Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Recipe Connection: Grain-free Quinoa Bars

May 22nd, 2012 · 35 Comments · Recipes

grain free quinoa high protein bar recipe

Quinoa is not a grain. Technically, it’s a chenopod, related to beets, spinach, and the ever-delicious tumbleweed.

As seeds go, it’s not incredibly high in protein but runs right around average for common nuts and seeds, but if you consider it a grain – and many do, since it behaves a wee bit like one – it’s a powerhouse of protein in comparison to starchy carbs like oats and wheat.

I just knew I could improve upon the quinoa oat protein bar recipe I posted earlier today, and once I figured out that these grain-free, gluten-free quinoa bars would hold together with nuts instead of oats, I left the oat version behind and made about ten batches of the grain-free recipe! If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you may have been tracking my progress, and I’m pumped to finally share the recipes with you all.

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Our family has benefited so much when we go grain-free, that although I wanted to share the oat-based recipe as a more frugal option and one step easier (no grinding of nuts), this one meets the high protein goal much, much better.

I even made one more batch just today, because I wanted to see what adding cocoa powder would do. (Perhaps I saved the best for last?)

These grain-free quinoa bars have been devoured by children and adults alike, those used to real food and, well…normal people, too. I’ve served the bars to everyone who visits my house and taken them to brunches with other moms and family gatherings. (Remember how many batches I made? You didn’t think I ate them all by myself, did you? Of course, if I did, that would explain the need for the Real Food Weight Loss and Exercise series…)

It seems that everyone has had a different favorite, so I’m going to post what may be the most flexible snack bar recipe in history. It will end up being about 15 different bar possibilities depending on your goals and your budget. Even if you’ve always been a quinoa hater, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy these bars. Let’s have fun with it!

Workout Friendly High Protein

grain free gluten free quinoa bar recipe

Since my main goal here, other than culinary delight, was to achieve a high protein bar with zero soy, I did a few things to the recipe to increase the protein content:

  • Nuts instead of grains. I replaced all the oats with ground nuts.
  • What kind of nut? I wanted the highest protein, so although my first test used walnuts, I learned that walnuts are one of the lowest protein nuts. Phooey. My husband’s Livestrong app told us that sunflower seeds were the highest, so off I went developing a sort of tropical flair bar, with sunflower seeds, almonds, apricots, and coconut. When I searched a few calorie counter sites to figure the total protein in the bars, however, I found ranges from 24-27 g protein/cup for sunflower seeds, 20-31 g in almonds, 14-20 g in walnuts and a whopping 37.7 g (or maybe 24, depending on source) of protein in peanuts. (Good thing my favorite versions always have the peanut butter in them!)
  • I added Vital Whey protein powder from Radiant Life to really boost the protein content (more on that product in tomorrow’s protein post). This adds over a dollar a scoop to the total cost of the recipe, so it’s most certainly optional, but definitely adds protein, about 1 g per slice, per scoop.
  • I doubled and tripled the Real Salt, since real sea salt adds electrolytes that are important to replace (think Gatorade) after a strenuous workout (or just hard work, genuinely).

grain free quinoa high protein bar recipe (17) (475x356)

Here is the print version of “Tropical” Grain-free Quinoa Bars. Scroll down for the pictorial and other versions, including my favorite.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Tropical Grain-free Quinoa Bars
 
Author:
Recipe type: Desserts and Snacks
Ingredients
  • 1 c. cooked quinoa*
  • ½ c. sunflower seeds, ground finely in food processor
  • ½ c. almonds, ground finely in food processor
  • ¼ c. dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
  • ¼ c. honey or maple syrup
  • ¼ c. shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½-¾ tsp. unrefined sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 scoop Vital Whey protein powder (optional)
Instructions
  1. *Soak 1 cup dry quinoa overnight in water and either rinse and cook right away or set to sprout for 2-4 days. To cook: Mix with 2 cups milk or 1 can coconut milk. Bring to a boil, stir, and lower to simmer, covered, for 30 minutes (no stirring). This will make enough for two 9×13 pans of bars or you can eat the cooked quinoa on top of yogurt with blueberries, cinnamon, and maple syrup. You can also freeze extras for future batches. If you only want enough for one recipe, use ¼ c. quinoa and ½ c. milk.
  2. Once quinoa is cooked and ready, simply mix all the ingredients together with a spoon or a mixer, then spread in a greased 8x8-inch glass baking pan.
  3. The batter/dough will be rather moist; don’t worry.
  4. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes until firm to the touch in the center and browning on the edges.
  5. Cool completely in the pan, then cut into 16 2×2-inch squares.
  6. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Notes
3.3 g of protein per 2×2″ bar

As you can see in the photo above the recipe, the bars come out thin, moist, and delicious. It’s a bit difficult to eat just one, which is okay since they’re healthy, right? Winking smile

Here’s the nutritional info for one bar:

image

Even with the scoop of whey protein powder, the protein isn’t whopping (but the serving size isn’t either, really). This is still a snack I can feel good about, and you can even cut the honey in half if you can handle a not-so-sweet bar. The calorie counter keeps telling me all these bars are high in sugar and I feel badly about that!

