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When you are looking for ways to add protein to your diet to hit your protein intake goals, you might wonder if you can cook or bake with protein powder.
Can you cook with protein powder? Yes, you can cook or bake with protein powder to create a higher protein version of many of your favorite recipes, including soups, stews, oatmeals, cookies, cakes, muffins, and more. Protein powder can replace some or all of the flour in recipes and be used as a coating or thickener, adding 5-20+ grams of protein.
It’s important to know when and how to use protein powder in a recipe to get the best-tasting results and avoid wasting protein powder in recipes that don’t turn out.
In this article, you will learn:
- Pros of cooking with protein powder
- Cons of cooking with protein powder
- Guidelines for cooking with protein powder
- The best types of protein powder to cook with, depending on the recipe
I’ll also share some of my favorite recipes that use protein powder and brands of protein powder that are best for cooking.
Does Cooking Destroy or Denature Protein Powder?
Cooking or baking with protein powder does not destroy it. Indeed, higher temperatures (greater than 140-160 degrees F) can denature protein powder. However, denaturation is a normal and natural process for all types of protein that simply changes the texture of the protein and not the nutrition or absorption.
Denaturation is the process of changing the structure of a protein molecule by adding heat or acidic or alkaline substances. It is the same process that changes a clear, liquid raw egg white to a white, firm cooked egg white when it is cooked.
So, while cooking or baking with protein powder can denature the protein and therefore change its texture, it in no way alters the nutritional value of the protein.
As long as the protein powder is not exposed to extremely high temperatures for extended periods of time (beyond normal baking or cooking times), you won’t have any problems.
Pros of Cooking With Protein Powder
Increased Protein Intake
Cooking with protein powder is a great way to add more protein to existing recipes. Many of my clients, especially women, find it hard to meet their protein targets without supplementing whole food sources of protein with protein powder.
- Related Article: Learn all the ways you can mix protein powder.
Protein is a very filling macronutrient because it takes more time and energy to digest. The sense of satiety from eating a meal or snack high in protein will leave you feeling full for longer than a meal or snack that has the same number of calories but is low in protein.
Feeling full for longer is very helpful for anyone with weight loss goals to help them stay within their calorie target for the day.
Decreased Carb Intake
When my clients first start tracking their macros and calories, they can be surprised to find out that some of their favorite snack foods like muffins or cookies are often high in carbohydrates but low in protein.
Replacing some of the flour in baked goods with protein powder will increase the protein content and decrease the carb content at the same time.
Cooking or baking with protein powder is a great way to include protein powder in your diet so you don’t get bored with drinking several protein shakes a day.
There are a ton of great recipes online you can follow to incorporate protein powder in virtually all of your favorite dishes, some of which I’ll share below.
- Related Article: Does Protein Powder Have Carbs?
Should you take whey protein? If so, when and how much?
Cons of Cooking With Protein Powder
Unpleasant Texture and Taste
Using too much protein powder or the wrong type of protein powder when cooking or baking can lead to an unpleasant texture and taste in the final result. For example, some types of protein do not dissolve well and leave a grainy, lumpy texture in soups or stews.
For baked goods, some protein powders create a very dry and rubbery or crumbly result, especially if no adjustments are made to the baking temperature and ratio of liquids.
Feeling Too Full
Because protein is a satiating macronutrient, adding it to recipes can make those foods too filling for people to reach their daily calorie target.
Individuals with this problem would benefit from drinking more liquid calories and focusing on calorie-dense sources of food like these cheap carbs for bulking that are still good for you.
Limited Carb Intake
For clients with mass gain and/or athletic performance goals, substituting protein powder for flour in a recipe can make it harder for these individuals to get enough grams of carbohydrates to meet their targets.
These clients are better off continuing to ingest refined carbohydrates, including sugar, in their diets.
Guidelines for Cooking With Protein Powder
1. Follow the Recipe
When you come across a recipe that already has a recommended amount and type of protein powder, it is best to follow the instructions exactly. The recipe author will have tested the recipe using the type and amount of protein noted.
Unless the recipe includes notes about appropriate substitutions, your results will not be guaranteed if you use a different type or amount of protein powder than the one specified.
If the type of protein powder is NOT specified, you can check out my next section about the various types of protein powder and what works best in each type of recipe.
2. Check Substitutions
If you do not have the type of protein powder specified in the recipe, the type is not mentioned, or you want to experiment with adding protein powder to your own recipe, check out this handy chart to see what substitutions will and won’t work.
Each type of protein powder behaves in a particular way when it is cooked or baked, and some are more similar than others. For example, whey isolate powder can be quite dry and requires additional liquid than other types of protein powder.
Egg white protein powder also requires additional liquid. But be warned that adding egg white protein powder and liquid is essentially the same as adding liquid egg whites to a recipe, which can result in a texture that is too wet or too “eggy,” like a flan.
Plant-based protein powders such as pea, soy, brown rice, or hemp tend to behave similarly and can be substituted for each other. Keep in mind, however, that some of these protein powders can have a strong flavor that may or may not work for the result you want.
