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July 12, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Brownie Protein Bars

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I used to have this bad habit of never planning ahead.  Especially when it came to food.  My hunger would always catch me off guard and at the worst time, so I often made bad food choices.  You know what I'm talking about!  When the hunger strikes, that fatty, sugary chocolate chip muffin at the checkout counter looks better and better by the second.

Your eyes say "yes yes yes," while your body says "no no NO!"

Impulse (and my greedy little eyes) usually always won me over, and my body just said "tsk tsk tsk."

And while I felt happy and satisfied for a full twenty minutes, I felt gross and unhealthy for the entire day.  Finally, I became sick of that guilty feeling and started planning ahead.  One of the biggest steps in my transition to healthy eating.  Took me long enough!  About one hundred muffins and my entire high school career later...

I started prepping for the day by always making sure I had a snack on hand for when I was hungry.  Since I was in school, bars were the easiest foods to carry around.  They aren't bulky like a sandwich, bruisable like an apple, and perishable like yogurt.  I started buying those horrifically processed protein bars thinking they were healthy.  I saw "high protein" and "sugar free" and grabbed a couple right there.  No, I didn't check labels and ingredients back then, and I really regret doing so.  Months later, I found out these bars were comprised of unhealthy fats (partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats), sugar alcohols (which cause bloating and gas), and over a dozen ingredients that I had never heard of.

I turned to the all-natural Clif Builders bars.  I was a girl obsessed, especially for the chocolate mint flavor mmmm.  But, they were expensive (my campus food store sold them for $2.89 a piece) and contained quite a bit of sugar.  I then turned to PureFit Bars and Simply Bars for a while, but then my food allergies struck.  A protein bar sans my allergens (wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, egg, casein, walnuts, cashews, etc etc etc) is nearly impossible to come by.  I have found only one, the Organic Food Bar protein version, however they are also pricey and I go through them way too fast.

I gave up bars for a few months straight and I went through withdrawal really missed them.  I really hated bringing apples around with me.  People were probably wondering why my purse had a strange protrusion...  plus, apples aren't filling to me!  I have a fast metabolism, so an apple is like air.  I began getting that "oh no, I have no healthy food!" freakout moments again.  It was time to make some protein bars myself.  I needed something that would keep me full for longer than two seconds (shame on you, apples) that was also healthy, tasty, and packed with nutrients, healthy fats, fiber and protein.

When I finally found a protein powder that I wasn't allergic to, and also dissolved like whey, I was thrilled.  Although it is slightly more expensive than whey, it is totally worth it.  I mean, it's chocolate flavored and my body is okay with it, so of course it's worth a few extra bucks!  I decided to calculate the cost per bar since my budget is becoming more and more important to me now that I need to buy more expensive foods due to my dietary restrictions.  So here's the recipe cost breakdown:

     Peanut Butter = $1.12
     Almond Milk = $0.39
     Truvia = $1.02
     Dark Cocoa Powder = $0.36
     Oats* = $0.63

     Total Recipe Cost = $10.02
     Cost per Bar = $1.25

     ^^ Wow!  So much cheaper than all of the bars I've bought throughout the years!
     *Note that I used Bob's Red Mill certified gluten free oats which are much more expensive than regular oats.  If not using GF oats your recipe's total price will be much lower.

So, what about the taste?  What about the texture?

    Taste?  Excellent.  Although they are not as sweet as those super processed ones I used to buy, they are sweet enough to satisfy those cravings at any time of day!

    Texture?  Amazing.  Almost brownie-like, it tasted as if it were baked!  These are fudgy, even straight out of the fridge.  At room temperature, they are much softer and even more fudgy, but for some reason I prefer them on the cold side.  All to your preference, though.

At only seven ingredients and $1.25 a bar, I can tell these are going to be my new staple bars.
These are the perfect snack, sans the guilty aftertaste.  Enjoy!

Chocolate PB Fudge Brownie Protein Bars:  [no bake, sugar free, high fiber/protein, GF, vegan]
(makes 8 bars)
   16 packets Truvia (or sweetener of choice)
   15g (3 tbs) Dark Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
   scant 1/4 tsp Salt
   96g (1 cup) Old Fashioned Rolled Oats, blended to a flour (GF if you like)
   168g (8 scoops) Chocolate Brown Rice Protein Powder (I used SunWarrior*)
   128g (1/2 cup) Natural Peanut Butter
   1 cup + 2 tbs Unsweetened Almond Milk

*UPDATE: Other protein powders will work here, just note that SunWarrior protein scoops are almost half the size of scoops in other protein powders.  For example, one scoop of SunWarrior = 21g, while one scoop in most brands is 32g.
8 scoops of the SunWarrior powder came out to 1+1/4 cups packed.  My friend made these bars using chocolate soy protein powder with good results (thanks S!).  My other friend used whey but got a completely different texture and needed a few more scoops... the end result tasted good but was gooey and she needed to freeze it to solidify it... I wouldn't recommend using whey unless you want to do some testing in your own kitchen.

Directions: (see ** below)
1.  Line an 9" brownie pan (or 8" if you want thicker bars) with parchment paper or foil, set aside.
2.  In a small bowl, stir together the truvia, cocoa and salt, set aside.
3.  Put the oat flour into another small bowl, set aside.
4.  Measure out the protein powder and set aside.
5.  In a largest mixing bowl, add the peanut butter and almond milk and whisk.  Stir in the truvia/cocoa mix, then stir in the oat flour.
6.  Add about half of the protein powder and stir.  Add the rest of the protein powder and mix in using your hands (it will look like there is too much protein powder but it will mix in!)
7.  When the dough can form a ball, knead it until it's even throughout and then flatten it into the prepared brownie pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Slice the next day and keep bars covered in the refrigerator.

**Just a fair warning, your arms will kill when you are stirring and kneading the dough.  You will probably curse my name.  HOWEVER, an arm workout like this deserves these optional add-ins (especially #6, wink wink):
    1.  1-2 tbs Liquid Sweetener (such as honey or agave, just make sure the dough doesn't get too sticky)
    2.  1-2 tbs more of Natural Peanut Butter
    3.  1-2 tbs Coconut Oil, soft
    4.  Peanuts, chopped
    5.  Dried Fruit (no sugar added)
    6.  Mini Dark Chocolate Chips.  Duh.

If hand mixing isn't your thing you can use a stand mixer (much easier on the arms, hehe), but since the dough comes together faster reserve the 2 tbs of almond milk on the side only if you need it.

^^  Does that look like a fudge brownie or what?  Totally worth that arm workout, yes?

These bars were inspired by PowerBars' Reduced Sugar Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars, so I thought I would do a little showdown regarding the ingredients, nutrition label and price.

1)  Ingredients:

          PowerBar, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Reduced Sugar:
                Triscource Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Soy Protein Isolate), Maltitol Syrup*, Chocolate Flavored Coating (Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Maltitol*, Cocoa, Polydextrose, Sodium Caseinate, Soy Lecithin, Monoglycerides, Vanilla Extract, Sucralose**), Glycerine, Peanuts and Peanut Butter, Partially Defatted Peanut Flour, Peanut Oil, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Calcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid, Water, Almond Butter, Magnesium Oxide, Alpha Tocopherol Acetate, Sucralose, Natural Flavor, Biotin, Zinc Gluconate, Ferrous Fumurate, Niacinamide, Copper Gluconate, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine, Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Cyanocobalamin.
               *Artificially produced sweetener, causes bloating, gas and abdominal pain
               **Another artificial manmade sweetener

          Chockohlawtay, Chocolate PB Fudge Brownie:
                Almond Milk (Filtered Water, Almonds, Calcium Carbonate, Sea Salt, Locust Bean Gum, Sunflower Lecithin, Gellan Gum, Natural Flavor, D-Alpha-Tocopherol, Zinc Gluconate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D2), Chocolate Brown Rice Protein Powder (Whole Brown Rice Protein, Cocoa, Natural Flavor, Stevia, Xanthan Gum, Pectin), Peanut Butter, Oats, Truvia (Erythritol, Rebiana, Natural Flavors), Cocoa, Salt.

2)  Nutrition:
          PowerBar's nutrition label is on the left, Chockohlawtay's nutrition label is on the right:


     Chockohlawtay's version has:
  • Fewer calories
  • Less saturated fat
  • NO cholesterol
  • Less sodium
  • Fewer carbohydrates
  • More fiber
  • More calcium
3)  Price:

PowerBar's cost per bar:  $2.01 (giving PowerBar the benefit of the doubt, I used the lowest price I could find (off, which offers the cheapest prices ever)

Chockohlawtay's cost per bar:  $1.25

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Final Verdict?  Okay, we all know that I'm bias in this competition, but I totally win all three categories, yes?  The ingredients I use are 100% natural, tasty and healthy, my nutrition label beats the storebought bar in nearly every aspect, and, it's cheaper!  Win win win.


  1. I love the fact you've given such a thorough review! I don't really suppliment protein powder much at the moment but have been thinking I should, particularly as I am going throigh a chnage in my workout regime, so your recipes have been a great source for some of my inspiration! Thanks.

  2. OMG delicious! I have been wanting to start making my own bars at home, I think I will start with this recipe :)


  3. This is a really in-depth recipe and review, I love love love it. I wish I could live inside your head for a while just to see how you come up with all these ideas :)

  4. SO delicious looking. And so much healthier than conventional protein bars! Could the oat flour be subbed for coconut or almond flour?

    1. I'm sure you can use another flour, these bars are very adaptable. Because coconut flour absorbs a lot of moisture, I would suggest adding it last and adding 1 tablespoon at a time. I haven't worked much with almond flour, but I would recommend adding it just like you would with the coconut flour. Good luck! :)

  5. Hi Jessica! So sorry to hear about your food allergies. I actually love your site because I also have food allergies! You mentioned a while ago posting more about the allergies, has that post come out yet?

    1. Hi Sarah, I'm sorry but no I haven't posted about it yet. I will soon though, it just ended up being a longer post than I had expected and I feel like it's going to get even longer as I finish writing it D:
      In the meantime though, you can check out my pantry staples page (the tab's at the top) where I list some of my allergies and show my new pantry and old pantry. If you have any suggestions or favorite products you love, please let me know!

    2. One suggestion would be almond flour. I love and for almond flour recipes. High in protein and it tastes almost buttery because it's high in fat. Works great for scones, muffins, etc. instead of wheat flour. I'll be looking forward to your allergy post. :)

  6. These look amazing! I've been leaning towards trying out a gluten free diet and these look like a great way to kick start my mornings! Also, have you ever checked out Swanson's Vitamins online? They have *amazing* prices on GF oats, chia seeds, flax seeds, protein powders, etc. ( I am in no way affiliated with them and am not getting paid for name dropping!!! I just ran across their site on another blog a few weeks ago, and they've saved me a lot of money already! PPS. I ran across your site on FoodGawker :)

    1. I haven't checked out swanson's but I definitely will now! Thanks for the tip :)

    2. And check out too. They have Jarrow Brown rice flour for Under $9.00 a pound! I use it because it's vegan. While I am not, yet, I have a lot of friends who are. Not sure if it contains any of your allergens, but all the ingredients are listed in the description.

      Cheryl :)

      PS I know you like hearing about new and innovative food products... Have you heard of PB2 yet? Dehydrated, powdered peanut butter with less than half the fat (I believe) of regular peanut butter. Not sure if nuts is one of your allergies, but if not, it's REALLY good!

    3. Wow, $9/lb sounds awesome! I'll definitely check that out.
      I've heard of PB2 (and thank goodness I'm not allergic to peanuts... only cashews and walnuts), it sounds awesome but for some reason I've never bought it. I guess I'm scared it will taste bad. I bought Better n Peanut Butter and didn't like it at all :( I'll have to check that out too! Thanks Cheryl :)

  7. Wow, I really love your recipes. Chocolate and peanut butter are a perfect pair. How do you come up with these? :]

    ❤ It's Carmen

  8. These look great and they are exactly what I've been looking for. No joke. Just yesterday I was googling and trying to find a gluten-free, sugar-free/low sugar, vegan protein bar. Two questions though, do you make these with 1 cup of oat flour or 1 cup of rolled oats and then grind the 1 cup of oats into flour and just use whatever amounts come from the rolled oats? Also, I can't eat truvia. Do you have any suggestions for a substitution? Maybe even a small amount of regular sugar or maybe I can just omit the sweetener all together? Thanks again for the recipe. I look forward to getting your feedback and making these protein bars.

    1. I measure out the oats and then blend them. I like to blend them into a slightly coarse flour (you can kind of see it in the pictures), but you can blend it into a fine flour if you want.

      The truvia packets are 2x as sweet as regular sugar. A similar product would be stevia packets (

      But you can use a combo of your sweetener of choice + 1/2 teaspoon of liquid stevia extract (I've made these with 1/4 cup of granulated erythritol + 1/2 tsp of liquid stevia extract with good results. You can find the links to these products in the Pantry Staples tab up at the top of the page under the header). Some good, natural sweeteners you can feel good about using are date sugar, coconut sugar, pure maple sugar and xylitol. Hope you like the recipe!

  9. Thanks for the delicious recipe! I can't wait to make these, I've been wanting too make my own protein bars for a while now because store bought ones are too pricey and don't have enough protein. Do you think subbing water for the almond milk will affect the flavor too much?

    1. Hmm, I haven't tried it but I'm sure it will work. Out of the 1 cup + 2 tbs of liquid used in the recipe, I would reserve the 2 extra tablespoons of water on the side only if you need it. Just note that the almond milk provides a bit of creamy flavor, kind of like milk does in coffee. Feel free to add a little bit of vanilla to "fill the almond milk void" lol. Hope you like the bars!

  10. Would love to try this, but am wondering if you have a recommendation for a less expensive protein powder??

    1. Two of my friends made these bars using different protein powders, one used soy and one used whey. I have never tried flavored soy protein powder, so I can only recommend whey. I love Optimum Nutrition and Jay Robb brands (links to these powders can be found at the Pantry Staples tab up at the top of the page under the header). Hope you like the protein bars!

  11. Yum, delish! I had no almond milk ready, so I used unsweetened coco milk instead, replaced half the rolled oats (grinded in a coffee grinder) with homemade almond flour and lined my dish with coco flakes instead of parchment paper. I added dried cranberries for a little fun and spunk...Yummy! Love your blog! Thank you!

    1. I'm so glad you liked the bars Julie! I love how you lined the dish with coconut flakes. You are a genius ;)

  12. My bad habit of eating never stop Especially when it came to delicious food. Some of the food can increase your weight,increase sugar level and fat. So you should have to take the perfect protein bars with high carb,pure protein and "free sugar" to boost up energy and get healthy body. Now many delicious flavors are available for protein bar but chocolate brownie is my best flavor. Right protein bar can give lean and strong muscles.
    protein bars low carb

  13. I think you are my new best friend.. These are amazing.
    I swapped the peanut butter for PB2 and added 2 tbsp of Kraft Natural crunchy peanut butter in with some goji berries.
    Heated them in the microwave and topped with PB2.
    Perfect! I'm a huge brownie fan and that's exactly what it tasted like.

  14. Hey I was wondering how long these would stay good for if you keep them in the fridge? I'm a college student without access to bowls and pans so I was thinking I could make that at home over Thanksgiving break and then eat them over the next three weeks at school. Do think they would be okay for that long? Thanks!
    Great recipe by the way, love Sunwarrior <3

    1. Hi Nickie! These protein bars keep well if kept in the fridge, however I haven't gotten to the point of keeping them for as long as three weeks. The longest I've had mine in the fridge was for 10 days. I'm sure they will be fine, just make sure to wrap them well and keep them cold :)

  15. any idea how many calories each bar has?

    1. Hi Stacy, the nutrition label is near the bottom of the post :)


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