Recipe: Choose Your Own Adventure Quinoa Protein Bars

grain free quinoa high protein bar recipe (58) (475x356)

Here’s where you get to start having fun building your own bar. I’ve tried so many different ways, and seriously, every single time they’ve worked out, so I feel pretty confident in telling you that as long as you’ve got a cup of cooked quinoa and a cup of something else like nuts or oats, you can do just about anything with the other ingredients and you’ll have edible, if not delicious, results. For example, the next time I make the tropical version, I think I’ll add 1/2 tsp. orange zest and 1/2-1 tsp. almond extract and see what happens.

Start with the basic recipe below and then adjust the additions to your heart’s content!

Ingredients:

1 c. cooked quinoa (see cooking notes above)
1 c. nuts, ground finely in food processor
¼ c. dried fruit
¼ c. honey or maple syrup
½-3/4 tsp. salt

Additions:

  • 1 egg (or not, but helps bars to stay together and be less crumbly)
  • 1-2 scoops Vital Whey protein powder
  • ¼ c. peanut butter or butter or coconut oil
  • 2-3 Tbs. ground flax
  • ¼ c. shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1-2 tsp. cinnamon
  • up to 2 Tbs. chia seeds
  • cut the sweetener in half
  • add 1/2 tsp. baking soda for lift
  • 1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
  • 2-4 Tbs. cocoa powder (although I don’t know if I’d add both whey protein and cocoa…)
  • add some nutritional yeast or high quality gelatin? Both are high protein sources I’ve been meaning to experiment with…

One example of fiddling: on the left, you see a batch with an egg and no baking soda, on the right, no egg but with baking soda. The texture couldn’t be more different, but they both hold together and taste great.

grain free quinoa high protein bar recipe (41) (475x356)

Method:

Just mix well and spread into a greased 8×8 or 7×11-inch pan. Bake at about 350F for 25-30 minutes and see what happens! (Or if your oven is like mine and prefers to stay at 300F no matter what, your toaster oven will knock them out at 325F in 25-30 minutes as well, or 300F in the oven for an hour.) You’ll know the bars are done when the edges are truly browning and the center is stiff. Be sure to cool completely in the pan and refrigerate before deciding if the bars stick together or not. Store in the refrigerator.

You can also dehydrate bars that don’t include eggs (see more below).

Too crumbly? Two fixes:

  • You can “re-toast” any bars that seem a little crumbly by separating them individually on a cookie sheet or baking stone and toasting them at about 350F for 10 minutes. Let them cool completely on the pan before removing to store again. This gives them more stability.
  • Also, I’ve found that a little “powder” ingredient goes a long way toward bar stability, especially if you use baking soda for lift. Adding even a Tablespoon or two of the whey protein, cocoa powder, or even a bit of wheat flour or brown rice flour adds some needed substance to keep the crumbs in.
Recipe: Katie’s Favorite Grain-Free Quinoa Protein Bars So Far

grain free quinoa high protein bar recipe (14) (475x356)

Here’s the actual recipe for the bars that got all dressed up for the photo shoot, in case you’re not feeling adventurous and just want to make something yummy without thinking about it! They’re my favorite because I love the peanut butter and don’t miss the sweetener, but a lot of people like the tropical better.

Ingredients:quinoa grain free bars w protein powder

1 c. cooked quinoa (see cooking instruction in Tropical version)
1 c. ground almonds (measure before or after grinding, it makes little difference)
2 scoops protein powder
1/4 c. peanut butter
2 Tbs. honey
1/4 c. raisins
1/4 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Tbs. chia seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. homemade vanilla extract

5.8 g protein in one 2×2″ bar

Method:

grain free quinoa bar recipe spreading in pan (5) (475x356)

Mix together in a stand mixer and spread into a buttered 8×8 glass pan. The photo above shows the “dough” just before pressing into the pan.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 25-30 minutes until brown on edges and firm on top. Cool completely and store in the refrigerator. I thought these bars were too crumbly after cooling, but once refrigerated, they firmed right up. After refrigeration, they do fine at room temperature when they’re already cut apart.

