British traditional chocolate flapjacks are a family favourite quick and easy bake which uses everyday pantry vegan-friendly ingredients. These chocolate flapjacks are sweet, oaty, and chocolatey, with soft, chewy, crumbly moist insides and crispy edges. So delicious with a cup of tea, coffee or chilled plant-milk.
British flapjacks may be known as oat bars or granola bars over in the US however even though granola bars are pretty similar they usually contain nuts and seeds whereas flapjacks are just oats. British flapjacks are also similar to oat slices and muesli bars although flapjacks are generally softer and more moist on the inside compared to a drier muesli bar.
The origins of British Flapjacks
The term flapjacks has been around since at least 16th century Britain but was used to describe a kind of pancake or tart and not the British oat flapjack that is baked and sliced into bars.
The word "flapjack" was first used in print in 1530, and it is thought to have come from the Old English word "flæp", which means "to flap". This may be because the original flapjacks were made by flattening a dough of oats, butter, and sugar and then cooking it on a griddle.
Collinsdictionary.com has two definitions for flapjack, one outlining a flapjack as ''thick biscuits made from oats, butter and syrup'' and the second ''thin flat circular pieces of cooked batter made from milk, flour and eggs''. The second sounds very much like a Scotch pancake or an American style pancake. Also Shakespeare used the term flapjack in his play "Pericles, Prince of Tyre", but was referring to a kind of pancake, not the modern oat-based snack.
Are flapjacks a Scottish bake?
Many consider flapjacks a Scottish bake but they have been popular for centuries in other parts of Britain as well so it is difficult to claim oaty flapjacks as exclusively originating in Scotland even though oats have been a very important crop in Scotland for many centuries.
Scotland and oats
Historically, Scotland's cooler climate and more rugged terrain made it difficult to grow wheat, but oats were hardy enough to thrive in these conditions and as a result, oats became a crucial part of the Scottish diet.
In the past, oats were commonly used in Scotland to make porridge, bannocks (a type of flat round bread), and oatcakes. They were also used in skirlie and haggis, two traditional Scottish dishes, and in various forms of ale and beer.
While many other grains like wheat, corn, and rice dominate in other parts of the world, oats hold a special place in Scottish food history and culture due to their adaptability to the Scottish climate and terrain.
Some food historians muse that the flapjack evolved from an earlier form of Scottish flat oaten bread called oatcakes or perhaps bannocks, that were both baked on a griddle over an open fire, a cooking method which was popular in both Scotland as well as England.
Incidentally, England also has a type of traditional oatcake called a Staffordshire Oatcake or known as just an oatcake if your a local, but these are thin and can be folded over like a pancake, more similar to the historical pancake style flapjacks, and nothing like the crisp biscuit texture of a Scottish oatcake or British flapjack.
Modern British flapjacks
The modern British flapjack, made from oats, butter, and sugar or syrup, likely came into being sometime in the 19th or early 20th century with some older recipes calling for black treacle or molasses instead of the golden syrup commonly used today. But overall, the simple, rustic nature of the ingredients used in flapjacks lean more to their evolution in more of a rural, farmhouse or country cottage origin.
So whilst flapjacks are popular throughout the UK, and are available in many Scottish bakeries, tearooms, and cafes, they don't have a uniquely Scottish origin like certain other traditional Scottish bakes such as Shortbread, Border Tart, or Dundee cake.
Flapjacks in the US
In the United States, the term "flapjack" is commonly used as a synonym for a pancake. American pancakes, or flapjacks, are typically made from a batter that includes flour, eggs, and milk or buttermilk, which is then cooked on a hot surface such as a griddle or frying pan. The batter often includes a leavening agent like baking powder to make the pancakes fluffy.
American pancakes are usually served for breakfast, often in stacks, and are typically accompanied by a variety of toppings, including butter, maple syrup, fruit, and whipped cream. The term "flapjack" is less commonly used than "pancake," but in certain regions or contexts, it's the preferred term.
Incidentally, if you are looking for an easy vegan pancake recipe then do check out our Traditional Vegan Pancakes and our Vegan Chocolate Chip Pancakes which produce a nice pile of thick style Scotch pancakes or American style pancakes.
