Smoothies are great, but if you’re drinking them every day, they can get pretty boring. That’s probably why so many food bloggers, nutritionists, and fitness enthusiasts have experimented with using protein powder to make all kinds of other foods, too. And while these recipes are all undoubtedly tasty, it’s not always super clear whether extra protein is truly necessary in your daily diet.
According to Melissa Buczek Kelly, RD, CDN, and owner of MBK Nutrition & Wellness, protein supplementation can be especially helpful for people who work out a lot and are highly active. While she generally recommends that people get the majority of their protein intake from real, whole foods, she says these supplements definitely also have their place. Just be careful not to take it too far. Though the protein-laden donuts and peanut butter cups that lie ahead might be tempting to go overboard on, it’s best to reserve protein powder for just one to two meals or snacks per day, says Katie Kissane, RD, and owner of My Nutrition Coach.
Protein Packed Granola Bars
These yummy treats created by Pickles & Honey are basically the healthy, filling version of Rice Krispie Treats. With crispy rice cereal, oats, flax seeds, and all kinds of other healthy stuff, these are an amazing on-the-go snack when you don’t have time to stop and grab food.
Yes, donuts can be (relatively) healthy. These mini ones from Tone It Up are easy to whip up and pack seven grams of protein per serving.
Simple Vanilla Protein Overnight Oats
Sometimes simple is better. The Blissful Balance’s four-ingredient overnight oats recipe is so easy it can be made with hardly any effort. Add seeds, fruit, or nut butter on top for a little extra flavor.
Pancakes are possibly one of the best things that can be made with protein powder. These surprisingly fluffy and nutritionally-sound pancakes from Pinch of Yum make for the perfect weekend breakfast.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bites
Protein bites and balls are some of the easiest foods to make with protein powder. Candice Kumai’s version is a convenient snack that requires zero baking and minimal prep work.
Salted Caramel Chocolate Espresso Protein Pudding
This dessert-like pudding from Veggies Don’t Bite is similar to a tasty smoothie but with a much richer texture. In fact, dishes like this are some of the best-suited for protein powder. “It can be added to most liquids or even yogurt or pudding,” explains Kissane.
Another thing to experiment with? “Protein powder can even be added to soups as long as it is unflavored,” she says. But one thing to watch out for is that if protein is added to a liquid above 140 degrees, it can denature (or become inedible), so it shouldn’t be added to boiling water or a very hot liquid. This is part of why no-bake recipes work so well with protein powder.
Cranberry and Cacao Squares
These small squares from Like A Vegan are an ideal weekday breakfast for rushed weekday mornings. Again, no baking is required so they’re easy to put together on a Sunday night.
Customizable Protein-Packed Oatmeal Cups
Oatmeal doesn’t have much protein in it, so adding it to this make-ahead breakfast idea from The Healthy Maven makes a lot of sense. Add any fruit or other toppings to the recipe to make it your own.
If you’re curious about how to choose a protein powder that’s actually healthy, Kissane’s got you covered: “You don’t want a bunch of additives or fillers. The protein source should be in the ingredient list, for instance whey protein isolate, pea protein, or soy protein, she says. “There should only be a few other ingredients such as flavors (chocolate or vanilla, for example) or emulsifiers like soy lecithin. Stay away from protein powders with fillers such as coconut flour or added oils such as vegetable oil.”
Mini Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Cups
These are technically a dessert, but a great way indulge while still getting some nutritional benefit. These chocolate cups from Rachl Mansfield are also a great option for people who don’t love the taste or texture of protein powder, since it’s tough to taste it when mixed with chocolate and nut butter.