Peanut butter + coconut (pea) protein bites

Peanut butter + coconut protein bites

This post was created in partnership with North American Pulses.


Earlier this year, I made a pretty bold (and semi-vague) resolution to be nicer to my body. I was kind of awful to it in 2015 (hellooo, junk food and torturous, long-distance runs) and – as a result – I was on a mission to make up for that in 2016. To be honest, I didn’t really have a game plan. But I knew that 1) I needed to be more mindful of the things I was putting into my body and 2) I needed to start working out with more frequency. The goal? Well, I didn’t know it at the time but, now that I’m on the right track, it’s clear: to get my body back up and running like a well-oiled machine.

There are a lot of factors that play into that. Like, consistent vitamin supplementation. Proper hydration. Getting a good night’s sleep. Yadda yadda yadda. In one short month, I had all of that on lock (though, admittedly, I’ve fallen off the wagon a few times since) but, at the end of the day, I was still feeling crummy. It wasn’t until a couple of months ago – after expressing my ardent disapproval for a dinner that wasn’t loaded with vegetables – that Thom’s reaction (a less dramatic version of this followed by a reminder that NOT EVERY MEAL HAS TO BE A PILE OF GODDAMN VEGETABLES) made me realize that something had to change. Furthermore, it made me realize that it’s not going to be the end of the world if dinner doesn’t come with a massaged kale salad or medley of sautéed vegetables. It’s not going to be the end of the world if I only eat eight servings of fruits and vegetables instead of 20. And it most certainly is not going to be the end of the world if my last meal of the day is a giant bowl of pasta smothered in extra virgin olive oil and more flaky salt than anyone should consume in one sitting (though, for the sake of my blood pressure, salt-heavy meals really should be limited).

So I took a look at my diet and realized it was (unintentionally) very low carb, very low fat, and even lower protein.. which translated to me having very low energy. I knew if I was going to keep good on my goal of treating my body better, I had to change the way I was eating. But even more? I had to change my perception of the things I wasn’t eating. Not surprisingly, it only took a few days of eating more carbs, more fat, and considerably more protein for me to realize this is it. This is what I’ve been missing. My energy levels sky rocketed. My 15-20 minute workouts turned into hour-long workouts. I could work harder, lift more, and I didn’t feel completely zonked at the end of it. Even better? I started feeling well-rested after only six hours of sleep (I used to require nine) and I stopped craving sugar (would you believe that chocolate doesn’t make me salivate the way it used to?). I was sold.

At the end of the day, it all came down to making better food choices (and realizing that better doesn’t always mean more vegetables). Eating more carbs and more fat was easy for me, but the protein part? I had to get creative with that. Since 2016 is the International Year of Pulses, I decided to challenge myself and up my weekly pulse pledge (have you taken it yet?) to a daily pledge – which, surprisingly, hasn’t been as difficult as I originally anticipated. Especially now that I’ve started incorporating pea protein (pea protein is the best plant-based protein to consume post-workout) into my diet by way of waffles, porridge, smoothies, and – now – bites. Not only has eating more protein never been easier, but I’ve also never felt better. And I’d venture to say my body is one step closer to functioning like a well-oiled machine.

As promised, I’ve rounded up 10 more pulse recipes to help you keep good on your commitment to eat pulses (beans and dry peas and lentils and chickpeas) at least once a week. Have other pulse recipes you love? Leave ’em in the comments, please!

How to cook black beans
How to cook split peas (and lentils) via Pulses
Spring celebration salad via Green Kitchen Stories
Spice-roasted vegetables with chickpeas + chermoula via Sprouted Kitchen
Quinoa and chickpea flour falafel with Romesco sauce via Food52
Chickpea tortilla nachos via My New Roots
Easy weeknight curried chickpeas and spinach via The Full Helping
Nourishing Buddha bowls via Nourish Atelier
Creamy french lentils with mushrooms and kale via The First Mess
Crispy carrot + sunflower falafel with hemp sauce via Wholehearted Eats

For more ways to incorporate protein-rich pulses into your diet, head this way.

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Notes: I always like to throw in a handful of mix-ins for added crunch – cacao nibs and chopped peanuts are two of my favorites, but coffee beans or dried strawberries (or your favorite dried fruit) would be delicious, as well. If you don’t have pea protein powder, I recommend trying to get your hands on it as the consistency of plant-based protein powder varies greatly, and I can’t say with certainty that other powders will work as a replacement. These bites are just barely sweet, so if you’re looking for something that’s as sweet as a Larabar, replace the almondmilk with pure maple syrup. If you have a peanut allergy (or just straight up don’t like peanuts), you can replace the peanuts/peanut butter with almonds/almond butter, cashews/cashew butter, etc. Not a fan of coconut? Replace it with 3/4 cup of thick rolled oats. Oh, and if you’re worried about the flavor of the pea protein, rest assured it does not come through in the finished product (pea protein is super mild, but what little flavor it does have is masked by the peanuts and dates).

More bite-size goodness: Raw almond cacao nib bites, raw tahini brownie bitesraw lemon goji berry bites, and the recipe that started my obsession with bites – raw hemp heart brownie bites.

This post is sponsored by North American Pulses. All opinions are my own, and I think we all should be eating more pulses because they’re real good for ya (and – BONUS! – they’re good for the environment, too).

PEANUT BUTTER + COCONUT (PEA) PROTEIN BITES

1 cup (65g) unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup (84g) dry roasted peanuts

1/4 cup (28g) pea protein powder
Pinch of vanilla bean powder
, optional
Pinch of fine sea salt
10-12 (174g) medjool dates
, pitted and soaked for 15 minutes
1/4 cup (68g) natural peanut butter
1-2 tablespoons (14-28g) toasted coconut almondmilk

In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the coconut and peanuts for 20-25 seconds, or just until they turn into a semi-coarse meal. Add the protein powder, vanilla bean powder (if using), and sea salt, and pulse just until combined. Add the dates and pulse for 25-30 seconds, just until they’re evenly distributed, then add the coconut almondmilk and pulse until combined. If desired, transfer the mixture to a small mixing bowl and stir in any extras; cacao nibs, chopped peanuts, coffee beans, etc. Using a 1 teaspoon cookie scoop, drop the balls onto a flat surface lined with parchment paper. Transfer to an air tight container and freeze for 30 minutes before consuming. Bites will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to one month.

Yield: About 70-75 bites (about 4 servings)

Peanut butter + coconut protein bites

42 Comments

  • Reply Abby @ Heart of a Baker 27 April 2016 at 7:16 AM

    You’re speaking to me here sister! I get into ruts where it’s either all garbage (hello potato chips and chocolate chips for dinner!) or super veggie heavy with nothing else, eek! Going to take this to heart and think about what I’m eating, thanks for the push I needed! xo

  • Reply Vickie 27 April 2016 at 8:02 AM

    These look wonderful! Unfortunately I am not able to view the right hand portion of your blog. I don’t know why this happens.

    • Reply Ashlae 27 April 2016 at 8:21 AM

      Hi Vickie –

      The right column sidebar is moved to the very bottom of my page when viewed on a mobile device, tablet, etc. :)

  • Reply Clem @ The Vegan Cookie Fairy 27 April 2016 at 8:03 AM

    This recipe is speaking to my soul. Totally making it this weekend because this girl has been working out and needs to EAT. (also PB 4EVA <3)

  • Reply Roxana 27 April 2016 at 8:41 AM

    This is inspiring! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Emma 27 April 2016 at 11:05 AM

    These look amazing! I’ve been making a conscious effort to up my plant-based protein intake these days too. Also, your photos are always so gorgeous, even in the midst of kitchen renos :)
    Which pea protein do you use/recommend?!

    • Reply Ashlae 29 April 2016 at 11:31 AM

      Hi Emma –

      I just added a link in the recipe portion of the post! :) Also, you’re kind. I feel like the photos in this post are especially terrible BUT I tend to be overly critical of my work. Also? I cannot wait for this renovation to be OVER.

  • Reply Sarah | Well and Full 27 April 2016 at 11:45 AM

    I was having similar problems as you (low energy, needing more sleep, etc) and I went to a nutritionist – who essentially told me everything you just wrote in this post! It turns out my diet was wayyyy too low in fat, so I’ve been trying to incorporate more healthy fats into my daily regimen, like nuts and avocados. So these protein bites are PERFECT for me!! :D

  • Reply Lisa 27 April 2016 at 12:37 PM

    Love this! I definitely go through phases where it feels like the only fat and protein in my diet is coming from…peanut butter. Any tips on what you learned looking at your diet, i.e. good resources or guides to compare to? I’d love to do the same!

