coconut mocha vegan protein bars

coconut mocha vegan protein bars - The First Messpin it!coconut mocha vegan protein bars - The First Messpin it!for coconut mocha vegan protein bars - The First Messpin it!for coconut mocha vegan protein bars - The First Messpin it!
Something changed in the last month or so, and now I get up at 5 every morning and work out seriously hard before starting my day. The immediate rush is great, and I feel extra springy and glow-y all day. Sometimes I even squeeze in an additional late afternoon sweat. This is probably old hat for a lot of people, but this routine is weirdly new for me. My approach to fitness has always been admittedly leisurely. I’d do short runs for a time, almost always begrudgingly. I’d get into phases with yoga, outdoor stuff, and other activities, but overall my inclination to sweat on the regular has been non-committal at best.

When I was working on my book last year, anything outside of recipe testing, photos, note-taking, grocery/prop shopping etc felt self-indulgent. Even taking a pause to have a sit-down meal seemed unnecessary, which is a little strange given the overall context of what I do and talk about here. I spent most of the year absent-mindedly snacking, hunched over a notebook in my kitchen, or sitting at my desk. The work was very fulfilling, but I got so out of shape and out of touch with myself. I kind of pushed my physical self aside, and the force of it dragged other parts of my life along for the ride.

I know that I’m a better, happier, more whole person when I’m breaking a sweat every day. I feel more confident because I know that my body is capable of doing more. I work smarter and have way more energy throughout the day too. After I submitted my book (and after I got over the shock of having so much extra time), I started meal planning and making time for movement in earnest. Then some other positive habits came back into the picture. I stopped looking at my phone before I went to bed, I sipped warm lemon water in the mornings again, I slept 7 hours every night, I was nice to people pre-coffee… A bunch of goodness just spiralling right out of one relatively easy change.

I’ve been trying to make a decent vegan protein bar since I started working it out more often. It was a much more difficult undertaking than I thought it would be. At first, I tried to just make a bar out of naturally high plant protein ingredients–nuts, quinoa, bean flours, seeds etc. They all tasted like those ubiquitous date and nut bars (or way too bean-y). Then I tried going more grain-based and the results were too similar to a basic granola bar. I knew I had to incorporate some kind of concentrated powder into the base to get a smooth texture and higher protein count. After some playing around, I found a mix that I like with an added chocolate and coffee bonus. The base is hearty with ground oats and a little rich with almond butter and coconut milk. They’re great post-workout or… post/pre-whatever really :)

coconut mocha vegan protein bars - The First Messpin it!coconut mocha vegan protein bars - The First Messpin it!coconut mocha vegan protein bars - The First Messpin it!coconut mocha vegan protein bars - The First Messpin it!
Print the recipe here!
Serves: Makes 12 large bars (see recipe notes)
Notes: I packed all of this into an 8×8 because that’s what I had, and a 9×13 seemed too big. If I had an 8×11, I would have gone with that (and had more bars). I find these to be quite filling and wound up cutting all the pretty bars pictured here into minis/squares. It’s really important to start with a protein powder that you love. There’s no added sweetener in this recipe because the powder that I use is sweetened enough on its own (in my opinion) and it brings a lot to the table flavour-wise. As always, the nut butter in this recipe could be replaced with any nut/seed butter you like.

3 cups certified gluten-free rolled oats
1 1/4 cups vegan vanilla protein powder
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon finely ground coffee
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/3 cups full fat coconut milk
3/4 cup almond butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 ounces dark, vegan chocolate
1 teaspoon coconut oil

unsweetened shredded coconut
cacao nibs
hulled hemp seeds

Place the rolled oats in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the oats until you have a coarse meal. You still want a few flakes of oats in the mix. Transfer the ground oats to a large bowl.

To the oats, add the protein powder, ground coffee, and sea salt. Stir to combine.

Add the coconut milk, almond butter, and vanilla to the bowl. Stir lightly to evenly distribute the liquid ingredients. Then, get in there with your hands and bring the mix together until all ingredients are evenly moist and sticking together.

Lightly grease a dish (see headnotes on size) with coconut oil and line it with parchment paper so that there’s some overhang on each side.

Transfer the bar mixture/”dough” to the prepared dish. Press it into the pan evenly and firmly. Press and pack it down as firmly as you can. Place the dish in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.

Set a small saucepan with 1-2 inches of water over medium-low. Bring it to a simmer. Break up or chop the chocolate and transfer it to a non-reactive bowl. Add the coconut oil to the bowl as well. Let the chocolate and oil melt together until totally smooth. Keep warm.

