9 Creative Ways To Cook With Protein Powder (Hello, Pancakes!)

From lattes to truffles, there are more versatile and delicious ways to use protein powder than you think.

February 10, 2017
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Key in building muscle and burning fat, protein powers our bodies and can have myriad health benefits, if it’s clean and lean (USDA recommends a lean protein intake of 5 ½ oz/day, which females on average aren’t meeting). Protein powder, especially plant-based versions, are an easy way to get more protein in your diet without the drawbacks of overdoing it on meat and dairy.

Unfortunately, the supplement—long associated with meal-replacing smoothies—lacks appeal: seen as a utilitarian, gross-tasting supplement for vegans, weightlifters and brides-to-be, protein powder is often derided by foodies and regular folk alike who prefer to get their protein from “real food." (See 7 Foods With More Protein Than A Chicken Breast.)

It's time to give protein powder a second chance. It now comes in a variety of forms and flavors, from whey to pea to hemp, punches above its weight when it comes to its versatility in the kitchen, and can be economical and environmentally friendly if you choose organic and plant-based. (Read up on 5 Rules for Buying a Legitimately Healthy Organic Protein Powder.) Here are 9 recipes for meals, sweets and snacks that allow you to reap the benefits of a high-protein diet without compromising on taste, texture or health: 

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Protein-infused Oatmeal and Overnight Oats

A simple healthy trick for the morning: Add a scoop of protein powder to your steel-cut oatmeal for a hot breakfast that will keep you satisfied until midday. (Here are 3 Serious Health Benefits of Eating a High-Protein Breakfast.) Oats are high in soluble fiber and packed with nutrients, but as a grain they could use a protein boost. In the summer, soak oats and protein powder overnight in cream or yogurt to make a delicious, protein-rich bircher muesli topped with fresh fruits, or add it to these Golden Milk Overnight Oats containing anti-inflammatory turmeric.

Tip: To avoid clumping, first mix the protein powder with either water or your choice of milk before stirring in with the oats.

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Protein Pancakes and Crepes

Nothing epitomizes breakfast (and carbs) quite like a stack of homemade buttermilk pancakes drizzled with maple syrup. For a healthier version, add in protein powder and use whole grain flour (or oats, as per these drool-inducing Lemon-Blueberry High-Protein Pancakes from Lacey Baier of A Sweet Pea Chef. You can do the same with crepes, which, when filled with something savory, make a great choice for lunch or dinner. 

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Protein Lattes

Swap your morning cuppa for a full-fat, protein-rich latte, which doubles as a breakfast you can sip en route to work:  The coffee-free Full Fatty Latte with ghee, MCT oil, protein powder and warming spices  is a favorite of women’s health and fertility coach Kara DeDonato of Libera Wellness, who adapted Melissa Ambrosini’s Fatty Latte)  to include protein powder. For a caffeinated version, use vanilla protein powder mixed with coffee, ghee and MCT oil à la Bulletproof, or add 1-2 tablespoons of protein powder to Kara's Matcha Super-Food Latte, which features chlorella and bee pollen, and serve after blending.

Tip: To save time in the mornings, Kara suggests mixing the dry ingredients in a big batch in advance for the Full Fatty and Matcha Super-Food Lattes.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Matcha Tea Plus 3 Tasty Ways to Drink and Eat It

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Savory Protein Soups

Soup is the perfect vehicle for (concealing) protein powder – after all, it’s the hot version of a smoothie, making it an ideal choice in winter. Try it in a thicker soup, like a potato-, cream- or chowder-based one (try this leek, celeriac, and apple soup), or give a boost to a vegetable soup, a hearty chili, or a stew. 

Tip: Wait until the soup is cooked to add the powder as high heat may affect its nutritional value. Also, be stingy: about 1 tablespoon per person, or to taste, should be enough.  To avoid clumps, mix it first in a small amount of broth or warm water, then slowly incorporate it. 

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Protein-Enhanced Pasta Sauce

Pasta is usually the first to go on a low-carb diet. But if you make two simple yet creative changes (that would give the Pope a heart attack), you can keep eating it: 1) Pick a Paleo-friendly or protein-rich pasta substitute, like zucchini noodles or mung bean fettuccine (see 4 Grain-Free High-Protein Pastas You Can Feel Good About Eating) , and 2) Give the sauce a protein boost by adding a little under 1 tablespoon protein powder per person (to taste) towards the end of cooking. If you add it earlier, cook the sauce on a low-medium heat. Buon appetito! 

Related: 7 Protein-Packed Pasta Recipes 

 
 
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Sweet and Savory Protein Ice Creams

Is it healthy to eat ice cream for dinner? Yes, says Seth Porges, a journalist who eats it for dinner three times a week as part of a high-protein, low-carb diet. His go-to flavors, which he crafts himself, are ‘Sugar-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter’ with unsweetened vanilla almond milk and 100% cacao powder (see recipe below) and a savory ‘Green Ice Cream’ with juiced kale or spinach and matcha (you can use the recipe below, just substitute kale for chocolate, peanut butter, cinnamon and stevia, and increase cream or coconut oil to taste).

Tip: Consider coconut milk as a base, particularly if you’re vegan or have nut allergies. 

Sugar-Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

by Seth Porges

12 ounces unsweetened vanilla almond milk 
4 ounces coconut oil 
3 ounces of heavy cream or coconut cream
3 ounces of cream cheese 
3 tablespoons peanut butter or nut butter of choice
2 tablespoons 100% cocoa (unsweetened) chocolate powder 
1 scoop protein powder 
2 tablespoons psyllium husk 
2 tablespoons chia seeds 
2 tablespoons flax meal 
1 teaspoon of xanthan gum (optional) 
1 tablespoon of stevia (or to taste) 
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder a dash of vanilla extract 

Blend all ingredients and churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.

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Protein Truffles and Energy Bites

Protein truffles, also known as protein 'balls' or ‘bites’ when made without chocolate, are popular thanks to their portability and piece-of-cake preparation (no baking necessary). From pistachio-matcha to chocolate-maca to pumpkin pie to peanut butter cups, the combinations are endless so no need to stick to a recipe. For inspiration, try making these luxurious Black Bean and Cacao Protein Truffles, which are sprinkled with roasted hazelnuts, coated in chocolate, and contain a wicked mixture of medjool dates, coconut cream, black beans and protein powder. The recipe comes from Aussie blogger and author Carla Oates, whose passion for organic health and beauty led her to create her own living skincare line called The Beauty Chef. (Her other recipes, like the almond-coconut-chia Glow Bliss Balls, are worth checking out, too!)  

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Protein Muffins and Cookies

Got a sweet tooth? Keep your blood sugar levels in check and your cravings satisfied by adding protein powder to baked goods like muffins, cookies (check out these double chocolate chip protein cookies made with chickpea flour from The Fit Fork Feed) and brownies – it works best in recipes that don’t call for yeast.

Tip: Protein powder is not a substitute for flour, so do follow a recipe or else you might end up with a dry, inedible lump.  

 
 
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Homemade Protein Bars

Of course you can easily buy protein bars readymade, but why not save money and be more creative by making them at home? If you’re averse to the gooey thick texture of most protein bars, look for a recipe that incorporates whole nuts and grains, like these Chocolate Nut Crunch Bars from The Beauty Chef, made with puffed brown rice, rolled oats, and almond meal. Pressed for time, try these no-bake Matcha-Mint Chip Protein Bars (vegan and gluten free, too) from Power Hungry. And never go hungry again!