Say goodbye to store bought protein bars. Lightly sweetened with maple syrup, these vegan peanut butter bars will quickly become your new on-the-go snack.
If you’re one of those people who can go all day before eating anything, this post is not for you.
Weekends and vacations aside, during the week my body demands at least two snacks each day in addition to my regular three meals.
And while it can be easy to to just munch away on crackers or even candy, chances are within 30-60 minutes later you’ll be feeling hungry again.
Instead, the key to healthy snacking is to treat your snacks like mini-meals. This means that whatever you choose should have a healthy fat, some protein, and fiber. While each has different functions in the body, they all are similar in that they break down slower, and in turn provide your body with a steady stream of energy.
These bars are a perfect snack in that they’re portable, easy to make a big batch of, filled with 10 grams of filling protein, and contain healthy fats and fiber thanks to rolled oats and ground flax seeds.
If you’ve been following for awhile, these may look familiar. These On The Trail Protein Bars are one of my favorites, but overtime I’ve been making them more often with flax seeds and leaving out the dried cranberries. But feel free to still add the dried fruit if looking for a little extra carb boost for hiking!
I do plan on eventually doing a full post on protein powders, but for now the two biggest considerations are ingredients and flavor.
Let’s start with flavor. As there’s a ½ cup worth of protein powder in these bars, it’s extremely important that you like the flavor and texture of your protein powder. Personally, I like the level of sweetness and thickness of Sunwarrior protein, but Bry does not. He finds it a bit too powdery and as a result isn’t a huge fan of these bars when I make them with it.
If you usually have your protein powder in a smoothie with a bunch of other ingredients, I recommend trying it with just some milk in a shaker bottle. If you still like the flavor and texture, then you’re good to go for using in these bars!
Now onto ingredients. After workouts, I usually use a whey-based powder as whey protein is more rapidly absorbed. But when I’m in need of longer-lasting energy, I turn to a plant-based option.
If planning on eating these bars as a snack to help keep you fueled longer, I recommend going with a plant-based protein (such as pea, hemp, rice, or a protein mixture) or casein if you aren’t vegan or intolerant to dairy.
Finally, make sure to read the ingredient label. I like to stick with ones that have minimal additives and fillers. Due to having IBS, I also steer clear of any that contain insulin (chicory root) and any artificial sweeteners, except for stevia.
While I say it multiple times in this post, go slowly with adding milk as different protein powders absorb liquid differently. So if you aren’t using Sunwarrior, you may need to play around a little with the wet ingredients to get the texture just right!
As these bars are quite soft, you’ll end up with just mush if you put them just in a plastic bag.. Instead, I recommend breaking bars in half and putting the pieces in small food storage containers that don’t take up too much space. If you have a larger bag and don’t mind the bulk of a larger container, then no need to break the bars up into smaller pieces.
Consistency-wise, my favorite way to bring these hiking or to work is to freeze as many as I want to bring the night before and then let them slowly thaw out as you hike. This will keep them a little firmer than if they had just been in the fridge, but that’s totally up to personal texture preferences!
Cover a 7×11 rectangular baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside. Measure out ingredients.
Note: I’ve also made these in an 8×8 pan, they just turn out a little thicker and shorter
Place oats in a food processor and pulse until a coarse flour. Pour into a medium-sized mixing bowl and set aside.
Place cashews in food processor and pulse. For bars with a little more texture, pulse into small pieces, but not powdery. However, I like these to be smoother, similar to Perfect bars, so I pulse in a coarse sand-like texture.
Transfer pulsed cashews into mixing bowl with pulsed oats.
Add flax seed, salt, and protein powder to mixing bowl, stirring well to combine.
Then add in peanut butter and maple syrup. Mix again until combined.
Note: for extra texture, feel free to add up to ¼ cup of additional mix-ins at this step. For trail-mix tasting bars, dried fruit such as blueberries, cranberries or raisins can be added. Additional nuts or seeds would also work.
Slowly pour in milk, about 2 tablespoons at a time, until the mixture is similar to a sticky cookie dough batter.
For Sunwarrior protein, I always use ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons as it’s a pretty absorbing protein powder. However, depending on the brand you use, you may only need ¼-½ cup of milk.
Using a rubber spatula, transfer the protein bar mixture into prepared pan and spread evenly. Place pan in freezer for 15-20 minutes, or until slightly firm.
Lift bars out of pan using the parchment paper and slice into 12 snack-sized bars or 6 meal-replacement-sized bars.
While I’ve never had these last more than 10 days, I can say that even after 10 days in the fridge they were every bit as good.
However, if planning on having these last longer than that, I’d recommend storing them in the freezer for up to 4 months and just transferring one to the fridge the night before you plan on eating it.
No worries! I have a bonus post coming your way this weekend that’s just as packed with energy-boosting ingredients, but without the powder stuff.
I’d love to hear in the comments below! And don’t forget to tag @TheHealthyToast_RD on Instagram and share this recipe on Pinterest!
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