Pumpkin Gingerbread Protein Bars


Ask and you shall receive.

It should be that simple, right?

Then how come when I go looking for a “protein bar” in the supermarket every package reveals one of the following scenarios?

  1. A miniscule amount of protein hidden in 200 calories worth of dried fruits and nuts (you know what I’m talking about, and anyone who labels this a protein bar is totally kidding herself. Just saying.)
  2. A good amount of protein swimming in TONS of calories and carbs and sugar. Hey, can you please leave that stuff out? I just want a snack – not dinner and dessert!

I’ll let you have a moment of the obligatory eye-rolling and tsk-tsk-ing. But Cara, won’t protein bars make you *bulky*? And, Cara, don’t you k now you can get all your nutrients from REAL food?And now I’ll have my moment of totally disagreeing with you. First of all, any food will make you bulky if you eat too much of and don’t move around at all. Even eating lots of protein and lifting heavy things (ie, something heavier than a soup can or soda bottle) has questionable impact on female “bulkiness” as demonstrated by my non-Arnold-like self. Secondly, I have yet to come up with a completely unprocessed pre-workout snack that gives me enough protein (aka, fuel), tastes sweet and chewy like a candy bar or granola bar (no, I don’t want to snack on a chicken breast thankyouverymuch) and can be eaten in the car on the way to the gym. (Sad news, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. Even if I was eating dairy right now.) So instead, I try to opt for the least amount of processing possible (judged by the number of ingredients and whether I can read them or not, and whether I want them in my protein bar.)

And sometimes I still come up short. Especially when I decide to consult with an acupuncturist about some health problems and her second order of business is telling me to avoid wheat, dairy, sugar and caffeine.

Picnik collage

Oh dear. FML. That was my reaction for about 0.2 seconds, till I decided to make my own protein bars. I always knew that I should do it anyway, to save some money, but this sentencing was the push I needed.

But you guys have it easier than I do. Yesterday, no less than four people asked me to share my recipe for Pumpkin Gingerbread Protein bars, and that was precisely the push I needed to get a new post up. Maybe I should poll you guys more often πŸ™‚

For those paying uber-close attention, you’ll see that I used whey protein powder. What, whey, what? Yes, whey is a form of dairy. But my acupuncturist and practitioner of Chinese medicine says it’s a-ok for me right now. Why? I don’t really know. Something about the Chinese medicine view of whey being “different” than other dairy. And it’s not a lactose thing either – nope, people who are lactose-intolerant can’t have whey. I could pry more, but I don’t. Right now, I’m quite satisfied knowing that I don’t need to give up my whey protein – that might pose a lot more problems!


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Pumpkin Gingerbread Protein Bars

Yield: 10

This recipe gets its protein boost from TVP, or textured vegetable protein. TVP is made from soy flour, and it's inexpensive and easy to find. One common brand is Bob's Red Mill (you should see it along with their other products in the natural foods section of your grocery store.) Vanilla protein powder is also included; I use whey protein but feel free to experiment with others, as long as they are composed mainly of protein and are free of artificial sweeteners. To keep this cleaner, I've used brown rice cereal (the brown rice version of "crisp rice cereal.") Erewhon and Kelloggs' both make this.


1 cup (30gm) brown rice cereal
1 cup (85gm) TVP (textured vegetable protein)
3/4 cup (75gm) shredded unsweetened coconut
4 scoops (120gm) all-natural vanilla protein powder
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
50 drops liquid vanilla stevia


Preheat oven to 350ΒΊF. Line the bottom of an 8x8" baking dish with parchment paper and spray sides of the pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix together cereal, TVP, coconut, and protein powder.

In a small bowl, stir together pumpkin pie spice, molasses, pumpkin puree, and stevia until smooth.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix thoroughly. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned and set. Cool completely, then turn onto a cutting board and slice into 12 bars. Wrap each bar individually in plastic wrap and freeze.

