5-Ingredient Protein Balls (Low Sugar, Grain-Free)

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Bowl piled high with our grain-free, low sugar Protein Balls made with 5 simple ingredients

One of my favorite restaurants in Portland is Harlow. Sometimes I go for brunch and while waiting in line, I eye the raw and baked treats on the counter. One of my favorite treats is something called an “almond butter protein sphere.” Um, hello? Could there be a more perfect name for a pre-brunch snack? I think not.

Consider this my inspired take on a nutty protein ball.

My favorite part? They’re grain-free, low sugar (sweetened with just a few dates), and incredibly simple to make. Shall we?

Cutting board with almond butter, dates, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and protein powder for making Protein Balls

These 5-ingredient bites are made entirely in the food processor and require ingredients you likely have on hand right now!

Nut butter is mixed with chia seeds, hemp seeds, a bit of protein powder (recommendations below), and a couple dates to keep these low sugar and naturally sweetened.

Food processor filled with ingredients for making our grain-free Protein Balls for a low sugar snack

Chia seeds offer plenty of calcium, fiber, and magnesium. Hemp seeds are high in protein, essential amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids. And dates are naturally high in fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6.

All of these good-for-you ingredients combine to make one seriously nutritious snack.

Food processor with freshly processed dough for our simple Protein Balls recipe

Once mixed, it’s time to roll! You can roll these and enjoy immediately, but I suggest chilling them in the freezer then topping with melted dark chocolate, hemp seeds, or shredded coconut. So delicious!

Blue tray filled with Protein Balls topped with melted chocolate and hemp seeds

We hope you LOVE these bites! They’re:

Tender
Perfectly sweet
Crunchy
Customizable
Quick & easy
& SO tasty

These would make the PERFECT snack to have on hand when you need a quick boost of energy — each bite contains 6 grams of protein! I’ve been enjoying one after my morning workout, but they’d make a delicious pre-workout snack as well. They’re also ideal for travel, road trips, kid lunches, and more!

Into snack bites? Check out our No-Bake Chocolate Cake Bites, Golden Milk Energy Bites, PB&J Energy Bites, Dark Chocolate Hemp Energy Bites, and Peanut Butter Cup Energy Bites.

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Bowl piled high with gluten-free Protein Balls topped with dark chocolate and shredded coconut

5-Ingredient Protein Balls (Low Sugar, Grain-Free)

5-Ingredient Protein Balls make the perfect low sugar, grain-free snack that’s high in protein and incredibly delicious! Customizable depending on what protein powder you use. Just 20 minutes and 1 food processor required!
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Bowl piled high with our grain-free, low sugar Protein Balls topped with chocolate
4.34 from 30 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 20 (Balls)
Course Snack
Cuisine Grain-Free, Snack, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 month
Does it keep? 2 Weeks

Ingredients

PROTEIN BALLS

  • 1 cup nut butter (we like almond, peanut, cashew, or sunflower)
  • 3-5 pitted medjool dates* (add more for sweeter bites)
  • 2/3 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds (or sub other seeds, such as sesame or flax)
  • 3-4 Tbsp protein powder* (vanilla, flavored, or chocolate — or other flavor of choice)

FOR TOPPING optional

  • Melted dark chocolate (dairy-free as needed — we like Enjoy Life)
  • Hemp seeds
  • Desiccated coconut
  • Sea salt