Retrieve the dish from the refrigerator. Lift the slab out of the dish by the paper overhangs. Cut the slab into bars and arrange them on a plate/some parchment paper/on a cooling rack. Drizzle the bars with the melted chocolate/oil mixture and garnish with shredded coconut, cacao nibs, and hemp seeds if you like. Store bars in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

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  • Sara @ Cake Over Steak17/02/2016 - 9:25 am

    Congrats on handing in your book! It’s amazing what starting your day with a workout can do for you. I’ve been doing that pretty consistently for about a year now, although I’ve slacked a little bit lately in order to make sleep more of a priority for me. In other words, I need to get better at going to bed early so I can wake up for my AM workout. I recently tried a sample of Vega’s protein powder since I saw you mention it, and holy crap that stuff is good! I’ll be purchasing a big tub of the vanilla soon, so these bars will be high on my to-make list as soon as that happens. Thanks for figuring this recipe out. It sounds like a protein bar I can actually feel great about eating.ReplyCancel

    • Laura18/02/2016 - 9:47 am

      Thanks Sara! I think sleep definitely ranks higher than getting your pump on. I know I definitely feel/work out/do everything better when I try to turn in early though. And the new Vega formulation is amazing, right? So creamy!

  • June17/02/2016 - 9:47 am

    Sounds great! I’ve hit a slump with my workouts lately – what kind of routine do you follow? Lookin for some inspiration!ReplyCancel

    • Laura18/02/2016 - 9:50 am

      I do a mix of stuff. I have a bunch of Tracy Anderson DVDs that I love, I do the HIIT workouts from the Tone It Up Girls, and I recently got an online membership for Yoga Glo that I’ve been using a lot. I find that mixing it up is so key.

  • Abby @ The Frosted Vegan17/02/2016 - 9:56 am

    YAY for turning in the book! I’ve been needing to practice a lot more self care over here (aka sleep more and actually get up to work out) but just finding where I can cut things out and chill is coming first. You’ve really been inspiring me lately with the self love, that article you posted last week about getting up early has been a motivator for me! xoReplyCancel

    • Laura18/02/2016 - 9:54 am

      “Cut things out and chill” is the new life motto I think. Turning in early and having more time in the morning has really changed my energy levels and my days in general. Hope you get the self care thing sorted in a way that works for you :)

  • Hannah17/02/2016 - 9:57 am

    These look incredible!
    And are wonderfully peanut free so I don’t need to worry about allergies either.
    Can’t wait till I get round to having a crack at these.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah | Well and Full17/02/2016 - 11:01 am

    I’m so glad to hear you’ve found a workout routine that really works for you! The endorphins kick is unbeatable ;) And what a perfect way to celebrate your new mojo with these protein bars, they look incredible! :DReplyCancel

    • Laura18/02/2016 - 9:56 am

      Thanks Sarah! Yes, that endorphin kick is hard to beat once you get in the routine of it.
      xo LReplyCancel

  • Jessie Snyder | Faring Well17/02/2016 - 11:20 am

    These are everything, Laura, so perfect. I love the use of coconut milk in here too! I’m always cranking out different versions of protein bars each week and will have to add these to the rotation! I mean, chocolate ;) xoReplyCancel

    • Jessie Snyder | Faring Well17/02/2016 - 11:21 am

      Ps. Stoked for you on finding a work out routine and feeling more balanced now – it has such a huge impact and is such a great feeling, ah, I love it – so happy for you girl!ReplyCancel

      • Laura18/02/2016 - 9:57 am

        Chocolaaaaaaate! Thanks Jessie. Your encouragement always gives me a big smile :)
        xo LReplyCancel

  • Summer17/02/2016 - 11:22 am

    One of these bars would make me happy right now! They look so good ♥


  • Sophie MacKenzie17/02/2016 - 1:10 pm

    I love how uncomplicated these are, in like a totally awesome way where I’d actually make them. Gorg! And congrats on finding a balance of work and self care. I think that maybe be one of the hardest challenge for lady bosses out there. <3ReplyCancel

    • Laura18/02/2016 - 9:59 am

      I honestly surprised myself with how uncomplicated this recipe turned out. It’s so easy to get weird with bar recipes sometimes.
      xo! LReplyCancel

  • Katie17/02/2016 - 1:33 pm

    These look so tasty and I can’t wait to make them! I also recently started working out in the morning and it’s such a great way to start the day. I always feel super positive and optimistic for the rest of the day.ReplyCancel

    • Laura18/02/2016 - 10:01 am

      Yes, the beaming optimism/endorphin kick is my favourite part! Thanks Katie.

