Commercially available vegan protein bars are not always gluten free. Neither are the many of the do it yourself recipes on the internet. I will give you a quick rundown of what to watch out for if you do buy a bar from a store.
First, there are a few ingredients that you will commonly find in vegan bars. In the more detailed sections, I will rundown what makes a good store-bought GF vegan protein bar, and how you can do much better working at home from scratch, using inexpensive ingredients. I will also offer up some examples of how to taylor "energy bar" recipes on you find on the web to meet your particular dietary restrictions and needs. I hope you like it!
The Main Offenders
Obviously, wheat, whether it is whole wheat, sprouted wheat, organic whole wheat, wheat grass, or anything else with wheat in it is not going to be gluten-free no matter how healthy it is for other vegans
Barley itself may be in the vegan protein bar, but it may also contain malt which is a barley derivative that is gluten-rich.
Oats are controversial because some experts say that pure oats from a dedicated factory should be fine, while others say that the protein in oats bears molecular similarities to the gluten in wheat and barley and that causes the problem. Others say that the effect depends upon the individual, and some may tolerate oats and others may not. Personally, I don’t eat oats. As always, I recommend talking with your health care professionals before changing your diet in way that could impact your health.
For those of us who skip the oats, we will find even fewer products available. How many gluten-free vegan oat-free protein bars do they have at your neighbourhood supermarket or health food store? If you throw in a soy, or peanut sensitivity (which I see frequently), or you are hoping to go organic on top of the above restrictions, there aren’t many options. As a result, not to mention intrinsic enjoyment, I recommend trying to make your own gluten-free vegan protein bars. The added bonus is they will be super fresh and far cheaper, which you-certified ingredients!
My Ingredient Guidelines
The Gf vegan protein bars should not be too sweet. We are not trying to make candy bars, after all. I strongly prefer whole grains (for bars that include grains) for a steadier, longer lasting energy and better nutrition. That doesn’t mean the ingredients themselves have to be in their whole form, that can be ground or flours, depending upon the recipe. Lastly, many of the vegan “energy” bar type products do not really qualify for what I am looking for. A stick of fruit leather might make a fine snack, but this is a GF vegan protein article, and bring on the protein I shall!
Potential Styles of GF Vegan Protein Bars
Sports Bars, Energy bars, and Trail mix: Let the Competition Begin!
- Granola and/ or oat bars: this is a very common category and may come as a blow to some fans, but for the purposes of this article, I am disqualifying them from the competition and asking them to step off the podium.
- Dried Fruit: as mentioned above, if the bars are just fruit, while this is a common vegan snack, it finishes dead last in our protein bar competition
- Trail Mix: This is a good common choice that you might even find in a health food store. Keep in mind that most of them may have a lot of sugar in them, and you will have to check to protein since they are not all created equal. If they are under 20% protein, they shouldn’t even come to team practice.
- Raw: this option is only as good as its ingredients. If it is mostly raw fruit, save them for a rainy day, if you make them with tons of seeds, grains, and nuts, the sky can be the limit. Verdict: possible contender.
- Baked Protein Bars: this category has far too many players to lump into one team, so I won’t.
o Protein Cookies: I am not a protein bar purist. I think it would be ridiculous to say these should not count for this article just because they are often round. After all, you could make them rectangular if you wanted to, no problem. On the other hand, cookies are usually dessert fare. We want to avoid having our key energy pick-me-up for after the hike/game/workout/whatever, just be a sugary or sweet and starchy mess. You could make these high protein, but I wouldn’t bank on this one being a serious contender for the top GF vegan protein bar too often unless you come up with an innovative recipe. On the plus side, just about any bunch of high protein ingredients will shape into a lump for easy transportation.
o Protein Loafs: This is a great option since there are so many more options in terms of flours to use. Think or the bean, pea, and buckwheat powders you could add to the recipe and still have a good result. They can be softer and a poor choice if you plan to carry the bar on you during an athletic activity, but it will still be food, even if it squishes.
o Squares: I really think this is the winner. You can add all the best ingredients from flours to seeds to nuts and fruit, and end up with a firm, high protein end result. I make these all the time, in many different varieties.
My recommendation is to mix a couple of flours focusing on bean and pea. Add some buckwheat, too. I love brown rice flour, and while I love rice protein in a shake, this flour ends up as filler, since its protein content is just too low. There are lots of other GF vegan options. Soy is great if you tolerate it okay. Ground hemp and flax are also terrific.
How to Find a Recipe
There are hundreds of random recipes on the internet that you can convert to GF vegan protein bar recipes. My advice is that if the recipe calls for all purpose wheat flour, then don’t add in an equal amount of a really coarse substitute. If two cups of all purpose flour turned into the same amount of hemp, flax, or even buckwheat, your end product won’t be much like the recipe you were trying (not to say it won’t be edible). I am all for being creative and trying new things, but it is good to have a handle on what will give you appealing flavour and consistency.
How to Change Recipe Ingredients to GF Vegan Options
One good option is to look for recipes that are pretty similar to what you have to work with. IF the ingredients are: Almonds, Filberts, shredded coconut, honey, flour, and so forth, you have lots of options. The nuts and coconut can stay, you can swap the honey out for agave nectar, and you can substitute the flour for a mix. Most of the ingredient swaps should seem obvious. If the recipe has tons of animal products, you may want to look for a different one. I find that with experience and some trial and error, you can make a GF vegan version of nearly anything. If you are inexperienced, however, there are easier recipes to make.
In the example above, If the recipe called for 2 cups of flour per batch, I would substitute one cup of buckwheat and one cup of soy, or two third each of pea, soy, and buckwheat. You want a somewhat similar consistency, but with more protein. As a bonus, you might have noticed that our GF vegan recipe will often have more protein than its all-purpose flour counterpart, since we are using pea, bean, and soy flour, which is all high in protein. You can easily add almond, soy, or hemp milk in place of cow’s milk, as well, so you won’t lose out much there. To sum up, notice that I left out many of the common gf ingredients you would find in a store-bought item. Your GF vegan protein bar does not have to be all nuts. Nor does it have to be stuffed with rice flour, coconut or rice milk, corn syrup, and fruit. None of them add enough protein for our purposes. There are better ways to create great flavour. For an awesome gluten-free vegan protein bar, you don’t have to sacrifice a thing.