Delicious and nutrient-packed protein granola bars for an excellent breakfast or on-the-go energy bar snack while hiking or adventuring outdoors. These particular bars are made even better by the fact that you can add your favorite ingredients. They freeze very well, too! I’ve included my blueberry pancake-inspired recipe below.
My husband absolutely raved about these after eating them for two weeks while hiking and elk hunting in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado earlier this month. I made several other flavors for him (peanut butter chocolate, honey mustard, and mixed berry), but this one was the CLEAR winner. This recipe was developed after receiving numerous requests on our versatile granola bar recipe for a protein-added, nutrient dense version.
Ingredient list for homemade protein granola bars:
Oats: Old-fashioned rolled oats and steel-cut oats
While recipes usually don’t call for quick oats due to the difference in texture, it’s ok to use them as well (the result will be less crisp). You can try using both to see which kind you prefer. I like to substitute ¼ cup of steel cut oats in this recipe for more delayed digestion than regular oats. They help me feel more full for longer periods of time. Do not use instant oats.
Another version you can try is replacing ¼ cup of the oats with ¼ cup ground oats (simply process oats in a food processor until finely ground) or flour (either all-purpose or whole-wheat). The flour will help everything stick together better and will act as a binder. By the way, you can do the same with a regular granola recipe – the flour will help create lovely, crunchy clusters.
Add-ins: This refers to nuts, seeds, dried fruit, chocolate chips, coconut, etc.
You can play with the amount of add-ins (2 – 2 ½ cups total) as much as you like, but make sure to add a nice variety; if you add, for example, just dried fruit, the bars will be too sweet and chewy. Here are a few ingredients ideas:
Nuts: Either sliced or whole almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts, cashews. Chop them coarsely.
Chocolate chips: dark, milk, or white chocolate chips add flavor and a slight sweetness to the bar. There are also extra flavorful options like mint chocolate chips, caramel, or butterscotch flavors too!
Sweeteners: This is the bar’s glue.
There are 2 types of sweeteners: liquid, such as honey, and sugar. If you reduce the amount of sweeteners used, you risk the bars becoming too crumbly. There are many kinds of honey, but it’s generally better to use a mild one so that it doesn’t overpower the other ingredients. If you don’t care for honey, you can replace all or part of it with date honey, maple syrup, or agave. Additionally, brown sugar caramelizes nicely and produces crunchier bars than if you’re just using a liquid sweetener; use up to ¼ cup. Granulated sugar is okay, too. I’ve also experimented using coconut sugar along with honey & maple with great results!
Spices: flavor boosts!
Ground nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, or vanilla bean. Use ½-3/4 teaspoon.
Fat: Helps to produce less sticky, crunchier, and more delicious protein granola bars.
I like the taste of a quality, grass-fed butter, but a neutral oil, such as canola, can be used instead. In addition to the butter, I like to add either peanut butter or another nut butter, coconut oil, or tahini.
Egg whites: binder for ingredients
Egg white will act as a binder and make crispier bars and add a little boost of protein and nutrients.
Toasting Oats, Nuts, and Seeds
While some recipes skip this step, I highly recommend toasting the oats, nuts, and seeds. I know it’s an extra step, but your oven is already hot and the nuts will taste so much better after toasting! Although it’s usually better to toast each of the ingredients separately (since they each take a different amount of time), I’m brave enough to toast them all together. If you choose to do it my way, you’ll need to pay careful attention to the mixture, occasionally mixing it to prevent burning as it bakes. Coconut can burn quickly, so be careful if you use this in your toasting mix and watch it closely.
Because this protein granola bar recipe is very versatile, each batch has a different nutritional content. The brand and quality of ingredients you use will also effect the nutrient outcome. The protein powder you use will also impact how much protein is packed into each bar. I tend to cut my bars in 6 and leave them very large. You could also cut them into 8 or 12 bars for smaller servings. When I calculated my nutrition facts, my 6 bars had 25g of protein in each. They also are calorie-dense with 686 calories (about ⅓ of my daily intake). This makes them a complete meal for me in the mornings and keeps me full for HOURS!
Storing protein granola bars
Store bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. For longer storage, wrap the bars in plastic cling wrap and freeze in airtight containers. They keep best for up to 3 months in the freezer this way. Grab and go as needed. The bars will thaw very quickly as they don’t harden in the freezer too much. The freezer method is our preferred!
