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Spend a few minutes on Pinterest (just 5-10 minutes, like usual), and you’ll find hundreds of non-smoothie recipes for protein powder. Before learning more about protein powder for this article, I had only used protein powder in smoothies. I never considered baking with it, but one of my friends has added it to her muffin recipe for years. Why? Here are a few reasons you might want to try cooking with protein powder:
Nutritional Benefits- A scoop of protein powder will do a couple of important things to your recipe: add protein and lower the glycemic load. A protein-boosted muffin, for example, will have more “staying power” than a regular muffin, turning a pastry into something more nutritious that will keep you satisfied longer.
Break the Boredom- Tired of that same, old protein shake day after day? Break the monotony and get your extra boost of protein in a new, creative way. Protein powder offers a shelf-stable, non-perishable, portable protein option that can be easily added to foods you already eat or in a new recipe.
Waste Not, Want Not- Have a tub of protein powder collecting dust in the pantry? Maybe you bought a powder and didn’t like it? If you have it on hand but aren’t using it, try a new approach and use that powder in a recipe.
Save LOTS of Money – You can easily spend $1-2 for one protein bar. Organic protein bars are almost impossible to find, and the conventional ones are filled with GMOs, highly processed ingredients, and additives. If you buy these often for a daily snack or healthy food on the road, you could be spending hundreds of dollars on protein bars each year. Make your own organic protein bars for about $0.30 each! (recipe below)
Is it safe to cook with protein powder?
A protein denatures under many different circumstances, one being heat. When you cook a protein, the normal shape of the protein molecule is changed. Although the structure of the protein changes, the amino acid content of the protein does not change. For example, when you make scrambled eggs, the structure of the eggs changes from clear and runny to opaque and puffy. The egg protein was structurally changed as it cooked, but the protein content was not altered. Proteins are denatured in your stomach during digestion, so this is a natural process.
What do manufacturers have to say about cooking with their protein powders? I contacted four different protein supplement manufacturers and asked them about cooking with their products. One whey protein company said it’s totally fine; the heat only causes a structural change. The other three companies, whose products also happen to be raw and plant-based, said their products work best when kept at raw temperatures (below 115ºF), and heating the proteins may decrease their positive effects.
Before you get cooking…
Here are a few points to consider before you start cooking with your protein powder.
Other ingredients – check your protein powder’s ingredient label. What else is in there? Unless your powder is just 100% protein (pure whey, pure hemp seed, etc.), there are other ingredients in there that may interact with your recipe. Artificial and “natural” flavors, synthetic sweeteners, and preservatives may develop a bitter taste during baking. When you’re shopping for protein powders, go for the fewest ingredients possible.
Texture – when proteins denature, they change shape. Depending on which protein you use, you may notice a texture difference in your protein-boosted recipe. The change in texture is usually a big deal-breaker for some people.
Moisture – protein powders will absorb a lot of moisture from your recipe. If your food comes out dry, try increasing the wet ingredients (milk, water, butter, oil, etc.) next time. The rule of thumb is 2-3 tablespoons of liquid per teaspoon of protein powder.
Sample Sizes – if you’re shopping around for a protein powder to use in recipes, look for sample sizes! Instead of investing $20-30 on a tub of powder, spend $3 on a sample size. Yes, you’re paying more per ounce for that little sample, but it may save you $17 if you end up disliking it.
Type of Protein – hey, everyone’s body is different. One person’s body may love whey protein. Another person may get bloated from rice protein. If you try something and it makes you feel bloated or otherwise ill, try a different type of protein.
Balance – don’t forget about fiber! A high-protein meal/snack can have a negative effect on your digestive system if it’s not balanced with an insoluble fiber. Fresh fruits, vegetables, dried coconut (unsweetened), or whole grains will help add some fiber to your recipe or meal.
Protein is Protein – you can add a protein boost to any recipe with or without protein powder! Consider other protein sources like…
almond flour- 3 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons
coconut flour- 2 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons
eggs- 6 grams of protein each
nuts, nut butter (varies)
Recipe Round Up
I haven’t experimented with protein powder baking enough to share my own recipes…yet. I’d love to develop a delicious, kid-friendly protein bar that they can enjoy for breakfast. (Do you have any recipes for us to try? Share them in the comments!) For now, here are a couple of the recipes I’ll be trying out.
Using oat flour, almond butter, and a little bit of crispy rice cereal for crunch, these bars are high protein and can be made raw! The protein powder is never heated, preserving all the benefits of your raw protein powder, if that’s what you’re using. I love it, because I have all these ingredients in my pantry, waiting for something exciting to do.
They had me at “truffles”; the five minute promise just seals the deal. Another raw, no bake recipe, this is a fantastic base for making hundreds of flavor combinations and variations. To begin, all you need is some kind of nut butter, honey/agave/syrup, protein powder, and a pinch of salt. Then you can get crazy with the flavors and coatings, using coconut, chocolate, chia seeds…anything!
Simple Swapping: How To Add Protein Powder to Any Recipe
Start simple with a familiar recipe. Muffins, pancakes, and other quick breads are a good place to start.
Swap out a little bit of the flour for protein powder. One scoop of protein powder is about 1/3 cup.
For each scoop of protein powder you use, add a little extra liquid/moisture to the recipe. Protein powders absorb lots of liquid.
Adjust the oven temp. You may need to lower the oven temperature by 25ºF, as protein powders may brown too quickly in the oven.
Tinker. There are a lot of variables when cooking with protein powder, so tinker with your recipe until you get the results you like. You may need to add an extra egg, add some baking powder, add more flavor…play with it!
Quick and Easy Protein Boosts
Don’t have time to tinker with a recipe? Start by adding a spoonful of protein powder in some everyday foods! Yogurt, cereals, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, and soups will easily conceal a little protein powder. Whey protein should mix in easily, but a rice protein may need a little time to hydrate. To prevent clumping, make a little slurry (protein powder + a little of the liquid in your food) in a separate bowl before adding to your food. An unflavored, unsweetened protein powder will be the most versatile.
My Experience: I added a protein boost to my typical gluten-free pancake recipe this morning! I swapped 1 scoop of whey protein powder for one scoop of the GF flour blend. The pancakes did brown more quickly, so I compensated by reducing the heat on the stove. The first pancake came out a little flat and rubbery. Added a little extra baking powder, and then the pancake looked a little more normal. All in all, the taste was about the same as my regular recipe, but the texture was different, more dense and a little dry. My small batch of three pancakes packed 38 grams of protein! Next time, I think I’ll only swap out half a scoop. I’m not sure my body needs that much protein per meal.
Have you tried any protein powder swaps in your recipes? Share your results and recipes in the comments!
We’ve all heard the term “superfood”, but what does that really mean? What is a superfood? Do you need them? Is it health or hype?
This is part of an Organic Living Journey Guest Post Series now written by Mariana who has a mother’s heart and scientist’s brain