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.
Peanut butter protein cookies
1 scoop (30 g) whey protein isolate (I like Isopure brand)
2 tablespoons (18 g) cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (128 g) smooth, no stir peanut butter
2 tablespoons (42 g) honey
1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) + 1 egg yolk (25 g), at room temperature, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
2 tablespoons (30 g) miniature dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and set it aside.
In a large bowl, place the whey protein isolate, cornstarch, and baking soda, and whisk to combine. Add the peanut butter, honey, egg and egg yolk, and optional vanilla, and mix just until combined. Add the miniature chocolate chips, and mix until they’re evenly distributed throughout the cookie dough. The mixture will be thick but very soft, and if you continue to mix after it’s combined, it tends to become oily. Using a large spring-loaded ice cream scoop (mine is equivalent to a #24 and holds 3 tablespoons in volume), divide the dough into 8 roughly equal portions. Place the portions about 1 1/2-inches apart from one another on the prepared baking sheet. Using wet fingers, pat into a disk about 1/2-inch thick.
Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake for about 12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown all over, darker toward the edges and set in the center. When the cookies are set in the center, the dough will no longer glisten. Remove from the oven and allow to cool briefly before serving. Once cool, the cookies can be piled into a freezer-safe bag and frozen. Defrost briefly before serving.
Approximate nutrition information for 1 of 8 cookies:
Protein 8.4 g | Calories 168 kcal | Carbohydrates 12 g | Fat 10.4 g |