Nutrition Facts:

Amount Per Serving
Calories 172.4
Total Fat 5.4 g
Saturated Fat 4.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 12.0 mg
Sodium 100.1 mg
Potassium 458.1 mg
Total Carbohydrate 15.0 g
Dietary Fiber 3.0 g
Sugars 8.4 g
Protein 14.2 g

This recipe is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays for 1/16/2012 and Allergy Friendly Lunchbox Love #18.

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36 Responses to “Pumpkin Gingerbread Protein Bars”

  1. 1

    Katrina (GF Gidget) — January 5, 2012 @ 10:54 am Reply

    Oh YUM!!!! You had me at Pumpkin Gingerbread!

  2. 2

    Hannah — January 5, 2012 @ 9:38 am Reply

    I’m all over this recipe- Love the use of TVP for protein, just because it’s unusual to see in sweets applications. Plus, gingerbread is always delicious. I’ve gotta try it!

    • 2.1

      Cara — January 5, 2012 @ 9:56 am

      Interesting you mention that about using TVP in sweet recipes. It’s so true! When I first bought it and realized it was essentially “soy nuggets” and that this was an ingredient I often see listed in protein bars, I was surprised to learn (via googling) that more people weren’t using it homemade protein bars. I’ve also used it in no-bake cookies to give them extra protein as well: http://www.carascravings.com/2011/05/no-bake-cookies-vegan-high-protein-sugar-free.html

  3. 3

    Emily @ A Cambridge Story — January 5, 2012 @ 10:13 am Reply

    Wow, a good protein bar is definitely hard to come by for the reasons you mention. These sound excellent. I just made a trifle with gingerbread and pumpkin… not exactly health food but loves the flavors!

  4. 4

    Erin Elberson Lyon-GF Fitness — January 5, 2012 @ 10:22 am Reply

    Hi Cara!
    These sound delish! I am also intolerant of soy-do you think I could just sub the TVP for more whey?

    • 4.1

      Cara — January 5, 2012 @ 10:27 am

      Hi Erin! I’m not sure because they have such a different texture. The TVP is more like the cereal so I would maybe use more of that to keep the same “bulk” but you could do extra whey as well to bump up the protein. Let me know if you try it!

  5. 5

    Lee — January 5, 2012 @ 11:00 am Reply

    I’m going to try these. I like the first bar that you mention, but I’m never full after eating it. In fact, I’m usually hungrier.

    • 5.1

      Lee — January 5, 2012 @ 11:01 am

      I mean the first grocery store bar.

    • 5.2

      Cara — January 5, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

      hehe, I feel the same way. They just don’t do it for me!

  6. 6

    Suzy — January 5, 2012 @ 12:57 pm Reply

    Yay! Thank you!
    Because I have to be difficult… think I can just omit the coconut?

    • 6.1

      Cara — January 5, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

      Yes, I think you could. You could also add oats if you want to sub something in πŸ™‚

    • 6.2

      Kyla — January 5, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

      I was going to ask the same as Suzy. I very much dislike coconut. This looks good though.

  7. 7

    Joanne — January 5, 2012 @ 2:28 pm Reply

    I know how sad you were about not being able to have your Zone bars, so I’m SO glad you figured out a way to have your whey and eat it too πŸ˜› And you really couldn’t have chosen a flavor that appeals to me more. This is one protein bar that I’ll definitely be taking part in.

  8. 8

    Maggie — January 5, 2012 @ 4:15 pm Reply

    Smart to think of the TVP for protein! I want to dive into your ingredient pics Cara. I LOVE the colors involved in mixing ingredients. Am I weird? Please tell me it’s a foodie thing?

    • 8.1

      Cara — January 5, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

      totally normal in my book πŸ™‚

  9. 9

    jennifurla — January 5, 2012 @ 4:21 pm Reply

    thanks so much for this recipe, I agree about manfactured bars. I will be making these.

  10. 10

    Nicole, RD — January 5, 2012 @ 9:13 pm Reply

    I just made sugar-free granola bars today, but I am totally up for making my own protein bars! And gingerbread? YUM!

    LOOOOVE the new look, Cara πŸ™‚ So chic!!

  11. 11

    Nisrine M. — January 6, 2012 @ 4:51 pm Reply

    Cara, I love both the recipe and the new blog look. I almost didn’t recognize it πŸ™‚

    I wish a happy , healthy new year!

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  13. 12

    grace — January 7, 2012 @ 6:31 pm Reply

    well aren’t you clever! for the record, i don’t usually get excited about abbreviations, but tvp sounds much better than its actual name. πŸ™‚

  14. 13

    lizzy — January 8, 2012 @ 11:21 am Reply

    In love with the new blog look!!! Looks great! I’m intrigued by TVP. I will have to look into it more.

  15. 14

    Shannon — January 8, 2012 @ 7:50 pm Reply

    tvp kind of scares me… but it probably shouldn’t? love the flavor here, too, don’t think i’ve seen a bar like that!

    • 14.1

      Cara — January 8, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

      I mean, it’s definitely among the processed soy products and therefore some people wouldn’t consider it the healthiest of things. But I was already eating stuff with “soy nuggets” (zone bars, simply bars) and I don’t think it’s any different!

  16. 15

    Jen @ BeantownBaker.com — January 8, 2012 @ 8:34 pm Reply

    These look really tasty and a perfect for your needs.

  17. 16

    Amber — January 9, 2012 @ 4:39 pm Reply

    I was in the “boo protein bar camp” but you do raise some interesting points (like the eating chicken in my car before a workout. Point taken!). Guess I’m going to have to try them (oh boo hoo, they look so terrible and all! πŸ˜‰ Thanks!

  18. 17

    Em (Wine and Butter) — January 12, 2012 @ 9:16 am Reply

    Mmm – these look delicious! Protein bars are REALLY hard to come by and £££ in the UK – so this could be a total lifesaveer! Im also w/ you on the protein powder. Although I prefer the idea of real foods, just because something is slightly refined doesn”t ness make it bad. Its like people who cant handle the internet or cell phones because they think ALL progress is bad. Some is definitely – and we move to fast and refine foods too much – but sometiems progress is good for us. And I consider a little good quality whey protein powder to be a good example! πŸ™‚ x0x

  19. Pingback: Link Lovin’: Pumpkin Gingerbread Protein Bars…. « Rollin' Oats Market and Cafe

  20. 18

    VintageMom — January 28, 2012 @ 7:17 pm Reply

    Looks scrumptious! Would you like to link up to my Allergy Friendly Lunchbox Love link party?


    I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t want to find these in their lunchbox πŸ™‚

    Lisa @ Allergy Free Vintage Cookery

  21. 19

    Mary Lynn — January 29, 2012 @ 4:13 pm Reply

    Ugh… Bummer… Totally undermixed the ingredients and they came out too crumbly. I am so bummed! I’ll try a new batch when i have a little free time (perhaps April…haha!)

    • 19.1

      Cara — January 29, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

      Oh no! Now I realize I should have mentioned that they do take a good few minutes of mixing to come together. I have should have another protein bar recipe coming soon too πŸ™‚

  22. 20

    Wex — April 16, 2012 @ 9:11 pm Reply

    Wow, these look yummy! I would be interested in trying these, but with honey or molasses instead of the stevia. Any suggestions on how much to start sweetening with? Thanks for the recipe!

    • 20.1

      Cara — April 16, 2012 @ 9:42 pm

      I think ~3tbsp of molasses or honey should do it – hope it works out for you!

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  24. 21

    the sims 3 — November 28, 2013 @ 12:12 am Reply

    I am sure this piece of writing has touched all the internet users, its really really fastidious article on building
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  25. 22

    YIGII — July 19, 2021 @ 5:04 am Reply

    Pumpkin Gingerbread looks so amazing!

  26. 23

    Konmison — April 26, 2023 @ 3:56 am Reply

    Wow, these look yummy! I would be interested in trying these, but with honey or molasses instead of the stevia.

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