No-Bake Cookie Dough Protein Bars {Gluten-Free, Vegan}

Both Kevin and I eat protein bars on a regular basis, right after hard training sessions. For years, I never paid attention to my protein needs post-workout; I thought that, so long as I was eating a healthy diet, I was just fine. And I was, for the most part, but I had a hard time making significant gains for more intense training and long-distance runs. Plus, I would feel pooped more often that I should have given the amount of rest I was getting.

It took a seasoned sports nutritionist all of 5 minutes to figure out what I needed, namely more protein in my diet, and protein bars quickly became as important a part of my routine as the workout itself.

But here is my issue: High-protein bars can come with particularly staggering price tags, at times as high as four dollars per bar. Equally staggering is the ingredient list on many of the bars: hydrolyzed gelatin, glycerin, soy protein isolate, high fructose corn syrup, fractionated palm kernel oil, and artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors, and preservatives–Ick!

The great news is that a basic, junk-free, high-protein bar is ridiculously easy to make, and at a fraction of the price, too; here it is. The bars have a fudge-like texture that can be customized with a slick of chocolate, spices, natural extracts, nuts and fruits, or a few chocolate chips. If you would like yours a bit sweeter, the suggested chocolate chips or dried fruit (a few tablespoons) in the mix will do the trick, or you can add a bit of your favorite natural sweetener (e.g., mashed dates, agave nectar or stevia).

No-Bake Cookie Dough Protein Bars
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Recipe by::
Recipe type: power bar
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • Food Processor
  • 8-inch square baking pan, lined with foil or parchment and then sprayed with nonstick cooking spray

  • 1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking rolled oats (GF, if needed)
  • 1-1/3 cups plain nondairy milk (e.g. almond, rice, soy, hemp) or low-fat milk
  • ½ cup natural, unsweetened nut or seed butter (e.g., peanut, cashew, sunflower)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (GF, if needed)
  • 1-1/3 cups packed all-natural sweetened raw vanilla vegan protein powder (I used Sunwarrior)
Instructions
  1. Place the oats in a food processor and process into a fine powder.
  2. Add the milk, nut or seed butter and vanilla to the processor bowl. Process, using on/off pulses, until the mixture is blended and smooth, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice with a rubber spatula.
  3. Add the protein powder to bowl; process using on/off pulses until all of the protein powder is incorporated, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice with a rubber spatula.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Place a large piece of parchment paper, wax paper or plastic wrap (coated with nonstick cooking spray) atop bar mixture and use it to spread and flatten the bars evenly in the pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight until very firm.
  5. Using the liner, lift the mixture from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Peel off the foil or parchment and cut into 10 bars.
Notes
*Storage: Individually and tightly wrap the bars in plastic wrap. Store the bars in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Alternatively, place the wrapped bars in an airtight container and freeze for up to three months. Let the frozen bars thaw at room temperature for about 1 hour.
*Consider topping the bars with a bit of melted bittersweet melted chocolate, as I did with these bars.
*Whey protein will not work in this recipe as written; the bars will have a gooey, sticky texture that will not hold together in bar form. But the problem is easily solved: simply increase the total amount of oats to 2 cups and reduce the amount of milk to ½ cup.
*You can form into any size or shape that suits your fancy, from balls to rounds to free-form mini bars.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 bar Calories: 195 Fat: 10 g Carbohydrates: 10 g Protein: 19 g

Comments

    • Camilla says

      Hi David! Sorry, I added it then forgot to press “update”–it is there now (bottom of recipe) Nice to see your name in my inbox, David–hope all is well at the bakery!

  1. Colleen curry says

    These are great! I am nursing twin boys and need more, easy to eat (and quick) protein options. Thanks, Camilla! :) love all your ideas! Xx

  2. says

    I just put these in the fridge. I used chocolate whey protein powder from Target, because that’s what I had on hand and I haven’t been using it. the mixture was too dry and I had to add a little more milk (just a splash or two did it) to get all the protein powder mixed in. Can’t wait to try these after they set!

    Looks like you have comments from your bloomington fan club! (This comment box won’t allow me to capitalize any letters–don’t know why.)

    • Camilla says

      Yay! Glad you used what was on hand and tweaked–it’s a very flaxible recipe :)

      Yay Bloomington! Still miss it a lot (but not the winter weather :))

  3. Chloe Lee says

    I adapted these to be SCD compliant and they turned out amazing! Used 1/3 cup coconut flour in place of the oats, and black tahini which made it look like chocolate. Used plain rice protein as well, just added 1 tsp honey….tasting them now I think I could leave that out too…coconut flour makes it quite sweet…..thanks for this recipe!

    • Camilla says

      Whoa, your variation sounds amazing, Chloe! I need to try. And now I need to find some black tahini–I’ve never seen that before! :)

  4. Ryan says

    These turned out horrible for me :(. Very gooy and like a pudding. I followed the recipe but should have winged it i guess

    • Camilla says

      Hi Ryan,

      I am so sorry these did not work for you. I am wondering if you used something other than vegan protein powder based on your comment that they turned out like pudding. These will not work with whey protein for example (they will turn out gooey). The vegan protein powders have a completely different formulation so the two types of protein cannot be substituted measure for measure. You can still make these with whey protein powder, but you will need to add a LOT more oats. All the best.

  5. Amy says

    Camilla,

    Love the recipe! Same problem as Ryan however, I used whey protein and they won’t solidify. How much more oats would I need to add to make it work? And are they salvageable at this point?

    • Camilla says

      Hi Amy! Oh shoot–yes, whey protein just won’t work as the recipe is written. But yes, they are definitely salvageable! Put the mixture back into a bowl (let it come to room temp; I assume it has been in the refrigerator. It will make it much easier to stir when it is room temp again). You can add more oats (about 1 cup) that have been pulsed in the food processor (so that they are more like meal/flour)–start by adding 1/2 cup at a time. The dough should be really thick and pliable, like play-doh, but not dry. If you like, you can also have fun with what you use to thicken them up. For example, part ground oats, part flaxseed meal, or you could coarsely grind up some seeds (like pepitas or sunflower seeds) or chia seeds. Then just repress in the pan and chill a bit to set!

  6. kate says

    I’d like to take these in my lunch to have mid afternoon prior to the gym… how will they keep out of the freezer?

    • Camilla says

      Hi Kate! They keep very well out of the refrigerator or freezer. It is just for optimal (longest) storage that I have you store them in the refrigerator or freezer (since they do not have any added preservatives). They will keep at room temp for several days :)

  7. chris says

    Do you know if using casein protein would work instead? I’m thinking of eating these as an after dinner snack.

    • Camilla says

      Hi Chris! You can, but with some modifications since vegan protein powder has a very different structure (dryer, more absorbent, more fiber) from whey or casein. You will need to up the oats about 1/2 cups and cut back a lot on the milk–start by adding just a little bit at a time until the mixture comes together into a dough, then shape into bars. Good luck, should be yummy!

    • Camilla says

      Hi Kt,

      That is not universally true by any means. It depends on the product you choose. There are many excellent spray oils on the market that are naturally expelled (i.e. no fluorocarbons) and the only ingredient is the oil. For example, I use Spectrum (their coconut oil spray and olive oil spray). But of course you can grease your pan with any oil that you like.

Trackbacks

  1. […] No-Bake Cookie Dough Protein Bars – did the alterations for whey protein powder as that is what I had on hand. Came out super sticky! (guessing that is what she meant in the comments!) Have to try again with less liquid Read More […]

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