Instructions

  • Add nut butter, pitted dates, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and protein powder to a food processor and blend until all ingredients are well combined and a cookie dough-like texture forms (see photo). 
  • If too wet, add more dry ingredients of choice, such as protein powder or hemp seeds. If too crumbly or dry, add a little more nut butter. NOTE: These are meant to be on the tender side, so don't be concerned if they're a little soft (they'll firm up in the refrigerator or freezer).
  • Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more protein powder of choice for flavor or more dates for sweetness (if adding more dates, chop first to encourage even blending). Mix again until well combined.
  • Scoop out rounded 1 Tbsp amounts and roll into balls (as recipe is written, ~20 // we love this scoop). Place on a parchment-lined plate or platter.
  • Roll the balls in hemp seeds or desiccated coconut, or melt some dark chocolate in a double boiler on the stovetop, or in 20-second increments in the microwave, then spoon a small amount over the bites (all optional). Top with coconut or sea salt for added flavor (also optional). 
  • Transfer balls to the freezer or refrigerator to chill for 15 minutes to firm up.  We recommend storing these in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer up to 1 month for best texture. They are delicious straight out of the refrigerator or freezer and tend to soften at room temperature.

Video

Notes

*In place of dates, you could sub maple syrup to taste. Just add more dry ingredients of choice to offset the wetter texture.
*The protein powder we used was Tropeaka Lean Vanilla protein. It does contain brown rice protein. If you need to keep this recipe grain-free, choose a grain-free protein, such as Nuzest.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated without optional ingredients.

Nutrition (1 of 20 servings)

Serving: 1 balls Calories: 133 Carbohydrates: 6.6 g Protein: 6 g Fat: 10.3 g Saturated Fat: 0.9 g Sodium: 11 mg Potassium: 191 mg Fiber: 2.6 g Sugar: 3.1 g

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  1. Ella says

    These protein balls were the only recipe I have made on this website that really disappointed me. My family members and I all tried these, and we all unanimously decided that we very much disliked them and would not even finish the ones we had started. We made them exactly according to the recipe and dipped them in chocolate and coconut shreds like suggested, but they were very bitter and had a nasty aftertaste. They were also very salty and definitely not sweet enough. When we added date syrup, they were still not nice. I love your website and most of the recipes have been delicious, but this one was definitely not our favourite.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Ella, we’re so sorry to hear that! What type of protein powder did you use? Perhaps it was unsweetened and/or a gritty one such as hemp protein? We recommend Tropeaka Lean Vanilla protein which adds a vanilla flavor and sweetness.

  2. Donna says

    I am using unflavoured unsweetened (plain) protein powder. Will that affect the flavour of the balls? Should I add some stevia to the protein powder?

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Donna, adding stevia (and perhaps vanilla powder?), to taste would be best as the protein powder we used does provide a nice flavor.

  3. Sarah Varty says

    Hi! I made these and the flavor and texture were great. But, for some reason, they didn’t stiffen up- or more accurately, they didn’t stay firm. I put them in them in the freezer and they hardened up but as soon as I take them out they melt. What do you think I did wrong? I did use Flax seeds and some sunflower seeds in place of Hemp seeds… Thanks!

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      So they just need some more protein powder to thicken them up! Amounts will vary depending on what seeds you add and how drippy / fresh your almond butter is!

  4. kinsey bruno says

    Me and my husband LOVE these I’ve made them SEVERAL times. Wondering do u think they can be done with coconut butter ? Or maybe half sunflower butter half coconut butter ?

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Maybe! Half sunflower and half coconut butter would probably be better. You may need to play around with the amounts of other ingredients as the coconut butter will likely be more dry. Let us know if you try it!

  5. Lindsey says

    These were really boring. I used sunflower seed butter, and put in the protein powder. Coating them in coconut did nothing flavor wise for the combo. I coated some others in hazelnut flour because they were gooey. I prefer a firmer protein ball, and a more diverse flavor profile. This is more like a fat ball— just a ball of nut butter (seed butter in my case), and just not interesting at all. I love the brownie bite balls on the blog with leftover almond pulp, but these were a miss.

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Sorry you didn’t enjoy these, Lindsey! Sounds like you were looking for something different.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Tawnya, that might work! But know that won’t add any additional flavor or sweetness to your bites. In which case we’d add a little vanilla and stevia or more dates!

  6. Melissa Hill says

    I made these today! Perfect for my new “going to the gym everyday” 2020 me! :D

    I rolled half in some tumeric drinking chocolate mix I had… yum!!!!

    Thanks so much for the great, versatile recipe!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the lovely review, Melissa. We are so glad you enjoyed them! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! Xo

  7. sophie says

    I make your peanut butter cup bites all the time so thought I would give the recipe a try but it was definitely a miss for me. The balls taste like I’m chewing on a glob of peanut butter and are quite hard to get down. The taste is okay, but they really only taste of peanut butter. I think I’ll stick with the peanut butter cup bites from now on!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Sophie, sorry to hear these ones weren’t for you! Did you use protein powder? If so, what kind?

  8. Clare says

    This was really yummy, but I had trouble getting the dates to blend. They were chopped before I added them. I am not used to using a food processor – should I just have blended for a longer period of time? Thank you!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Sydnie, the high speed blender might work, but blenders tend to trouble blending dates. Perhaps you could chop them finely first? Let us know if you do some experimenting!

  9. Agcias says

    These are soooo good!! Great idea with using protein powder and adding that extra protein :) I used sesame seeds instead of chia – amazing taste ! Thanks for the recipe!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the lovely review, Agcias. We are so glad you enjoyed them! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! Xo

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Lisa, the Vitamix might work, but sometimes it has trouble blending dates. Perhaps you could chop them finely first? Let us know if you do some experimenting!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      It would, yes. But know that those are typically unflavored and won’t add any additional flavor or sweetness to your bites. In which case we’d add a little vanilla and stevia or more dates!

  10. Ali says

    I made these about a month ago. When I took my food processor blade out I accidentally dropped it and caught it with my other hand cutting my finger pretty bad and right through the nerve. After I got home from the hospital I had my son put the dough left in the food processor bowl in the freezer. I wasn’t going to let it go to waste after all of that. Two words. So. Good. And you’re right, the pieces with larger pieces of dates are the best! I had to have surgery on my finger and am still healing and still a little scared of the food processor now, but as soon as I feel brave again I’m definitely making these. These and your chimichurri sauce will get me back to the food processor one day. ?Thanks for all the great recipes!!

  11. Karen McDonald says

    I gave this a 5 ? rating because it turned out exactly as shown but tasted even better than expected. I added half chia, half sunflower seeds, plus a drizzle of MCT oil when it was a little drier than I liked. I also used 10 dates because I doubled the recipe, which did make it a little challenging to ensure it mixed properly. I rolled in chopped peanuts, vegan mini chocolate chips, natural cocoa, unsweetened coconut, and flaked maple syrup. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Casey says

    I used peanut butter and I didn’t have any chia seeds or flax laying around so I just used hemp seeds and did 2/3c + 1/4c instead. They are firming up now but taste great straight out of the food processor. Yum!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications, Casey. We are so glad you enjoyed these! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! Xo

  13. Angela Rosales says

    These were so good! Easy to make as well. I added 2 T of oatmeal and they were delicious! The ones I dipped in chocolate (melted Enjoy Life semi-sweet) reminded me of “buckeyes”!!

  14. Erica says

    Delicious! I made these with prunes instead of dates because I had a lot of them in my pantry. Had to change up the ratios a little bit. Will definitely be making them again.

  15. Jocelyn says

    Hi Dana,
    I just made these for the first time and they have great taste and texture. I did omit the protein powder as I don’t like to use it. I hope my 7 and 9 year old love them so I can add one to their lunch box ??

  16. Lynn Haslam says

    I have made these a few times now and we love them. Sometimes I add some cocoa powder. I was so happy to have them stashed in my bag during a brutal day of airport hopping. Glad I didn’t have to eat the food on offer in the plane and airport. Thanks! H

  17. Tanya Miller says

    We loved these! My daughter has a nut allergy so we used sunflower butter and a Vega chocolate protein smoothie powder (which is all plant based protein). Also, I had recently bought dark chocolate covered chia seeds so alternated between coconut, hemp seed and unsweetened coconut.

  18. Josh says

    Don’t make this in a vitamix, not sure what ingredient but it really sticks to the walls. The batter tasted good, but haven’t tried it. The dough came out hard but chewy after leaving it overnight meaning so I couldn’t form it into balls in the morning. I tried to keep the vitamix on low but I still think that is too much cleaning lol.

    • Josh says

      In addition I got a lot of liquid, which some had to get washed away. No big deal on the taste, but I don’t like ridding of beneficial oils!

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hmm, wonder if it got over-mixed? The vitamix is so powerful and tends to over-blend some spots while leaving other parts under-blended. Glad you still enjoyed the flavor! We’d recommend a food processor for best results. Find our favorite here.

  19. JESSICA VAN DEN BURG says

    As this recipe sits, I have to rate low. These had a very unpleasing texture, like eating almond butter from the jar with some added dryness. I was very disappointed. However,, not all was lost. I didn’t want to waste an entire jar of almond butter, so I added some raw sugar and egg and turned them into tasty, high-protein cookies!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      So sorry these didn’t work out for you! Would you mind sharing the brand of protein powder you used? We are wondering if that could be the issue? The protein powder we used was Tropeaka Lean Vanilla protein and we would recommend it for best results!

  20. Emilia says

    Hello! I cannot find hemp seed in my country :( any recommendations for a replacement? Since I’m tempted to make this and the bars!

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      I’d recommend throwing some sunflower seeds, flax seeds (or pumpkin seeds), and coconut flakes into a blender and making a meal. That would be the closest swap!

  21. Krista says

    I will preface that I am not the most domestically inclined. The taste is great but my balls’ texture is very soft and sticky even after its in the fridge overnight. I think I need more seeds so will adjust and try again! I also didn’t have a food processor so I used my Magic Bullet which may have something to do with it as well. Overall, it’s definitely tasty and easy!

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yeah! I’d say because nut butter texture varies greatly. Sounds like yours was more on the liquid side so it could’ve benefited from more seeds or protein powder! Thanks for sharing your experience, Krista!

  22. Dawn Logan says

    I have made this twice in the last two weeks. Did not have hemp first time, so I made them without. Used a combo of almond and peanut butter both times because that’s what I had. This will become a staple for us. Thank you!

  23. Esther Rowan says

    Hi! If I used hulled hemp seeds, would that change the recipe dramatically? Could you also explain the difference in cooking with hulled and non-hulled hemp seeds? I am new to the hemp game.

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      I use hulled. Unhulled have more fiber and hulled have less fiber b/c it’s just the hemp seed itself.

  24. Sophie says

    I got lazy so my boyfriend and I are eating this straight out of the food processor bowl with a spoon. Really tasty and filling! Thank you!

  25. Yinka says

    So tender and chewy – love the texture and ease of making these compared to other bliss/protein bites. The result is very dough like and makes it easy to clean the food processor. They turned out lovely with almond butter & aloha’s vanilla protein powder.

  26. Kim says

    LOVE these. I made exactly as is (only 3 dates, and sprinkle a little sea salt on top). I’m trying to not eat sugar or gluten and these really satisfy. They tast like a reese cup.

  27. Emily says

    Hello! Thanks for all of your wonderful recipes ? I’m wondering if collagen peptides would work as the protein powder?

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      It would, yes. But know that those are typically unflavored and won’t add any additional flavor or sweetness to your bites. In which case I’d add a little vanilla and stevia or more dates!

  28. Ali Martinson says

    I usually love things I’ve made from this site, but I have to say these missed the mark. The hemps seeds make it extremely crunchy and the texture is pretty unpleasant.

    Wouldn’t make again.

  29. Amber says

    I just made this with Bob’s Red Mill vanilla protein powder and almond butter and it turned out great! I added a little tahini because it was on the drier side- and sea salt, cinnamon and vanilla. Yum!

  30. Emily says

    Harlow is also one of my favorite Portland restaurants!!! Last time I was in the area, I stayed at the Hawthorne Hostel and Harlow was right there – SO. GOOD. Fantasizing going back soon!

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      I’d suggest a blend of more chia seeds, flaxseed meal, blended sunflower seeds, almond flour, and/or additional protein powder!

  31. Kim Micha says

    Delicious! I used chocolate protein powder and added a couple dashes of cinnamin. I also added a tiny bit of melted dark chocolate on top. We are going to try to keep them around all the time. Great snack item I do not have to feel guilty about!

    • Julie says

      I don’t use protein Powder
      Do you think i could use chickpea instead
      Thanks a lot for all your great recipes

        • Megan Buccafurri says

          Could you do almond flour or something different to sub the protein powder? Or leave it out?

          • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

            You can scan the comments where I’ve made several recommendations – I believe a blend of more seeds or almond flour would work. Just know that you’ll be missing out on vanilla flavor / sweetness from protein powder so you may need to compensate with vanilla extract and/or more dates/sweetener.

  32. Jennifer says

    Does this recipe mean actual crunchy hemp seeds or the soft hemp hearts? Also, what about taking them on a hike? Do you think they would get too soft? I am planning an 8-11 mile hike and want to take a protein loaded snack.

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      I think they’d be perfect on a hike if you put them in a glass jar vs a plastic bag where they may get squished.

      As far as hemp seeds, we recommend hemp hearts.

  33. Merel says

    Last night I made an attempt at this recipe and I think I made a mistake along the way or with my ingredients. I used coconut flour instead of protein powder and used a crunchy peanut butter. I think the latter must have been the mistake as the dough doesn’t get dry enough, however much I keep adding the dry ingredients. The nut butter might be releasing new oils from the small bits of peanut every time I blend it up again?
    I can’t roll the dough into balls as it’s too sticky and it plops down whenever I get some sort of ball shape formed. It’s still very tasty though and I would hate to have wasted all those ingredients.
    Could I maybe use this for something else instead? Any ideas? :)

    I’ll definitely be trying this again with a smooth peanut butter in the future and maybe even start with less than a cup!

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Sorry about that Merel! I wonder if coconut flour is the culprit? We haven’t tested that out yet.

      As for salvaging this batch, press them into a lined loaf pan, freeze, and cut into squares.

      • Merel says

        That sounds great! Thanks so much! :)

        No worries, it’s still a great recipe! Do you have a recommendation for a protein ball like this that I could make, without any protein powder? I would love to try more!

  34. Suzanne Root says

    OMG, Yum! I just made some of these and they are so good. I hope I can get my young teen to try one and then eat them! She’s not the best eater!

    I have problems with histamine intolerance and hope that the protein powder I used doesn’t react, so far, so good! This will be a staple in my diet now.

  35. Catherine says

    Delicious! I just made these but subbed prunes for the dates because I didn’t have any in my cupboard and they turned out great. Used about 7 prunes as they were on the small side – enough to provide a hint of sweetness and the mid-afternoon energy boost I was looking for. Thanks Dana!

  36. Rachael says

    Just whipped these babies up and dreaming of all sorts of opportunities to eat them: those mornings when I’m running too late for breakfast or just don’t feel very hungry, rolling them into tiny mini bites to go over nice cream…. They’re really delicious and satisfying, two was perfect! I used half of a cup of pb2 powder, 1/3 cup of tahini, and filled the rest of the 1 cup measuring cup with water. This was a touch too much and I had to add a little more protein powder (I used orgain vanilla). I also added a touch of cinnamon and sea salt. I put the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes before rolling them out. I can’t wait to try them with alternative nut butters and protein powder flavors!

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Agreed! I do the same. Perfect for a quick snack after a workout away from home, or travel! Thanks for sharing, Rachael!

  37. Michelle says

    These are really good however I did some substitutions as I didn’t have protein powder and they came out really runny. In place of the protein powder I used 5 tablespoons of coconut flour. As they still were very wet, I threw in 1.25 cups of oatmeal. They are still not firm but they do hold their shape.

    Thanks for the recipe! A fan of your website and your cookbook.
    Michelle

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks for sharing, Michelle! These types of recipes always need a little eyeballing because the freshness / runniness of your nut butter and freshness of dates will vary greatly. Sounds like you had really fresh nut butter and dates, so they just required a bit more dry ingredients. However, they shouldn’t have required that much oats. I’m wondering if you could double check your quantities on the other ingredients? Coconut flour is absorbent. I haven’t tested it in these balls, but it should’ve worked OK.

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re thinking a blend of additional chia seeds + flax seeds, sesame seeds, or even ground sunflower seeds would be a good fit here! You could also add more protein powder as well. Let us know how it goes, Pragya!

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      I’ve never cared for those protein powders. I think it would benefit from a protein powder that has a good flavor on its own. Our favorites being Tropeaka Lean Vanilla, Bob’s Red Mill Vanilla, or Nuzest Vanilla!

  38. AC says

    Looks fantastic….. we moved away from Hawthorne and seriously are missing their mercy blues with tempeh (can you work your magic for a home version?). Love your website… eases the pain of moving away from the vegan garden of eden of SE PDX. Thanks!

  39. Kim says

    So delicious!! I saw this recipe and immediately decided to make it. It was so easy to create, and everyone loved them! Highly recommend giving it a try.

  40. Cassie says

    Super simple & easy to customize with whatever you have in your pantry! I didn’t have hemp seeds, so I used a mix of ground flax seed & whole flax seed. I put 2 chocolate chips on top of each protein ball before freezing, less mess than melting & dipping into chocolate. A+! Will make again!

  41. Melissa says

    Hi there, do you think there’s any peanut & tree nut-free substitute for the nut butter? I’d love to send these with my son for a school snack, but at a loss for how to successfully make them nut free.

    Thank you!

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      I’d say add a mix of more chia seeds to compensate, along with your choice of sesame seeds, protein powder, coconut flour, or almond flour!

  42. Ginxaz says

    I’m putting this aside for a while because I don’t have hemp seeds in my pantry.

    However, I have to say I adore your recipes and HARLOW is wonderful!

    Thanks for what you do!

    Warmly,
    G

  43. Arleen says

    These look delicious but I haven’t made them yet because I would like to know if there is a substitute for protein powder. I can’t eat it. Thanks.

    • JyotiBija says

      If you sub out the protein powder, mix in an Adaptogen like maca, cacao, or ashwaganda for even more health benefits when you bite! They are all mild in taste, but the salty nutbutter and the sweet dates will mask any flavor you may dislike. You’ll nourish the adrenals, have more energy, and libido ;)

      • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

        Thanks for sharing! I think subbing the protein powder out entirely will make the flavor potentially bitter (especially all ashwaghanda). But let us know how it goes!

  44. Paul Solt says

    These look amazing! I make energy bites with peanut butter, dates, oats, and walnuts.

    I’ll have to try this next time.

  45. Laura says

    Just made these beauties. Did not have chia seeds, so I subbed flax meal and sesame seeds and added a couple tablespoons of mini chocolate chips. So delicious! The batter seemed way too wet to form balls, but they rolled up with no problems. Taste great now, and will probably be even better when firm. Thanks for all of your amazing recipes and inspiration. I share your page with all my friends. I was a starving vegan before I found you! xox

    • Dana @ Minimalist Baker says

      I think that would be lovely! Sub out the protein powder for chocolate protein powder OR sub up to 1/2 the protein powder with cacao or cocoa powder!

  46. Caitlin says

    These look perfectly tasty! Could I sub coconut flour for the protein powder? I have a lot of dietary restrictions right now and it’s difficult to find a protein powder.