These easy chocolate chip peanut butter protein cookies are made in one bowl, with high-quality whey protein, smooth peanut butter, and just a touch of honey.
Packaged protein bars and protein cookies
Have you noticed all of the single-serving protein cookies that are for sale these days? I’ve thought about trying them so many times, but I’ve held back each time for a few reasons.
First of all, the Lenny & Larry’s “The Complete Cookie” is the one I see most often, and it’s not gluten free. That’s fine, since not everything healthy has to be gluten free, and just because something is gluten free certainly doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
But the first ingredient is “enriched wheat flour.” Enriched flour is just flour that has had all of its nutrients removed (like traditional all purpose flour), and then certain vitamins and minerals have been added back in. Why not start with whole grain flour, which is the good stuff anyway?
Second, the protein cookies I’ve seen are just super expensive! And so often, like packaged protein bars before them, protein products tend to just taste strange to me.
I’m actually dying to try a KNOW Better Cookie, just to satisfy my curiosity. They look really good, don’t they? But since I hadn’t even eaten any packaged protein cookies, I didn’t start with their ingredient list when I developed this recipe.
How to make peanut butter protein cookies
They’re a variation on the 3-ingredient peanut butter cookie recipe that’s been around forever, and they’re great for a quick treat. But they’re in no way a healthy snack or breakfast cookie.
This recipe isn’t completely “clean” as it calls for a couple tablespoons of cornstarch and a non-drippy, commercially-made peanut butter. I haven’t tried making it with the drippy kind of peanut butter that you have to stir before you can use, but that typically isn’t great for baking.
But each cookie is packed with protein (8.4 grams per cookie, to be exact), and only has 6 essential ingredients (the vanilla extract and miniature chocolate chips are optional). Simply place 1 scoop of whey protein isolate, a couple tablespoons of cornstarch and a bit of baking soda in a bowl.
Whisk to combine the dry ingredients. Then add the peanut butter, honey, and optional vanilla and chocolate chips and mix. I like to use mini chocolate chips since just a couple tablespoons of them go a long, long way.
If you overmix or handle the cookie dough too much, it tends to become oily. The oils will reabsorb during baking, though. But the less you handle the dough and the more quickly you work, the easier the cookie dough will be to manage.
Why this recipe works
This is one of those recipes that is so simple and transforms so quickly into a cookie dough and then so magically in the oven that you’ll think it’s some sort of sorcery. ??
When I was developing this recipe, I made it with only one egg, without the extra yolk, and without the cornstarch. The cookies looked good and even felt moist to the touch, but they tasted terribly dry.
Adding the cornstarch lowered the protein ratio and adding the yolk provided moisture. Both were key to making these cookies tasting tender and being moist, especially since they have a lot of protein (which can make baked goods tough) and don’t have a ton of sugar.
Sugar doesn’t just make baked goods sweet. It also tenderizes, which is super important in baking no matter what texture you’re going for.
Ingredients and substitutions
This is a simple recipe, with only 6 essential ingredients, including baking soda. That means that making any substitutions will have a pretty dramatic effect on the end result.
If you don’t want to deal with the whole whey protein isolate issue, I recommend trying my chewy protein cookies made with oats. If you can’t have oats, no worries. You can substitute every form of oats in baking.
Dairy-free: I first learned how useful whey protein isolate is in gluten free baking when I developed the gluten free bread flour blend for my bread cookbook, Gluten Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread. Whey protein isolate is nearly all protein (25 of 28 grams are protein) and behaves remarkably like gluten in baking.
Along with peanut butter, whey protein isolate provides most of the protein in these protein cookies. In my experience, nothing else is a true substitute for baking. But if you’d like to make these cookies dairy-free, you’ll have to try to replace it.
I’ve tried using Vega protein powder, and the recipe worked but it was much drier and just didn’t taste as good. I would try using pea protein isolate, or rice protein. Be sure to use dairy-free miniature chocolate chips, too (I like Enjoy Life brand).
Egg-free: The whole egg in this recipe helps to provide texture and rise, but the egg yolk is one of the keys to providing moisture. These will be tough to make egg-free for that reason.
You can try replacing the whole egg with a “chia egg” and the egg yolk with some butter for moisture. I’m afraid you’ll just have to experiment. The simplest recipes are typically the most difficult to alter.
Corn-free: You do need some sort of starch to go along with the protein powder, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be cornstarch. Try potato starch or arrowroot instead.
Nut-free: If you can find a sunflower seed butter that is smooth and no-stir (the oil doesn’t separate in the jar), try using it here. I don’t know if it will work, and it will likely produce cookies with a green tinge.