I’ve called these little bars ‘protein bars’ because they contain quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), nuts, and eggs (if you’re making the non-vegan version). Quinoa is renowned for its high protein content compared to other cereals and grains, and is considered to be a complete protein because of its essential amino acid content.
Technically, quinoa is a seed, not a grain, and is gluten-free. It is commonly used as whole seeds, flakes – as I have used them for this recipe – or flour. As a flour, the taste is quite assertive, so it’s best used mixed with other flours.
Quinoa is mostly harvested in South America, and most of what is available in Australia comes from this region. But there is also a local product grown in Tasmania. The Tasmanian quinoa does need bit of washing, though, to remove the bitter, soapy coating (saponin) from the seeds.
Quinoa is very versatile – think salads, soups, patties, porridge, baked goods – and, so, is handy to have in the pantry. Especially if you need to make a gluten-free, vegetarian meal in a hurry, as it cooks quickly too.
Now that I’ve sold you on quinoa, do give this protein bar a go. It makes for a filling, nutrient-dense treat that will keep little tummies happy – and big ones too.
I’ve made these date & nut protein bars with eggs, and without, for a vegan version. Both are lovely. With the vegan version, as usual, I had to think about binding, fat and moisture – i.e. what could do the job of eggs? For binding, I still haven’t moved beyond chia seeds. And for fat and moisture, I just added more oil. The vegan version is, however, a little more fragile than the egg one, but, nevertheless, it does hold itself together.
- 2 tsp chia seeds, ground, to make chia gel* (or use 2 large eggs)
- 8 medjool dates, seeds removed and finely chopped
- ½ cup (120 ml) almond or melted coconut oil (if using eggs, reduce the oil to ⅓ cup – 80 ml)
- 2 tbsp (40 ml) pure maple syrup
- 1 ½ tbsp (30 ml) apple cider vinegar (exclude if using eggs)
- ¾ cup quinoa flakes
- ½ cup brown rice or sorghum flour
- ¼ cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
- 2 tsp gluten-free baking powder (reduce to 1 tsp when making the egg version)
- ½ cup roughly chopped walnuts
- pinch of sea salt
Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly oil a square or rectangular baking size dish (I used a 16 x 21 cm Pyrex dish), and line with baking paper.
*If you’re making the vegan version, first make the chia gel – add 100 ml water to the ground chia seeds and set aside. In a few minutes it will turn into a gel-like substance.
Add chia gel (or eggs), dates, oil, apple cider vinegar (exclude for egg version) and maple syrup into a bowl and mix well.
In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients before mixing thoroughly with the wet mix. The batter will be a little stiff. Tip batter into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly with the back of a spoon.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through (check with a skewer) and lightly browned at the edges. Cool in dish for about 5 minutes before cooling on a wire rack. Once completely cooled, slice into 12 bars. The bars will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. They freeze well too.