About a year ago, my lovely girlfriend surprised me with a pair of tickets to a raw food workshop out of town (she knows me so well).
It was an incredible workshop led by a raw food chef (who happened to be pregnant at the time) with more enthusiasm than I’ve ever been exposed to in my life.
She left quite an impression on me as she shared her craft and taught us how to make some killer raw food desserts.
And that impression kind of stuck with me.
As has the love for making awesome raw food meals. Ever since that workshop, I’ve been having sporadic moments of raw food cravings.
Cravings powerful enough to spark imagination. Cravings that force my girlfriend to get out her heavy-duty food processor and start performing some magic.
This past weekend was one of those days.
Out of nowhere, I had an indescribable urge to fulfill one of my life-long dreams:
To make my very own protein bars.
Here’s how I (ummm we) did it…
Before I get into the details, let me say where the idea for the process came from.
Raw food desserts come in many different shapes, sizes, textures, and tastes. But, for particular examples, there are two fairly distinct components: the base and the topping. The base is very thick and pasty. It solidifies when frozen. The topping is a much smoother texture that has an icy taste when frozen.
The protein bars I created used the base-making principles from the raw food making process.
This is what keeps them solid.
Why Protein Bars?
Protein is an essential macronutrient the body needs for a multitude of functions, like building and repairing tissue.
Although it’s important to moderate our consumption of protein (remember, excess protein promotes insulin secretion which isn’t an optimal hormonal state), I find that many of us still find it difficult to get enough quality protein throughout the day (especially when we’re on the run).
I’m not a big fan of brand-name protein bars because they’re loaded with additives, artificial flavors, and sugars (again, insulin secretion). On top of that, they’ll do a number on your wallet.
I just don’t like anything I can’t control.
So I decided the best way to solve this issue is to (try to) make my very own protein bars.
Please note that this is my very first attempt at making protein bars. Although I’m happy with how they turned out, I’ll be playing around with the recipe to try and make them even better.
What You Need…
The good news is that you don’t need much.
From a hardware point of view, you’ll need the following items:
1 – Food Processor
To make any kind of raw-food dessert, you need a solid food processor (see picture below). This tool is incredibly handy for mashing up and mixing even the hardest and crunchiest of ingredients (like the ones we’re using in this recipe). If you don’t have a food processor, a heavy-duty blender might suffice, but I haven’t tried this myself.
The all-mighty food processor.
2 – Measuring cups
Measuring cups are useful here because they’ll help you get the right texture. When you’re making raw-food desserts, it’s really important to get the base nice and pasty. If it’s too wet or too dry, you won’t get the result you’re looking for. You need to mix the ingredients in such a ratio that will get them pasty enough to form into the shapes you want.
3- Aluminum Pan
An aluminum pan is required for solidifying the protein bars. Don’t use a glass container because the mixture will need to be placed in the freezer to turn the bars solid. A nice, flat aluminum pan will suffice.
Here’s a list of the ingredients I used to make my protein bars:
- Ground blanched almonds
- Fresh, organic walnut pieces
- Natural whole Brazil nuts
- Organic coconut oil
- Shredded unsweetened coconut
- All-natural whey protein
- Raw cocoa beans
- Mint leaves
How I Made my Protein Bars
Here are the steps I took to make the protein bars:
Get your food processor ready. Get all your ingredients out in front of you and prepared for measuring. Clear up your kitchen and give yourself some space to work.
This is going to get a bit messy!
2. Measure and Load
- Measure out a cup of ground almonds and throw it into the processor
- Measure two cups of fresh walnuts and add it to the mix
- Measure out one cup of Brazil nuts and add it to the mix
- Measure out roughly 1/3 to 2/3 cups of organic coconut oil and add it to the mix
- Measure out about 2-3 scoops of all natural whey protein and add it to the mix
It should look something like this…
3. Start Mixing
Get the food processor going.
Start mixing the batch and see what kind of texture you get.
This is very important. What you’re aiming for is a smooth paste that is not too watery, but also not too dry. It needs to be just right. If it’s too watery, you need to either add more walnuts or ground almonds and mix again. If it’s too dry, try adding either more coconut oil or simply add a little bit of water (not too much!). Keep playing around with the mixture until you get the pasty, pliable texture that’s required.
