Oatmeal Marble Squares (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free, Delish)

This post is linked to Sugar-Free Sundays.

Because things keep working against me on getting a year-end, new year kick-off post up, I’m bringing home a recipe from a guest post that I did over at The Daily Dietribe for Iris a few years back—Oatmeal Marble Squares.

I tend to use oatmeal more in the cooler months. There are oatmeal breakfast dishes like Oatmeal Brulee and simple pleasures like Flourless Oatmeal Cookies. Occasionally, there are even more indulgent treats like Magic Oat Bars. Of course, oatmeal provides more nutrition, and “sticks to your ribs”—as grandma used to say—for when the body needs more fuel to face the harshness of cold weather. And I love baking once the heat of the oven becomes a plus factor!

The following recipe, Oatmeal Marble Squares, is another crowd pleaser that uses oats. I’m sharing two versions. The first is one that was simply adapted to be gluten free, substituting gluten free flour for all-purpose (gluten) flour. The second has been adapted further—alternative ingredients are shown in parens—so that it’s not too unhealthy. (Yes, sometimes, that is the goal!) Both versions offer chewiness and gooeyness. Admittedly, the first version is far more chewy and gooey, but I like the healthier, second version just as much. I don’t feel like I need to eat the whole pan with the latter version … the same can’t be said for the first version.

Mr. GFE’s former boss, Robert, would do flips over the original version of this recipe. (Because he was hubby’s former boss, he’s never tried the new, healthier version.) We had all gone to a concert together and I’d made these squares for our tailgate party. Robert ended up eating most of them. He did so quite unabashedly, too. He raved over them so much that I sent the few that were left home with him. After that, if Mr. GFE had a work function that included food, I’d make these treats for him to take in … every time. I even sent in some out of the blue on occasion. The fact that Mr. GFE was going to be requesting vacation leave on the spur of the moment a few days later (to better work with my own schedule) had absolutely nothing to do with my kindness. Seriously. It was pure coincidence. Uh huh … Yes, these are bribe-worthy treats, even covert bribing, if you will.

Oatmeal Marble Squares
(Click here for a printable version of this recipe.)


3/4 cup gluten-free flour mix
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened (dairy or non-dairy; or substitute ¼ cup coconut oil plus 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil)
1/3 cup granulated sugar (or substitute 2/3 cup coconut sugar or coconut palm sugar for both granulated sugar and brown sugar)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup uncooked oats (certified gluten-free; regular or quick—see notes)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (or seeds, like sunflower)
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (dairy or non-dairy)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, combine butter, sugars, and vanilla extract. Beat until creamy.

Mix in egg.

Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix well.

Stir in oats, chocolate chips, and nuts.

Spread into a greased 13 x 9 x 3 glass baking pan using spatula. (Healthier version does not spread as well, so use an 8 x 8 square pan if using alternative ingredients.) Mixture will not be very thick at all. Bake 5 minutes, then remove from oven and slightly drag the back of a spoon over the surface in a swirl design to create a marble effect.

Return to oven and bake about 10 minutes longer. Total baking time should be about 15 minutes. Test if these bars are done by using a toothpick.

Let cool and cut into small squares.

Recipe adapted from an older Nestle’s Toll House Cookbook

Shirley’s Notes: Baking time for each part should be a few minutes longer for the version made with the alternative ingredients, with total baking time about 20 minutes. While it’s fun to hold true to the name and produce the marble effect using a spoon, sometimes I just skip that part. The taste is just as delicious, although the appearance may not be quite as novel. I use Gifts of Nature Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats, which are certified gluten free by the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO) to less than 10 ppm. (You can read more about gluten-free oats here. If you are gluten free, it’s imperative that you eat oats that are certified gluten free.) Sometimes I use the oats “as is”; sometimes I run them through the food processor or my mini-chopper to make them more like quick oats. Quick oats do bind a bit better with the other ingredients to make a more solid square, and are slightly less chewy. I have used all types of combinations for the small amount of gluten-free flour required in this recipe. I’ve used my “fallback” mix of Asian white rice flour and cornstarch, but I’ve also used a mix of white rice flour, brown rice flour, and cornstarch. However, my favorite recent combination includes ¼ cup of almond flour. In regard to the “fat” in the recipe, in my opinion, coconut oil is not as flavorful in baking as one would expect; that’s why I also used some extra virgin olive oil in the second version. Coconut oil is usually substituted one for one for the amount of butter, but a lesser amount of olive oil is usually substituted for butter. I love using olive oil to make recipes dairy free (like in my Perfect Pound Cake and Mediterranean Chocolate Cake). In addition to giving one a quick alternative to dairy, it also provides both amazing flavor and moistness. Here’s a helpful chart for substituting olive oil for butter. Finally, no xanthan gum is required for this recipe.

Not just gf, but gfe!

Full Disclosure/Disclaimer: This post may contain one or more affiliate links. If you purchase through them, your cost will always be the same, but I will receive a small commission. Thanks for the support! Read the full disclaimer here.


35 Responses to “Oatmeal Marble Squares (Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free, Delish)”

  1. Heidi @ Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom on January 6th, 2012 9:21 pm

    Happy New Year Shirley!!!!

    Your bars look scrumptious, as does everything you make. Definitely gonna make these for my boys, the coconut sugar version seems like a great breakfast to me! And yes, I will curse your name as I salivate and try to keep myself from diving in…being grain-free isn’t always easy in a dual kitchen (okay, now that’s a funny turn of events…my dual kitchen is not gluten vs. gluten free, it’s gluten free vs. grain free!).

    And I love your trick for making quick oats!


    • Shirley on January 7th, 2012 6:16 pm

      Hey Heidi–Thank you, dear. It’s incredibly wonderful having you as a cheerleader! Are you avoiding quinoa flakes, too? I’m thinking those would work well instead of the oats. You are an amazing mom! I’m not good at running a dual kitchen, no matter what the dualities are. ;-)

      I have lots of tricks for quick. Shirley who has no patience in the kitchen here. :-)


  2. Ricki on January 6th, 2012 11:12 pm

    I think I’d flip for these, too, just like Mr. GFE’s boss! I also tend to think of oatmeal as a “winter” food for some reason. But I love it any way I can get it–and these bars sounds fabulous.

    • Shirley on January 7th, 2012 6:20 pm

      Ricki–Yes, oatmeal does seem to be a winter food, although I make my flourless oatmeal cookies year round. We especially like them for camping. ;-)

      Thanks, dear!

  3. Megan @ MAID in Alaska on January 6th, 2012 11:23 pm

    These look yummy, Shirley! The perfect treat for my girls – I think I’m going to make these this week. Thank you for the recipe!
    :) Hugs,

    • Shirley on January 7th, 2012 6:20 pm

      Hi Megan–Thanks so much! You’re the sweetest. Hope your equally sweet girls enjoy these! :-)


  4. Katrina (gluten free gidget) on January 7th, 2012 11:45 am

    There is nothing like Oatmeal (in any form) on a chilly winter day!

    • Shirley on January 7th, 2012 6:21 pm

      Hi Katrina–I know, right? Just feels right! Thanks for taking the time to comment. :-)


  5. Valerie @ City|Life|Eats on January 7th, 2012 2:09 pm

    I love chewy oatmeal bars – these look absolutely wonderful. And I hear you on the end of year / beginning of new year posts – I am still only half done with the ones on that topic.

    • Shirley on January 7th, 2012 6:21 pm

      Thanks, Valerie! I wonder why we are dragging our feet this year … more contemplation needed? ;-)


  6. Adrienne @ Whole New Mom on January 7th, 2012 3:38 pm

    These look wonderful, Shirley. I guess we are all drawn to chocolate, eh?

    I am wondering about the butter substitution. I thought I knew about subbing out fats pretty well, but I never heard about the coconut oil plus olive oil sub instead of butter. Can you explain please? I guess one learns something every day! I just typically sub butter for coconut oil 1:1.

    • Shirley on January 7th, 2012 6:24 pm

      Adrienne–A good amount of what is shared here on gfe is “the gospel according to Shirley.” LOL, but true. Coconut oil by itself often seems flat and flavorless to me, but if I add in olive oil, I get the flavor I want. It’s rare for that one to one substitution to work for me, even not considering the flavor. Usually I use less coconut oil than butter if doing a one-to-one sub.

      Thanks, dear!

      • Adrienne @ Whole New Mom on January 7th, 2012 6:29 pm

        Thanks! Is there a reason you use less?

        • Shirley on January 7th, 2012 11:14 pm

          Adrienne–My experience has always been that when I use a one-for-one substitution, the recipe seems too oily or has too much liquid. Again, that’s my experience. When I first started subbing coconut oil for butter, I did my research and saw that many folks were doing the one-for-one sub so I tried that, but it didn’t give the results I wanted. Since that substitution has always worked for you, you might want to play about with the exact amount of oil in this recipe, whether you use all coconut oil or a mixture of coconut oil and olive oil. Please let us know if you try the recipe and what works for you. :-)


          • Adrienne @ Whole New Mom on January 8th, 2012 12:01 am

            I’m excited to try your suggestion. I have had issues w/ some recipes not working out but didn’t really know why…..this is great food for thought (and eating) going forward – thanks!

          • Shirley on January 8th, 2012 1:16 am

            Adrienne–Really hope these ideas work for you! :-)


  7. Linda on January 7th, 2012 3:43 pm

    I love oatmeal bars, particularly with nuts and chocolate. They look great! I wonder if oatmeal is a warming food and that’s why you like it in the winter.

    • Shirley on January 7th, 2012 10:09 pm

      Hi Linda–Thanks! I think you are right … oatmeal is a warming food! These bars are an easy treat and a favorite of ours. I don’t make them often (mostly because I don’t keep gf oats in the house), but when I do, we really enjoy them. Mr. GFE is a huge lover of oatmeal cookies and bars. ;-)


  8. Maggie on January 7th, 2012 6:05 pm

    You had me at chewy :) Yum Shirley! These remind me a little of those delightful granola bars of yours, you know the ones I brought to Chicago! Pete’s recently discovered that he can’t do oats, thank goodness for quinoa flakes when it comes to a recipe like this! I’m sure Mr. GFE’s boss is reading this and weeping! Although, you’ve basically given him the recipe! xo

    • Shirley on January 7th, 2012 10:14 pm

      Hi Maggie–I’m sorry Pete can’t do oats any more. I think there are quite a few gf folks who can’t and there are a number of opinions on the “why”. Dr. Fine even talked about avoiding oats at his conference. Quinoa flakes are great in these types of recipes though. FYI–If you want to do an egg-free version of this recipe, one reader tried a flax egg when I shared this recipe over at Iris’ and that didn’t work for her. A chia egg might be a better idea.

      We saw Mr. GFE’s former boss tonight, but I didn’t bring up these goodies. ;-) He’s a single guy these days and a great cook, but I’m not sure if he does any baking.


  9. Debbi Does Dinner Healthy on January 7th, 2012 10:17 pm

    I love oatmeal! This looks great, thanks!

    • Shirley on January 7th, 2012 11:30 pm

      Hi Debbi–Thank you! Hope you enjoy them if you give them a try. :-)


  10. InTolerant Chef on January 7th, 2012 10:42 pm

    We all need some bribe-worthy recipes in our repertoire! But I do think these seem pretty special!

    • Shirley on January 7th, 2012 11:31 pm

      InTolerant Chef–Haha! I agree for sure. :-) They really are tasty and the texture is great, too. ;-)


  11. Renee on January 8th, 2012 3:23 pm

    Hi Shirley –
    These sound wonderful! We’re having going away treats for a coworker this week, so I just may have to make this! Plus I have a bag of GF oats languishing in the pantry. (Oats weren’t a big part of my life before GF and then they told us for so many years that we shouldn’t eat them regardless, so they just aren’t part of my regular repertoire. Thanks!

    • Shirley on January 9th, 2012 3:21 pm

      Renee–Thanks! Sounds like this recipe was definitely meant to be for you and your co-workers! ;-) Hope you all enjoy!


  12. Carol on January 8th, 2012 10:28 pm

    Love the idea of having a few bribe worthy recipes in my back pocket :) These sound great and I hope you enjoyed your time together with Mr. GFE.


    • Shirley on January 9th, 2012 3:26 pm

      Carol–You’re so sweet. I suspect that you have more than a few bribe-worth recipes in your back pocket! I’m still enjoying the post holiday quiet and trying to get back into the swing of things. ;-)


  13. Raj @ Flip Cookbook on January 10th, 2012 5:58 pm

    Lol.. Love it! Happy New Year Shirley! Thanks for linking up.. and thanks for the great “incentive” treat idea. (I like the word “incentive” better than “bribe”) LOL. :)

    • Shirley on January 13th, 2012 1:00 am

      Hey Raj–Happy New Year to you, too, dear! “Incentives”! I like it. ;-) Whatever works, right?


  14. Sharyn Engel on January 13th, 2012 12:11 pm

    Hi Shirley…About to make the Oatmeal Marble Squares but have a question re the flour mix. In the grocery store I saw GF flour…do i need to add more ingredients to that? Sorry, other than the fudge, haven’t baked gf before.

    • Shirley on January 13th, 2012 12:15 pm

      Hi Sharyn–No, you don’t need to add anything else to the recipe. The gluten-free flour mix alone is what is called for in my recipe. Hope your squares turn out great! Please let us know. :-) Oh, and no worries on asking questions. I’m always happy to answer questions, but just know that I’m not always at the computer for a prompt reply. You lucked out today. :-)


    • Sharyn Engel on January 13th, 2012 7:16 pm

      I made the Oatmeal Marble bars. Instead of using the gf flour, I remembered that I had a new box of gf Bisquick (which I have never used). It does have baking soda in it already, but I did add 1/4 tsp anyways, since I didn’t know how much was in the Bisquick. They came out GREAT, and very light in texture! :) Thank you for your help this morning!

      • Shirley on January 13th, 2012 7:30 pm

        Hi Sharyn–Thanks so much for reporting back! I’m really glad you had such success. :-) I’m wishing I had a yummy oatmeal marble square right about now. ;-)

        Thanks again, dear!

Leave a reply

Related Posts with Thumbnails