Mint Chocolate Protein Bars (Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free, Vegan)

vegan protein bars, homemade lara bars, gluten-free protein bars, hemp protein powder

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Firstly because it just makes sense. Secondly because the ingredients in this recipe are a lot more aesthetically pleasing than the the end result. I mean, I suppose protein bars could look sexy, if you put them in the hands of some scantily clad, fantastically fit couple.

But as you might imagine, I can only afford to pay my models with belly rubs and dried banana-chicken wraps.

But I sorta kinda love this photo!

Anyway. Let’s talk about protein bars. Some might be surprised to hear I eat them, every single day. Yes! I eat processed food! Of course when I needed to clean up my diet and focus on eating less wheat and dairy, I naturally leaned towards higher-quality, more nutritional choices. And while I’ll gladly nosh on a Simply Bar anyday, I wanted another option. Something that really encompassed what I (and I suspect you) want in a protein bar. Homemade. All-natural. Full of protein (let’s just say, there are some seriously mislabeled “protein bars” out there.) DELICIOUS. Ooey-gooey-fudgey delicious. How about a no-bake protein bar? That seemed like a good idea too. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free. Why is it so hard to find a gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, soy-free protein bar? hmmm. And thankgoodness I eat nuts.

Nope. I’m not actually anti-soy. You can still count me in the “everything in moderation” camp. I just wanted to focus on other ingredients for my protein bar.

Like hemp seeds! Did you know that hemp seeds are the only plant source containing every amino acid, and the essential fatty acids in the ideal ratio fit for human consumption? Well, you do now. And you know why they needed to be a signature ingredient in my all-natural, good clean fuel bar.

vegan protein bars, homemade lara bars, gluten-free protein bars, hemp seed protein bars

Now let’s talk protein. With all the choices out there, where does one begin? I knew I wanted a vegan protein, and not soy. I first tested this with Sun Warrior Warrior Blend Natural Flavor protein powder, an unflavored blend of organic pea, hemp and cranberry proteins. (No, I didn’t know cranberries were a quality protein source either.) It’s pretty fantastic and works great in this recipe, and their chocolate version is great for drinking, but both are a little pricey.

So, I’m super excited to have discovered True Nutrition. This cool site lets you mix and match a custom blend of protein powder from a variety of protein sources, supplements, and flavors. For my protein bars, I chose an unflavored blend of 50/50 rice/pea protein powder. And for my everyday drinking protein powder, I went with a 40/30/30 Hemp/Pea/Rice blend with natural chocolate banana flavor (yup, you guessed that right, they have all-natural, stevia-sweetened flavors too!) At about $12/lb, I felt like had won the lottery! The rice/pea unflavored blend is perfect for my bars, and the chocolate banana stuff? It’s totally awesome and makes me wish I had a reason to drink a protein shake every day. Which I suppose I would, if I lifted weights seven time per week instead of four. (By the way, there are all kinds of protein – including egg white, various grades of whey, casein, even beef protein powder! For all you protein-lovers out there, not just the veg-heads.)

Regardless of whether I lift weights or not, these bars have become my go-to pre-workout snack, supplying the perfect blend of energizing carbs, protein and good fat. They’ve also been trecking with me to Vegas and Chicago, providing great fuel when it’s hard to find good choices on-the-go. They’re even great for dessert when you find yourself craving a late-night sweet. Yes, I made sure to cover all the bases for you.

But do you know the best thing about carrying homemade protein bars in your purse cross-country? Getting to share them with your friends. Nothing made me happier than having the chance to offer Ricki one of these sweet, nutritious treats – except maybe the compliments she gave up in return! And with that, I happily offer them to you too.

One last thing before the recipe. Because I was so smitten with my all-natural vegan protein powder from True Nutrition, I dropped them a note to say so. And thinking of many of you guys, I wanted to inquire about the gluten-free status of their products, since I couldn’t find anything definitive on their website. I received a quick and friendly response from Carl, who assured me that all of the proteins, supplements and flavorings are gluten-free except for one optional supplement, glutamine peptides. The facility is strictly regulated to avoid cross-contamination, but because of that one available supplement, they must state that the facility contains wheat. So please keep that in mind, depending on  your level of sensitivity.

If you DO want to try a custom blended protein powder from True Nutrition (and I highly recommend you do!) they kindly offered up one more incentive: when you use the code CARAS at checkout, you’ll receive 5% off your order (hey, every little bit counts, right?!)

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Mint Chocolate Brownie Protein Bars

Yield: 16 bars

Fudgey mint chocolate high-protein bars that are all-natural, gluten-free, refined sugar-free, soy-free and vegan.

Ingredients:

1 cup (114gm) walnuts
2 cups (280gm) dates
3/4 cup (90gm) hemp seeds
3/4 tsp mint extract
1 teaspoon clear liquid stevia, such as NuNaturals
1 1/2 cups (150gm) unflavored vegan protein powder, such as True Nutrition 50/50 Rice/Pea blend (see full blog post for more information and discount code)

6 tablespoons (30gm) cocoa powder
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon brown rice syrup

Directions:

In the bowl of a large food processor, process the walnuts for 2-3 minutes, until very soft and nearly smooth (almost like a nut butter.) Add the dates and hemp seeds, and process again until the mixture forms a paste, stopping several times to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Blend in the mint extract and stevia. Add the protein powder and cocoa powder and blend again until incorporated. Finally, blend in the brown rice syrup. The mixture will appear crumbly but will hold together when pressed.

