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8 Creative Protein Powder Recipes

Cynthia Sass, a registered dietitian nutritionist, shares her protein powder recipes that are convenient, healthful, and affordable.

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Creative ways to use protein powder

As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I'm all about prioritizing whole, unprocessed foods. But now, many shoppers are making fewer trips to the grocery (due to Covid-19), and instead, are looking for long-lasting shelf-stable options. Therefore, I've been recommending protein powder as a staple ingredient.

A plain protein powder can be used in a wide variety of recipes, and can easily pack 20 to 25 grams of protein or more per serving. Based on the government recommendations, a 150-pound (68-kilogram) woman who is moderately active needs about one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 70 grams per day. That means one serving of protein powder can easily supply a third or more of daily protein needs.

chocolate and vanilla protein powder in scoopsJun/Getty Images

Buying protein powder

A perk of protein powder is that you can buy a range of options, from dairy-based whey to plant-based choices, including protein isolated from brown rice, yellow split peas, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds. Also, there are plant blends that include protein from whole grains, like quinoa and millet, as well as chia and sesame seeds, lentils, chickpeas, and more.

If you have a food allergy, there are options free from the eight most common allergens, as listed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. Allergen friendly choices include pea protein, brown rice protein, and pumpkin seed protein. Tip: Check the label regarding how a product is manufactured to prevent potential cross-contamination.

When shopping for a protein powder online or at the market, scope out the ingredients first. Look for unflavored, unsweetened powders with simple, recognizable ingredients. You'll find many single-ingredient products, such as rice protein, where the only ingredient is organic sprouted brown rice protein, or pea protein, where the only ingredient is yellow pea protein. Per 30 gram scoop, these products can pack 25 and 27 grams of protein respectively from protein that has been isolated, extracted, and concentrated from these whole plant foods. At about $55 for a five-pound canister that holds 76 servings, protein powder can also be an affordable protein option at less than $0.75 per serving.

There are a number of creative ways to add protein powder into meals and snacks that go beyond a shake. Here are eight of my own personal recipes that incorporate protein powder, including both sweet and savory options.

protein powder smoothieCourtesy Cynthia Sass

Complete Meal Smoothie

This smoothie contains a full serving of veggies, along with a significant portion of your daily protein needs, balanced with healthful fat from the nut or seed butter. Its greens, berries, nut/seed butter, dates, ginger, and spices are each chock full of antioxidants.

Ingredients (serves one):

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen greens (spinach or kale)
  • 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened protein powder
  • 2 tablespoons of nut or seed butter (such as almond or sunflower)
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh or frozen banana or 2 pitted dates
  • 1 cup water or plant-based milk
  • Slice of fresh ginger root

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a blender and whip until smooth. If desired, garnish with a sprinkle of either cinnamon or a combo of ground turmeric and black pepper.

protein pancakesCourtesy Cynthia Sass

Banana Protein Pancakes

Bananas provide potassium, a mineral and electrolyte that supports heart, nerve, and muscle function, and healthy blood pressure regulation.

Ingredients (serves one):

  • 1 medium ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened protein powder
  • 2 tablespoons nut or seed butter
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions:

Combine banana with protein powder, nut or seed butter, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Stir thoroughly to form batter. Cook three spoonfuls of batter over low heat to form pancakes, flipping after about three minutes.

protein overnight oatsCourtesy Cynthia Sass

Green Power Overnight Oats

Oats pack soluble fiber, which supports digestive health and helps lower blood cholesterol. They're also a source of health-protective anti-inflammatory antioxidants.

Ingredients (serves one):

  • 1/4 cup each of dry old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened protein powder
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon virgin coconut
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup of either finely chopped kale, shredded raw zucchini, or a combo of the two
  • 1 cup finely chopped green fruit, such as kiwi, green apple, or seedless grapes
  • 2 tablespoons whole or chopped nuts or seeds

Instructions:

In a small bowl stir together rolled oats and protein powder. Add hot water and stir to dissolve the powder evenly into the oats. In a separate small bowl whisk together coconut oil, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Add the kale and/or zucchini and toss to thoroughly coat the veggies. Combine the veggie mixture with the oat mixture, and then fold in the fruit. Garnish with a dash of cinnamon and the nuts or seeds, and refrigerate overnight.

protein mashed cauliflowerCourtesy Cynthia Sass

Protein-Packed Mashed Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, along with broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts, according to the Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center at Oregon State University. This group of plants has been linked to protection against both heart disease and certain cancers.