  • Aubrey17/02/2016 - 4:46 pm

    Gosh, I love your blog so much. Thank you for writing!ReplyCancel

    • Laura18/02/2016 - 10:05 am

      Thanks so much, Aubrey! Very kind of you to say so.

  • Michelle @ live wholefully17/02/2016 - 6:08 pm

    I have to say I’m SO EXCITED that you used Vega Sport protein because that’s the protein I use!!! I cannot wait to try these. They could be a game-changer for pre- or post-workout!ReplyCancel

    • Laura18/02/2016 - 10:05 am

      Vega rules! So glad that you like it too. The newest formulation is sooo creamy and delicious.

  • Keara McGraw17/02/2016 - 8:26 pm

    OOOO I am so making these this week! Laura, I can’t say enough how much I look forward to your posts. They usually start a little bit of “me time” that I set aside to pour through your beautiful photographs (and ballin’ recipes). A morning sweat most definitely starts my mind right, and I’ll feel even better knowing that I’ve prepared myself some goodness post-sweat. Thank you! xReplyCancel

    • Laura18/02/2016 - 10:09 am

      Completely flattered that my posts have worked their way into your chill time, seriously. That means so much! Hope you like these if you make them, and that they help with your amazing marathon-ing ways ;)
      xo LReplyCancel

  • genevieve @ gratitude & greens18/02/2016 - 11:51 am

    Hooray for submitting the book! I am so excited for it. There was a period of time when I would get up at 5 to go to the gym, but that habit has kind of died and I really miss making the time to exercise- your post was a lovely, gentle reminder to get back to it! These protein bars look incredible: it’s got the holy trinity of coffee, chocolate, and nut butter! Oh, and oats, of course :DReplyCancel

  • Grace18/02/2016 - 1:25 pm

    There’s nothing like a sweet sweat session first thing in the am! These bars look like the best way to celebrate all that your body is capable of! Thanks for being a constant inspiration, lady! ;) xoxoReplyCancel

  • Jodi18/02/2016 - 1:36 pm

    Hip hip for finding more ‘me’ time and getting your sweat on! I’m sure you’re just feeling so awesome at the moment and that is always what pushes me to continue :) A 5am workout doesn’t seem so bad if these bars are waiting for you in the kitchen – mega thumbs up for this one, Laura xReplyCancel

  • Karen van der Merwe19/02/2016 - 6:56 am

    Hi Laura, I’m going to try these a.s.a.p. I’m always shaky after a workout. I’ve enjoyed your post on vegan bullet coffee. Drinking coffee is a bit like playing Russian Roulette where I’m concerned… What I would really, really like to know is when is your book coming out? Greetings from South Africa!ReplyCancel

    • Laura19/02/2016 - 8:37 am

      Hi Karen! Thanks for this comment, and I’m glad you like the bullet-proof coffee too. My book will be released in Spring of 2017 :D

  • Sara Crocker19/02/2016 - 10:33 am

    Is it possible to make this without ground coffee (which I dislike)?ReplyCancel

    • Laura19/02/2016 - 9:44 pm

      Yes you could just leave it out and proceed with the recipe as written.

  • graffitigrammarian19/02/2016 - 1:39 pm

    Hi there,

    I’m a big fan of the First Mess (I love MFK Fisher!), even though many of your recipes don’t quite work for me. I’m doing a modified GAPS diet, with no grains or starches, to try and heal some gut inflammation (seems to be working). But I have to stay away even from pseudo-grains like buckwheat or quinoa (and most definitely from the oats used in these bars!)

    (I did once make your wonderful potato salad with roasted red peppers — it uses a romesco sauce — and took it to a party, and it was a HUGE hit. It was a year ago and my friends still talk about it ;-)

    Anyway, I am thinking about how to modify this protein-bar recipe to a grain-free version. I have been trying different recipes for grain-free snack bars, and had kinda settled on this one below, though it’s not perfect. Mostly it’s very very crumbly, it just won’t hold together, and turns into something more like grain-free granola after you cook it.

    (also it’s too sweet. I cut the honey amount in half and add 1/4 c of tahini, which is an improvement)

    Anyway, the other recipe makes a “coarse flour” out of nuts & seeds (cashews, pepitas and almonds). I’m thinking maybe I could make this coarse flour and use it as a substitute for the oats in your recipe — what do you think?

    Also, since the nut/seed flour would be pretty high in protein, maybe I could delete the protein powder (and I know you like to use it but I stay away from it because it’s such a highly processed food and my digestion is problematic. If I could find a fermented protein powder I might try that, but no luck on that yet in my stores.)

    I’m okay adding a natural sweetener, like honey, if I don’t use the sweetened protein powder.

    What do you think of this approach? Would it work? I wonder if it would result in bars that are not so crumbly, which is the problem with other recipe.

    thanks for any comments.ReplyCancel

    • Laura21/02/2016 - 8:46 am

      Hi there,
      Thanks for this kind comment! On replacing the both the oats and protein powder in this recipe with a milled nut/seed mixture, I think it could work. You might have to introduce a bit of honey (at least a couple tablespoons) and adjust on the nut/seed butter to make it sweeter and to help it stick without being too gloppy. I’m also not sure if the coconut milk will be of any help in your modified version if you base it with a nut/seed meal. The coconut milk kind of hydrates the protein powder in this recipe. I would start with the nut/seed meal in the bowl with any salt/spices, add an amount of honey that you think would sweeten adequately, start with a 1/4 cup of nut/seed butter and stir it up. From there, if it isn’t sticking, I would add nut/seed butter by the tablespoon until it started sticking. Can you have flax seeds on this diet? Some ground flax in the mix might help this bar stick together as well.

      Also, I did some searching around and THIS recipe seems quite promising given your preferences, although admittedly I don’t know enough about the GAPS diet to say so definitively.

      Hope this is a little helpful.

  • Lily | Kale & Caramel19/02/2016 - 1:55 pm

    I could jump up and squeeze you right now—I do appreciate your sharing the challenges of that time, as I’m going through a phase of super intense work myself. Ugh. It’s so hard! And I have so much hope for what’s coming around the bend as I emerge. And I also have a very strong sense that these amazing protein bars will be a part of that reemergence! They’re gorgeous. Also, I’m drooling.ReplyCancel

  • Anna22/02/2016 - 6:39 am

    I’m making these right now and can’t find in the instructions when to add the vanilla extract! Is it for the bars or the chocolate mixture? I’m so psyched about these :DReplyCancel

    • Laura22/02/2016 - 7:50 am

      So sorry Anna! You add it in with the almond butter. I’ll take a look and fix the recipe.

  • Nicholas22/02/2016 - 2:12 pm

    How does something so sinful looking be a vegan dish?!ReplyCancel

  • Fun Five Friday27/02/2016 - 12:00 am

    […] Coconut Mocha Vegan Protein Bars–> I heart a good granola bar.  […]ReplyCancel

  • […] bookmark love. vegetable flatbreads! chickpea smoothie bowl (like I need more excuses to eat chickpeas) vegan chocolate hazelnut crepes – ahh, the elusive egg-less crepe; of course Izzy from Top with Cinnamon would solve this mystery for me! forbidden rice breakfast porridge toasted quinoa cashew butter cups mocha coconut protein bars […]ReplyCancel

  • […] This is a modification of the recipe from The First Mess, Nutritional Facts: Serving Size: 1 bar Number of Servings: 12 Calories: 245 Fat (g): 10.9 […]ReplyCancel

  • MusingsonDinner (Chloe)01/03/2016 - 6:19 pm

    I’ve recently(ish) started running and sometimes my motivation does flag after a long day (I go to the gym after work, not before). I might make a batch of these to spur me on! I love almond butter, I love mocha, I love that these don’t have any weird ingredientsReplyCancel

  • Maria Loghin03/03/2016 - 9:03 am

    These look spectacular!ReplyCancel

  • Trevor E03/03/2016 - 7:34 pm

    Seriously, I want to dive right into these images. You are such a gem. I owe you a serious thank you email soon!
    Hope you’re not buried under too much snow!ReplyCancel

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  • Ashlyn | Dollop Of Yum05/03/2016 - 9:50 pm

    These protein bars look absolutely amazing! I’m always looking for more ways to make homemade versions!ReplyCancel

  • […] if you follow The First Mess blog, you may have already had the chance to make the original recipe– I just modified a few ingredients to make my version […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Mocha Coconut Vegan Protein Bars– just yum. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Mocha Coconut Vegan Protein Bars– just yum. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Mocha Coconut Vegan Protein Bars– just yum. […]ReplyCancel

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