OR

Make plum-sized balls and flatten onto parchment paper on dehydrator trays. Dehydrate at about 135F for 6 hours or so, until the bars hold together and aren’t too moist. Store in the refrigerator if you want to keep them around more than a day or two, since they’re still pretty moist. They’ll look like this:

grain free quinoa high protein bar recipe (55) (475x356)

Here’s the exact same recipe, baked or dehydrated:

grain free quinoa high protein bar recipe (48) (475x356)

The difference in flavors is incredible. I highly recommend, if you have a dehydrator, experimenting with both ways to see which you prefer.

I’m excited to come back tomorrow with a post on as many high protein sources as I could dream up for your post-workout snacking delight.

What version are you trying first?

 

***Also, don’t forget about my snacks lesson coming TODAY in the GNOWFGLINS eCourse for lots of other ideas on healthy snacking and some fun video tutorials.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate and will make commission there and get free coupons from Tropical Traditions when new customers make an order. The whey powder was a free sample from Radiant Life, and I’m happy to mention their products in this post since quality, real food whey protein is hard to find! See my full disclosure statement here.

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35 Comments so far ↓

  • Beth @ Turn 2 the Simple

    Oh, I can’t wait to try these! We’ve been loving your granola bar recipe but I’m excited to learn that quinoa isn’t really a grain — so will be feeding this to baby #3 before grains! And since I’m pregnant, I’m always trying to come up with high protein snacks to make sure I’m getting enough protein in each day!

  • Stefanie

    Those look really good! Thank you for the basic recipe. We have peanut and tree nut allergies in the family. I will have to try it with sunflower seeds and maybe Sunbutter.

  • Lori G.

    Have you made the protien bar recipe without the protien powder?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Yes! It works just great. Helpful to have at least a TBs. of something powdery – for example, I made some with cocoa powder and they stayed together just minutely better than the exact same dough w/o cocoa. But it works, nonetheless! :) Katie

  • Susan Alexander

    Love the looks of this – do you think I could sub peanut butter for the almonds? I’m allergic to almonds…. And actually I was thinking maybe sunbutter instead of sunflower seeds?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Susan,
    Boy, I think a lot of substitutions would work, but I would only sub ground nuts for nuts and butters/fats for the peanut butter. So maybe use sunbutter for the PB and walnuts or peanuts, ground up, for the almonds, something like that.

    Have fun!
    :) Katie

  • Cecilia

    Wow, I just cooked up some quinoa for dinner tonight and made extra without a real plan for what to do with it. But I sure have a plan now!

  • Elissa

    I have now made 3 batches of these and, WOW, Katie, this is my favorite recipe from you. My kids LOVE these (and I get to sneak all kinds of healthy schtuff in them without their noticing). I have also been subbing some of the quinoa with some black beans b/c I’m wondering if I could make the whole thing with beans instead of quinoa. I will try that. I’m not against quinoa, just wondering if I could do that for variety.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Elissa,
    3 batches? How awesome is that!?! ;)

    How do they LOOK w/the black beans? You just puree and sub 1 for 1? That’s a super cool idea, such fun that it works!
    :) Katie

    Elissa Reply:

    I puree the black beans and I camoflauge them with cocoa powder ;) Yes, sub one for one with the cooked quinoa. And I like using both one egg and the 1/2 tsp. of baking soda but maybe I will try it with either one or the other to compare. Of course, I love that the egg boosts the nutrition.

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  • Ester Perez

    Hi Katie,

    I just stumbled upon your website and I love it! I have actually been looking for some inspiration for healthy homemade gluten free bars and here is your amazing recipe! I can’t wait to try it out. I have made quinoa and black bean burgers but never quinoa bars, yumm!!! I will let you know how it goes! By the way, you have a great blog!!!
    Blessings,
    Ester

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Thanks, Ester, and welcome! :) Katie

  • Mom @ Cube2Farm

    I tried making these today and they are *awesome*! Thank you so much! I used the first recipe except I changed out the sunflower seeds for walnuts and peanutbutter for the almonds and dried MI cherries for the apricots. Delicious!!! My baby son scarfed them up, too. He ate almost 1/2 a cup of the plain cooked quinoa on its own. I had no idea he would like it so much! It is a nice change from all the oatmeal bars and granola :)

  • åslaug

    Oh, I’m really excited to try this. I’m not going to buy whey powder, though. Would you get some of the same benefits (protein) from soaking the quinoa in real whey, do you think?

    And my second question is, did you treat the nuts (soaking/dehydrating them) before ground?

    How do you think it would turn out if the nuts were soaked and NOT dehydrated before ground?

    Oh, well, three questions, I guess..

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Aslaug,
    I think the whey powder is more concentrated…but I had a hard time finding stats on just whey (I looked). That’s why I just soaked in milk – I don’t think that the whey liquid could have more protein than the milk it starts out as…but I’m not exactly sure.

