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Protein bars are a convenient snack. They typically don’t require reheating and are easy to take with you and enjoy on the go.
Because they’re a rich source of protein, these bars can provide a boost of nutrition before a workout or support recovery afterward. They might even benefit weight loss and help you feel full between meals (
Many commercial brands of protein bars contain ingredients like added sugar, additives, preservatives, or common allergens like dairy and nuts.
To avoid these, you might consider making your own bars at home. Or, maybe you just enjoy experimenting in the kitchen!
In any case, this article is your guide to making your own protein bars at home. It includes a few easy recipes, ingredients to use and avoid, and a comparison of homemade and store-bought options.
First, let’s take a closer look at the main steps you’ll take to make your own protein bars at home.
1. Choose your recipe and review the ingredients
The first step when making protein bars at home is deciding on a recipe to follow.
A quick online search is sure to produce hundreds of different recipes. You can easily find ones that cater to specific dietary restrictions like nut-free, vegan, paleo, gluten-free, and more.
After reading over a few recipes, you may notice how versatile protein bars are and you might even come up with your own ideas utilizing your preferred ingredients.
To help you get started, here are a few of my favorite recipes:
- Peanut and oat protein bars with chocolate drizzle
- Cherry pie protein bars
- Pumpkin pie protein bites
- Chocolate-cashew protein bars
You can also check out these lists for 32 homemade energy bar recipes and 33 energy ball recipes — many of which are filled with protein.
Once you’ve landed on a recipe, carefully review it to ensure there are no ingredients you have an allergy to or want to avoid.
2. Gather up your tools
There are a few key tools that are good to have on hand before you get started. These include:
- Baking sheet or pan. A 9 x 13-inches (28.9 x 33-cm) rimmed baking sheet is a great choice for a thin protein bar that’s around 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. If you want a thicker bar, you can use a deeper 9 x 9-inches (28.9 x 28.9-cm) cake pan or casserole dish.
- Measuring cups. Although you can estimate the ingredient amount in some recipes, others need you to measure precisely how much you add to reach a desired taste, texture, and protein content.
- Parchment paper. If your recipe uses ingredients like honey, peanut butter, or dried fruit, there’s a good chance things could get sticky. Parchment paper is great for lining baking pans and keeping finished protein bars from sticking together.
- Rubber spatula. This tool not only works wonders for mixing sticky ingredients together, but it’s also great for smoothing the protein bar mixture into an even layer in your baking dish.
- Food processor. Though not always necessary, a food processor or hand mixer can speed things up. A food processor can chop up ingredients, blend them together, and create a cohesive and well-mixed bar.
3. Remember these tips
After you’ve gathered up your tools and ingredients, remember these tips while working on your bars:
- Review your recipe closely. Some protein bars are meant to be baked in the oven, while others aren’t. Make sure not to heat up a no-bake bar to avoid impacting its texture.
- Start small. Especially when trying a recipe you’ve never made before, consider starting with a small batch. This way, you can make sure you enjoy it before spending money on a full batch worth of ingredients.
- Bars, bites, and balls are often interchangeable. Oftentimes, protein bites and energy balls are similar to protein bars, just shaped differently. With most base recipes, you can easily shape the snack to your preference.
- Experiment with ingredients. If you find a recipe that has an ingredient or two you want to replace, try substituting it with something of similar texture and consistency. This will help ensure your bars hold together as intended by the recipe developer.
To make protein bars at home, pick out a recipe that looks good to you, gather up the ingredients and tools needed, and feel free to experiment with ingredients and shapes.
Whether it’s to build muscle, fuel your workout, keep you feeling full between meals, or support weight loss, protein bars can be a great addition to your diet.
There are many protein-rich ingredients that work well in homemade bars, and there’s a good chance you can find at least a few that you enjoy.
If you’re really looking to load up the amount of protein, a plant or animal-based protein powder supplement might give you the most bang for your buck. In fact, many such powders can provide upwards of 20 grams of protein per serving (
If you choose to use a protein powder in your bars, note that some people find that certain supplements have a strong bitter taste. Thus, consider starting with a small amount to make sure the flavor isn’t too overwhelming.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to avoid protein powders, many bar-appropriate whole food ingredients are also rich sources of protein.
For example, in place of protein powder, you can use:
- whole or chopped nuts: peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews
- nut or seed butter: peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower, tahini
- seeds: hemp, flax, pumpkin, sunflower, chia
- bean paste: white beans, black beans
- puffed cereals: quinoa, crispy brown rice
Protein powder supplements are a great way to add high quality protein to your bars. For whole food protein sources, try nuts, beans, seeds, and protein-rich cereals.
One of the best things about making your own protein bars at home is that you have complete control over what goes in them.
Commercially made products often contain significant amounts of sugar or other sweeteners, processed plant oils like palm oil, and an array of chemical preservatives, emulsifiers, and other synthetic ingredients.
With homemade protein bars, you can avoid these ingredients completely or use them in moderation at an amount you’re comfortable with.
If this is a concern that speaks to you, consider limiting or avoiding the following ingredients:
- sugar and sweeteners: honey, agave syrup, brown rice syrup, caster sugar
- artificial sweeteners: xylitol, sorbitol, sucralose
- processed plant oils: palm, canola, soybean
If you want to avoid some of the ingredients used in store-bought protein bars, limit your use of sugar, artificial sweeteners, and processed plant oils.
Another perk of making protein bars at home is that you can easily adjust ingredients to comply with your dietary restrictions and desires.
Here are a few examples of simple ways to adjust protein bar recipes to meet your needs:
- Low calorie. Limit chocolate and dried fruits, since these ingredients add extra calories and relatively little protein. You can also measure the portion size of your bars to help with calorie control.
- Low carb. Limit common sources of carbs used in protein bars like oats, cereal, or sugar. If you need a dry ingredient to use in place of oats, try low-carb almond flour. Instead of using things like honey for binding, you can use coconut oil or egg.
- Vegan. Keep out animal-derived protein powders like whey and casein, as well as animal-based milk and eggs. If you want to include chocolate chips, be sure to use a vegan variety.
- Paleo. Load up on less-processed ingredients like nuts, seeds, fruits, and eggs. Avoid processed oils and sugars, artificial sweeteners, grains, and candies.
Adjusting protein bars to your dietary restrictions is typically easy, requiring just a few simple swaps. There are many recipes already developed for low calorie, low carb, vegan, paleo, and allergen-free protein bars.
Making your own protein bars has a number of benefits.
In addition to being in control of the ingredient list, you can ensure the bars suit your dietary preferences and personal taste.
Plus, you’re able to leave out any ingredients used in commercial varieties that you don’t want to eat.
What’s more, making a big batch of protein bars can be more affordable than buying them individually or by the box.
It may not seem like it when you compare the cost of a single protein bar to the cost of all the ingredients it takes to make a full batch at home. However, keep in mind that some of the purchased ingredients will be in quantities large enough to make several batches.
In fact, in some cases, the biggest cost of making protein bars at home can be the time you spend making them.
Another perk of making a big batch at home is that many protein bars freeze well and are easy to integrate into a meal prep routine.
When it comes to downsides, there are only a few.
Although most recipes are quick to prepare — simply requiring you to mix together the ingredients and shape the bars — it may still take longer than stopping by the closest grocery shop to purchase a pre-made version.
Plus, if you’re looking for a product that’s shelf-stable for more than a few days and you don’t have a freezer or fridge available, a store-bought variety may be a better option.
Making your own bars can be cheaper than buying premade versions, and you can include and exclude ingredients to your liking. On the downside, the shelf life and convenience of store-bought versions may be preferable to some.
Protein bars are a convenient way to fuel workouts, stay full between meals, and add more protein to your diet.
There are almost countless recipes for protein bars online. Many of these are easy to follow, and there’s a good chance you can find at least a few that meet your dietary needs and preferences.
Get started making homemade protein bars with a few of the simple recipes linked in this article.
Just one thing
Try this today: Protein bars aren’t the only way to load up on this healthy macronutrient. Here are 15 more ideas for high protein meals and snacks you can try today.