3. Add Liquid As Needed
If you are following a published recipe, use the amount of liquid(s) stated. If you are adding your own protein powder, I recommend no more than ¼ cup of protein powder to be substituted for ¼ cup of flour for each cup of flour in the recipe.
Each ¼ cup of protein powder is usually ~1 scoop, although scoop sizes can vary from brand to brand. Measure carefully.
For every 2 scoops of protein powder added, include an additional ¼ cup of liquid (water and/or milk). Keep existing measurements the same for liquids already in the recipe, and add this ¼ cup on top.
One exception is if you are using protein powder mixed with herbs and spices to create a coating for a “breading” effect, such as on fish sticks or chicken fingers. Do not add liquid for this purpose.
4. Keep the Fats
Often, attempts to make healthier baked goods also aim to reduce the fat content. With the exception of naturally low-fat items like angel food cake, it is important to keep a fat source such as oil, butter, or nut butter in the recipe to help keep the final product moist.
Protein powders work exceptionally well in baked goods that also contain other sources of moisture such as grated carrots or zucchini, applesauce, or pureed sweet potato. The fiber in these foods helps provide needed structure in the final product while keeping the food moist.
5. Lower the Temperature or Reduce Cooking Times
When it comes to baking, some protein powders can make the final product too dry, requiring shorter bake times and/or lower baking temperatures.
I provide guidelines for reduced bake times and temperatures for certain types of protein powders below.
It is also important to avoid boiling any type of protein powder. Mix it with a cool liquid first, shaking or stirring until smooth, and add it to the recipe at the end.
Which Protein Powder Is Best For Cooking?
Whey isolate dissolves readily, which makes it good for adding to soups and stews. As I mentioned earlier, mix with cool water first to dissolve and add it after the last stage of cooking. Do not boil whey isolate protein powder as it will form gummy lumps.
If you are adapting your own recipe, you may need to lower the temperature by 10-25 degrees F, and expect the baking time to be 3-5 minutes shorter than usual.
Casein is not as drying as whey isolate. However, on its own, I find that it lends a thick texture.
I really don’t like it when I am trying to make light and fluffy baked goods like vanilla cake. It is a better choice for chewy brownies and dense cakes or cookies.
My absolute favorite protein powder for baking is an isolate-casein blend, and I particularly look for xanthan gum as an added thickening agent and emulsifier.
This is especially helpful when the recipe is gluten-free or when the protein powder is reducing the amount of gluten-containing wheat flour that would normally be in the recipe.
My go-to brand for baking is Quest Nutrition. Depending on the recipe, I most commonly use Vanilla Milkshake, Chocolate Milkshake, or Unflavored multi-purpose protein powder. These protein powders are my top choice for making fluffy protein pancakes.
I don’t like using brown rice protein powder when I am cooking because I find it too thick and lumpy, but it is my favorite option for making no-bake protein balls and bars and energy bites.
I like stirring a little bit of soy protein powder into my stir fries. I have also used it to mix with spices to create a coating for pieces of fish, chicken, or shrimp that I can either pan fry or cook in my AirFryer.
Soy protein is also fine to use in moist baked goods such as loaves, brownies, cakes, and cookies.
Instead, I prefer to stir it into soups or other rich stews or homemade chilis to increase the protein content.
Hemp protein has a nutty flavor. I like to use it in baked goods that contain nuts, like brownies, banana bread, or these Hemp Cinnamon Muffins, but the flavor is too strong for a white cake like vanilla or angel food cake.
I also like hemp in a rich & hearty homemade chili. Similar to pea protein, it is a great plant-based way to increase your protein intake.
Egg white protein powder is great for mixing with spices and using as a breading or coating since it sticks easily to meat and fish.
It’s also perfect for incorporating into stir fries or rice for a healthy, high-protein version of fried rice.
How To Cook With Protein Powder (6 Ways)
Breading & Coating
As I’ve mentioned, protein powder can be used instead of flour to mix with spices and coat pieces of chicken or fish to create a high-protein “breading.”
I find it easiest to mix the protein powder and spices in a resealable bag. Then I add the pieces of meat or fish and shake well to coat them evenly with the mixture before baking or frying as per usual.
After my oatmeal is cooked, I like to stir in up to one scoop of protein powder for a high-protein breakfast. I add a few tbsp of my favorite plant-based milk (unsweetened almond milk) to help stir it in and keep the texture from getting too thick or gummy.
My favorite choice for protein powder and oatmeal is SunWarrior Classic Brown Rice Protein, which I linked above. If you like a nutty flavor for your oatmeal, any plant-based protein powder will work.
You can also use any type of whey protein, but I find it best to stir it with the liquid first before stirring it into the oatmeal to avoid any unpleasant lumps.
- Related Artice: Check out our 9 best high-protein bodybuilding oatmeal recipes for inspiration.
Protein powder can be used to replace up to ¼ cup for each cup of flour in a standard pancake recipe, or you can follow a protein pancake recipe like this one.
I get the best results for fluffy pancakes using the Quest Nutrition isolate-casein blend I linked above.
