Protein bars aren’t just for bodybuilders anymore; they’re popping up in every store with all the flavors you could ever think of and with the addition of superfoods and other good-for-you ingredients. Here are five easy protein bar recipes you can make in your own kitchen!
The Fundamental Ingredient: Protein
Before we start, let’s talk about the foundational ingredient of every protein bar: protein. While the amount of protein required for active individuals and athletic performance is subject to debate, one thing is clear: When you’re making protein bars, the goal is to have a bar with more protein than carbs and fats.
Next, let’s look at the kind of protein you can play around with. Whey protein is the most common one you’ll encounter. It’s a mixture of proteins isolated from whey, the liquid part of milk that separates during cheese production. It can be furthermore divided into concentrate, isolate, or hydrolysate, depending on the level of processing and “clarity.” Whey isolate is typically the easiest to bake with because its consistency mimics flour.
Then we have casein, another milk protein you can also use to create protein bars. It digests pretty slowly, however, so you won’t use it as often when baking at home. There are more animal proteins you could use—such as egg protein, beef, and even cricket—but they aren’t mentioning here as they’re hard to find, too expensive, and generally not something you’d use in your household.
In terms of vegan protein, you can find pea protein, rice protein, hemp protein; you can combine them with nuts and seeds which, in addition to fats, pack a nice amount of protein as well.
All of this was important to mention before we break down the recipes because you’ve possibly never cooked or baked with these ingredients before. That being said . . . let’s move on to the best part of this article: how to make homemade protein bars!
No-Bake Chocolate Fudge Coconut Bars
This already sounds good, right? You can already taste the rich and decadent flavors in your mouth! If you’re a chocolate lover, you’ll quickly find out how making your own protein bars can satisfy the worst of cravings as they’ll taste just like a Bounty or an Almond Joy bar, without the added sugar and artificial ingredients.
All you need for this recipe are:
- 2 cups of oats
- 6 dates (or dried apricots) soaked in water for at least 20 min
- 2 scoops of protein powder of your choice (I’d go for the chocolate or vanilla flavor if it’s available)
- 1/4 cup cacao powder
- 1/4 cup coconut flakes
- 2 tbsp agave, maple syrup, or honey
- 1/2 cup nut milk/water (if you’re using whey protein): add more water if the mixture is too dry as this can depend on your choice of protein
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- a pinch of salt
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined and the mixture starts forming a ball (dough). If it’s too dry, add a bit more water; if it’s too runny, add a bit more oats. Stop a few times to scrape the sides of the food processor if needed. Once the ball is formed, transfer it into a small rectangular dish (3×5” or 4×6″) lined with parchment paper and press down into a flat, even block. Smooth out the surface and freeze for a few hours until firm. Once they’re completely firm, take them out and place in the fridge to settle. Before you give them a try, cut them in small bar shapes and voilà, you have your protein bars! As a bonus, you can make your own chocolate frosting and drizzle on top, or enjoy it with some peanut or almond butter. Your choice!
No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bars
There’s just something magical about the chocolate-peanut butter combination, wouldn’t you agree? And these protein bars taste like Reese’s, soooo you can even make them into little chocolate peanut butter cups (just throwing it out there). Super easy to make, all you need is:
- 1 cup peanuts (raw or lightly salted for that sweet ‘n salty flavor)
- 1 cup dates (pre-soaked in water for at least 20 min)
- 1 scoop of protein powder of your choice (I’d go for the chocolate or vanilla flavor if it’s available)
- 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
- 1/4 cup cacao powder
- A pinch of salt (if the peanuts are raw)
- 1 tbsp water (or more if needed)
- [Optional] 1/4 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 tsp coconut oil for coating
Place peanuts, walnuts (or pecans), and dates into a food processor and pulse until a crumbly mixture has formed. Add cacao powder, protein powder, and 1 tbsp of water and use a spatula to fold it in before pulsing again. When a doughy ball is created, transfer the mixture to a small rectangular dish lined with parchment paper (see above), and place it in the freezer to set. While the mixture is setting, in a small bowl combine coconut oil and melted chocolate chips. Once the protein mixture is cooled and firm, cut out the bars and coat them in your coconut oil and chocolate chip mixture (you can even add some crushed peanuts on top), before placing it back in the freezer to firm up. Enjoy!
