7 Best Recipes for Homemade Protein Bars
Protein bars, balls, and bites can be a snack, meal replacement, or a post-exercise recovery option. Make them yourself using these registered dietitian-created recipes.
More than half of consumers are trying to get more protein in their diet, according to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). This key macronutrient is needed to maintain, build, and repair tissues, including muscle, bone, skin, and even immune cells. Research also shows that protein helps you feel full, which supports healthy weight management. But, you don’t need to focus on big pieces of meat to satisfy your daily protein needs. Snacking is another big consumer trend. Nearly half of adults snack at least three times a day, reports IFT. Two thirds want snacks that provide an energy boost, and nearly 60 percent are seeking vitamins and minerals.
One snack category that checks all of these boxes is protein bars, balls, or bites; and you don’t have to buy them pre-packaged. This collection of nutrient-rich dietitian-crafted protein snack recipes includes DIY options that meet a variety of needs. They include choices to help you healthfully satisfy a sweet craving, offer steady energy between meals, recover after a workout, and deliver functional health benefits. If you find yourself in a time crunch, you can buy one of these nutritionist-recommended vegan protein bars.
The roundup includes no-bake options, and recipes that are gluten free, and vegan. (Read more about the health benefits of a vegan diet.) Choose the ones that best meet your goals, and whip up a batch to have at the ready. You’ll save money per serving compared to store bought options, and if needed you can modify the ingredients. For example, trade peanut butter for sunflower seed butter, opt for raisins over dried cherries, substitute honey for maple syrup, or replace whole wheat flour with brown rice flour. Whether you follow the recipes to tee or customize them to your liking, you’ll fulfill some of your daily protein needs and up your intake of other vital nutrients.
Citrus Pistachio Protein Granola Bars
(makes 8 bars)
From plant forward sports dietitian Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD
The protein in this vegan recipe is primarily from pistachios. Getting protein from plants is another trend that has turned into a real movement among consumers, and pistachios are a great option. A 2019 study, published in the journal Natural Product Research, states that compared to other nuts, pistachios have a lower caloric content, and contain the highest levels of unsaturated fatty acids, potassium, and certain health protective compounds known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. Consumption of pistachios has been shown to improve blood sugar control, and artery function. This no-bake bar is a filling nutritious snack option to remain energized during a longer stretch between meals.
- 1 cup packed, pitted Medjool dates
- 1 3/4 cup shelled, lightly salted, pistachios
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
- Zest of 1/2 – 1 mandarin, dependent upon flavor preferences
- 1 tablespoon of mandarin juice (approximately 3 segments)
- Blend dates in a food processor for approximately 10-15 seconds, until finely chopped.
- Scrape the sides of the food processor before adding the remainder of ingredients.
- Pulse for 10 seconds before scraping the sides, and pulse an additional 5-10 seconds, until mixture is sticky to touch, but pieces of the pistachio and oats are still visible.
- Cut wax paper to the length of a loaf pan with the width of the paper being long enough to reach the top of each side. Transfer the mixture into the loaf pan before pressing down with your hands or a flat spatula, until firm and smooth.
- Chill in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to help mixture set before cutting.
- Grabbing the wax paper on either side of the loaf pan, lift the mixture up and onto a cutting board. Cut into 8 bars and serve immediately or refrigerate for up to one week.
Almond & Date Power Bites
(makes 4 servings)
The protein in this easy breezy no cook recipe primarily comes from almond butter, chia seeds, and Greek yogurt. Opt for these bites if you enjoy a sweet and crunchy combination. They’re a great choice when you only need a small snack to curtail hunger until your next meal, or as a post-meal sweet fix that offers more nutrients than a cookie.
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 Medjool dates remove pit, chopped
- 1/2 cup dried apricots chopped
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup almonds toast first for extra crunch
- 1/4 cup plain 0% Greek yogurt
- 1 cup puffed brown rice cereal toasted
- Place all ingredients except the cereal in a food processor and blend to desired consistency. Move mixture to a bowl and incorporate toasted cereal.
- Form 1-ounce balls and store in refrigerator or freezer in wax paper.
No-Bake Chocolate Protein Bars
(makes 16 bars)
The protein is this bar comes from pea protein powder, as well as the oats, flaxseed, and almond butter. A bar recipe that includes protein powder works well as a meal replacement, since powders provide concentrated protein that significantly ups the protein content per serving. Grab one of these no-cook bars for breakfast when you’re pressed for time, or wrap and toss in your bag when you’re on the go and can’t stop for a proper meal.
- 1 1/4 cup vanilla pea protein powder (ideally organic)
- 1 cup oats
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- 3 tablespoons cacao (or cocoa) powder
- 1/3 cup dried cherries (can substitute any dried fruit)
- 1/2 cup almond butter
- 1/4 cup honey
- 5-6 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Combine protein powder, oats, flax, cacao, and dried cherries in a large bowl.
- In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the almond butter and honey. Microwave for 45 seconds, until honey is melted and almond butter is loose.
- Add the water and vanilla to the hot almond butter/honey mixture and whisk to combine.
- Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until a dough-like mixture forms. (We started out with a spatula and ended up kneading the mixture a bit with our hands to get it all incorporated.)
- Line a loaf pan or 8×8 pan with parchment paper. Press the mixture evenly into the pan, cover with parchment paper, and refrigerate for at least an hour to set.
- Remove the bars from the pan and peel away the parchment paper. Cut into 16 bars.