Soups & Stews
I prefer to use unflavored protein powders for adding to soups & stews (including chili). First, mix the protein powder with a little bit of water to dissolve and remove lumps, then stir it into the finished soup or stew and heat through.
Pea protein powder is naturally great in split pea soup, and unflavored whey protein powder works in any soup or stew.
I find hemp protein powder to be too strongly flavored for anything other than a hearty chili.
Brown rice protein powder is too thick for clear, broth-based soups but can work in thicker blended (pureed) soups like butternut squash soup, thick chowders, or chili.
I like to sprinkle a few spoonfuls of protein powder into my stir fries when I add the stir fry sauces and seasonings. It works well as a thickener for the sauce instead of flour.
Egg white protein powder will essentially reconstitute as liquid egg whites, which mimics the eggs in traditional fried rice dishes.
As mentioned, one of the easiest ways to start using protein powder in baked goods is to replace up to ¼ cup of each cup of flour in the recipe with ¼ cup (usually ~1 scoop) of protein powder instead.
This means 1 cup of flour = ¼ cup protein powder + ¾ cup of flour.
Consider adding ¼ cup of additional liquid (milk or water) for every 2 scoops of protein powder added (this means 2 tbsp of liquid per 1 scoop), especially when it comes to cakes, muffins, or loaves.
Adding more liquid to cookies may not be necessary – you could end up with cookie dough that is too runny and fails to hold its shape.
I have had the best success with adding protein powder to drop cookie recipes (where the dough gets dropped off the spoon into a blob on the pan that spreads as it bakes) instead of rolled cookies (where the dough is rolled out with a rolling pin and cut into shapes).
Below are some of my favorite protein powder recipes for various baked goods:
- Brownies: Healthy Protein Brownies
- Cakes: Protein Red Velvet Cake
- Cookies: Gluten-free Double Chocolate Protein Cookies
- Loaves: Cinnamon Swirl Protein Bread
- Muffins: Moist Pumpkin Protein Blender Muffins
Protein powder does not work well in a traditional pastry crust and I do not recommend it for that purpose.
However, for a “cookie” crust, a few tbsp of protein powder can replace a few tbsp of cookie crumbs. I would use a cinnamon protein powder to replace a few tbsp of graham cracker crumbs or a chocolate protein powder to replace a few tbsp of chocolate cookie crumbs.
Any type of whey or plant-based protein powder would work for this purpose. I do not recommend egg white protein powder for this.
Protein powder can also be added to pie fillings such as fruit pies (e.g. peach, apple, blueberry, cherry) or pumpkin pie. I recommend 1 scoop of vanilla or cinnamon brown rice or whey protein powder stirred into the filling before baking for a standard 8” or 9” pie.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Protein Powder Be Used For Baking?
Yes, protein powder can be used for baking. You can adapt your favorite recipes by replacing up to ¼ cup of each cup of regular flour with ¼ cup (approx. 1 scoop) of protein powder instead. You may need to add liquid.
Can You Microwave Protein Powder?
Yes, you can microwave protein powder when it is part of a batter such as for a protein mug cake. I do not recommend microwaving pure whey isolate as it creates a dry, rubbery final product. Try casein or a casein-isolate blend instead, or opt for a plant-based protein powder such as brown rice protein.
Can You Replace Flour With Protein Powder?
Yes, you can replace flour with protein powder in many recipes. Up to ¼ cup of each cup of flour can be replaced with an equal amount of protein powder, where ¼ cup is approximately 1 scoop of protein powder. This means 1 cup flour = ¾ cup flour + ¼ cup protein powder.
Can You Put Protein Powder In Soup?
Yes, you can put protein powder in soup. Use an unflavored protein powder and first mix it with cool water until fully dissolved (1 scoop of powder to 1 cup of water for every 4 servings of soup). Stir this mixture into the soup after it has fully cooked and allow it to heat through without boiling.
Can You Add Protein Powder To Bread Dough?
Yes, you can add protein powder to bread dough. I recommend using pea, hemp or brown rice protein powder for bread dough and not any type of whey or egg protein powder. Substitute a maximum of ¼ cup of each cup of flour for protein powder.
Can You Add Protein Powder To Brownie Mix?
Yes, you can add protein powder to brownie mix. I recommend using chocolate, peanut butter or caramel flavored powder, and ideally a casein-isolate blend. You can add 2 scoops of protein powder (approx. ½ cup or 60g) for every 12 brownies the mix makes. Add ¼ cup liquid (milk or water) for every 2 scoops.
Can You Add Protein Powder To Muffin Mix?
Yes, you can add protein powder to a muffin mix. I recommend a sweetened powder in a flavor that matches the muffins (vanilla, chocolate, or cinnamon are my most common). You can add 2 scoops of powder (approx. ½ cup or 60g) for every 12 muffins the mix makes. Add ¼ cup liquid (milk or water) for every 2 scoops.
Additional Ways to Cook With Protein Powder
If you’re looking for more ways to add protein powder to different types of foods, check out our own protein powder recipes:
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About The Author
Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement. Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete. She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing.