How to Bake with Plant-Based Protein Powders

by | Updated: September 5th, 2017 | Read time: 3 minutes

So you’ve mastered baking with whey. Your next challenge: plant-based protein powders. Though not as simple as steaming raw, whole veggies, getting your greens from pea protein pancakes has a certain je ne sais quoi. Even if you’re a die-hard, hooray-for-whey fan, the pure ease and earthiness of plant proteins may lure you in. 

Okay, so a pea protein shake isn’t top of your must-have list. You may want to include more natural foods in your diet, but for most people that would be one step too close to eating actual dirt. No problem. Plant proteins are, surprisingly, simple to work with in the kitchen. And blended with other sweet, savory, rich and creamy ingredients, you’ll never detect a grain of ground.

Baking Tips: How to Use Plant Protein Powder

Still not sure? Let’s count down the top four reasons to bake with plant-based protein powders.

Why bake with plants?

#4 – Moist muffins: Plant protein powders absorb liquid ingredients, ensuring your baked goodies don’t crumble when you look at them.

#3 – Fluffy flap-jacks: Retaining moisture also means your (likely vegan) desserts are never too tough to chew. Rubbery pancakes are never a good way to start your day.

#2 – Bulky brownies…but in a good way: The high-fiber content of plant-based protein powders adds bulk to a recipe, which whey protein powders cannot do on their own.

#1 – No flour needed: The number one reason you should try baking with pea, hemp or rice protein powders is because they can stand on their own. You can substitute all flour in a recipe for one of these powders, making it even easier to bake gluten-free, vegan and paleo-friendly treats! (That deserved a drumroll.)

Tips of the trade

Use complementary flavors

  • Pea protein’s earthy flavor and texture pairs especially well with coconut, banana and cacao.
  • Brown rice protein is more versatile than pea protein, mostly because it’s more palatable. It goes well with tart berries and rich, java-inspired ingredients.
  • Hemp powder has a mild-but-nutty flavor, which makes it a great match for just about anything you mix with it. Chocolate is always a good choice, though.

Pour lightly
Because plant proteins drink up moisture, you intuitively want to add more to keep the mixture thick and smooth. Unfortunately, going heavy-handed can turn your desserts into hockey pucks. Use only enough powder to swap out the flour. If a recipe calls for multiple flours or powders, like cocoa in a brownies mix, use equal amounts of each type of powder to total the original flour amount. For example, 1 cup of flour would be divided into ½ cup pea protein and ½ cup cocoa powder.

Sweeten the deal
Unlike whey, you won’t find plant powders in trendy, parlor shoppe flavors like Birthday Cake or Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. So unless you’re making savory treats, keep a stock of cacao nibs, stevia, maple syrup, pureed fruit (think applesauce) and spices. These natural sweeteners will help you mimic those traditional dessert flavors, like apple pie or cinnamon buns.               

Cautionary tales

Don’t be blue if your pancakes turn green. Let’s go back to middle school science class for a minute. Plants contain chlorophyll, which give them that natural hint of green. Hence, green pancakes.

Get your amino acids somewhere else. Though hemp seeds do provide good amounts of all nine essential amino acids, most plants simply don’t provide a complete amino acid profile the way animal-derived foods do. Think about combining more nuts and whole grains whenever you can. Brown rice banana-nut protein waffles may be (nutritionally) perfect!