These homemade protein bars are no-bake, endlessly customizable energy bars. Just like Luna and Power bars, and made with your favorite protein powder.
This recipe is not like those other fussy, confusing recipes out there!
The case for protein bars
My 3 kids play a lot of sports. That means that we’re often on the run, so they eat a lot of protein bars. And of course, each kid has his or her own favorite variety of bar. But they all have one thing in common: they’re crazy expensive.
This recipe for homemade protein bars started out as something I was just making for my family, and that was that. After much hesitation, I had finally purchased some Vega Essentials protein powder (I mean, they even sell it at CVS now! I could use a coupon!) and was just playing around with it.
That’s the kind of experimenting I rarely get to do anymore, where I just throw a bit of this and a bit of that into a recipe. Very few notes, even fewer apologies.
But my kids couldn’t get enough of these bars. They had even gotten good enough that my husband mentioned them out of the blue one day.
“You know, those protein bars were really good.” That’s high praise for him. My kids had started asking, “Are those bars hard to make?” That’s code for “please make them again.” These bars have the soft texture of a brownie, and they’re not too sweet.
I also get “are these bars good for you?” That’s also code for “can I eat them all day every day and be healthy?” I also get the same sort of questions when I make my protein pancakes!
Two recipes, endless options
Have you ever noticed that most of the recipes out there for homemade protein bars are so specific? They either rely on one specific type of protein powder, call for a million different funky ingredients I’ve never heard of, or they are one flavor and one flavor only. So frustrating!
So I’ve included two basic recipe formulas for homemade protein bars below. One is made withsuper soft, packed-with-fiber, deliciously sticky Medjool dates to hold the bars together and sweeten them, of course. I buy those dates by the pound at Trader Joe’s, and they’re essential for recipes like my healthy Paleo fudge.
You can include unsweetened melted chocolate in the mixture, or not. It really helps the bars hold their shape and gives them a richer flavor. If you prefer a more neutral-tasting bar, use a vanilla or unflavored protein powder, and leave out the melted chocolate.
But I realize that you may not know where to buy Medjool dates. Or you may think they’re too sweet. So I’ve also formulated another recipe with nut butter and no dates.
I like it best made with cocoa powder and melted chocolate, but I include plenty of options for making it more neutral-tasting (including making it with cashew butter). I’ve tried these bars with every single variation I recommend. They all work.
My favorite way of making these bars is the “date version,” including the melted unsweetened chocolate—and with just a drizzle of melted chocolate on top, at most. Without the full chocolate coating, the bars are much easier to handle and transport. Including the melted chocolate in the bar itself makes the bar richer in taste and more firm for easy handling.
You can use any flavor protein powder you like in the date version and leave out the melted chocolate, and you’ll change the flavor profile to suit your tastes. If you have another favorite protein powder, use that!
If you prefer a dairy protein powder, try whey protein. For now, yes, you do need to include the oats. There’s no substitute!
EDIT: Wait stop the presses!!! I have finally successfully replaced the oats in this recipe, and every other oat-filled recipe on this blog (and in my cookbooks!). You can read all about how to substitute oats in the gluten free baking, and finally make this grain-free! The TL;DR version for this recipe is that you use wide, flat coconut chips. :)
If you’re looking for a bite-sized version, try my no-bake peanut butter energy bites. They don’t have protein powder at all, and there’s no food processor involved. You do have to roll all those little bites, though. :) There’s a grain-free version, too!
Some flavor suggestions:
- Try using cashew butter as the nut butter for a more neutral flavor that really lets the chocolate flavor shine.
- Try replacing the cocoa powder with a freeze-dried fruit powder. You can either buy it as a powder, or buy freeze dried fruit by the bag and grind it into a powder. If you have a dehydrator, the sky’s the limit!
- Instead of protein powder, try using collagen powder for a huge nutritional boost with no added flavor at all. I really like Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. That’s an affiliate link, feel free to shop around for the best price! And I’ve recently started using Perfect Hydrolyzed Collagen Peptides (affiliate link) starting with my new protein granola, and I might just like it better. Plus, it’s less expensive.
Press play ▶ below and see for yourself how unfussy this recipe really is!:
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