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.
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 — 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
- 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)
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.
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.
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. 🙂 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.