    • Reply Ashlae 29 April 2016 at 11:29 AM

      Hi Lisa –

      Well, I learned that I was eating the wrong diet for the level of physical activity I was doing. Despite changing my fitness routine half a year ago (I was formerly a long-distance runner), it didn’t even occur to me that I would need to change my diet. And as a result, I started feeling really terrible. I try to avoid using books or online resources to dictate my dietary habits (every body is different), so it’s typically a lot of trail/error until I land on something that makes me feel my strongest.

      YOU GOT THIS. <3

  • Reply dixya @food, pleasure, and health 27 April 2016 at 12:47 PM

    i feel so much better about eating rice, beans, chicken with salsa because i want to eat veggies each meal but in reality it always doesnt happen…the composition of my meal is mostly carbs. little protein and some fats but lately, i have been trying to do half protein, half fats, and some carbs which has helped me stay full longer and more energy..and on that note, i will definitely be adding this protein bites into my life.

  • Reply Eliana 27 April 2016 at 12:58 PM

    I’ve been looking for a plant based protein powder that doesn’t taste terrible and isn’t sweetened (I find stevia to be way too sweet and have a gross aftertaste) do you have a recommendation for which protein powder to get? Thanks!

    • Reply Ashlae 29 April 2016 at 11:22 AM

      Hi Eliana –

      I just added a link in the recipe portion of the post! :) Aside from the plain variety (which I use often), I’ve also been digging Vega Essentials/Vega Sport (though both do contain stevia and I ALWAYS cut them with plain protein powder). My trick is to use 1/2 scoop plain pea protein + 1/2 scoop flavored protein to balance out the aftertaste of the stevia).

  • Reply Ema 27 April 2016 at 2:01 PM

    Yay! Thank you for bringing attention to how a diet of mostly vegetables but low protein/carb/fat intake can really go pear shaped! Love how Thom put it. For several years, I was basically eating raw veggies and oatmeal everyday, and it left me with dangerously low cholesterol, depression and low energy levels. Can’t do coconut now, so I’m going to try to find a way to tweak this recipe. Cheers!

    • Reply Ashlae 29 April 2016 at 11:10 AM

      Hi Ema –

      There’s a note just before the recipe on how to make these without coconut! ENJOY. <3

  • Reply Ashley 27 April 2016 at 3:03 PM

    Ashlae. I think I smiled through this entire post. I am so happy you realized that vegetables don’t always equal healthy because there are so many people who think otherwise, and they end up sacrificing their health and well being (and relationships) in the process.

    Like a few other commenters, I would love to know your favorite protein powder. I’d also love some more details on your workout, if you wouldn’t mind sharing. :)

    • Reply Ashlae 29 April 2016 at 11:09 AM

      Hi Ashley –

      I just added a link in the recipe portion of the post! :) Unfortunately, all bodies are different and what works for me may not work for someone else. I have a CrossFit garage gym but do basic bodybuilding exercises 3-5x a week (to switch things up/keep my muscles from plateauing, I try to implement tabata, supersets, etc.).

  • Reply Randle Browning 27 April 2016 at 3:22 PM

    Hey Ashlae! I loved reading about this. I kinda wigged myself out about fats (esp oils) and carbs as well, which led to me freaking out about them and avoiding them…and then indulging like crazy. Just letting myself eat what feels good (including upping the protein) has made such a difference! I had a similar experience of jumping up in the morning after 6 hours of sleep and being able to workout way more! Also, I’m glad to hear you have good thoughts about pea protein. I’ve been skeptical of it but looking for a protein supplement that’s not super weird.

  • Reply Katrina 27 April 2016 at 5:04 PM

    I need to be better to my body and I remember in a previous post reading you saying that you were making a change, commenting on it, and here I am…eating cheesecake! And like, obviously it’s ok to eat cheesecake, but I could be eating these tiny protein bites and feeling a hell of a lot better about my choices!!! Oof…needed this reminder. Pulses are always a good choice. Your words brightened my afternoon :)

  • Reply Rainbow Koehl 28 April 2016 at 11:25 AM

    I agree wholeheartedly with you and many other “commenters:” more protein (plant-based esp good) and more healthy fats really can make a person feel better in so many ways. One of the things I’ve found helpful is powdered peanut butter. A lot of them have sugar so you have to be careful if you don’t want that, but there are ones that are just plain peanuts made into powdered form.

    • Reply Ashlae 29 April 2016 at 11:04 AM

      Hi Rainbow –

      I just discovered Jif’s (no sugar added) peanut butter powder and love it! I don’t ever use it to make peanut butter, but I love adding it to smoothies, banana soft serve, etc.

