Runners know that refueling after a workout is critical for muscle recovery. When you either have to quickly run off to the next activity on your schedule or don’t have the appetite to eat a protein-packed meal, a protein bar can be a great alternative.
In a perfect world, eating whole, unprocessed foods would be ideal, but there are plenty of times when you might be too busy to cook up a salmon fillet or prepare and eat a Greek yogurt parfait with nuts, seeds, and fresh berries.
Protein bars are a convenient way to get a satiating snack on the go.
But, what are the best tasting protein bars? Which protein bars will leave your taste buds and stomach happy without worrying about needing to choke down something chalky or with a bad aftertaste or something that leaves you bloated? Keep reading to find out!
Picking the Best Tasting Protein Bars
There are tons of protein bars on the market these days, including vegan protein bars, keto protein bars, natural protein bars, or low-sugar protein bars.
Unfortunately, many of the best tasting protein bars are packed with junk ingredients and fillers such as high-fructose corn syrup or other sugars, artificial sweeteners including sugar alcohols and sucralose, hydrogenated oils, and processed corn or soy.
Even though these protein bars may taste good, they are not healthy and may cause digestive distress (in the case of artificial sweeteners) or leave your energy levels spiking and then crashing.
In other words, with many popular protein bars, you’re buying an expensive and glorified candy bar with a little bit of processed protein isolate in it.
What rank as the best tasting protein bars is a rather subjective evaluation, but we took it upon ourselves to choose the yummiest and healthy protein bars. We reviewed and tasted heaps of healthy options – and then chose the best tasting protein bars from the lot.
We tried to choose relatively clean protein bars to ensure you’re refueling your body with quality ingredients and nutrients.
Although your palate may differ in terms of specific flavor choices, we tested all the flavors and have chosen to recommend each of our picks of the best tasting protein bars based on the overall taste and experience of the variety of flavors available for each bar.
The 7 Best Tasting Protein Bars for Runners
#7: Best Tasting Budget Protein Bars: Nature Valley Chewy Protein Granola Bars
Many of the healthiest and best tasting protein bars can be quite expensive, but there are a handful of inexpensive protein bars that taste great and are fairly nutritious available out there. Unfortunately, most cheap protein bars do contain inferior ingredients and fillers, so just be sure to look at the ingredients label before you make a purchase.
Our pick for the best tasting budget protein bars are the Nature Valley Chewy Protein Granola Bars. Nature Valley are well known for their various granola bars and oat-based products, and their newer Protein Chewy Bars taste virtually the same as the delicious chewy granola bars you had growing up but you now can get 10 grams of protein in each snack-sized bar.
The Nature Valley Chewy Protein Bars cost well under $1.00 per bar and are made with hearty whole grain oats and no artificial flavors, artificial colors, or high fructose corn syrup.
The variety pack box comes with three mouthwatering flavors: Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate, Salted Caramel Nut, and Peanut, Almond & Dark Chocolate. They are chewy, toothsome, and the taste will bring back the nostalgia of enjoying classic, sweet granola bars.
Each protein bar contains 190-200 calories, 10 grams of protein, 7 grams of gut-healthy fiber, and 6-7 grams of sugar.
#6: Best Tasting Energy Bar: KIND Energy Bars
KIND bars are popular whole-ingredient, nutritious, low-sugar protein bars, and KIND also has a line of energy bars that provide a good balance of healthy fats, energy-producing carbohydrates, and muscle-building protein.
The KIND Energy bars are probably your best bet for use before or during a long run or workout, as they are specifically designed to provide immediate, but lasting, energy due to the 16-17 grams of whole grains from oats, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and millet.
They are also lower on fat and protein compared to their nut-based bars, which makes them lighter and easier to digest – though, with 10 grams of protein in each energy bar, you’re still giving your muscles plenty of the key amino acids they crave.
There are three flavors of KIND Energy Bars – Chocolate Chunk, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Peanut Butter. Each contains about 230 calories, 7 grams of fat from nuts and seeds, 34 grams of carbohydrates from whole grains and natural sweeteners, 5 grams of fiber, and 10 grams of protein.
These bars are our pick for the best tasting energy bars because they are sweet, but not cloying. They actually contain 35% less sugar than the average energy bar and have plenty of chocolatey and nutty flavor. KIND Bars are also gluten free, non-GMO, and kosher.
#5: Best Tasting Low Sugar Energy Bar: No Cow High Protein Bars
If you’re vegan, gluten-free, and keto, or perhaps trying to limit your sugar intake, it can be hard to find a healthy, high-quality protein bar that meets your dietary restrictions, let alone one that tastes good.
Our pick for the best tasting gluten-free and vegan protein bars are the No Cow High Protein Snacks. These soft, chewy, chocolate-dipped protein bars are amongst the best tasting protein bars we tried, and they check a lot of the boxes for common dietary restrictions and common allergens.