Line a 9x9" baking dish with foil. Pour the mixture into the pan and press firmly with your hands into a packed, even layer. Let the bars set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Using the edges of the foil, lift the bars out of pan and transfer to a cutting board. Slice into 16 squares, and wrap each individually in plastic wrap. The bars may be stored at room temperature.

Nutrition Facts:

Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving
Calories 183
Total Fat 7 g
Saturated Fat 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 5 g
Monounsaturated Fat 1 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 49 mg
Potassium 219 mg
Total Carbohydrate 21 g
Dietary Fiber 3 g
Sugars 15 g
Protein 12 g

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.

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47 Responses to “Mint Chocolate Protein Bars (Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free, Vegan)”

  1. 1

    Ricki — April 20, 2012 @ 7:33 am Reply

    I LOVE THAT PHOTO!! :D And, having tasted these bars, I can say that I LOVE those bars as well!! They are amazing, Cara–I may just have to try a batch with a bit less date and more stevia just so I can have them again, they were SOOOOO good. Thanks for posting the recipe! :) xo

    • 1.1

      Cara — April 20, 2012 @ 8:11 am

      Ricki, I’d love to know how that works out for you! It was tricky to get just the right amount of dates & syrup to hold the mixture together (remember, it’s a lot drier when subbing protein powder for some of the nuts we see in “similar” recipes). One thing I thought about was adding some coconut oil but I didn’t get around to it for this trial, maybe next time.

  2. 2

    Abby @ Fig & Fork — April 20, 2012 @ 9:31 am Reply

    I love a good homemade protein bar – I can’t wait to try these!! Every protein bar I’ve made using powder end up tasting/looking chalky, but these look fabulously fudgey!

  3. 3

    Alisa — April 20, 2012 @ 11:20 am Reply

    Yay, I’d been waiting to see your version of protein bars! Delish – just pinned!

  4. 4

    Dawn — April 20, 2012 @ 11:28 am Reply

    You definitely have covered all the bases here! These sound like perfection. What a cool concept for a company. I can’t wait to check it out – I think it would be perfect for Gabby!

  5. 5

    Haley @ Health Freak College Girl — April 20, 2012 @ 12:46 pm Reply

    these sound so good! i always love the chocolate + mint combo :)

  6. 6

    Suzanne Jeanette — April 20, 2012 @ 6:25 pm Reply

    These look delicious! I’ve just found your blog and see so many things I want to try. :) Thanks!

  7. 7

    Joanne — April 20, 2012 @ 9:19 pm Reply

    Well you can bet I’ll never be buying a larabar again thanks to you! (a) they don’t even have barely any protein and (b) mint chocolate is like…heavenly.

  8. 8

    Heather J — April 21, 2012 @ 2:26 am Reply

    Did you use brown rice syrup or maple syrup in your batch? Because the syrups are different in the ingredients list vs the directions. Just wondering since it might make a difference in textures, as mentioned in your reply to Ricki above.

  9. 9

    Katy — April 21, 2012 @ 10:13 am Reply

    I LOVE True Protein! I usually buy the non-gmo pea protein isolate. I currently have mocha java, french vanilla, and some sort of german chocolate, I think. mmm! I’m definitely going to make these soon!

    • 9.1

      Katy — April 21, 2012 @ 10:14 am

      oops…that should read true nutrition. You know what i meant ;-)

  10. 10

    Ricki — April 21, 2012 @ 1:17 pm Reply

    Hey Cara–just noticed that the brown rice syrup amount is missing the amount after the 1/4 cup–is it a tablespoon? (I’ll assume). :)

  11. 11

    Kate — April 21, 2012 @ 6:44 pm Reply

    I love using dates for sweetness.

  12. 12

    janet @ the taste space — April 21, 2012 @ 10:06 pm Reply

    Looks great! Your recipe is missing a measurement, though: 1/4 cup + 1 brown rice syrup

  13. 13

    Dana Solof — April 22, 2012 @ 4:07 pm Reply

    These look amazing! Thank you also for including the link for the custom-designed protein. Such a wonderful idea, and really pretty affordable!

  14. 14

    Kim — April 22, 2012 @ 6:59 pm Reply

    Ooooh Cara,
    These look scrumptious! I’m hoping that subbing pepitas and/or sunflower seeds for my nut-free gang will still work.

    • 14.1

      Cara — April 22, 2012 @ 7:01 pm

      mmm, keep me posted, I’d love to know how it works!

  15. 15

    grace — April 23, 2012 @ 3:32 pm Reply

    you play with a lot of ingredients i’ve never even seen–your posts are always informative and mouth-watering!

  16. 16

    Charissa — April 24, 2012 @ 11:07 pm Reply

    Mmmm, totally want to make these! Bookmarking it!

  17. 17

    Shannon — April 25, 2012 @ 12:13 pm Reply

    ooh, yum. i’ll have to try these, once i pick up some more dates :)

  18. 18

    JD — April 25, 2012 @ 8:43 pm Reply

    wow! love that custom protein! I will definitely be ordering from them next time I run out of protein powder.

  19. 19

    Michelle @ The Willing Cook — April 28, 2012 @ 12:49 pm Reply

    These bars look so good. I love the addition of mint into them. Thanks for sharing this week at Allergy-Free Wednesdays! We’d love for you to join us again next week.

    Have a great weekend!
    ~Michelle, AFW Hostess

    P.S. Do you mind linking back to our blog hop? In order to be eligible for a reader or hostess feature, you must link back to one of our sites within your post. Thanks!

  20. 20

    Eileen — May 2, 2012 @ 1:33 pm Reply

    These look amazing and thank you thank you thank you so much for a site that finally will offer me unflavored protein powder. I love making smoothies–every fruit I can find in the house in a blender. No dairy, nothing extra added (I can’t have dairy b/c the mucus makes me choke) but they are lacking in protein. I don’t want to compromise the taste by adding something vanilla or chocolate flavored. I didn’t want a dairy, or soy based protein but I wasn’t sure what was out there that wasn’t going to taste completely awful or add weird hormones to my diet. Does the hemp stuff taste weird? I think it might be my best bet going forward. I just found your blog through someone who is coming to the fitbloggin’ conference and I may be in love:)

    • 20.1

      Cara — May 2, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

      Hi Eileen, thanks for the kind words! Are you going to Fitbloggin’? I went last year but I haven’t quite decided about this year.

      I haven’t tried the hemp unflavored so I can’t quite answer your question. I really like the mix I’ve created of hemp/rice/pea with natural chocolate banana flavor. As the for the unflavored protein I’ve ordered – 50/50 rice/pea – I’ve only had it in my protein bars, not as a shake, so I can’t say! I’m so sorry. But I do agree that you should add some protein to your fruit smoothies so I hope that if you try one of these, you find what you’re looking for. The good news is that these proteins are so well priced, that it wouldn’t be too crazy to order one lb each of a couple different things you’d like to try, before committing to a larger order. Wishing you luck, let me know what you try!

  21. 21

    Elina (Healthy and Sane) — May 3, 2012 @ 11:06 am Reply

    I can’t wait to try these! Once the little samples you gave me are gone, I’m going to make them. I’ve been spending a fortune on bars lately!! I have all the ingredients except my protein powder is pure pea – we’ll see how that works!

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  24. 22

    Jacquie — June 17, 2012 @ 1:11 am Reply

    What would you suggest using instead of hemp seeds my husband and I are both in the military and it coud cause us not to pass a drug test which is the same reason we currently avoid Poppey seeds. The rest of the recipe sounds amazing though.

    • 22.1

      Cara — June 17, 2012 @ 9:04 am

      Hi Jacqui, I think you could just use more nuts or a different kind of seed – sesame, flax, chia maybe? Good luck!

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  30. 23

    Ellen (Gluten Free Diva) — August 13, 2012 @ 12:54 pm Reply

    These look great! Perfect for traveling. I’m going to try making them with a mixture of the protein powders I have in my pantry. Yum!!!

  31. 24

    sophie — August 22, 2012 @ 4:13 pm Reply

    hi there- do you know how long these keep for? would it be possible to freeze them? thanks!

    • 24.1

      Cara — August 22, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

      Hi Sophie, I do freeze my bars and so far they have lasted a good 2-3 months. Hope that helps!

  32. 25

    Carolyn — August 26, 2012 @ 12:30 pm Reply

    Hi Cara,

    I want to make these for my hypoglycemic son. Hard to find good tasting protein filled snacks that taste good. I just found your website and looooove it! He doesn’t like mint. Do you have a substitute suggestion or should I just leave it out?
    Thanks for the great recipes!!!

    • 25.1

      Cara — August 26, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

      Hi Carolyn, you can certainly just leave it out and they will simply by chocolate protein bars :) Enjoy!

  33. 26

    Charlie — September 6, 2012 @ 11:45 pm Reply

    Hey there, I Loved your recipe for protein bars but noticed that you said hemp is the ONLY complete protein D: , that’s actually untrue.
    Dandellion Greens, Hemp seeds, chia seeds, and SO many more are complete proteins (not trying to be rude, just didn’t want people to get discouraged)
    http://www.beyondvitality.com/Post/125/Complete-Plant-Based-Proteins
    That site has a whole list, and again great post.

    • 26.1

      Cara — September 7, 2012 @ 8:32 am

      Thank you for the correction! I can’t remember where I found that information before.

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  36. 27

    Natalie — January 11, 2013 @ 5:42 pm Reply

    I’ve never bought dates other than dried? Where would you find them in a grocery store? I’m clueless.

    • 27.1

      Cara — January 11, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

      Hi Natalie,
      Yes, dried dates are what I used here. I usually find them near other dried fruit, raisins, etc. Hope that helps!

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