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No-Bake Vegan Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Protein Bars

We all know it’s impossible for vegans to get enough protein, so why don’t we just skip this recipe? Clearly, these super-delicious homemade, all-natural, unprocessed, vegan energy bars with 12 grams of protein must be an illusion, right?

Kidding aside, of course a plant-based diet offers an abundance of protein from natural food; it’s never something you need to think about. However, supplementing protein can be nice if you’re someone who is very active, such as an athlete, or if you simply need a nutrient-dense snack to hold you over between meals. In those cases, adding a protein shake or protein bar can be a great option.

Peanut Butter Protein Bars

How to Make Vegan Protein Powder

There are ultra-expensive protein powders available in stores, such as the Vega brand, but the markup is absurd β€” some charge upwards of $2.50 per serving. There’s no reason to pay that much, the protein itself is super cheap and I was able to put my own blend together at a fraction of the price. My blend is 50% pea protein powder (I use this NOW Foods Version) and 50% brown rice protein powder (I use this Nutribiotics version). Together they form a “complete” protein that provides every essential amino acid in a way that is very bioavailable and easy to digest, which is a big problem with whey and soy protein powders. The cost is about $40 total and you get 1,125 grams of protein. Vega One shakes, by comparison, have 330 grams of protein for $55.

I have been making shakes and energy bars with this pea & rice blend over the last few months and the results have definitely been noticeable. I run somewhere between 25-50 miles per week and muscle recovery is a constant issue, but a few tablespoons of protein powder in a smoothie dramatically cuts down recovery time. I’ve also gained about 8 pounds of muscle this year with no changes other than adding a little extra protein powder after strength training workouts.

But enough about all that, we have a recipe to make! These protein bars taste just like peanut butter cookie dough, but they’re made from only unprocessed sources and packed with protein from nuts, oats, and the aforementioned blend. These are my favorite protein bars and I’m sure you’ll love them.

Makes 8 bars

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 10 large medjool dates
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup protein powder
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • Whole peanuts to garnish (optional)

Peanut Butter Bars

Step One

Make “oat flour” by adding the rolled oats to the food processor and pulsing until you have something that resembles flour. Leave that in the processor, add the protein powder, and top with everything else (cashews, dates, peanut butter, maple syrup, and salt) and pulse a few times, then turn it on full strength and let it completely puree everything until smooth. Think of this like peanut butter, at first it will be crumbly but let it run long enough and it will get progressively more sticky until the consistency is perfect.

Note: It’s important to add the protein powder to the bottom and cover with the other ingredients, otherwise it will burst through every seam of your processor and leave a coating of protein dust far and wide.

Step Two

Pinch a chunk of this mixture and give it a taste to determine if you need to make any adjustments. If it’s too crumbly and won’t stick together, add a teaspoon of maple syrup or another date to give it more stickiness. Want more peanut butter flavor? Add another tablespoon of peanut butter. This recipe is totally fool-proof and can handle pretty much any adjustments you want to make.

Step Three

Transfer to an 8×8 inch glass pan and press down until it evenly coats the pan, about 1/3 inch thick. You can optionally sprinkle on whole or halved peanuts and press them into the surface. Transfer to the refrigerator for at least 3 hours to further solidify. Once firm, cut into 8-10 bar-sized pieces and try not to eat all of them at once. πŸ™‚ For best texture, keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Variation: Cookie Dough Bites

If you prefer, you can roll into cookie dough bites instead of bars – simply pinch off about 2 tablespoons and roll between your hands into spheres. The bites are more portable and can make sense if you’d like to take some with you, such as on a hike or road trip.

Peanut Butter Bars Tied

Peanut Butter Bars

26 Comments

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  1. Hi,

    I’m planning on making these this week, they look amazing! How long do you think it would the keep in the refrigerator?

    • I’ve kept mind for 3 days before they all magically disappeared πŸ™‚ but I imagine they’d last at least 5 days, especially if stored in a sealed container.

  2. Hi there – If I don’t normally use protein powder, what would you suggest replacing it with, if anything? Maybe cacao or just skip it altogether?

    • They would probably work without any protein powder, however, I’d also omit the maple syrup since they won’t need as much sweetness to balance the more bitter protein powder.

      • I omitted the protein powder but not the syrup. The taste is okay. However the mixture feels a bit dry ? It didn’t purΓ©e as you mentioned ? I wonder why ? Maybe because the dates I used? I feel they didn’t have much moisture in

        • Chloe, see my comment below on Stacy’s post. It’s very important to process for several minutes, just as if you were making peanut butter because it gets more sticky the longer it’s in the food processor.

