Most people think of protein powder as being strictly for protein shakes, but they have a touch more versatility than that. You can use them for baking and cooking, adding a dash more protein, not to mention flavor, to classic recipes like pancakes, cookies, ice cream, and even pizza dough.
Remember that protein powder is not the only way you can consume protein. It’s still essential to consume protein from real food. Protein powder may be mainly a powdered version of protein-rich foods, but they have added chemicals and components that might be entirely good for you. However, you can consult a doctor or dietician to get the best recommendation.
What is Protein Powder?
Protein powder sounds like part of some futuristic fad diet plan, but it’s used more often than one might think. Many people use it as a supplement for building muscle after moderately intense exercise, aiding in weight loss, or just getting a little more protein. They can be plant- or dairy-based. Most often, they are blended into meals, or milk, smoothies, or even plain water.
Health Benefits of Protein Powder
The benefits of protein powder heavily overlap with the benefits of protein, one of three crucial macronutrients for body function (the others being fats and carbohydrates). Protein-rich foods tend to make people feel full longer, so they eat less often and can manage a healthy weight.
Most protein powders contain around 80 grams of protein per serving. Be careful, though, since that amount might be a little too much at once. In fact, some studies have shown that consuming too much protein, in the long run, can potentially damage the kidneys and mess up the body’s iron and calcium balance (x). That’s why anyone looking to add protein powder to their diets should speak to a doctor first and get their recommendation for certain types or brands.
Types of Protein Powder
Whey protein powder is the most popular type of protein powder, though other types are just as good. However, whey is the most complete (not to mention popular) of them all, meaning it has all the amino acids the body requires.
On the other hand, hemp powder is another complete alternative to whey. It contains essential fatty acids and does not contain dairy, so it’s safe for people allergic to dairy or soy products.
Pea protein powder is the most plant-based protein powder, made of pea protein. It also doesn’t contain any dairy, so it’s a good alternative for vegans or those with dairy allergies.
Do keep in mind that the FDA does not regulate the production of protein powder. Whatever protein powder brand or type you choose, make sure it’s from a safe, reputable source. Again, consult your doctor if you want recommendations for brands (x).
What does Cooking with Protein Powder Entail?
Creating and following recipes that include cooking with protein powder is more complicated than you might think. It’s similar to when people add flour to a recipe; if you add too much, you’ll have to counter that dryness with water, eggs, butter, milk, or another wet ingredient.
Cooking with whey protein powder can be especially tricky since it can make a recipe even drier. In that case, other types of protein powder, like hemp or casein, might be easier for first trying out a recipe. Cooking and baking is already a case of trial and error, so be patient when first trying out protein powder in recipes (x).
No matter the protein powder you use, it’s going to have some level of absorbing power. It just depends on the flavor and texture you’re trying to achieve. Most sources suggest having a more substantial proportion of other dry ingredients (like flours or baking powders) compared to protein powder. Again, this is because protein powder absorbs moisture much more (x).
Some examples of wet ingredients you can use can be fruit purees, milk, mashed banana, egg whites, Greek yogurt, cream cheese, applesauce, or canned pumpkin (x).
Baking with Protein Powder Tips
- Again, if you’re baking with whey protein powder, you’re going to need more dry and wet ingredients to balance it.
- Depending on the kind of protein powder you use, you’ll want to use different spices for flavor. Vanilla or chocolate whey powder make suitable bases for adding flavorings. On top of those, you can add fruit or cinnamon to vanilla, or mint and coconut to chocolate.
- If you don’t want the protein powder you use to alter the end flavor of your creation, then pea or hemp protein powders are good alternatives.
- Be careful about the kinds of flour you might use, as some can be just as dry–if not drier–than even whey protein powder. Coconut flour, for instance, absorbs a lot of liquid, so it should be used in moderation. Almond flour (flour made from almonds ground in a food processor) would make a safer, lower-carb alternative because it’s not nearly as dry (x).
- Always check for whether your protein powder is already sweetened. If it is, cut down on how much sugar you use, so as not to over-sweeten your recipe.
- Similarly, if you’re concerned about drying out a recipe too quickly with whey protein, then baking with pea protein powder might be a safer option since it doesn’t absorb nearly as much liquid (x).
- Fats, like butter or coconut oil, add more flavor to a recipe. They’re not necessary for binding a recipe (that’s what eggs are for), but they might make your recipe tastier.
- Most sources recommend only substituting about a third of the flour needed for protein powder. If you substitute any more than half of the flour for protein powder, the recipe may turn out rubbery (x).
- Do not bake anything with a plant-based protein powder above 325 degrees. Any hotter and the recipe may harden in the oven.
Food Items Protein Powder Can Spice Up
The trial and error of baking with protein powder stretches to all kinds of dishes and snacks. Remember, be patient when trying out new recipes and variations of protein powder.
Most people make muffins with grain flour, which tastes good but doesn’t necessarily add nutrition. Adding a dash of protein can make the muffins more nutritious, but you can play around with different flavored protein powders to literally spice things up.
For a bit of a challenge, you can make your own ice cream with an added scoop of your favorite protein powder. Bananas, cocoa beans, and almond milk are all you’ll need to try it out (x).
Pizza is a fantastic indulgence, but we can always use more delicious ways to make it better. Protein powder makes the crust more filling, not to mention easier on your cardiovascular system than, say, stuffed crust.
Pancakes are a popular, easy recipe to use with protein powder. As a healthier alternative to syrup, you can top them with fruit or nut butter for extra flavor, or eat them plain, especially if the protein powder is flavored.
An oatmeal breakfast is about as simple as it gets: just heat up your favorite oatmeal with your preferred milk, and add your favorite flavor of protein powder. Mixing your favorite fruits on top only adds to the delight factor.
Rice and Oat Crispy Treats
If you’re a fan of Rice Krispie treats, these will be a marshmallow-free (and therefore sugar-free) alternative. Don’t worry–they’re just as delicious and might be easier to make. You can use almond butter, honey, and vanilla-flavored protein powder for a healthier, and perhaps more fulfilling, snack, or dessert (x).
Cinnamon Roll Waffles
For 23 grams of protein in a single serving, these are the perfect dessert/breakfast for the busy. Using almond and oat flour, your favorite protein powder, and a lot of cinnamon, you can make waffles or even pancakes to satisfy a sweet craving and, more importantly, your hunger (x).
Rather than pouring milk over your cereal, you can mix protein powder with water instead. You don’t want too grainy or chunky a texture, so you can add whey, casein, or even rice protein powder to make a protein-punched breakfast.
Cinnamon Protein Apples
Cinnamon rides to the rescue again. This recipe doesn’t even require any baking. Just cut up three apples into bite-size chunks, and shake them around in a zip-up bag containing a mixture of cinnamon and protein powder. As always, you can experiment with different types and flavors to find the best combination. You can even try different apple types for a variety of yummy, sweet snacks.
Baking with protein powder instead of flour can be a fun, healthy way to add protein to your diet. Be careful to use a powder from a reputable source, as some powders have extra ingredients that aren’t good for you. While it’s essential to follow a recipe that calls specifically for protein powder, you can experiment with different flavors and spices to create something new and fun. If you don’t succeed the first time, keep trying with different recipes and powders to find the right one. It’ll be well worth it!