My husband doesn’t eat quinoa, no matter how I serve it, but when he tried this gluten-free quinoa oat protein bar recipe, his feedback was something like this:
“Yeah, these are pretty good – and if you consider they’re supposed to be healthy, they’re really good!”
So if you, too, are not a fan of quinoa, have hope: you might still like these protein bars.
My kids and quite a handful of other kid testers have also been fans (my son even says, “Are there any quinoa bars left? Yesssss!”), so consider them “kid-tested!”
A High Protein Snack on the Go?
I began the quest to perfect a quinoa protein bar recipe because a friend of mine was training for a running event and was told she should have a certain amount of protein within 15 minutes of a workout. We wondered what might be able to go into a homemade bar that would hold a candle to the high protein soy-based bars that we wanted to avoid. (It turns out the answer is probably nuts, but we thought working with quinoa would be interesting, and it was!)
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I fiddled with a few recipes, most of which began with one from Bob’s Red Mill originally, but I’ve adapted the end result to add more protein, include the soaking step, and of course, be as simple and delicious as possible. I even have a couple grain-free options coming in another post later today.
Quinoa Oat Protein Bar Recipe
Start with quinoa cooked in milk for additional protein, add oats soaked in yogurt for even more, a touch of honey sweetness and a final blast of peanut buttery protein, and you’ve got a delicious snack bar to take with you to the gym, the beach, or just as a morning brain food snack for a school-aged child.
- 1 c. oats
- ½ c. plain whole milk yogurt (or water)
- 1 c. cooked (sprouted) quinoa*
- ¼ c. dried cherries
- ½ c. chopped nuts (optional)
- ¼ c. honey
- ¼ c. peanut butter
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. salt
- optional add-ins:
- ¼ c. shredded unsweetened coconut
- 2 Tbs. ground flax
- ½ tsp. baking soda, for lift
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- The night before, mix one cup rolled oats with the ½ cup plain yogurt in your mixing bowl.
- Allow to rest on the counter overnight or for 12-24 hours to reduce phytates and improve digestion. (Why soak?)
- Make sure your quinoa is also prepped to cook or already cooked per instructions below. I find it's easier to cook the quinoa one day while preparing lunch or dinner, then have it cold and ready to go into the bar recipe whenever I'm ready to bake.
- The recipe has also been tested with 1 cup soaked and dehydrated oats plus one half cup liquid: milk, water, or yogurt.
- To mix up the bars, add one cup cooked quinoa to the soaked oats, then simply add all the other ingredients and mix well.
- Spread in an 8x8-inch baking pan (or 7x11 works too).
- In a preheated 350F oven, bake for 20-30 minutes.
- The bars are done when the middle is no longer soggy and the edges become browned and pull away from the pan slightly.
- Cool in the pan before slicing into 16 pieces.
- Stores best in the refrigerator, although they can handle a few days at room temperature.
One to four days before baking, soak quinoa overnight in filtered water.
Either sprout for 1-3 days following these sprouting directions, or just rinse well and cook. (Sprouted quinoa pictured in post)
If you want exactly enough for an 8x8 pan of bars (this recipe), soak ¼ cup dry quinoa. I always soak a full cup and just freeze the extras in one-cup servings for future batches.
Cook with double the amount of whole milk or coconut milk vs. quinoa. In other words, cook ¼ c. dry quinoa in ½ c. milk, or use 2 c. milk or one can coconut milk for a full cup of dry quinoa. Bring to a boil, stir, and reduce to a simmer. Cook, covered, for about 30 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
If you use coconut milk, try using the cooked quinoa on top of yogurt with blueberries, cinnamon, and maple syrup. It's wonderful.
Note: People find various things with soaking - if your family really reacts to unsoaked grain, you may want to soak in ½ c. warm water with a little whole wheat flour or buckwheat (gluten-free) flour to make sure the phytic acid is neutralized, instead of yogurt...
Crumbly fix: If you find that your bars come out too crumbly, first make sure to refrigerate them. (That might solve it all.) Then cut them apart and place individual bars on a cookie sheet or baking stone. Toast at about 350F for 10 minutes and allow to cool completely. This "re-toast" process really helps the bars keep their shape and be more solid.
If you have tamed your sweet tooth and don't need a lot of sweetness, try cutting the honey right in half.
Peanuts are the highest protein nut, hence the peanut butter, although I admit I didn't try using ground peanuts (yet).
Sunflower seeds (24-27g/cup) and almonds (20-31g/cup) are also very high protein nuts (numbers vary widely depending on source).
Walnuts are lower at 14-20 (maybe 28?) g/cup but have excellent omega-3 fats, so they're still a good choice.
Hate peanut butter? Allergic? Use butter or coconut oil instead (or try simply omitting; these bars have been incredibly flexible).
Don't care to soak? Want the bars now? Just use 1 cup oats with ½ cup liquid (yogurt, milk OR water) in the recipe.
This recipe is gluten-free as long as you use gluten-free oats.
If you use flax, be sure to take care of it so it doesn't go rancid. (How to store flax)
Only buy peanut butter that has NO hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
Feel free to use any dried fruit you have on hand.
2.6 g protein per 2x2" bar Or with ½ c. nuts = 3.2 g protein
In spite of quinoa being a “grain” with high protein (about 5 g per cup), you can see from the protein content that these guys didn’t end up being as high protein as maybe I hoped!
(Nutrition facts courtesy of About.com’s calorie counter.)
The bars are fairly small, so it would be easy to eat two or even three after a workout, which would get your protein up near 10 grams, but that’s still far short of most iron-pumping soy protein bars.
Luckily, I can still give these quinoa oat bars a purpose beyond just “delicious healthful snack.” Donielle of Naturally Knocked Up tells me the combination of quinoa and oats are on the list of milk-supply boosting foods. Let’s market them as lactation bars (and use walnuts for the healthy brain fats for baby)!
Whip up a batch for your favorite new or stressed out nursing mama (and be sure to keep a few for yourself to take to the gym…or just to enjoy).
Just don’t tell my husband the new purpose, or he might give up quinoa for good. 😉
Here’s the second recipe for the grain-free option, a tropical version, and how to really pump these up with protein: Grain-free Quinoa Bars
Catch the whole Real Food Weight Loss and Exercise series for lots of great ideas on being healthy every day…
***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, plus 60% off Healthy Snacks to Go. Join anytime!