4. Add the Final Pieces
Once you have the paste mixed into the texture you want, add in your raw cocoa beans and mint leaves.
The raw cocoa beans are hard to come by (I got these as a gift from El Salvador), but raw cocoa powder is a great substitute and can be purchased at your local health food store. The mint leaves were just an experiment to see what kind of flavor they would add.
After everything is mixed together, add a bit of shredded coconuts into the mix and let the food processor run on low power. You want to keep the coconut shreds long (not minced up).
This is what it should look like when it’s ready for spreading…
Notice the pastiness of the mixture.
5. Spread out the Mixture
Once you have your mixture ready, grab your aluminum pan and dump the paste onto it.
Begin forming the paste with your hands (like I did) or with a roller if you have one (I didn’t) into a flat square (or any shape you choose really).
This is why it’s important to get a solid, pasty texture. If it’s too dry or too watery, it’s not very pliable.
The image on the left shows the mixture after it is dumped out of the food processor. The image on the right is the same mixture only flattened.
Once you have a flat paste spread out over your pan (as shown above), take some Saran wrap and cover the mixture.
Put it in your freezer. Let it sit there for a while (I left it for a few hours).
6. Cut and Serve
After a few hours, the flattened mixture should have solidified.
Take it out of the freezer and touch it. If it is still pasty, put it back. If it is solid to the touch, it’s ready to be cut.
You can cut the bars any way you like. You can cut them into squares, triangles, long bars, or whatever shape floats your boat. You can use a knife or a pizza cutter. Both work really well.
Protein mixture solidified and cut. I sectioned my mixture into 18 bars.
Once the bars are cut, use the flat end of the knife to scoop them off the aluminum pan. Depending on how long the bars have been in the freezer up to this point, it’s a good idea not to use your hands to ensure the bars don’t break.
Store the bars neatly into a container and put them back into the freezer.
Protein bars are ready to go back in the freezer!
Leave the bars in the freezer overnight…
And get ready to enjoy them in the morning!
Protein Bar Nutrition Facts
I think the coolest thing about making your own protein bars is that you get to control what you put in them.
Often enough, brand-name protein bars are loaded with sugar, additives, preservatives, and artificial flavors that you can’t get away from.
My goal with these bars is to keep them low on sugar and high in overall nutritional value.
Let’s take a look at some of the ingredients we used and let’s figure out the nutritional value of each protein bar.
Note: because I didn’t have the a measuring tool with me to figure out exactly how many grams of each ingredient I used, this will be a somewhat rough estimate. Keep in mind, however, that the idea is to get to that desired texture and then scale up or down depending on the volume you’re looking to create.
According to my research, here are the approximations:
- 2 cups of ground almonds = 220g [source]
- 2/3 cups of organic coconut oil = 139g [source]
- 2.5 cups of walnut pieces = 310g [source]
- 1 cup of Brazil nuts = 150g [source]
- 3 scoops of all-natural whey protein powder = 96g
- 1/3 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut = 24g [source]
Once again, the sources are a little bit inconsistent, but it should give us a good rough estimate.
Now let’s dig into some complicated math…
Nutrients from ground blanched almonds:
- Calories = 1256 calories
- Protein = 47.1g
- Fat = 110g
- Carbohydrates = 47.1g
Nutrients from organic coconut oil:
- Calories = 1190 calories
- Protein = 0g
- Fat = 138g
- Carbohydrates = 0g
Nutrients from walnut pieces:
- Calories = 1957 calories
- Protein = 41g
- Fat = 185g
- Carbohydrates = 41g
Nutrients from Brazil nuts:
- Calories = 1070 calories
- Protein = 21g
- Fat = 101g
- Carbohydrates = 16g
Nutrients from All-Natural Whey Protein:
- Calories = 390 calories
- Protein = 72g
- Fat = 3g
- Carbohydrates = 15g
Shredded (Unsweetened) Coconut:
- Calories = 160 calories
- Protein = 0g
- Fat = 14.4g
- Carbohydrates = 6.4g
Raw Cocoa Nibs:
Note: the raw cocoa beans and the mint leaves add nutritional value, but do not add much to the overall macronutrient composition, so they’re omitted from these calculations.