  • Reply Hannah 28 April 2016 at 11:34 AM

    About two years ago I discovered NuZest pea protein (after switching back and fourth between several brands) and I have not even considered anything else since. These look so so amazing – can’t wait to make!

    • Reply Ashlae 29 April 2016 at 11:02 AM

      Hi Hannah –

      I haven’t tried NuZest, but I just ordered the smooth vanilla variety! Can’t wait to give it a go. Thanks so much for the recommendation.

      • Reply hannah 4 May 2016 at 11:45 AM

        Oh yay! I hope you enjoy as much as I do. Also, I made these and they are just divine <3

  • Reply Laura 28 April 2016 at 5:46 PM

    I just love this post, Ashlae! I work at a natural health clinic and we see so many clients who overdo “healthy” to the point that they make themselves seriously ill. It makes me so happy to know that you’re taking queues from your body (and Thom) and making the necessary changes to improve your overall quality of life.

  • Reply Asha 29 April 2016 at 12:09 AM

    I love all pulses – lentils, chickpeas, mung beans, cowpeas. But my favourite is probably the red split lentil made into a Sri Lankan dhal curry which we call paripppu. It’s red split lentils cooked with spices in coconut milk and after it’s cooked, tempered/sautéed with mustard seeds, curry leaves, onion and garlic (until they caramelize) and dried red chillies. It’s yummy!

    You must visit Sri Lanka one day, Ashlae :).

    • Reply Ashlae 29 April 2016 at 11:00 AM

      Hi Asha –

      Sri Lanka is on our list! I’m definitely going to try my hand at parippu because it sounds so delicious. Would love your recipe, if you have one. :)

  • Reply marisa 29 April 2016 at 8:37 AM

    These look wonderful! I’m always looking for a protein-packed snack in the afternoon, and plain almonds get old after a while.

    Like a few others have mentioned, I’d love to know which pea protein you’re using?

    • Reply Ashlae 29 April 2016 at 10:59 AM

      Hi Marisa –

      I just added a link in the recipe portion of the post! :) And I hear you on plain almonds getting old – I’m soooo burnt out on raw nuts.

  • Reply I'd Eat That - hungrygirlporvida.com 29 April 2016 at 11:05 AM

    […] Peanut Butter Coconut Protein Bites–the struggle IS REAL when it comes to getting Casper to eat protein. He’s way into carbs and not so into protein. I am not about tricking him into eating more protein in the form of these bites. […]

  • Reply Abby | Lace & Lilacs 30 April 2016 at 9:57 AM

    Oh, I just love this post, Ashlae! Remembering to treat our bodies well when we’re so busy with life and (in my case) school is difficult. Thanks for the inspiration, lovely! And this recipe looks delicious. <3

  • Reply Gemma 1 May 2016 at 4:04 PM

    I love energy bites! They are my best friends when my stomach is growling in the afternoon and when I need to boost my energy before or after a workout. I usually buy pea protein powder and hemp protein powder, well and maca powder too (it gives you good energy without that sense of shakiness).
    These bites look so yummy and cute! :-)

    xo

  • Reply Amy | The Whole Food Rainbow 4 May 2016 at 10:59 AM

    Hey Ashlae! I’m so glad you’re feeling better that’s so great!! Protein is so important, we have to have a balanced diet and it’s so easy to overlook this for sure. My God and look what you’ve achieved on low energy the world should hold onto its… socks? Those balls have my name on them too they look so good! :)

  • Reply Chelsea [Baked Greens] 6 May 2016 at 11:17 AM

    We just made these protein bites and LOVE them. I am a sucker for a good ball (heh..) This year I joked that my New Year’s resolutions were to eat more fat, drink more wine, and make more pasta. Honestly, it’s been glorious. Thanks for this wonderful recipe!

  • Reply Currently Crushing On. | How Sweet It Is 7 May 2016 at 4:45 AM

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  • Reply Tess 7 May 2016 at 7:44 AM

    I made these for a weekend filled with outdoor adventure and couldn’t stop eating them last night, so now I have to whip up a batch before we leave today. I love that I can always count on you, whether it be for my husband’s birthday cake or for a healthy, high energy snack. xx

    p.s. I am dying to see your chocolte pudding recipe!

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  • Reply Jessica 5 July 2016 at 8:09 PM

    I love that you’re exploring pea protein! I gave up on protein powders a while ago, feeling like they were either too GM’d or soy-based. This gives me new hope!

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