- Store bars wrapped or in an airtight container in the fridge. Bars will last for several weeks when refrigerated.
Almond Butter Fudge Protein Bars
(makes 8 squares)
The protein in this no-bake bar comes from a combination of the almond butter and collagen. “The collagen is needed for texture purposes. It creates a texture that holds together well while still fudge-y. I also love that it adds a nice boost of protein to the bars,” says Brondo. This bar is a good choice if you struggle with joint pain or stiffness, or you’re concerned about the effects of aging, as research backs the benefits of collagen for improving symptoms of osteoarthritis, and combating skin aging, dehydration, and wrinkles.
- 1 cup smooth almond butter
- 1/4 cup softened coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/2 cup collagen powder
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips
- Grease a loaf pan or line with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, add almond butter, coconut oil, and maple syrup. Mix well until cohesive and thick.
- Add in collagen and mix until well combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
- Scoop mixture into loaf pan, using your hands to disperse it evenly and flatten. Place in the freezer for at least 20 minutes to harden.
- Remove from the loaf pan and cut into 8 squares.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chickpea Bars
(makes 16 bars)
This protein in this vegan bar comes from chickpeas, in addition to peanut butter, whole wheat flour, and peanuts. The benefits of the star ingredient—chickpeas—goes well beyond protein. According to a 2016 study, published in the journal Nutrients, people who regularly consume chickpeas have higher intakes of several key nutrients. These include fiber, vitamins A, E, and C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and iron. Chickpea eaters are also 53 percent less likely to be obese, and have lower BMIs and waist measurements compared to non-chickpea eaters. Use this bar as a hearty snack, or to satisfy a peanut butter craving with a bonus intake of plant protein.
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained (reserve liquid)
- 1/3 cup peanut butter, creamy
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanuts
- 3/4 cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips
- Chopped peanuts
- Dark chocolate chips or chunks
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Drain chickpeas, reserving liquid. Place reserved chickpea liquid in a kitchen mixer bowl (or use an electric mixer) and whip until thick and foamy. Set aside.
- Place chickpeas, peanut butter, peanut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla in the container of a food processor. Process until smooth—about 3 minutes.
- Remove chickpea mixture from food processor and add to bowl with whipped chickpea liquid. Add flour and baking powder. Gently fold into the whipped chickpea liquid with a rubber spatula (so as not to break the emulsion) until smooth. Do not overmix. Fold in peanuts and chocolate chips.
- Spray a 9 X 9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Pour batter into pan and bake in the center of the oven for about 1 hour, until golden brown and firm.
- Remove from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes. Do not slice while warm, as the bars will crumble. When cool, slice into 16 bars.
Snickerdoodle Protein Bars
(makes 8 bars)
From Kelly Jones
Pea protein powder and peanut butter are the protein sources in this vegan, no-bake bar. Another high protein option, this bar is a good choice as a recovery snack after a tough workout, particularly for active people who can’t or don’t want to consume dairy-based whey protein. A 2019 study in the journal Sports found that pea protein generated results that were on par with whey protein for muscle strength, performance, body composition, and muscular adaptations following eight weeks of high-intensity training.
- 1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates
- 1/2 cup organic unflavored pea protein powder
- 1/2 cup natural peanut butter stir before measuring
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- Add all ingredients to a food processor, and pulse until a fine, sand-like texture is formed.
- Pour the mixture into a loaf pan and press down firmly until you have a very hard, level surface.
- Once it is firmly packed, cut into 8 bars.
- Store in the refrigerator up to one week.
Nutty Energy Bites
The protein in this no heat vegan treat comes from the oats, almond butter, and pistachios. The apricots supply natural sweetness and extra nutrients, including potassium, iron, vitamin E, and fiber. The ball shape allows you to tailor your portion to meet your needs. Pop one to stave off hunger while cooking dinner, or two or three before a longer meeting that requires mental focus, or to power a bike ride or hike.
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 5 1/2 ounces unsulfured dried apricots (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup creamy, natural, unsweetened almond butter (with no added sugars)
- 2 teaspoons cold water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup shelled, roasted, lightly salted pistachios
1. Add all ingredients to a food processor. Cover and pulse several times (about 20–25 times), until the mixture is crumbly yet well combined.
2. With clean hands, form the mixture into 12 extra-firm balls, about 2 tablespoons each.
3. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a month.
- Institute of Food Technologists: “The Top 10 Functional Food Trends”
- Food Hydrocolloids: “Revisiting the role of protein-induced satiation and satiety”
- Institute of Food Technologists: “What, When, and Where America Eats”
- Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD
- Natural Product Research: “Health benefits of pistachios consumption”
- Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, Chef Abbie Gellman, MS, RD, of culinarynutritioncuisine.com
- registered dietitian sisters Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse Lakatos of www.TheNutritionTwins.com
- Sammi Brondo, MS, RD of https://www.sammibrondo.com
- International Orthopaedics: “Effect of collagen supplementation on osteoarthritis symptoms: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials”
- Nutrients: “Diet and Skin Aging—From the Perspective of Food Nutrition”
- Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian
- Nutrients: “The Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Chickpeas and Hummus“
- Sports: “The Effects of Whey vs. Pea Protein on Physical Adaptations Following 8-Weeks of High-Intensity Functional Training (HIFT): A Pilot Study”
- Jackie Newgent, RDN, chef and author of The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook