10 Best Nutritionist-Approved Vegan Protein Bars
Dietitian and plant-based diet specialist Cynthia Sass shares the best vegan protein bars and offers tips on what ingredients to look for.
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When should you eat a protein bar?
As a dietitian, my preference will always be for fresh, whole food. But I also believe that packaged products like protein bars serve a purpose. A protein bar can be a great way to fill a gap during a long stretch between meals. They’re portable, nonperishable, and can be much healthier than other convenient unhealthy snack options, such as chips or baked goods. You can even make them yourself with these protein bar recipes from dietitians.
A protein and nutrient-rich bar can also work as a handy post-exercise recovery food, particularly when you can’t eat a full meal until a few hours or more following a tough workout. When paired with a veggie-based green juice, a balanced protein bar can even serve as a meal replacement in a pinch—a much better option than either skipping a meal or opting for fast food.
What are the best vegan protein bars?
If you’re vegan there are plenty of bars to choose from that are free from animal-based ingredients, like whey protein, eggs, and honey. But the quality of vegan bars can vary widely. The brands I use and recommend must meet certain criteria. The first is all-natural, easily recognizable plant ingredients, which means no artificial sweeteners, preservatives, or additives. I also nix bars made with sugar alcohols or highly intense sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit. Second, sugar can’t be the first ingredient. Food ingredients are listed by weight, so the first ingredient makes up the bulk of the bar. Finally, in order to qualify as a protein bar, it must provide at least 10 grams (g) of plant protein.
Somewhere between 10 and 15 grams of protein is all you need in a bar used as a snack, post-exercise recovery, or meal replacement. You may have seen bars that pack as much as 30 grams of protein each. That’s excessive in my opinion, and these bars are typically made with whey protein, which isn’t vegan, and include artificial sweeteners and/or sugar alcohols, two of my ingredients to avoid.
Here are 10 bars that meet those standards, with notes about the ingredient makeup and nutrition facts for each. If you need to avoid nuts, sesame seeds, or other food allergens, be sure to check a bar’s ingredients each time you buy, since brands frequently reformulate their products.
$29 per box of 12
This bar is tops in my opinion for taste and texture. Of Amrita’s eight flavors of high protein bars, the chocolate chip coconut and chocolate maca are my favorites. The primary ingredients in the latter are dates, brown rice protein, mango, sunflower seed butter, chia seeds, shredded coconut, along with the maca and some natural flavors. They’re also Non-GMO Project Verified, which means the product has not been genetically engineered and the ingredients do not contain genetically modified organisms, more commonly known as GMOs.
The chocolate maca bar gives you 17 percent of the Daily Value for iron, and that can be valuable: According to the National Institutes of Health, premenopausal women can fall short on iron, a key mineral that helps transport oxygen throughout the body and supports muscle metabolism and healthy connective tissue.
One bar provides 15 g of protein, 30 g of carbohydrate with 4 g fiber (because healthy fiber is counted with carbohydrates, it means you can subtract the fiber grams from the total carbs; this bar has 26 g of net carb). The bar has only 2 g of added sugar and 8 g of fat.
$27 per box of 12
Not all of Rise’s protein bars are vegan, but they do make three flavors of plant-based bars made with pea protein. My favorite is Rise’s lemon cashew, which offers a nice change of pace from the myriad chocolatey options on the market. I like the simplicity of the ingredients, which include only cashews, coconut nectar, pea protein, and lemon extract. You can get 11 percent of your daily goal for potassium with one bar.
Less than three percent of adults in the U.S. consume the recommended intake for potassium, according to a 2016 study published in The Journal of Nutrition. This vital electrolyte supports nerve function, muscle contractions, and heart rhythm. It also transports nutrients into cells and move waste out, and helps regulate blood pressure by offsetting the effects of excess sodium. (Need an energy boost? Try these homemade energy bars.)
One bar provides 15 g of protein, 23 g of carbohydrate with 1 g fiber (22 g net carb g), and 13 g of fat.
$30 per box of 12
I love the simplicity of the ingredients in this brand’s USDA certified organic bars. The Skout Organic salted chocolate boosts the levels of magnesium thanks to sunflower and pumpkin seeds—the salt is the pink Himalayan variety. One bar packs an impressive 20 percent of the daily need for magnesium. This mineral is required for over 300 reactions in the body, including immune function, bone health, nerve, and muscle function. A 2020 study published in the journal Nutrients notes that low blood magnesium has been linked to an increased risk of dementia, and low intakes have been shown to hinder physical performance, including muscle strength and power. (Craving chocolate? Try dark chocolate for a healthy snack.)
Other flavors include chocolate cherry, coconut, and peanut butter. One bar provides 10 g of protein, 27 g of carbohydrate with 6 g fiber (21 net carb g), and 10 g of fat.
$28 per box of 12
Available in dark chocolate and zesty lemon, these Go Raw bars are USDA certified organic and Non-GMO Project Verified. A primary ingredient in the chocolate version is sprouted watermelon seeds. If you enjoy a snack with an earthy, all-natural flavor and a sweet crisp combo I think you’ll enjoy this bar. I love the inclusion of watermelon seeds, which are an exciting new protein and nutrient-rich addition to the usual seed squad. A 2016 study published in The International Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences concludes that in addition to their protein, minerals, and fiber, watermelon seeds are rich in antioxidants known to protect cells against tissue damage and aging.
