Since the discovery of protein’s role in our diets, I have unapologetically flung myself far out into the world of foods - in the ambitious quest for the powerful nutrient.
And one big rabbithole of protein sources includes protein bars, which function as pocket-friendly nuggets chocked full of protein. So you can get your fix anywhere, anytime, and the best part is you don’t have to worry three days later if a demon is now rotting out in your fridge the next time you brave opening the doors. They last forever!
A Protein-Bars Assessment & Review
With the vast plethora of options that float around in the sea of protein bars, it’s truly difficult to decide where you want to drop your wallet’s anchor.
After exploring the market for a year, I have gathered a comprehensive guide to choosing. ೕ(˃̵ᴗ˂̵ ๑)
Not just to save you the gruesome trial, but also the unsettling disappointment when all you’re left with is a bad taste in your mouth and the culprit’s deceiving wrapper sitting innocently in your hand. And also that $5 you pay to learn that yogurt or chicken breast could have been the better choice? No, no, no need for that.
Live to Eat?
If you’re only going for that yummy feeling, here is a summarized graph of my recommended protein bars plotted against their taste and texture (5 being the best)
Eat to Live?
Focussed on nutritional information? Got you girl. See how my recommended protein bars plot against their respective calorie and protein content.
This is a long review, so click around to find the ones with:
Depending on personal preferences, the one you end up picking could be quite different from me!
1. QUEST Hero Bar
Protein bars are notorious for being inedible. It could be either gluing around your mouth like a sticky mess, or straight-out tasting like what is really a cardboard masquerading as chocolate. And it’s true - most protein bars do not taste good. Just look at all their colorful, fancy wrappers trying to conceal something.
The best-tasting protein bars are hands down the Quest’s Hero Bar and Barebells’ Protein Bar, being the most accessible in terms of taste and texture. If you’re just hovering around the rabbit hole of protein bars, they’re the gatekeepers who will see you inside. ~(>_<~)
The Hero Bar is by far, the softest and lightest protein bar I have come across.
Density is an issue with most protein bars - there are so many which feel like all air has been squeezed out of their lives, and everything is truly a design by Tooth Fairy to seize more human teeths.
But the Hero bar feels like airy, puffed quinoas layered with a sweet thin line of jam or caramel, finished with a graceful coating of chocolate. Of course this translates to a sweeter taste, which can be something not all days call for.
The Hero Bar comes in five flavours:
Blueberry Cobbler & Caramel Pecan are the sweetest, Chocolate PB holds a pleasant hint of saltiness and Cookies & Cream is well balanced like Oreo. I have found the Chocolate Coconut the most underwhelming, but maybe that’s because I’m not a fan of coconut.
My personal favorite? Hands down Chocolate PB, no questions asked.
2. BAREBELLS Protein Bar
The Protein bar by Barebells is almost on par with the Hero in the department of taste, except they hold a texture more dense and chewy. This could be that they are more chocolatey (think slightly ganache), and thus also taste sweeter.
The Protein bar comes in six flavors - and my favorites are Cookies & Cream and White Chocolate Almond. Hazelnut Nougat and Salty Peanut are also yummy, while Crunchy Fudge and Caramel Cashew left no impression.
The brand also has its Hazelnut Nougat and Salty Peanut flavours in plant-based versions, but they don’t taste like much after you’ve had the regulars. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Best Calorie-Protein Efficiency
If you’re mindful of your calorie intake, you’d want most of your protein bars to not take up so much. But does this mean you get less protein in exchange?
Most protein bars hold between 15 to 25g of protein, and I believe 20g to be the mode (of all I’ve come across). And these bars usually contain 200ish calories.
1. NUGO Nutrition Smarte Carb Bar: 160 Calories, 20g Protein
The Smarte Carb Bar provides 20g of protein for only 160 calories. Involving soy crisps and chocolate finishing, it lends a light texture similar to the Hero Bar. This is the best-tasting low calorie, high protein bar that I have come across, and the only flavor of the brand I’ve managed to attain.
2. JULIAN BAKERY Primal Thin® Protein Bar Sweet Cream: 130 Calories, 20g Protein
The Primal Thin® Protein Bar Sweet Cream is the lowest-calorie option, with only 130 calories for 20g of protein. The taste is sweet, but slightly flat, and in terms of texture… this is definitely Tooth Fairy’s employee.
The brand also has another line the Paleo Thin® Protein Bar Sunflower Butter. Through sunflower butter and egg whites, it delivers 20g protein for just 150 calories. Nuttier flavor, but unfortunately just as dense.
Best for Plant-Based
1. JULIAN BAKERY Pegan Thin® Vanilla Cinnamon Twist
Julian Bakery’s PEGAN Thin® Protein Bar Vanilla Cinnamon Twist is my favourite plant-based bar utilising pumpkin and sunflower seed butter, with only 150 calories for 20g protein, and a simple ingredient list of mostly natural items. Plus putting a photo of cinnamon roll on the wrapper? The devil is at work. Take my money!
Other flavor tried of the PEGAN Line is Ginger Snap, which didn’t leave an impression
Unfortunately the bars do not escape that chew-challenge most Julian Bakery protein bars hold us to - but that’s forgiven. ╰། ❛ ڡ ❛ །╯
2. NO COW Protein Bar
Another well-tasting option is the regular Protein Bars from No Cow, which are soft and melts into a pleasantly powdery/ chalky feel, reminiscent of the middle eastern dessert Halva treat.
Of the eleven flavors, I have only gotten to try S’mores and of course, Sticky Cinnamon Roll. Despite what the names suggest, both of them tasted quite similar, bearing little distinctions to write home about. I love No Cow purely for the halva-feeling. ʕっ˘ڡ˘ςʔ
Best for natural ingredients
As I have covered before on Orthorexia Nervosa, I know some people like myself can be a fuss about “clean” ingredients.
In fact, it took a great deal of persuasions by the loud claims of miniscule “nett sugar”, “nett carb” on the packaging of these bars to bring me about trying them. Just because most of the ingredients list are foreign items I sometimes wonder if even Mother Earth herself would know how to pronounce.
I am sure for this group, protein bars made of natural and whole ingredients hold stronger appeal.. A trade-off, however, is most will not have as much protein as the rest pack.
1. RISE Almond Honey Protein Bars
Nobody keeps it simpler than RISE, whose Almond Honey Protein Bar contains… almonds, honey and protein (whey isolate). Yes, you read it, that is all!
This is my favorite natural protein bar. Although slightly higher in calories, I thoroughly love the nutty flavor that is accompanied with honey’s floral profile. It may feel quite oily when you take it out the wrapper, but that only seems to serve to retain moisture and keep the delight soft. And yummy.
2. RX Bar Protein Bar
The RX Bar, with its entire ingredient list smacked across its front, makes sure you know it’s wholesome, without B.S (bad stuffs, btw). Primarily using dates, nuts and egg whites, the taste really can’t go too awry (unless you do not like the taste of dates).
While they can get tough and dry to bite through, all the small added things like chocolate chips or berries make you still give brownie points. And of all its thirteen flavors, I have only gotten to try seven.
The chocolate flavors aren’t worlds of difference: The Chocolate Sea Salt and Banana Chocolate Walnut are slightly sweeter, richer, the Peanut Butter Chocolate just has an added hint of saltiness while the Coconut Chocolate is.. normal.
Incidentally, the non-chocolate flavors are my favorite: Blueberry with tiny dried blueberries within. And most of all, the Mixed Berry which hits you with a slightly tangy and acidic flavor to cut through what otherwise tastes quite flat.
I am ashamed to say however, that the Peanut Butter did not perform. ε-(≖д≖﹆)
Other Commendable Options
1. QUEST Protein Bar
Quest is one of my favorite protein-bars brand, purely because the options are so extensive. The brand also extends out to protein chips, protein peanut butter cups and my guiltiest pleasure… protein cookies!
Their regular Protein Bars come in sixteen flavors, and my favorite are the Lemon Cake and Smores.
The Lemon Cake is not only the softest of the lot, with an inkling of sourness, and drizzled with white-chocolate for a graceful finish. I am SOLD.
The Smores, on the other hand, is sweeter and with a slight… charry? Taste. Yummy.
My next favorites are the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, Cookies & Cream and Blueberry Muffin just because they’re tasty and not too sweet.
The Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough tastes similar to Smores, but is little bit tougher and plain. It also comes in a chocolate-dipped version, but I can’t say I am a fan.
If you have a sweet tooth, Raspberry Cheesecake and Birthday Cake make for good options, although a little overwhelming imo. But the one who sins most is undoubtedly Caramel Chocolate Chunk - waaaay too uncomfortably sweet.
Next oppressive ones are Chocolate Brownie and Double Chocolate Chunk, which I’ve found too dense, rich and hard.
And again, protein bars continue to do peanut butter dirty, with the Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter tasting like a brick stuck in an identity crisis - to be chocolate, peanut or plain confusion? ε-(>o<)
2. KIND Bars
For people seeking a more nutty-looking bar, KIND is a brand centered around whole foods and has developed high-protein bars around this philosophy. Although I am not a fan, I do get those days I just want a nut crunch. Quest also has a similar product which they call - the Snack Bar.
And that rounds up my review on the best protein bars!೭੧(❛▿❛✿)੭೨
Before you get any, here’s a big tip I’ve picked up through this entire gastronomical experience:
Heat is Our Friend
Have a bar you love, but just cannot chew through? One way to navigate the demonic density of protein bars is to actually throw more fires to the hell... and heaven it becomes!
Cutting up your protein bar and chucking it into the microwave or airfryer for a brief ten seconds can dramatically transform the food. From feeling like a rock to a molten goo of warm bliss dressed in a thin jacket of crisp… You can do many, many wonderful things with protein bars.
In fact, I love throwing them into my indulgent breakfasts and desserts, all I’ll justify in the grand name of protein. ✿♥‿♥✿
Thank You so much for reading, and scroll down to check out visuals of other protein bars tested, but didn’t make it to my list.
Other Protein Bars Tested
Decent protein bars that manage 20g protein within 200ish calories, but the taste was average.
2. BAREBELLS Double Bites Chocolate Crisp
Fun thing to try, especially as a Barebells fan. However, way too many sweeteners and the taste falls flat.
Like Fulfil, One ticks the nutritional checkboxes. After going through their Peanut Butter Pie and Blueberry Cobbler, I don’t find them particularly satisfying (although tasty). Also not a fan of palm oil. (ꐦ°᷄д°᷅)
4. Grenade Killa, Blue Dinosaur
I group these two together because they both hit me with a subtle but distinct, dull, saltish taste… which I am not sure can be attributed to both bars’ involvement of beef collagen and gelatin? I didn’t like that taste, unfortunately.
5. BSC & MUSASHI
I found these whilst in Australia, but found them just okay. ¯\_(⊙︿⊙)_/¯
6. THINK! Protein Bars
Decent, but forgettable.
7. BUILT Protein Bars
With the irresistible flavors surrounding Built, along with being one of the few brands using collagen, I held high hopes. After four chances given to the selected PB Brownie, Cherry Barcia, Cherry Lime and Paranormal Pumpkin, I was left with the trauma I could never speak again - the manner in which they glued around my teeth and inner cheeks was not fun.
8. PhD Nutrition - Smart Bar
Did not like the taste one bit. ꒰⁎×﹏×⁎꒱՞