what should have been a much more chocolatey encounter, try adding a swipe of Nutella to the top of one bar and smashing the other bar on top to make a Nutella-nola sandwich bar.

7. Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate

The peanut butter dark chocolate flavor combo is bound to bring to mind various Reese's Peanut Butter candies folded into a granola bar. The truth is more subtle. Both the peanut butter and dark chocolate bring depth to the customary bar base. However, both are a light coating added to the core mixture rather than a heavily dipped outer shell, keeping this version aligned with the truer nature of Nature Valley. 

What you'll find inside the wrapper is a gently nutty, subtly chocolate essence that makes for a different sort of bar without overdoing it on the palate. Think of it as the closest to a chocolate cookie these granola bars can come without pouring on the corn syrup, and you're in the ballpark.

While the influence of both peanut butter and chocolate is a middle-of-the-road mixture that neither offends nor overwhelms, there's nothing to hate about peanut butter dark chocolate bars either. If a darker, earthier cocoa is your preferred choice of chocolate, this variation will be a pleasing respite from overly sweet confections. There are far less-satisfying treats to dip in your coffee or enjoy with a cup of tea.

6. Oats 'N Honey

The heart of all Nature Valley lies with the original oats 'n honey combination. This is the epitome of granola and the origin of how this snack-like cereal has come to be known. It doesn't try too hard or get too flashy; familiarity is a part of the formula. The earthy mix of oats adds texture while the honey infuses flavor, resulting in a delightful tastebud harmony that soothes while it satisfies. When your mind conjures the taste of granola, it's most likely calling upon images of this natural wonder to create a sweet sensorial memory.

Because there's nothing extra in this straightforward snack, it comes in near the middle of the list. That's not to say it isn't a great granola go-to when hunger hits you with a one-two punch. Maybe it's the packaging or the marketing angle that makes granola feel like an outdoor food, which is the vibe oats 'n honey gave us during this sampling session. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a humble nibble that reminds noshers of the great outdoors. But if you have your pick of bars from the greater Nature Valley array, you can find more exciting choices that will feel like a special treat.

5. Roasted Almond

Nature Valley roasted almond bars are so close to being a sensation, it's not even funny. Maybe more than any other nut, almond jumps into the flavor fray and takes center stage. The warm, cherry-like taste plays so well with the sweet notes and toasted oats, you would think it was part of the basic recipe. The one improvement that could make this bar next-level delicious is larger chunks of almonds. Even a blast of almond butter on top would have been an excellent move to increase the almond-osity. But this bar is devoid of anything extra to supplement its almond essence.

On the occasions your roasted almond granola bar ends up smashed to bits, you can pour it into a bowl, add your preferred style and flavor of milk, and take a step back into Nature Valley's granola cereal origins. In fact, why wait, when you can crumble the bars on purpose and have a breakfast slow-down that invites you to sit back and enjoy the crunchy almond goodness at a more leisurely pace?

4. Cinnamon

Unsurprisingly, adding a warm spice to make Nature Valley cinnamon granola bars takes the bare bar in delicious new directions. The warm spice and sweetness meld in an organic way that oatmeal cookie lovers are sure to adore. The addition is such a soft touch that makes so much sense that it feels as if someone forgot to add cinnamon to the original recipe and the company took the gaffe to market. Thankfully, it realized its misstep and gave cinnamon its own bar, a starring role that's both natural and well-deserved.

Experts recommend eating cinnamon daily to reap the health rewards offered, though consuming granola bars as a vehicle isn't necessarily part of it. Even if you're only drawn to these old-fashioned treats for the fantastic flavor, the cinnamon sweetness is a thoroughly pleasant throwback to home-baked goodness. Beyond keeping a few pouches in your backpack for ready snacking, consider crumbling them in yogurt parfaits for a fun and flavorful crunch or sprinkling them on fruit to jazz up your slices.

3. Maple Brown Sugar

The sweet delight of maple brown sugar bars brings Nature Valley bars closer to the breakfast realm in a way that makes more sense than possibly any other flavor in the collection. There's enough of each element present to conjure the unmistakable essence of pancakes, waffles, and fresh-baked pastries, without the need for a trip to the bakery or a dash for one of IHOP's famous stacks. The blend is so convincing, you may have granola bar-induced delusions of autumn, hiding out in a cabin in the woods while you nosh on this surprisingly sumptuous treat. How many snack foods can inspire so much bliss? 

Having multiple sweet ingredients might seem like a sweetness overload, but the balance is so exceptional that they create a flavor synergy that elevates this bar to the top three on the list. If you're heating up oatmeal in the morning and feel the need to toss some sweetness and crunch in the bowl to spruce it up, a sprinkle of maple brown sugar crumbles would be a welcome addition.

2. Apple Crisp

Buttery, sweet, crisp, and filled with apple flavor ... nope, it's not apple crumble, apple pie, or even apple strudel. It's apple crisp granola bars, a revelation that brings dessert feels to your snacking. It's like eating the best part of an apple crumble without having to peel or core fruit, turn on the oven, or wait for your dessert to bake and cool. The apple essence asserts itself without overwhelming the brown sugar notes hidden among the toasted oats. 

If there were an official autumn snack food to include in vending machines from September through November, this bar would be the one for the job. Since pumpkin spice seems to own the whole season, apple crisp bars will just have to be enjoyed year-round instead. Oh darn!

Looking for a quick and easy after-dinner something-something? Try apple crisp bars topped with old-fashioned vanilla ice cream and walnuts. This decadent concoction gathers the best homestyle flavors and turns them into a no-trouble deconstructed dessert. You can even ditch the spoon and use the bars to scoop the ice cream out of the bowl for an unexpectedly amusing à la mode treat, no baking required.

1. Peanut Butter

The inspired smash-up of peanut butter and oatmeal is a no-brainer for anyone who loves flavors that tend toward the more natural end of the spectrum. Nature Valley passes the vibe test, capitalizing on this sweet and savory combo by bringing together the best of all earthy flavors in its peanut butter granola bars. A drizzle of PB on top of each bar makes a light coating while adding a softer texture to that percussive crumbly crackle. The effect is like eating an open-faced peanut butter sandwich on bread toasted within an inch of its life, in the tastiest way possible.

Don't sleep on breaking up these bars and using the crumbs as a mix-in or topping for ice cream. No one would be mad if you sprinkled them on top of cupcakes or muffins, either. You could add a swipe of your favorite jelly and reinvent PB&J as a crispy, crackly classic for the modern snacking age. It may sound extra, but when you're at the top of the Nature Valley granola bar flavor heap, people expect incredible things. Peanut butter bars come through with flying colors — or more aptly, flying flavors.