Let me know in the comments below what flavor combinations you’ve tried and loved!
More nutritious oat-packed goodies to try!
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies: These chewy, no-bake chocolate peanut butter cookies take only minutes to make! You’ve never made a cookie as simple as this one – plus they taste incredible.
- Lemon Poppyseed Protein Granola Bars: Lemon flavored protein granola bars with wonderful ingredients that make it both super healthy and delicious.
- High Energy Cookies from Mayo Clinic: Thick, chewy, and moist, these high energy lactation cookies are an excellent treat for breastfeeding mothers. Loaded with nutritious boosts of Oats, Flax, and Brewer’s Yeast!
- Cinnamon Granola: The best granola to top your fall-inspired parfaits! Delicious notes of cinnamon, almond, pecans, and coconut give this granola an earthy, warm autumn flavor.
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Protein Granola Bars (Blueberry Pancake inspired recipe in parenthesis)
Our versatile granola bars recipe with added protein and nutrients. Perfect for breakfast or a meal replacement while hiking. Pictured is my blueberry pancake-inspired recipe.
- 1 ¾ cups (157g) old-fashioned rolled oats (I substituted ¼c of steel-cut oats)
- ¼ cup hemp seeds
- 1 cup nuts, unsalted, coarsely chopped (I used a 50/50 blend of Pistachios and Cashews)
- 8 Tablespoons various seeds and/or flax meal (I used 2T each: Pepitas, Sunflower, Chia, and Flax Meal)
- 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
- ⅓ cup protein powder, flavored or unflavored (I used vanilla flavored protein powder)
- ¼ cup arrowroot flour (substitution: AP Flour, Cassava Flour or Oat Flour)
- 2 Tablespoons maca powder (substitutions include cacao powder, flax meal, ground chia seeds, or more protein powder)
- ½ cup (113g/4 oz) liquid sweetener, such as honey, maple, or agave. (I used 50/50 blend of honey and maple)
- 2 tablespoons sugar, such as brown sugar or coconut sugar (I used coconut sugar)
- 2 egg whites from large eggs
- ¼ cup nut butter, tahini, or coconut oil (I used Tahini)
- 6 Tablespoons (¾ stick/84 g) butter or other preferred oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon spices, like ground cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, or vanilla (I used ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp cardamom)
- ½ cup dried fruits, chopped if large (I used blueberries)
- ½ cup chocolate chips (I used white chocolate)
Note: Please make sure to read the entire post, which is filled with information and substitutions not mentioned in the recipe itself.
Preheat oven to 350F/180C. In a large bowl, toss together oats, unsalted nuts, and whole seeds for toasting. Spread them in an even layer on a pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Bake for 7-9 minutes, until golden brown, stirring twice while baking to prevent burning. Scrape mixture back into bowl.
Add nutritional powders: flax meal, arrowroot, protein powder, maca powder, and nutritional yeast to the bowl of toasted oats, nuts, and seeds mixture.
Reduce oven temperature to 300F/150C. Line an 8×8 or 9×9-inch, or similarly sized small rectangular pan with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang on the sides for lifting the bars after baking.
In a medium heatproof bowl, place butter (or oil), nut butter (or tahini), honey/maple, and sugar, and heat it in the microwave or in a saucepan over medium heat until butter has melted and mixture is warm. Stir in salt and spices. Let it sit and cool briefly (about 5 minutes). Stir in egg whites to the dry oat mixture.
Pour butter mixture into oat mixture and toss until evenly moistened. Add dried fruits and chocolate chips, and mix until incorporated (make sure mixture isn’t too warm before adding the chocolate chips or they will melt).
Pour mixture into prepared pan, pressing down evenly and firmly for 1 minute (this will help create less crumbly bars). Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of your bars, until golden brown. The mixture shouldn’t be hard, but rather soft and elastic when lightly pressed. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting into bars. Cold bars are best for cutting. Warm bars may crumble while cutting.
Store bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. For longer storage, wrap the bars in plastic cling wrap and freeze in airtight containers. Grab and go as needed. The bars will thaw very quickly as they don't harden in the freezer too much.
– You can double the recipe and use a 9×13-inch pan, although baking time may be longer. Bake until golden brown.
– It is okay to omit the non-liquid sweetener such as brown sugar, granulated sugar, or coconut sugar for a less sweet bar.