Where do I start? Is this a healthy, nutritious snack or is it divinely wicked? I’d have to say it is both!
These bars certainly contain only good, healthy, nutritious ingredients. But they don’t taste like a “health bar”. They are fantastically moist, caramelly sweet from the dates, chocolately, and slightly gooey, with a nice crunch from the nuts and seeds.
100% nutritious goodness. 100% divine wickedness. That’s a whopping 200% chocolate bar amazingness.
As much as I’m a devotee of exquisite chocolate bars like Amedei, Michel Cluizel, Valrhona, Mast Brothers, Madecasse, Felchin, … sometimes I like to just grab my bag of raw cacao and jar of coconut oil, mix the two together and enjoy the raw deliciousness of the choco antioxidants and coconutty goodness together. From all the posts around the interweb for concoctions based on this simple but heavenly combination, I’m clearly not alone
I love my chocolate without too much added so usually it’s just cacao, coconut oil, and a little sea salt. To bring out the flavour of the chocolate. Sometimes a little organic cacao butter. Occasionally, I’ll add some pureed dates or maple syrup. Maybe even a little coconut sugar. For a little toffee top note. In rare moments of madness, I may chop some nuts and throw those in.
Peanuts + salt + chocolate. Good, yes? Ditto almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios … but throwing in a mixture of stuff and oats?
Just not me. Until now.
A couple of weeks ago, my attention was drawn to a recipe for raw hemp protein bars at Green Kitchen Stories (great blog, check it out).
It was basically the same concept with stuff thrown in for good measure. They aren’t a significant source of protein, but it’s enough to justify them as a source of quality protein. But overall, they are a better snack than most chocolate seedy bars. They are fairly calorie and fat intensive but they are a good source of healthy fats and MCTs as well as quality carbohydrates and micronutrients. You really can’t go wrong.
I thought the original seemed way too sweet with a tonne of dates thrown in so I basically stuck with my own proportions for ingredients. I used a different mix of ingredients, based on what I had to hand … a lovely combination. This recipe is really more a set of guidelines than a strict recipe. You can pretty much use whatever you like.
I use four dates as I find more than that makes the bars too sweet for my palate, however, my trusty taste testers vary from “yes, four dates!” to “I like the sweeter one best!” (that’s with six dates). It all depends on you. That’s the beauty of these bars. You can customise them to your favourite flavour and texture combinations. Don’t like grains? Leave out the oats … use something else. Don’t use protein powder? Fine, add more oats, coconut flour, or almond meal.
Macros for the recipe, as stated, are included below.
With Easter coming up this weekend, I’m playing with chocolate to make healthier alternatives to enjoy. Instead of bars, you could shape the mixture into egg shapes and roll them in cacao for an Easter treat. What a great idea …
I hope you enjoy them!
Makes 10 bars (in an 18cm square baking dish)
70 grams almonds
15 grams chia seeds
25 grams cacao nibs
20 grams rolled oats
40 grams protein powder* (I used SunWarrior brown rice protein this time)
4 – 6 medjool dates**
60 grams (3 tablespoons) coconut oil, melted
20 grams (2 tablespoons) raw cacao
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
*Use your favourite type of protein – whey, rice, pea, or hemp. Each will impart a slightly different flavour and texture. I quite like using SunWarrior unflavoured rice protein as it has a sweetish nutty flavour that goes well with the other ingredients, but I’m just as happy using whey. I would not recommend egg white protein for these bars. If using a flavoured protein, try to match the flavour profile of the bars. You generally cannot go wrong with chocolate or vanilla.
** the amount of dates you use depends on how sweet you want the bars to be. They are lovely and have a stronger natural sweetness with the greatest number of dates. My own preference is for the lesser amount as I like the bitterness of the cacao to come through as well.
You can literally use whatever you like in these bars! I would have included some shredded coconut but didn’t have any to hand when I made them. Great variations include:
- other raw nuts or seeds, especially walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamias, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- sesame seeds or flax seeds/flax meal
- unsweetened shredded coconut
- dried fruits or pulverised freeze-dried fruit
- spices or citrus zest
- anything you like
I used a silicon baking dish. If using a metal dish, line the base with some silicon baking paper. This will make for easier removal of the bars.
Place the almonds into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add the chia seeds, cacao nibs, oats, and protein powder and pulse a few more times. You want texture and some crunch so don’t overdo it. Place the mixture in a large bowl and set aside.
Add the dates, coconut oil, cacao, salt, and vanilla to the food processor and process until well blended. You want the dates to be pureed so the mixture is a paste. Add this to the dry mixture in the bowl, and mix until well combined.
Spread the mix into the prepared baking dish. I found that an 18cm square silicon dish was the perfect size to make ten even bars.
Place in the fridge for about 30 mins. Remove and cut into bars.
Store in the fridge for up to a week or so.
I’ve provided macros for the bars as per the ingredients listed in the recipe and using 4 dates (about 88 grams). The macros will vary depending on the number of dates you add (more will increase the carb content). If you vary the ingredients, you will have to work out the macros based on what you have used.
I’ve worked out macros using other protein powders, such as whey. They only change the macros by a fraction of a gram for each macronutrient so the macros below are a good guide (e.g. the largest difference is for WPI with an increase in the protein per bar to 6.5 grams).