There’s nothing easier than making your own protein bars. Sure, you could shell out for pre-packaged bars that’ll last for the next decade. But why not learn to make your own and have one more skill in your toolbox? You don’t even need a recipe–just this basic blueprint.
All protein bars are a mixture of fats, grains, and proteins. You can tweak these recipes–really, more like formulas–to adapt for allergies, flavor preferences, or just whatever you have on hand at the time. You don’t need special equipment, and pound-for-pound, they’re a fraction of the cost of commercial bars.
For both taste and plenty of nutrients, you can’t go wrong with good old-fashioned peanut butter. (Unless you’re allergic to peanuts.) Other nut butters, such as almond or cashew, or even sunflower seed butter will work, too.
You can up the fat quotient with a scoop of coconut oil, which will also act as a binding agent.
Typically, you’re either going to use honey or maple syrup in homemade protein bars. However, agave syrup can also work. You want to use a sticky, syrup-based sweetener to help bind these ingredients together. Honey has some benefits over the others–the raw stuff is antibacterial and can even help with seasonal allergies if you get it locally.
Use just enough sweetener to make your bars taste good, but don’t overdo it. This isn’t candy.
Seeds and Nuts
A lot of the protein in homemade bars comes from seeds and nuts. Pumpkin seeds are easily available–and even easier to roast yourself if you grow your own pumpkins. Chia seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, and almonds are all good choices, too.
Some people like to include rolled oats in their protein bars. Your mileage may vary–I think it tastes like eating uncooked oatmeal, but you might like it.
A handful of raisins, dried cranberries, or other fruit can give your protein bars a nice burst of sweetness. They’re not necessary and don’t bring a whole lot of nutrition to the table, other than fiber, but dried fruit will at least make your homemade protein bars look more like cookies. That might convince the younger members of your family to give it a shot.
Some recipes for protein bars use dates as a base. However, you need to have a food processor to blend the dates into a paste. Since you can’t count on access to the kitchen equipment, we’ll stick with the stuff you can chop by hand and stir in a bowl.
These protein bars won’t taste right without a little salt. Add a little at first–1/4-1/2 teaspoon per every dozen bars. If you want more, add more. It’s as simple as that. You can also skip the sweeteners and go for a more savory bar. Try using tahini (sesame seed butter) instead of peanut butter for a hummus-flavored bar.
You don’t strictly need protein powder if you’ve added nuts or peanut butter. But if you want an extra kick of protein, add a scoop of powder to the mix.
A lot of people like to add a teaspoon or two of vanilla to homemade protein bars. That gives it a cookie-like taste that’s more in line with commercial bars. You can also add spices like cinnamon or ginger, lemon or orange zest, or even dried herbs or cayenne pepper for a savory bar. A tablespoon or two of cocoa powder will make your bars taste like chocolate fudge.
Mix It All Together
As I said, this is more of a formula than a recipe. About half the mix should be nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and other dry ingredients. A third should be fat. Add a couple of tablespoons of sticky sweetener to help hold it all together.
Choose the ingredients you want to try, throw it all in a bowl, and stir it into a dough. Try a pinch. If it tastes good, press the mixture into a shallow pan and let it chill for a while. If you don’t like the flavor or the texture, add something else until it improves.
Once the bars have set, cut them into rectangles and store in an airtight container between layers of wax paper. These don’t have the shelf-life of commercial bars, but they taste a heck of a lot better.