Let’s get the obvious out of the way, I am not a vegan and don’t see a point in my life where I’d ever become one. Although I love vegetables and believe a diet centered around vegetables is essential to optimal health and body composition, eschewing meat entirely is difficult to reconcile with human physiology and biochemistry.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing wrong with people choosing to become vegan if it aligns with their personal value system and life goals. However, I see veganism much the same way I see marathon running, competing in a figure competition or deciding to take up powerlifting: it’s asking your body to do something outside of what it is genetically and biologically designed to do.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue any of the aforementioned activities, but they aren’t exactly approaches that promotes optimal health for the population at large.
Now that my public service announcement is out of the way, I am actually going to talk about why I created this recipe in the first place.
Basically, I’m always on the lookout for ways to help my vegetarian athletes and clients get more protein in their diets. When it comes to maintaining leanness, the science quite clearly shows that maintaining a calorie-controlled, high protein diet is one of the best strategies for long-term success.
And although it’s possible to get enough protein to meet sedentary protein-needs on a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, trying to get an athlete 120-200 g of protein a day from strictly vegan sources is damn near impossible without loading up on so many legumes that anyone living within 50 miles of these individuals would require a Hazmat suit.
On top of that, I also aim to make foods taste good enough so that people aren’t feeling as though they have to choke something down… a nuance missed by most vegan protein supplements on the market today (ahem, VEGA I am looking squarely in your direction).
So after much experimenting, I’ve finally created a vegan protein bar recipe that fits the following criteria:
- tastes good
- provides a large amount of protein per serving
- is 100% vegan
- doesn’t contain a boatload of Agave nectar for consistency
I’m not sure why vegans have decided that adding such a concentrated source of fructose is a “health promoting” habit. Although I’m not an anti-fructose zealot like some people, I fail to see why people need more fructose in their diets than what is already provided by typical North American foods.
And as an added touch, I made this recipe so that it doesn’t require any baking! Maybe it’s just me, but I always find baking protein bars leads to an increased rate of “unusable brick” outcomes… so this version is quite simple.
Alright, enough rambling – here is this recipe, I hope you enjoy it!
Black Bean Brownie Bars
Black Bean Protein Bars (printable version)
- 1 can (540 ml) black beans
- 3 scoops pea protein isolate
- 1 cup almond meal
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 1/2 cup stevia (or splenda)
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries or chopped nuts or chocolate chips
In a food processor (or use a potato masher. Consider it my new and improved biceps workout technique), mix beans, pea protein, cocoa, pumpkin, vanilla extract and stevia until a soft batter forms. If the mixture appears too solid, add 1/4 cup of water to assist wth the mixing.
Remove mixture from food processor and add to a bowl. Stir in almond flour and continue mixing until a dough forms. You may need to tweak the amount of water you add… pea protein absorbs quite a bit.
Stir in chocolate chips (optional), dried fruit (cranberries work well) or chopped nuts.
Press in wax-paper lined 8 x 8 baking pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove and cut into 8-10 bars. Wrap each individually with plastic wrap and store.
** If you don’t care about keeping the recipe vegan, you can obviously swap in whey protein into the recipe. Another benefit of not having to bake this recipe… whey protein is terrible for baking! **
Nutrition facts (per bar): 18 g protein, 23 g carbohydrate (8 g fibre) and 9 g fat.
Although you can use any vegan protein powder with this recipe, I would recommend using a high quality pea protein for best results. Pea protein is pretty easy to digest wise, is very affordable, tastes good and doesn’t come with some of the controversy surrounding refined soy products.
Lately, I’ve been using and highly recommend True Nutrition’s (formerly True Protein) gemma pea protein isolate. You’ll need to order this one online (and the shipping to Canada is kinda slow), but at that price – it’s worth the wait!
And I can’t stress this enough but pea protein does absorb liquid to a much greater extent than would a whey protein for example, so you might need to play with your liquid ratios a little to get the recipe “just right”. But give it a try and you won’t be disappointed.
Till next time, train hard and eat clean!