How to make homemade protein bars

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Protein bars are a convenient snack. They usually don’t require reheating and are easy to take with you and enjoy on the go.

Because they’re a rich source of protein, these bars can provide nutrition before a workout or aid recovery afterwards. They may even promote weight loss and help you feel full between meals (1, 2, 3, 4).

Many commercial brands of protein bars contain ingredients like added sugar, additives, preservatives, or common allergens like dairy and nuts.

To avoid them, you might consider making your own bars at home. Or maybe you just like to experiment in the kitchen!

Either way, this article is your guide to making your own protein bars at home. It includes some easy recipes, ingredients to use and avoid, and a comparison of homemade and store-bought options.

First, let’s take a closer look at the main steps you’ll follow to make your own protein bars at home.

1. Choose your recipe and review the ingredients

The first step when making protein bars at home is deciding on a recipe to follow.

A quick search online is sure to yield hundreds of different recipes. You can easily find some that meet specific dietary restrictions such as nut-free, vegan, paleo, gluten-free, etc.

After reading a few recipes, you might notice how versatile protein bars are, and you might even come up with your own ideas using your favorite ingredients.

To help you get started, here are some of my favorite recipes:

You can also check these lists for 32 homemade energy bar recipes and 33 energy ball recipes – many of which are packed with protein.

Once you’ve landed on a recipe, review it carefully to make sure it doesn’t contain any ingredients you’re allergic to or want to avoid.

2. Gather your tools

There are a few key tools that are good to have on hand before you start. These include:

  • Baking tray or mold. A 9 x 13 inch (28.9 x 33 cm) rimmed baking sheet is an excellent choice for a thin protein bar about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. If you want a thicker bar, you can use a deeper 9 x 9 inch (28.9 x 28.9 cm) cake pan or casserole dish.
  • Measuring cups. While you can estimate the amount of ingredients in some recipes, others require you to precisely measure the amount you add to achieve your desired taste, texture, and protein content.
  • Parchment. If your recipe uses ingredients like honey, peanut butter, or dried fruit, chances are things will get sticky. Parchment paper is great for lining baking pans and preventing finished protein bars from sticking together.
  • Rubber spatula. This tool not only works wonders for mixing sticky ingredients, but it’s also great for smoothing protein bar mixture into an even layer in your baking dish.
  • Culinary robot. Although not always necessary, a food processor or hand mixer can speed things up. A food processor can chop the ingredients, mix them together, and create a cohesive, well-blended bar.

3. Remember these tips

After gathering your tools and ingredients, remember these tips when working on your bars:

  • Read your recipe carefully. Some protein bars are meant to be baked, while others are not. Be sure not to heat a no-bake bar to avoid impacting its texture.
  • Start small. Especially when trying a recipe you’ve never made before, consider starting with a small batch. This way, you can make sure you enjoy it before spending the money on a full batch of ingredients.
  • Bars, bites and balls are often interchangeable. Often, protein bites and energy balls are similar to protein bars, but shaped differently. With most basic recipes, you can easily shape the snack to your preference.
  • Experiment with ingredients. If you find a recipe that has an ingredient or two that you want to substitute, try replacing it with something similar in texture and consistency. This will help ensure your bars hold together as the recipe developer intended.

ABSTRACT

To make protein bars at home, choose a recipe that works for you, gather the necessary ingredients and tools, and feel free to experiment with ingredients and shapes.

Whether it’s building muscle, fueling your workout, feeling full between meals, or aiding weight loss, protein bars can be a great addition to your diet.

There are plenty of protein-rich ingredients that work well in homemade bars, and chances are you can find at least a few that you enjoy.

If you’re really looking to increase the amount of protein, a plant or animal protein powder supplement might give you the most bang for your buck. In fact, many of these powders can provide up to 20 grams of protein per serving (5).

If you choose to use protein powder in your bars, be aware that some people find certain supplements to have a strong bitter taste. So, consider starting with a small amount to make sure the flavor isn’t too overwhelming.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to avoid protein powders, many bar-friendly whole food ingredients are also rich sources of protein.