          • Thank you Andrew. I admit it was my mistake. I just remembered that I skipped the protein powder, instead added the equivalent amount of oats I thought I’d balance the dry and wet. So that might explain it. Luckily it turned out okay now that I just cut them after refrigerate πŸ™‚

  3. Yum! Can you think of any substitution for the cashews? I have a severe tree nut allergy. Making peanut butter tomorrow & would love to make some grab-n-go bars.

    • Hmm, I don’t have any experience trying this, but I might suggest using peanuts instead. Maybe soak the peanuts ahead of time so they’re softer and then blend them with the dates? The flavor might be a bit different but I bet it would work.

      • Thanks, I’ll give it a shot, they’ll just be very peanutty! πŸ™‚
        Protein rich vegan recipes without nuts are few & far between; it’s nice to have options!

  4. First let me say, I absolutely love the site! You have been an immensely helpful part of my newfound fitness journey.

    My question regarding this recipe: I suffer from insulin resistance so the dates would be a no-go for me. I would like to replace the dates with stevia, what would be the equivalent unit of measurement for it though?

    Thank you.

    • Ah, well the dates (along with cashews) are pretty much the primary component of this recipe that gives it its bulk, texture, and taste. If you can’t have dates, this might be a tough recipe to substitute.

      However, check out this short clip video on dates: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-dates-good-for-you/ — while it seems like they’re very unhealthy because of their high sugar content, dates have been shown to have no adverse effect on blood sugar levels and offer tons of nutrients and antioxidants. That’s why I always sweeten with dates when possible.

  5. Thanks for the protein powder tip! I am just curious – when you say 50/50 blend of the two powders, are you measuring by volume or weight?

    • It’s a very scientific process, Susan. I add a bunch of the pea protein powder to a container and then add a bunch more brown rice powder πŸ™‚ haha, I don’t measure at all, as long as the blend is somewhere close to even, that’s good enough for me! πŸ˜€

  6. Andrew – great recipe! I made them first thing when I got home from work last night! So delicious!

    I did have trouble with getting the bars to stick together well. They are still flakey after being in the freezer overnight. I slowly added more dates, maple syrup, and PB to try to get a good, sticky form, but it didn’t turn out well. I ended up adding an extra 4 dates, 2-3 T. maple syrup, and 2 T. PB – which I’d rather not add that much more. Suggestions on what I may have done wrong??

    • Hi Stacy, so I just saw your comment and immediately went to my kitchen and made another test batch of this recipe to make sure something wasn’t wrong. Just like before, these came out very sticky. The thing is, it takes several minutes in the food processor to get there…

      Think of this like making peanut butter. After pulsing peanuts a few times you’ll have a very crumbly mixture that would never hold together, but keep going and you end up with a buttery consistency as they break down. This is similar. It’ll be crumbly at first and get progressively more sticky as you continue.

      That may be why yours were too crumbly? I’ve updated the post with a little blurb making it extra clear to process until smooth.

      • Ahhh, so it wasn’t the recipe, it was my impatience! Can you blame me?! πŸ˜‰ Even though the texture didn’t turn out well for me, the taste is amazing!!

        That’s very kind of you to re-try the recipe to ensure it was correct. Thanks so much! And sorry you now have another batch to eat. πŸ˜‰

  7. I made these yesterday and they are amazing! I’m glad you love peanut butter flavored things as much as I do.

    My oats didn’t turn into flour at all though- I just went with it and added a little more maple syrup and peanut butter. Maybe it’s my food processor? They just sat in the bottom of the bowl while it was spinning and didn’t get chopped at all.

    • That’s so weird that your oats just sat at the bottom. Even if they didn’t reach the blades, the vortex alone should be enough to spin them up and around the bowl, getting chopped along the way. In the future you could either try making more oat flour – adding a cup of oats should bring them above the blades and then they’ll definitely get chopped, and you can save the rest for later. Or, simply buy oat flour already made. Regardless, I’m glad you liked them!! πŸ™‚

  8. Hi there! Thanks for the recipe! I actually made a pumpkin pie variety of bar and was going to try the peanut butter next. Someone told me the dates do a lot better if you soak them for 4-6 hours in water before making the bars so I’m going to try that this time around. Thanks for the tips!

    • Hi Ali, very cool! Yes, soaking dates makes them a little softer but it can also add a lot of liquid to the recipe, so be mindful of that. It really just depends on how hard vs chewy your dates are to start.

  9. Oh my these are AWESOME! I’ve been looking for a peanut bar to swap out my “Perfect Bar $3.00 a bar” habit and yours are the bomb! Thank you πŸ™‚

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