Ingredients (serves one):

  • 2 cups of boiled, mashed cauliflower florets
  • 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Fresh or dried parsley

Instructions:

In a medium bowl combine cauliflower florets with protein powder, broth, olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Mix thoroughly and garnish with parsley.

protein sweet potato soupCourtesy Cynthia Sass

High Protein Sweet Potato Soup

Sweet potato is a top source of vitamin A, a key nutrient involved with immune function and vision that also acts as a health-protective antioxidant.

Ingredients (serves one):

  • 1/4 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 small baked sweet potato (no skin)
  • 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened protein powder
  • 1 cup of low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

In a small saucepan over low heat sauté onion in olive oil until onion is translucent. Transfer to a small food processor and blend with garlic, sweet potato, protein powder, broth, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt. Transfer back to saucepan and heat on low to warm through. Garnish with toppings of your choice, such as chopped nuts, sesame or pumpkin seeds.

protein veggie pizzaCourtesy Cynthia Sass

Protein-Rich Mini Veggie Pizza

The chia seeds in this recipe, which function as an egg replacer, provide fiber, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. Their consumption has been linked to prevention against obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Ingredients for crust (serves one):

  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 5 tablespoons water, divided
  • 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened protein powder
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil spray or 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Ingredients for toppings:

  • Sauce of your preference (pesto, tomato, jalapeno, etc.)
  • Chopped vegetables of your choice

Instructions:

Soak chia seeds in three tablespoons of water for at least 10 minutes. In a small food processor combine the soaked chia with protein powder, oats, olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt, and two additional tablespoons of water. Blend until smooth. Transfer "dough" to a skillet that's been lightly brushed, rubbed, or sprayed with extra virgin olive oil. Cook over medium heat like one big pancake, and flip after the underside of the dough starts to become crisp and golden (about four to five minutes). Once crust is well cooked on each side, transfer from skillet to a baking sheet. Add your preferred sauce and vegetable toppings, and broil in a preheated oven until toppings are cooked to your liking.

protein cookie dough bitesCourtesy Cynthia Sass

Protein Cookie Dough Bites

Sunflower seed butter is a rich source of vitamin E, a key nutrient and antioxidant that plays a vital role in keeping the immune system healthy.

Ingredients (two servings):

  • 4 medium or 5 small pitted dates, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened sunflower seed butter
  • 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened protein powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons shredded coconut (optional)

Instructions:

Soak dates in warm water for 10 minutes. In a small food processor combine the soaked dates with water with sunflower seed butter, coconut oil, and vanilla extract. Blend until smooth. In a small bowl combine protein powder and cinnamon. Fold sunflower butter mixture into protein powder mixture to form a thick "batter." Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Pinch off eight pieces of batter, and pat into round balls. Leave as is or roll each ball in your topping of choice, like shredded coconut or minced nuts. Place balls on a plate covered with wax paper and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes. Keep leftover bites refrigerated.

protein pumpkin spice ice creamCourtesy Cynthia Sass

Protein Pumpkin Spice Mock Ice Cream

Pumpkin isn't just for fall. Just a half cup of canned pumpkin packs 250% of the Daily Value for immune-supporting vitamin A.

Ingredients (serves one):

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup plain, unsweetened protein powder
  • 1.5 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Instructions:

Stir together pumpkin, protein powder, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and pumpkin pie spice. If desired, fold in add-ins, like shredded coconut or chopped nuts. Transfer to a sealable freezer-safe container, and freeze overnight.

Remember, there are many more imaginative ways to incorporate protein powder into simple, healthy dishes. I'm still experimenting with ideas like protein bolstered hummus, yogurt dip, veggie burgers, chia pudding, breakfast cookies, and homemade protein bars. Use the simple recipes above as inspiration, and craft even more ideas of your own.

(Stocked up on lentils? Check out these 10 best dry lentils recipes packed with health-protective nutrients.)

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