How to prepare British chocolate flapjacks
Chocolate flapjacks are a quick bake as its just a case of melting the margarine, sugar and syrup together, stirring through the vanilla, and then mixing it all through the oats and chocolate chips before baking for 20-25 minutes.
First, add the margarine, brown sugar and golden syrup to a saucepan.
Over a low heat melt and stir the ingredients into a smooth liquid.
Stir through the vanilla.
Add the rolled or porridge oats to a mixing bowl.
Pour and scrape the melted liquid into the oats and mix well.
Add the chocolate chips or drops and quickly stir through. If your kitchen is very warm the chocolate chips may melt into the oats but if it is quite cool they may stay firm.
[I baked the batch photoed above while it was 25 degrees Celsius outside and the chocolate drops melted almost as soon as they were opened! We have baked previous batches where the chocolate drops remain mostly solid even during baking!]
Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm and the sides look slightly crisp.
Check fan ovens at the 20 minute stage.
Slice into squares whilst still warm and leave in the baking pan until completely cool.
Recipe notes and FAQ's
Chocolate flapjacks will keep fresh for up to 4 days, if kept wrapped in parchment paper or kitchen foil and placed within a covered container. Store in a cool, dry place or if your kitchen is very warm store within the refrigerator.
How long can I store flapjacks for?
- Cool the flapjacks completely before storing.
- Store within an airtight container so that the flapjacks stay at their best for longer.
- If you need to stack the flapjacks, place a layer of parchment or wax paper between each layer to prevent them from sticking together.
- Store for 4-5 days in a cool, dry place, the pantry or a kitchen cupboard away from the stove or dishwasher is ideal.
- If its during the warmer months consider storing the flapjacks, well wrapped, within the refrigerator as this will prevent any chocolate from melting or the flapjack texture becoming too soft.
Can I freeze flapjacks?
Yes, flapjacks cope well with being frozen and thawed to room temperature before eating. Wrap each flapjack individually in food wrap or place them in a freezer bag or container, separated by parchment paper and keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Our chocolate flapjack recipe can be safely made as gluten-free with a few considerations.
First use certified gluten-free oats as even though oats are naturally gluten-free they are usually processed in factories where other gluten cereals [such as rye, wheat or barley] are also processed, so oats are subject to cross contamination which can have adverse effects for those with celiac disease.
Next, ensure that your chocolate chips and vegan butter or margarine are free from gluten containing ingredients, which most usually are but its always best to check so as to be 100% sure.
Vegan chocolate chips are small pieces of chocolate that do not contain animal products and are perfect for baking with. Regular chocolate often contains dairy products like milk or milk fat, which are not vegan-friendly.
Instead, vegan chocolate chips are typically made from a mixture of cocoa solids, cocoa butter, sugar, and sometimes added emulsifiers like soy lecithin.
Chocolate chips may also be known as chocolate drops, chocolate buttons, chocolate pieces, chocolate bits, or chocolate chunks. Chocolate chips can come in a variety of sizes so if your chips are quite large they can be sliced into smaller pieces if appropriate for the recipe.
Not all vegan chocolate chips are labelled vegan or plant-based but they may be considered as accidently vegan, meaning they don't contain any animal products so can be safely enjoyed by vegans.
Although, if dairy allergies are a concern do check the packaging as even though no animal ingredients are listed the chocolate may have been produced in a factory where cross contamination may be an issue.
If you can't access chocolate chips then simply substitute with a bar of chocolate that has been broken up into small pieces about the size of regular chocolate chips which can vary between ¼ - ½ inch, although some chips may be smaller or larger.
Alternatively cacao nibs or carob chips can be used instead of chocolate chips but this will change the flavour of your recipe resulting in a less sweet bake.
Yes golden syrup can be substituted for a different syrup such as maple syrup, corn syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, agave nectar or date syrup. However, do bear in mind that the end bake will vary in texture and flavour compared to traditional flapjacks prepared with golden syrup.
Maple Syrup: Maple syrup could also work as a substitute and it has a distinctive flavour which will come through in the baked flapjack, but muesli bars baked with maple syrup are quite tasty so we are sure flapjacks will be too!
Corn Syrup: Light corn syrup could be used although it doesn't have the depth of flavour that golden syrup has.
Brown Rice Syrup: Brown rice syrup has a mild, sweet flavour and is a bit thicker than golden syrup, making it a good potential substitute.
Molasses or Dark Treacle: These can be used as a substitute, but keep in mind that it has a very strong, distinctive flavour and a darker colour.
Agave Nectar: Agave nectar could also work well, but it is quite a bit sweeter than golden syrup.
Date Syrup: This has a deep fruity and less sweet flavour compared with golden syrup but it is a thick syrup so could work well with a flapjack recipe.
Please note: We have not tested any of the above substitutions so can not comment on the end texture and flavour, but if you do make a substitution do let us know how your flapjacks turned out!
Golden syrup is thick and sticky so when measuring it can be difficult to get a clean measurement as the syrup can stick to the measuring spoon and then can only be removed with a smaller spoon scraping the syrup into the mixing bowl or saucepan.
A useful hack is to dip the measuring spoon into a cup of boiling water before plunging the spoon into the syrup jar as the syrup will run off the spoon much more cleanly and with ease. This way you can be sure that you are getting the correct measurements for your recipe.
Rolled oats, also known as old-fashioned oats or porridge oats, are perfect for traditional British flapjacks.
Rolled oats are made from whole oat groats (the hulled kernels of oats) that have been steamed to make them soft and pliable, and then rolled to flatten them. The steaming process partially cooks the oats, which helps them cook more quickly when you prepare them at home.
The rolling process also breaks the groats down into a flatter shape that's easier to cook and eat.
Because they're less processed than quick oats or instant oats, rolled oats have a bit more texture and take slightly longer to cook so they can make a thicker, chewier porridge [or oatmeal if your outwith the UK!] and are also used in many traditional baking recipes like flapjacks, bread, biscuits, cookies, muesli, and granola bars.
Any margarine or butter that is labelled vegan is fine for flapjacks but with products marked as dairy-free or plant-based do check the ingredient list just to be 100% sure that there are no animal ingredients.
Also, some products may not be labelled as vegan but still contain no animal products, so its always worth checking to find one that's good for your budget.
Here are a few examples that are currently available:
In the UK Flora Plant Butter, Flora Dairy Free, Vitalite, Naturli Vegan Block, Stork baking margarine, Tomor Margarine Baking Block, and some vegan-friendly supermarket own brands of margarine or baking blocks are all suitable for making tasty flapjacks.
In the US, Earth Balance Buttery Spread, Miyoko's Creamery Organic Vegan Butter, and Country Crock Plant Butter are good choices for flapjack but there are likely plenty of budget-friendly vegan-friendly versions available.
In Australia, Naturli' Vegan Spreadable, Pure Dairy Free Spread, and Nuttelex Buttery are good plant-based and dairy-free choices, but there are many more to choose from.
Low-fat, diet, light or lite margarines are generally not the best choice for baking because they have a higher water content and less fat compared to regular margarine or butter.
The water in low-fat margarine can cause issues with the finished bake's texture and consistency, for example with flapjacks the fat helps to bind the oats together so if there is more water in the recipe compared to fat the flapjacks may have too crumbly a texture once baked.
More easy vegan teatime bakes:
One of my family's favourite pastimes is enjoying a home-baked vegan treat and a nice cup of tea or coffee! It's the simple but traditional bakes that are the best. We particularly like a slice of this Teatime Malt Loaf as its a deliciously old-fashioned bake that has similar notes to Soreen fruity malt loafs so is especially nice spread with some vegan butter, mashed banana, peanut butter, or fruit jam. Malt loaf is also an ideal breakfast time bake.
And one or two of these wee Granny Cakes are just utterly delicious and kind of like Old-Fashioned Queen Cakes. And another one of our favourites is a batch of these Scottish Shortbread Biscuits or Shortbread Rounds which are perfectly at home sitting in a biscuit or cookie tin and will delight your visitors with their crisp, buttery and vanilla flavours.