Pumpkin Spice Protein Bars
Fall is upon us, and with it, so is everything pumpkin flavored. These baked protein bars will taste like pumpkin pie and leave your sweet tooth satisfied even before Thanksgiving dinner. Ingredients you need for these awesome bars are:
- 1 1/2 cup ground oats
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder of your choice
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp pumpkin spice
- 2 tbsp coconut sugar or 1 tbsp monk fruit sweetener
- 2 eggs (or flax eggs)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 1/2 cup honey, maple syrup, or agave syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- [Optional for icing] 1/2 cup soaked cashews, 1/2 tbsp coconut oil, 1/4 cup water or nut milk, 1 tsp pumpkin spice, 1 tbsp honey, maple syrup, or agave syrup
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Combine the dry ingredients (oat flour, protein powder, baking soda, pumpkin spice, and coconut sugar or monk fruit sweetener) in a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and add other wet ingredients (coconut oil, sweetener of choice, and vanilla extract). Pour wet ingredients into the dry ones and mix well. If the mixture is too crumbly, add a touch of water; if it’s too smooth, add a bit more oat flour.
Pour the mixture into a rectangular dish (8×8″ or 8×10″) lined with parchment paper and place in the oven to bake for 15 min or until the toothpick comes out clean. In the meantime, place the icing ingredients in the blender and pulse until creamy. Once the protein mixture has cooled down, drizzle the icing or coat the entire mixture. You can cut the mixture into bars and enjoy them as-is, or place them in the fridge to allow the icing to firm up.
No-Bake Almond Butter Caramel Bars
The gooey caramel is one of those things in life that make your body start producing serotonin (our happiness hormone) like crazy. How to enjoy it on the daily without all the sugar? Here’s how:
- 1 cup coconut flour
- 2 tbsp almond flour
- 2 scoops vanilla protein powder of your choice
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- 1/4 cup almond milk
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
For the caramel layer:
- 1 cup dates (pre-soaked in water for at least 30-45 min until they look really soft)
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
Optional chocolate coating:
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips
- 1/2 tsp coconut oil
In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut flour, almond flour, and protein powder and mix well. Add in the almond butter and maple syrup and mix until a crumbly mixture is formed. Slowly add in the milk until a thick batter forms. Transfer to a rectangular dish (8×8″ or 8×10″) lined with parchment paper and press down into an even, smooth block. Place in the fridge to set.
In the meantime, place the dates, maple syrup, and coconut oil in a food processor and pulse until you form a thick, creamy caramel-looking mixture. If it’s all too sticky, add a tiny touch of water. Take out the protein mixture from the fridge and pour the caramel on top. Place back in the fridge to settle and firm up. You can finish it off with the chocolate coating, sprinkle some chopped almonds on top, or keep them as-is. Either way, deliciousness is guaranteed!
Lemon-Blueberry Protein Bars
A fruity combo to end this recipe list, these easy-to-make lemon blueberry bars will have you reaching for them whenever you’re in need of that fruit kick. All you need is:
- 1 cup ground oats
- 1 scoop protein powder of your choice (vanilla or lemon would be best)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Zest of one lemon
- A pinch of salt
- 4 egg whites (or whipped aquafaba)
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar or 2 tbsp monk fruit sweetener
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 cup almond, oat, or coconut milk
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350°.
In a bowl, combine the oat flour, protein powder, baking soda, and salt. In another, whisk the egg whites together with lemon zest, sweetener of choice, applesauce, lemon juice, and plant-based milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mixture and stir until well combined. Fold in the blueberries, but be careful not to break them apart. Transfer the batter into a rectangular dish (8×8″ or 8×10″) lined with parchment paper and smooth out the surface before placing it in the oven. Bake for 20-25 min, or until the toothpick comes out clean. Take out the dish and let it cool before cutting it into even bars.
And there you have it, five super-easy homemade protein bars you can try in the comfort of your own kitchen and have loads of fun doing it. Let the cooking begin!