    I do soak and dehydrate before baking with nuts.

    If you soak and don’t dehydrate, it would probably work fine – just process lightly so you don’t end up with paste, and maybe cut a bit of the liquid out of the recipe somewhere else…

    Good luck! :) katie

    åslaug Reply:

    You know, I have to admit that you have a point there (could the whey have more protein than the milk it came from), unless it would be something along the lines of your body absorbing the protein better without “the rest” of the milk there to interfere? I’m sure we’ll figure it out someday (read: stumble upon).
    Oh, I wanted to say I think you’re awesome for answering questions in your comments (cause you get a lot of them!) It must take a lot of time.. Go Katie!

  • jennifer

    You realize that quinoa is a grain, right? So you might not want to call these ‘grain free.’ I’m looking for grain-free bar recipes and these are coming up in google searches, but I can’t eat them.

    Kira Reply:

    “Quinoa is not a grain. Technically, it’s a chenopod, related to beets, spinach, and the ever-delicious tumbleweed.”

    Quinoa is NOT a grain, it is a pseudo grain. It’s a great gluten free option for people who avoid gluten. Please do your research before commenting!

    I’m guessing you are looking for paleo grain-free bar recipes — maybe a more specific search would help you.

  • Kate

    Thank you! I just made these. It was super easy and they’re delicious. Great to know I can make my own protein bars to pack in my lunchbox for after a workout!

  • Robin

    Thank you for posting this recipe Katie! I plan to try out this protein bar minus the whey protein powder or substituting with a dairy, soy, and gluten free protein powder. I was looking for an on-the-go protein bar recipe with quinoa that I could adapt to my dietary needs, ie no soy, gluten, dairy, or eggs. Thanks again:-)

  • Catherine

    I’ve been looking for a good protein bar and this sounds fantastic. I have been grain free for over 8 months now and my cholesterol has dropped to 176. I am also diabetic and the grain free diet has really helped to bring down my A1c. Can you tell me what I would need to do in order to use stevia for the sweetener? Gotta watch those carbs!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Catherine,
    Using stevia in baking is very tricky because usually the sweetener takes up some space and sometimes binds together. Since it’s only 1/4 cup, I’m thinking you could either throw caution to the wind and just use a few drops, maybe 1/4 tsp, of stevia and see what happens – worst is you get granola! If it needs something to hold together, you could use pumpkin puree, peanut butter, or applesauce and just add a little stevia for sweetness (or none at all and try it). Good luck! :) Katie

  • Katie B.

    How much protein powder is in a scoop? I buy mine bulk.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Katie,
    Good question – I think it’s about 2 Tbs.
    :) Katie

  • Nancy E

    Do you think agave nectar would work instead of the sugar?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Nancy,
    The recipe calls for honey or maple syrup, which would be interchangeable with any liquid sweetener…but…you may want to stick with those natural choices instead of agave, just my personal opinion.
    http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/04/15/agave-and-stevia-all-natural-unsafe-or-unhealthy/
    :) Katie

  • karlee

    I made these this week and they were quite yummy! But, to be clear. I was to use 1/4 cup quinoa with the other ingredients as stated for one batch (8×8 pan) right? I am worried I used too much of something because these were way too good to be so good for you!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Karlee,
    Glad you liked the bars! 1/4 cup dry quinoa, yes, or 1 cup cooked for an 8×8 batch. :) Katie

  • molly

    I Love this recipe! You really can experiment as you say. I know my proportions were slightly different from the ones you listed, but they still worked!

    First batch was with unsulfured Turkish apricots from Trader Joes that were so dark and sweet that they were almost more like a date, no familiar apricot tang. So I didn’t add any other sweet. They were tasty, but I prefer the second batch with the egg for the texture.

    The second batch I made with raisins and tart cherries (yum!), no honey or maple syrup, no cinnamon, and one egg. It’s definitely sweet enough and I do prefer the version with the egg. As you say it holds together better and adds a little lift. I love how I can taste it and throw in some more of this or that (basically more cherries) and mix it up and taste until I’m satisfied!!

    This is now on my quick list of snacks. Thanks!

  • Chelsee

    I LOVE Vital Whey! I use many Well Wisdom products. Always looking for great recipes that can incorporate whey protein. I will be trying this soon!

  • Penny

    Oh, my! Love these! Subbed dates for apricots because that is what I had, and cooked the quinoa in water rather then milk. They were a bit sweet, so I will be reducing the sweetener, since the fruit already lends sweetness.
    I will be making a full batch next time! Thank you!

  • Farhaana

    For the chia seeds, is the 2 tbsp. before or after soaking? Do they need to be soaked first?

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I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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