Protein Bars

  • Low-carb
  • Snack
  • Kid-friendly
  • Dairy
  • Nut-free

The best whey to go

Protein Bars

The search for an easy, yummy whey protein bar recipe is finally over! These bars are straightforward to make and store well in the fridge. They end up with a texture like a soft and chewy caramel candy. I'll give you the recipe here and go into more depth about why I like these bars so much below.


Yield: 12 bars

  • 12 scoops (~396g) flavored whey protein powder
  • 3/4 cup (67 g) coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp (120 g) unsalted butter, melted, then slightly cooled
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon extract (optional)


  1. In a roomy bowl, mix the whey powder and coconut flour.

  2. Pour in the cooled melted butter and work it into the dry ingredients (just like making a pie or biscuit dough). The texture should feel sandy and evenly mixed.

    Dry ingredients Butter over dry stuff Mixed till sandy

  3. Pour in the water and start working the dough. It will feel somewhat warm. Be sure to work the dough thoroughly. You will notice wetter, stickier spots. Press and knead the dough until it feels even and neither crumbly nor sticky. The dough should be soft like play-dough and barely tacky. The amount of water needed can change depending on the humidity in the room, so be prepared for it to be a little different each time. If it is dry or crumbly, add more water sparingly.

    Mixed Starting to hold together Ready to divide into 4

  4. Divide the dough into 4, and shape each quarter into a log.

  5. Split each log into 3 and shape them into bars. Get your fingertips wet if the bars seem a little dry while working with them. This really helps give them a smooth finished texture.

    Dough has wet and dry spots Dough is even Division


I prefer to add extracts to make my bars more interesting. In general, I use a very vanilla-y "cookies and cream" flavored whey powder and then add drops of extract to my water before mixing. I've used these additions with success:

  • Caramel extract
  • Milk Chocolate extract
  • Strawberry extract
  • Cherry extract
  • Almond extract (a favorite)
  • Lemon oil (also a house favorite - lemon bars!)

The amount of each extract or flavor entirely depends on which brand you buy and how strongly you want the flavor to be. In my experience, a little goes a long way. I use about 1/2 a teaspoon of extract for this recipe. There are other flavors I want to try and I also want to try using fresh lemon juice in place of water for the lemon-bar version. I have tried adding cacao powder, but this is tricky because it adds dryness, bitterness, and more carbohydrates. It is doable, but the amounts really depend on personal taste.

The dough can probably accommodate the addition of mini chocolate chips, crushed nuts, chia seeds, or bits of dried fruit, but I haven't done this because it significantly impacts the carbohydrate load. If carbs aren't your concern, then try it out and let me me know how it goes. I recommend adding any of these additions to the dry ingredients before adding any of the liquids.

Tips and Tricks

  • Melt the butter in a glass cup in the microwave, about 30-60 seconds (longer if adding stearic acid, discussed at the end of this post).

  • I like to let the bars set very solidly before packaging them up, so I put them on a sheet of baking/wax paper in the freezer after shaping. I've let them sit there anywhere from 10 minutes to overnight (I was too busy to do the packaging that night).

  • I buy 4x6 inch self-sealing plastic (cellophane) bags from my local store, but I've seen similar ones on Amazon.

  • I write the flavor on white label stickers and paste them onto the plastic wrappers before inserting the bars so that the label sticks well and lies flat.

    Getting ready to package them up

  • When I was testing many varieties, I didn't want to make big batches and so instead of bar shapes, I pressed the dough into a silicone cupcake pan. After setting, these came out like beautiful cookies. I've done it since then with the full recipe, and put 1/2 the amount of dough for a bar into each "cookie." I let these set in the freezer before popping them out and into the bags.

  • Store the bars in the refrigerator (or in the freezer if you like them rock-solid).

  • If you want to take the bars out in the heat, as we did on a hike this week, I recommend keeping them in an insulated lunchbag of some kind with a cold pack to keep them cool. They won't melt if kept out, but they will become much softer. If it's not hot out, don't worry.

How I got to the recipe

I really wanted to make my own protein bars. Commerical bars are usually packed with carbohydrates and/or dependent on soy or peanut butter for the protein boost. I wasn't happy with the impact on my wallet either. But I was having a hard time finding a successful homemade replacement. If you run a Google search for "whey protein bar recipe" you'll find many recipes - but they are invariably dependent on peanut or other nut butters, or use erythritol as a main ingredient. We avoid using peanut and nut butters in our home, even the natural ones, in order to reduce the polyunsturated fats that we consume. And as for erythritol - it's not affordable where I live. So I experimented, blending strawberries and chia seeds with almond flour or coconut flour to try and get some structure into my bars. While the flavor was nice, the texture left a lot to be desired. They were thick and hard to get down. They also became an inedible gooey mess when out of the freezer. They simply could not hold their shape.

Many protein powder recipes out there use soy or hemp protein which has different absorption and structure than whey. Whey is particularly difficult because it is very dry until it becomes suddenly sticky and then a mushy, tacky mess. When dry, the powder quickly absorbs moisture from your mouth, making it hard to swallow. But too sticky, and it's impossible to get off your fingers and into your mouth in the first place!

I did a lot of trial and error, and eventually gave up. Skip ahead 4 years and I decided to give it another shot. I scoured the internet until I found this recipe which actually called for whey protein powder and no nut butter! Finally I was on the right track. I still made significant changes. I can't get the coconut butter which they use for structure, and I eliminated the added sweetner and cacao. I decided to approximate the coconut butter with a combination of real butter and coconut flour, and after a few flops stemming from being too free with the water (did I mention the sticky, gooey mess?) I struck the perfect balance.

I'm thrilled with the outcome of this recipe. It was definitely worth the effort of developing.

Final note

I think that the fat content in the bars is what gives them such a fantastic texture. In addition to the butter, I usually add 1-2 Tbsp of granulated stearic acid. This is a very stable, waxy fat which is found naturally in both animals and plants and is a major part of cocoa butter, for example. I think the addition of stearic acid helps prevent the softening of the bars since it melts at a higher temperature than the butter. When using stearic acid, I pour the granules over the butter before microwaving. Then I give the melting mixture a stir every 20 seconds to help the granules melt faster and prevent the butter from popping and spitting in the microwave.

Granules over butter Granules melt more slowly Fully melted

2 Tbsp of stearic acid granules is about 15g, and adds about 1g of fat per bar.

I have similarly tried a mixture of cocoa butter and dairy butter, but I didn't notice an improved taste or texture. And since cocoa butter isn't particularly cheap, I decided not to keep going in that direction.

I intend to test out coconut oil varieties and I'll update you when that happens.

Basic Protein Bars Nutrition Facts


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