Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8x8 square baking pan with parchment paper, grease, and set aside.
Place the dates into a bowl and add enough boiling water until the dates are completely submerged. Let soak until softened, about 30 minutes, drain and set aside.
Mix oats, coconut, almond meal, salt, and cinnamon together in a large bowl, set aside.
Add the drained, soaked dates and almond milk to either a food processor or high-powered blender and blend, starting on low speed and increasing to high until ingredients are well blended and mostly smooth (there will still be a few date pieces at this point).
Scrape down the sides of your container and add the melted almond butter and vanilla extract. Blend starting at low speed gradually increasing to high speed until the mixture is smooth (about 30-60 seconds). If necessary, scrape down the sides of the container and continue blending!
.Pour the wet mixture into the bowl containing the dry ingredients. Mix by hand until well-combined. Add chocolate chips, if using and continue to mix until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter. Use hands to evenly distribute the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Use fingers or a small off-set spatula to smooth out in the pan.
Bake until the top is set and the edges are golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Be careful not to over bake or the granola bars will be crumbly! Set the baking dish on a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.
Once completely cooled, use the parchment paper to lift the final product out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into bars and enjoy. Store in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container!