No Cow protein bars contain an impressive 21 grams of plant-based, vegan protein per bar. The whey- and lactose-free protein comes from brown rice and peas, which together provide a complete amino acid profile.
The bars are certified gluten free, GMO-free (Non-GMO Project verified), soy free, refined sugar free, and kosher. They only contain one gram of sugar because they are sweetened with stevia, monk fruit, and erythritol.
Note that erythritol can upset some people’s stomachs, but this bar is a good option for those on a low-sugar diet.
Tasty flavors include Birthday Cake, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, S’mores, and Cookies and Cream.
#4: Best Tasting Clean Protein Bar: RXBAR Protein Bars
Most nutritionists will report that the healthiest protein bars are the ones that contain the fewest number of ingredients, particularly when those ingredients are whole, natural foods that are easy to identify.
Essentially, protein bars with a smiple label have real ingredients and no added fillers, chemicals, or processed ingredients.
Our pick for the best tasting clean protein bar is the RXBAR Protein Bar. This popular healthy protein bar is made with egg whites for protein, dates to bind the bar together, and nuts for texture and healthy, satiating fats.
There are tons of flavors of RXBARS. Some of the best tasting protein bar flavors they offer include Peanut Butter, Chocolate Sea Salt, Blueberry, Chocolate Chip, Banana Chocolate Walnut, Coconut Chocolate, Mint Chocolate, and Maple Sea Salt.
The bars are gluten free, contain about 210 calories, 6-7 grams of fat, 12 grams of protein (mostly from egg whites and nuts), 4-5 grams of fiber, and natural sugars from dates.
Not only are all of the flavors very convincing, but the texture of the bar is pleasant and they are completely transparent in their labeling, showing exactly what’s in the bar and how much. Many of the RXBARS contain only 4-5 ingredients.
You’ll get a healthy pre-workout or post-run snack without putting a bunch of junk into your body.
#3: Best Tasting Allergen-Free Protein Bar: 88 Acres Vegan Pumpkin Seed Protein Bar
Options for vegan protein bars are extensive, but it’s really hard to find a tasty nut-free protein bar. The good news is that not only are 88 Acres Plant-Based Seed Protein Bars nut free, vegan, and gluten free, they are absolutely delicious.
These organic, well-balanced vegan protein bars are packed with 12 grams of sesame seed protein, healthy fats, real food ingredients, a short ingredients list, and are actually free from the top eight allergens! No nuts, soy, wheat or gluten, eggs, dairy, peanuts, shellfish, or fish.
They are packed with superfoods, micronutrients, and antioxidants, and you can choose from tasty flavors like Banana Bread and Dark Chocolate Brownie. They have a pleasant, chewy texture and nice moistness that feels decadent like a brownie.
#2: Best Tasting Nut Butter Protein Bar: Honey Stinger Protein Cracker Bar
One of the most delicious protein bars we tried was the Honey Stinger Protein Cracker Bar. Available in Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate and Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate flavor options, these unique, healthy protein bars will leave you feeling like you indulged in a treat.
Besides the delectable chocolate peanut butter flavor of the Honey Stinger Protein Cracker Bars, we loved the balance of sweet and salty imparted by the cracker layer, as well as the juxtaposition of the crispy cracker layer and the chewy nougat texture of the protein and peanut butter center layer.
Not to mention how smooth and decadent the chocolate coating is.
Because these tasty protein bars are made with real nut butter and sweetened with real honey, they are higher in fat and calories. Each very filling protein bar contains 290 calories, 10 grams of plant-based protein (mostly pea protein and peanut protein), and 16 grams of healthy fats.
The protein bars are USDA Certified Organic, non-GMO, and Kosher. They are not gluten-free.
#1: Best Tasting Vegan Protein Bars: ALOHA Organic Plant-Based Protein Bars
If you’re looking for a healthy, delicious, vegan protein bar, you will be blown away by the ALOHA Organic Plant-Based Protein Bars.
Each bar provides 25-30 grams of energy-boosting carbohydrates, of which 10 grams are fiber and only 5 grams are from natural sugar. The high fiber content helps keep you full for several hours and can aid in digestion and bowel regularity.
You’ll also get 15 grams of protein to fuel and repair your muscles, 12 grams of healthy fats from nuts to provide sustained energy, and about 220-250 calories.
What we love about ALOHA Protein Bars is that, unlike most energy bars, they are low in sugar, and unlike most protein bars, they are completely free from artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and stevia, which are notorious for causing stomach distress.
The protein bars contain 100% natural ingredients, and are vegan, non-GMO, organic, kosher, gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free.
They come in flavors that taste as decadent as they sound, including Caramel Sea Salt, Chocolate Mint, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, and Chocolate Fudge Brownie.
Why not try to make your own?
Not convinced by our list of the best tasting protein bars? If you’re more of the DIY type and want to make even healthier protein bars, check out our recipes for healthy, homemade protein bars here.