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How to choose the right unflavored protein powder for what you’re preparing

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links. That means if you click through to any of those links, and buy something from Amazon, Bariatric Foodie will receive a small commission. Helps keep the lights on and whatnot. By the way, the recipe above is my protein pumpkin bread.)

This post was borne of a conversation I had with a friend recently. In general, I get asked quite a bit about what protein powders are “the best.” (Side effect of having a protein shake recipe book.)

It may surprise you but that’s actually not the easiest question for me to answer straight-up. Usually I answer that question with a question: what are you using the protein powder to do?

That’s an important thing to ask because different protein powders are formulated differently. And while I believe there’s a way to use what you have in your pantry for most any purpose, some powders clearly outshine others, in my book, when it comes to certain uses.

The conversation I had the other day was around unflavored protein powder though. Newbies, this is a good thing to invest in. Because trust me…you are gonna get sick of flavored powders at some point, whether they are savory or sweet. And you still need to get your protein in from a relatively small volume of food. Unflavored protein powder allows you to integrate protein seamlessly into some of your favorite recipes. But choosing the right one for what you’re making can help the process out a lot.

So let’s get into it!

Best unflavored protein for baking: Quest Multipurpose Protein Powder

Now the one thing I cannot do for you in this post is break down the science behind why different powders are better than others. I can only give you my personal experience.

Quest, across the board, is exceptional for baking. I usually recommend 1-2 scoops in any baked recipe (start with one scoop to get a feel for it, then graduate to two) for a protein amp’d final result that doesn’t look, feel or taste like it has protein in it.

Don’t like my pick? Here’s what to look for: In my experience baking with protein, powders that contain whey concentrate (either alone or along with isolate) perform better than isolates alone. Further, powders that contain several different kinds of protein (Quest contains two types of milk-derived protein:Whey Protein Isolate, Micellar Casein) perform even better. Why? I don’t know! My guess is because non-isolate proteins contain some of the sugar and the fat from milk and those two things help the protein behave better.

Overall, the trick to integrating protein in your baked goods, from my experience, is to mix the protein powder together with the rest of your dry ingredients and then go from there. Also, if you want to use more protein powder than the recipe you are following recommends, you might consider reducing protein in other places (you can use a gluten-free flour or reduce the amount of egg whites in your recipe, but that would mean you’d need to replace the moisture…see how this is very puzzle-like???) But adding your protein to your dry ingredients helps you avoid over-mixing. Also, when baking with protein, just make sure you check your baked good regularly (a toothpick test does the trick). Do it at about the half-way point of the bake time in the recipe. Things with added protein sometimes bake faster, depending on the other ingredients used, so this is a good general practice.

For hot protein drinks (and, just keeping it real…gravy!)

Hands down, BariatricPal Protein One is my absolute FAVORITE protein powder to use. I use the unflavored mostly to make hot coffee drinks and sometimes to make protein cocoa when I don’t want it to get too sweet.

What I love about this powder is it is fool-proof.  I have a general method I use to make perfect, clump-free hot protein drinks, but with this protein you really don’t even need to do that. Basically, just don’t add boiling hot water to it and it does perfectly fine. You can add warm water and reheat from there, but be sure to stir, stir, stir!

The best place to get this protein is directly from the BariatricPal store. And lucky for you, you’re a Foodie, so you get to take 15% off with code BARIFOODIE15. #YoureWelcome

Don’t like my pick? Here’s what to look for: Honestly, I have tried and tried and tried to find a commonality between proteins that are easily mixable and those that aren’t. From my naked eye, there isn’t a bunch of rhyme and reason. Maybe one of you is a food scientist and can break it all down for us. What I can say is that how you prepare a protein hot drink matters. Never, ever simply add boiling hot water to protein powder. That will never end well. Instead think of protein powder like tempering an egg. You want to raise the temperature gradually. Once again, here’s my method for doing it. Mastering that method means no matter what you use, you’ll always come out with a great hot protein drink.

Protein puddings and fluff

Protein pudding (like this peppermint mocha protein pudding pictured) is one of my favorite ways to kill two birds with one stone: dessert and protein!

For this particular use, I like BiPro USA unflavored. Of all the unflavored proteins I’ve ever used, this one blends the most seamlessly into puddings and fluffs and things like that. It used to be my favorite for hot drinks too but something happened with the formulation and I just can’t seem to get my hot drinks the way they used to be back in the day. But pudding and fluff both require no cooking and BiPro holds up just great!