One bar provides 12 g of protein, 23 g of carbohydrate with 3 g fiber (20 net carb g), and 12 g of fat.
$23.00 per box of 12
Orgain’s simple bars are available in three flavors: chocolate almond sea salt, chocolate peanut butter, and blueberry almond. The ingredients are indeed simple. The latter bar is made with just dates, peanut flour, almond butter, natural flavors, almonds, chia protein, and blueberries. Each ingredient is organic, which also means non-GMO.
With 8 g of fiber, the bar fills over 30 percent of your daily target. One bar also provides 20 percent of the daily goal for iron. A 2018 study published in BMJ Open looked at the benefits of iron supplementation in iron-deficient adults who did not have anemia. They found that providing iron reduced self-perceived fatigue, and researchers conclude that either iron-rich foods or supplements could be helpful for improving low energy.
One bar provides 12 g of protein, 25 g of carbohydrate with 8 g fiber (17 net carb g), and 11 g of fat.
$16 per 9 pack
Square in shape, these Square Organics bars are both USDA certified organic and gluten-free. The vanilla crunch flavor gets its protein from brown rice, making it a good option for athletic vegans. One study published in Nutrition Journal found that compared to whey protein, rice protein was every bit as good for exercise performance, post-exercise muscle soreness, and body composition among men who engaged in strength training sessions.
One bar provides 10 g of protein, 21 g of carbohydrate with 2 g fiber (19 net carb g), and 12 g of fat.
$26 per box of 12
Another USDA certified organic and gluten-free option, these Aloha bars are available in six flavors, including chocolate mint, caramel sea salt, and vanilla almond crunch. The chocolate chip cookie dough bar contains loads of fiber thanks primarily to tapioca. With over 50 percent of the daily recommended fiber goal, this is the highest-fiber bar in the bunch.
According to a 2017 study in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 95 percent of American adults do not consume recommended amounts of fiber. This protein bar can be a helpful way to help fill the gap. This bar’s fiber content may be a bit much if you don’t typically eat high fiber foods, and it could lead to bloating or gas. If you choose this bar, be sure to drink plenty of water to help your digestive system handle the fiber.
One bar provides 14 g of protein, 25 g of carbohydrate with 14 g as fiber (11 net carb g), and 10 g of fat.
$10 for a 4 count
Another of my personal favorites, this line of USDA certified organic bars, Shanti, is also gluten-free and Non-GMO Project Verified. The unique variety of flavors include Mexican chocolate mulberry and white chocolate goldenberry. The ingredients in the mango cashew turmeric bar include a blend of brown rice and sunflower proteins, along with tasty bits of cashews, almonds, tapioca fiber, dried mango, chia and sunflower seeds, goji berries, and Celtic sea salt.
The bar also contains turmeric, which offers benefits like improved mood, pain relief, and heart protection. This bar provides 20 percent of the daily need for iron and 8 percent for calcium. Even smaller percentages of calcium add up, and this mineral does more than support strong bones: The mineral helps muscles and blood vessels contract and expand, send messages through the nervous system, and release important hormones and enzymes.
One bar provides 17 g of protein, 24 g of carbohydrate with 6 g fiber (18 net carb g), and 8 g of fat.
$28 per box of 12
I enjoy the flavor and texture of The GFB certified gluten-free, non-GMO Project Verified bars. They’re available in seven flavors including oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, and dark chocolate coconut. Some of the notable ingredients in the cranberry toasted almond (my personal favorite) in addition to California almonds are organic agave nectar, organic brown rice, organic dates, and flaxseed.
I love that almonds are the first ingredient. A 2018 study published in the journal Nutrients concludes that the addition of almonds in the diet has been shown to reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels while maintaining “good” HDL, a change that may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
One bar provides 12 g of protein, 29 g of carbohydrate with 4 g fiber (25 net carb g), and 10 grams of fat.
Larabar Protein Bars
$50 per 32 bars
I’ve long been a fan of Larabar’s original bars, which typically provide about 5 g of protein. Their new protein line is bolstered with pea protein, which raises the protein content of each bar to my target zone. Pea protein is another good choice for vegans who engage in strength training. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that among men aged 18 to 35 who completed 12 weeks of resistance training pea protein equaled whey protein for muscle strength and thickness gains. (Next, check out the best vegan protein powders.)
The bars are available in six flavors, including key lime coconut pie, chocolate cashew brownie, and lemon blueberry muffin. One bar provides 11 g of protein, 24 g of carbohydrate with 4 g as fiber 920 net carb g), and 10 g of fat.
- National Institutes of Health: "Iron"
- The Journal of Nutrition: "Estimating Sodium and Potassium Intakes and Their Ratio in the American Diet: Data from the 2011–2012 NHANES"
- Medline Plus: "Potassium"
- Medline Plus: "Magnesium"
- Nutrients: "Low blood magnesium"
- The International Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences: "Watermelon Seeds as Food: Nutrient Composition, Phytochemicals and Antioxidant Activity"
- BMJ Open: "Efficacy of iron supplementation on fatigue and physical capacity in non-anaemic iron-deficient adults: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials"
- Nutrition Journal: "The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance"
- American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine: "Closing America’s Fiber Intake Gap: Communication Strategies From a Food and Fiber Summit"
- Medline Plus: "Calcium"
- Nutrients: "Almonds and Cardiovascular Health: A Review"
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: "Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein"