Years ago, when I started to get into homemade energy bars, I was inspired by the release of Larabars. I began experimenting to transform my favorite packaged flavors in an effort to not only put my own spin on them, but also to have them accessible at home without the wasteful packaging when possible. These cashew cookie bars are still my all time homemade favorite.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Gaia herbs. As always, I only align myself with companies that have philosophies that align with mine. Opinions stated are my own.
While this recipe has more ingredients than some of my other bars or bites, the flavor can’t be matched when you’re craving a treat and the hemp protein powder makes them a bit more filling (similar to my snickerdoodle protein bars). You can roll these into balls too. I find balls a little more “grabbable” but the bars a little less messy since you don’t need to roll the mixture into your hands.
Cashew Cookie Hemp Energy Bars Pre-Workout
While these certainly make a delicious treat, and are fantastic if you have a mid-afternoon craving, they’re even better before a workout. There’s fast acting energy from the dates that fuels your muscles during exercise, but there’s also some fat, fiber and protein to keep blood sugar levels from spiking too quickly. I’d recommend one or two (depending on your personal needs) 30 – 90 minutes ahead of exercise. Since they provide energy in a small package, these cashew cookie energy bars are also a good option before early morning workouts that last an hour or more (or really intense ones lasting 30-60 minutes). If you’ve avoiding morning fuel in fear of feeling too full, this may be your solution to a more comfortable, energized and high intensity morning AM training session!
What is Maca Root Powder?
Maca received a “moment” of buzz as an adaptogen, but I love it most for the flavor it provides. Maca root actually looks similar to golden beet root and has been consumed in Peru for thousands of years for potential adaptogenic reasons. While there is not a large body of conclusive scientific evidence for the claims, adaptogens are touted for their potential abilities to support a healthy response to stress. Maca root has small amounts of calcium, Vitamin C and iron as well as fiber, phytochemical antioxidants and plant sterols which are known to aid in reducing blood cholesterol levels. In addition to the potential for reducing stress in the body, it is also sought due to claims to boost energy and endocrine function (particularly in females).
As mentioned, I enjoy the taste as it adds a unique sweetness without added sugar. While it may provide a small energy boost when I add it to my oatmeal and these bars, it may also just be that I’m getting adequate energy from the carbohydrate already in those foods, too. You can evaluate more research at gaia.com.
Easy Cashew Cookie Bars in Minutes
All you need for these bars is to add cashews, dates, hemp protein (I like Manitoba Harvest), maca, honey, vanilla and salt to your food processor.
You then pulse until all ingredients are finely ground and start to form a ball as in the video above and picture below. This is about 90 seconds in my Cuisinart and I stop roughly every 30 seconds to scrape the sides. If the mixture doesn’t seem sticky enough, you can add another 1/2 tablespoon of honey, maple or even water.
Next, pour whole mixture onto a large sheet of wax paper. Fold the paper over the mixture and begin to flatten out with a rolling pin. You’ll need to cut the sides at one point and add the excess back on top to roll again. I roll mine out to about 1/2 inch thick. Once rolled out to your desired thickness, flatten out the edges again with your hands.
Unfold the wax paper and sprinkle the hemp hearts on top. Lightly press them into the mixture with your hands and then cut the piece in to 10-12 even bars
Separate the bars and cut the large sheet of wax paper to wrap the bars. Throw one in your lunch bag or purse & store the rest in the fridge for up to 10 days.
The nutrition info below is for 10 bars but you can always cut into larger or smaller servings. The last time I made these, I made mostly bars but then cut the last few bars into cute mini snack bites for when I want something sweet after dinner.
Cashew Cookie Hemp Energy Bars
- 1 ¼ C raw or roasted unsalted cashews
- 1 C packed pitted medjool dates
- ¼ cup hemp protein powder
- 2 tbsp maca root powder
- 1 tbsp honey or pure maple syrup
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp hemp hearts optional
- Add all ingredients except hemp seeds to a food processor or high quality blender. To reduce sticking of the protein powder to the top of the food processor, it helps to add the to add nuts and dates first, followed by the protein powder and then wet ingredients on top.
- Pulse for a total or 60-90 seconds, stopping every 20 or 30 to scrape sides.
- Pour mixture onto a piece of parchment large enough to fold over top.
- Using a rolling pin and your hands, flatten the mixture to about 1/2 inch thick, and smooth the sides.
- If you choose, sprinkle hemp seeds over top and press lightly with hands so they stick.
- Cut into 8-12 rectangles.
Total Fat: 7.5 g
Saturated Fat: 1.5 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrate: 22 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sugar: 13 g
Protein: 4.5 g
Sodium: 120 mg 5 %
Potassium: 220 mg 5%
Calcium: 3 % Iron: 12%
**Vitamins & minerals are listed as % daily value; you may need more than 100% each day if you’re an athlete, have a deficiency disease, or other medical concerns
Cashew Cookie Bar Ingredients: Health Benefits
- Dates are like nature’s candy! They are a source of natural sugar which can be helpful to athletes before and during exercise when they need a quick absorbing energy source. They provide fiber and minerals like potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and even some calcium. Instead of packaged products, I use dates as fuel during long outdoor workouts and even races.
- Nuts like cashews are known for their heart healthy mono-unsaturated fats. Cashews provide iron in greater amounts than other nuts, as well as magnesium. Female athletes especially need more iron for proper metabolism, blood & immune function, and oxygen delivery around the body. Magnesium plays a role in over 300 enzymes reactions in the body for metabolism, bone and heart health.
- Hemp protein is an excellent plant protein that also provides iron. Manitoba Harvest is my favorite brand for both protein powder and hemp hearts due to the texture. Other than it’s protein and iron content, hemp also provides both soluble (great for your heart) and insoluble (excellent for your gut) fiber, potassium, zinc, magnesium, and calcium. In addition, hemp protein is a vegan source of omega-3 ALA.
- Due to its natural sugar content honey is a great sports nutrition aid to use in place of refined sugar. When purchasing real nectar or clover honey, especially local to your region, honey is also great for the immune system. And your mom didn’t add honey to tea when you were sick for no reason; it is an excellent cough suppressant. See more on its nutritional benefits at the National Honey Board.