Don’t like my pick? Here’s what to look for: Opposite of what I said for baking, with puddings, I find that a whey isolate (or soy isolate…or any isolate) works really well. Again, I can’t tell you scientifically why, but my theory is that the lack of extraneous stuff makes it more blendable into things, especially things that start off as liquids and firm up. A word of caution though. Pudding will really firm up on you with protein so if you like a soft, pill0wy, velvety pudding, I would suggest adding about a half-cup more milk than the box calls for. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! By the way, here’s my battle-tested method for making perfect protein pudding every time.

For regular old protein shakes

Now you may ask yourself, “Why would I use an unflavored protein powder for protein shakes? I use unflavored when I want to achieve very specific flavors. I’ll give you two examples.

For chocolate shakes, I like chocolate protein powder but…I like chocolate Fairlife milk better! But the milk + chocolate protein = sickly sweet! So I use the chocolate Fairlife milk with unflavored protein and it keeps my taste buds happy. I also like to use unflavored in pumpkin pie protein shakes. I use actual protein in them and pumpkin pie spice. And, yes, I can use vanilla but, again, sweetness! So I tend to use unflavored.

For this one, I also find myself turning to BariatricPal Protein One. Partly because I always have it in stock, but also because it blends very well, doesn’t foam up a bunch and, like all my suggestions, you don’t taste the protein at all, nor do you smell it. Also there’s the fact that in addition to having 27g of protein per scoop, it also has 4g of fiber and 28 essential vitamins and minerals. So it’s doing a lot for you all in one conveniently yummy protein shake.

Don’t like my pick? Here’s what to look for: My advice is to order sampler packets before ordering full-sized (in fact, that’s my advice with any protein you buy) because there is one problem that can ruin your whole unflavored protein experience. Monkey butt. Yep…I said it! Monkey butt is what I call that “off” smell some protein products have. And with some powders you can cover it with other aromas. Sometimes it just keeps pushing through no matter what you do. Also order a high-quality protein when you order an unflavored so that if you do have to deal with any levels of monkey butt, at least you are doing so for the best possible ingredients. 😉

Best Protein for Protein Sauces, Jellies, and Jell-O

(Caveat: These are NOT unflavored but they are super lightly flavored which means it’s pretty easy to match flavors in a way that makes the protein unnoticeable!)

So I don’t have a pic of protein Jell-O on the site as of this writing, but I have made it. And the most success I have had thus far has been with ready-to-drink clear proteins, and there are two that I really like.

 

No surprises there. BiPro is one of my favorite protein companies, hands down! Their Protein Waters are easy to use, which is why I have used them in everything from protein hot tea to protein-infused cranberry sauce.

And of course there is Premier Protein bottled clear drinks, which I don’t think taste quite as good alone as BiPro, but have two distinct advantages for your protein Jell-O needs: first, they are more affordable. Second, they are more locally accessible! (Many big-box stores carry these.) When it comes to Jell-O keep in mind that the mix has flavoring as well so it’s easier to mask any flavors you aren’t crazy about. I just want to make it clear, though. I don’t hate the Premier Clear protein. It’s just not my absolute fave.

Don’t like my pick? Here’s what to look for: So this is one where you’ll really have to test things out on your own. But the good news is that for most bottled clear protein drinks you can actually purchase one bottle to do a test run. What you’re looking for is a protein that does not break down when heated. You should be able to pour a good protein water into a pot and boil it no problem. It may bubble up on you a little and it will leave a slight residue on your pot. But otherwise, it should be fine. (And, no, you aren’t destroying the protein when you do this.) So embrace your inner Foodie and play with your protein!

Best All-Around Unflavored

So I know what you’re thinking at this point, “Nikki? Do you think I’m made of money? I can’t buy all these different proteins!”

I get it. So while I have my absolute favorite protein powders for the situations listed above, I actually and genuinely believe that the BariatricPal Protein One could serve you well in all situations. (No, they are not paying me to say that. I just like the stuff!) So if you can only invest in one unflavored protein, I would go for that one. And I’d be remiss not to remind you to use code BARIFOODIE15 for 15% off. (Btw, I am NOT being paid to say that. If you check out my review of the protein, I have been fan-girling since the moment I tried the stuff.)

That said…protein companies…if your unflavored is not listed it’s because I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. Holla at me, and let’s fix that! (Check out the “Contact Me” page to learn how.)

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