OK, let’s add those numbers up:
- Total calories: 6,023 calories
- Total protein: 181g
- Total fat: 551g
- Total carbohydrates: 122g
This is the total macronutrient breakdown of the batch I created.
Breaking this down into 18 individual protein bars, we get the following.
Protein Bar Nutrition Facts (per bar):
- 376 calories
- 11g of protein
- 34.4g of fat
- 7.6g of carbohydrates
Apart from the macronutrient composition of these bars, it’s very important to note the nutritional density they possess. This should be the primary focus – to get the most nutritional value out of each bar as possible.
As you can see, (healthy) fats make up the majority of the macronutrient composition of these ‘protein’ bars (which is also what drives their caloric value since fats are the most calorically dense macronutrients).
The reason all of this is good news is because our body is actually designed to use fat as fuel (not sugars). Fat is a long, very stable fuel source that the body prefers for metabolization and it doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar and accompanying hormonal dysregulation.
Essentially, eating fat will help you get leaner and healthier, but we’ll save that for another post.
Note that there are only (roughly) 11 grams of protein per bar. I’d like to eventually push this number up to 15 grams minimum in the next iteration. Remember that the goal isn’t to over-consume proteins as we’re often told. The (adult) body only needs around 45 to 60 grams of protein per day for optimal function and tissue repair. Anything over that will cause hormonal dysregulation, which triggers fat accumulation and can wreak havoc on your metabolic systems.
So yes, it may make sense to call these ‘fat bars’ instead of ‘protein bars’, but it’s my creation and I’ll call them what I want 🙂
All in all, these bars are nutritionally dense. They’re very high in nutritional value (especially from the raw cocoa beans which contain powerful antioxidants).
I’m fairly pleased with my first time experiment.
I think it’s important to give a rough breakdown of how much it cost me to actually make this.
I purchased all of my ingredients at the Bulk Barn because purchasing quality foods in bulk is always cheaper.
Note: since I lost my receipt (sorry!), I can’t give a very detailed outline of my costs.
Here’s the price breakdown:
- Ground almonds, walnut pieces, Brazil nuts, shredded coconut = $19.90
- Coconut oil = $9
- Natural Whey Protein = $70/71 scoops = $10/3 scoops
- Raw cocoa beans = free (gift)
- Mint leaves = free (gift)
Total Cost = $38.9
Cost per bar = $4.8
Although this may seem somewhat high, keep in mind that there were a lot of leftovers of the ingredients that were purchased. For instance, the jar of coconut oil, which is one of the more expensive ingredients, is still nearly full and can be re-used for a later batch. The same can be said with some of the other ingredients.
It all comes down to volume and iteration. My goal is to bring these down to the $1-2 per bar range.
What I Plan to Change
Remember that this is my very first attempt at making home-made raw-food style protein bars. This entire experiment is designed to give you an idea – a framework – which you can use to start playing around with ingredients and creating your very own bars.
One thing that we learned at the raw food workshop is that there is plenty of room for variation.
As long as you have the right texture for your mixture, you can add or remove any ingredients that you wish.
Side note: dates are a great for adding volume and pastiness to the mixture. This is something that was used for the base of almost every recipe that was taught at the raw food workshop. However, dates are very high in natural sugars and, since my goal was to minimize the sugar content of my protein bars, I had to omit them.
In the coming months, I’m looking forward to testing out other ingredients. Here are some things I plan to try with future iterations of this recipe:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Raw ginger
- Fresh or frozen berries (low GI)
- Maca powder (another superfood)
- Goji berries (amazing superfood)
- Almond butter
- Hemp seeds
The list goes on…
So there you have it guys! My first ever home-made raw food protein bars.
Have you experimented with making protein bars? Or raw food desserts in general? Are there any other ingredients you think would be good to add to the mix?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!
And if you enjoyed the post, I’d love it if you shared it for me!