And, if your aiming to impress bake a batch of these rustic Vintage Scottish Treacle Scones which are amazing spread with vegan butter and a dollop of your favourite fruit jam.
For more tasty vegan bakes that are perfect for teatime, afternoon tea, high teas, breakfast time, or just for chilling out and snack time, check out our growing collection of traditional Vegan Baking Recipes.
***please note: for US measurements click the 'US customary button' within the recipe and the measurements will switch to tablespoons, cups, and ounces.***
British Chocolate Flapjacks
- baking tin roughly about 8 x 8 inch or 20cm x 20 cm in size
- parchment paper [baking paper] to line the tin to line the tin
- Small saucepan for melting ingredients
- Mixing bowl and mixing spoon
- 230 grams rolled oats also known as porridge oats or old-fashioned oats
- 3 tablespoons golden syrup
- 70 grams soft brown sugar or any brown sugar
- 115 grams vegan margarine or vegan butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
To stir through:
- 100 grams dark chocolate chips Or use a block of chocolate and chop into pieces. Some supermarkets own inexpensive brands are in fact dairy-free so its worth checking the ingredients.
- Preheat the oven to 160 fan, 180C, 350 F, or Gas 4.
- Prepare a baking tin by lightly greasing with some of the vegan margarine or butter and lining the baking tin with some parchment or baking paper. Leaving a small overhang of parchment paper over the baking pan will help with removing the flapjacks from the tin once they are baked and cool, as the paper can be simply lifted up out of the pan.
- Add the margarine, sugar, and syrup to a saucepan and over a low heat, stirring frequently, until melted. Don't allow the mixture to boil.3 tablespoons golden syrup, 70 grams soft brown sugar, 115 grams vegan margarine
- Stir through the vanilla.1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Tip the rolled oats into a bowl and scrape the melted mixture [within the saucepan], into the bowl of oats.Using a spatula helps to remove all the melted mixture.230 grams rolled oats
- Add the chocolate chips and give it a quick mix. Depending on how warm you home or outside is, the chocolate chips may start to melt as they are mixed through the oats, which is fine as the flapjacks are tasty either way. However, if more firm chocolate chips are preferred within the finished flapjack place the chocolate chips into the refrigerator or freezer to chill so that they are cold when added, and also stir the melted syrup well into the oats as this will cool the oats down before the chips are added.100 grams dark chocolate chips
- Scrape the flapjack mixture into your baking dish and press down evenly and firmly.
- Bake, on the middle shelf, for 20-25 minutes until the flapjacks are firmish [but they will still be a little soft and will firm up as they cool] with crispy edges. Check your flapjacks for doneness after 20 minutes of baking, especially if you are using a fan oven as they tend to bake quicker compared to other ovens.If your not sure your flapjacks are ready leave them to bake for a few more minutes.
- Leave the flapjacks to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before carefully scoring out squares whilst they are still warm,
- Leave the flapjacks in the baking tin until completely cool.
- Nutritional data is for guidance only and is not a strict calculation as ingredients vary.
- Flapjacks will keep fresh for 4-5 days within a biscuit or cookie tin or an airtight food container. Wrap in parchment or baking paper or kitchen foil to keep fresher for longer.
- Store somewhere cool and dry, or during the warmer months wrap the flapjacks well and store within the refrigerator.
- Or freeze, well wrapped, for up to 3 months, and thaw to room temperature before enjoying.
- If the chocolate chips remain soft during storing, pop the flapjacks into the refrigerator so that the chocolate can set.
- Don't use a low-fat, diet, light or lite vegan butter or margarine as these contain too much water and less fat which can affect the flapjacks texture and flavour.
- We used Stork baking block.
- Any vegan chocolate chips can be used, but especially dark chocolate as this will produce the best vegan chocolate flapjacks.
- Instead of chocolate chips use a dark vegan chocolate bar and break it up into small pieces.
- For gluten-free chocolate flapjacks use a gluten-free certified porridge or rolled oats.
Prepared our delicious Vegan Classic British Chocolate Flapjacks? Do let us know how you got on with the recipe as we love hearing from you. Thanks so much, Jacq x