For example, instead of protein powder, you can use:

  • whole or chopped nuts: peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews
  • nut or seed butter: peanut, almond, cashew nut, sunflower, tahini
  • seeds: hemp, flax, pumpkin, sunflower, chia
  • bean paste: white beans, black beans
  • puffed cereals: quinoa, crispy brown rice

ABSTRACT

Protein powder supplements are a great way to add high quality protein to your bars. For whole-food protein sources, try high-protein nuts, beans, seeds, and cereals.

One of the best things about making your own protein bars at home is that you have complete control over what’s in them.

Commercially produced products often contain significant amounts of sugar or other sweeteners, processed vegetable oils like palm oil, and a range of chemical preservatives, emulsifiers and other synthetic ingredients.

With homemade protein bars, you can avoid these ingredients altogether or use them in moderation at an amount that works for you.

If this is a concern that speaks to you, consider limiting or avoiding the following ingredients:

  • sugar and sweeteners: honey, agave syrup, brown rice syrup, caster sugar
  • artificial sweeteners: xylitol, sorbitol, sucralose
  • processed vegetable oils: palm, canola, soy

ABSTRACT

If you want to avoid some of the ingredients used in store-bought protein bars, limit your use of sugar, artificial sweeteners, and processed vegetable oils.

Another advantage of making protein bars at home is that you can easily adjust the ingredients to conform to your dietary restrictions and desires.

Here are some examples of easy ways to adapt protein bar recipes to your needs:

  • Low calorie. Limit chocolate and dried fruit, as these ingredients add extra calories and relatively little protein. You can also measure the portion sizes of your bars to help you control calories.
  • Low in carbohydrates. Limit common carbohydrate sources used in protein bars such as oats, cereal, or sugar. If you need a dry ingredient to use instead of oats, try low carb almond flour. Instead of using things like honey for binding, you can use coconut oil or eggs.
  • Vegan. Avoid animal-based protein powders like whey and casein, as well as animal-based milk and eggs. If you want to include chocolate chips, be sure to use a vegan variety.
  • Paleo. Stock up on less processed ingredients like nuts, seeds, fruits, and eggs. Avoid processed oils and sugars, artificial sweeteners, grains and candies.

ABSTRACT

Adjusting protein bars to your dietary restrictions is usually easy and only requires a few simple swaps. There are many recipes already developed for low calorie, low carb, vegan, paleo and allergen free protein bars.

Making your own protein bars has many benefits.

In addition to controlling the ingredient list, you can make sure the bars suit your dietary preferences and personal tastes.

Additionally, you can omit any ingredients used in commercial varieties that you don’t want to eat.

Additionally, making a large batch of protein bars can be more affordable than buying them individually or in a box.

That might not seem like the case when you compare the cost of a single protein bar to the cost of all the ingredients needed to whip up a full batch at home. However, keep in mind that some of the purchased ingredients will be enough to make multiple batches.

In fact, in some cases, the biggest cost of making protein bars at home may be the time you spend making them.

Another benefit of making a big batch at home is that many protein bars freeze well and are easy to incorporate into a meal prep routine.

As for the cons, there are only a few.

Although most recipes are quick to prepare – simply requiring you to mix the ingredients and shape the bars – it can take longer than stopping at the nearest grocery store to buy a pre-made version.

Also, if you’re looking for a stable product for more than a few days and don’t have a freezer or refrigerator, a store-bought variety may be a better option.

ABSTRACT

Making your own bars can be cheaper than buying pre-made versions, and you can include and exclude ingredients as you see fit. On the other hand, the shelf life and convenience of store-bought versions may be preferable to some.

Protein bars are a convenient way to fuel workouts, stay full between meals, and add more protein to your diet.

There are almost countless protein bar recipes online. Many of them are easy to follow, and chances are you can find at least a few that meet your dietary needs and preferences.

Start making homemade protein bars with some of the simple recipes linked in this article.

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