Vegan Protein Bars Buyer’s GuideOur uncompromising nutritionist uncovers the best plant-based bars for a variety of needs
Trying to find a good vegan nutrition bar and feeling a little overwhelmed by all the choices? Whether you’re looking high protein, low sugar, low carb, gluten-free or organic–or you just want something that’s healthy and tastes great–you’ve come to the right place!
I went deep into the vast land of plant-based protein bars, tasting and studiously reviewing 14 of the most poplar ones–all so you don’t have to!
In addition to finding some great bars you’ll love, a lot of what I found is what I call Fake Food: highly processed bars with enough artificial ingredients to cause early onset Alzheimer’s if you ate them regularly. I’ll review those as well so you know to avoid them.
Remember: Just because it’s vegan and planted based doesn’t make it healthy.
But don’t worry, I’ve got you!
Why Choose Plant Based Protein Bars?
Thousands of years ago, our ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers. They foraged the fields and forests, garnering a healthy, diverse diet for themselves. Historians tell us they succeeded, but only through a lot of hard work and a great deal of effort.
Today, finding products to fulfill our desires for a healthy, diverse diet can seem just as difficult. Finding items that really are good for us is no easy task.
From heavy metals in our herbs and spices to protein bars with more sugar than healthy ingredients, the aisles of the grocery store can be a minefield of false hopes.
Even so-called “health food stores” have a lot of unhealthy options. Some of the ingredients are frankly shocking.
One of the newest products to enter the field of healthy eating is the plant-based protein bar.
Plant-based, or plant-heavy, diets are becoming quite popular. With their popularity has come the inevitable market for bars. Bars for snacking. Bars for breakfast. Bars to replace meals for those on the go.
They’re handy. They’re usually pretty tasty. But they aren’t always as they appear.
Today, we’ll look at 14 vegan protein bars. I personally got hands-on, including taste testing them all in a row (you don’t want to be me!). I’ll rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 and consider some pros and cons for each. We’ll also dive into what makes them good, bad, or just mediocre (and occasionally even ugly!).
By the time we’re done, you won’t have to hunt to gather the plant protein bar that’s right for you. I’ll do the hard work and identify the best (and the worst) for you.
What to Look For in a Vegan Protein Bar
Before we begin our reviews and ratings of plant protein bars, we need to determine what makes a good plant protein bar good. These are the most important factors when considering the quality of any given plant protein bar.
Does It Contain Dairy?
Plant-based and vegan are not always the same when it comes to labels. And protein bar manufacturers love to use protein-heavy dairy products like whey and casein in their bars. Just because the main protein source is plant-based does not mean that all the protein is.
How Much Sugar?
Some plant-based protein bars contain more sugar than your average Krispy Kreme donut. The sugar to serving ratio can be so high that it can mess with your blood sugar levels and even cause weight gain.
Even natural sugars and sweeteners like maple syrup, agave nectar, and dates can lead to unhealthy spikes. You want a bar with 10 grams of sugar or less. And you don’t want sweeteners to be listed among the first three ingredients. Save those spaces for healthy proteins and fibers.
Did You Check the Oil?
Added oils, even healthier ones like canola, aren’t sources of healthy fats the way almonds, coconut, flax, hemp, chia, and other whole nuts and seeds are. They lack the benefits of the healthy vitamins, minerals, and fiber that these whole food fats contain.
Is It a Superfood Superhero?
Goji berries. Chia seeds. Cacao. Mulberries. Spirulina. Baobab. These superfoods can make a plant protein bar go from a snack to a nutritious superhero. And they taste yummy, too.
How Much Protein and Where Does It Come From?
Unless you’re an athlete training for the next marathon, the current recommendations for daily protein intake are 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. That means a 140-pound individual with an average activity level only needs around 50 grams per day.
Most nutritionists suggest choosing protein bars with 8 to 10 grams of protein for snacking, and 15 to 20 grams if replacing a meal.
And you’ll want to make sure that the protein in your plant protein bar has a complete amino acid profile. The best sources include:
- Pea protein
- Chia seeds
- Sprouted brown rice
- Hemp seeds
Do note that pea protein and chia seeds contain lectins, which are unhealthy for some individuals. Also, you’ll want to avoid heavily processed soy proteins, by the way, as they are a source of GMOs.
How Much Fiber and Where Does It Come From?
You want a bar that has a carb-to-fiber ratio of 4 to 1 or less. Take the total number of carbs on the nutrition label and divide it by the amount of fiber listed. If the total is 4 or under, you’ve found a good bar.
Let’s say a plant protein bar has 6 grams of fiber and the total number of carbs is 20. That’s a ratio of 3.33 to 1, placing that bar squarely in the “good” zone. Maybe …
The “maybe” comes when you consider the source of that fiber. Many bar manufacturers use fake filler fiber sources like tapioca. These fake fibers don’t lower your blood sugar the way natural, healthy fibers. Equally scary is that they are sometimes sourced from China.
The FDA is cracking down on these fake fibers, as they aren’t good for your body. Quest Bars was sued for making false claims about their health benefits, and removed them. But lots of other manufacturers still use them. They come with different labels, including:
- Tapioca fiber
Another common fiber source to look out for is chicory root fiber, or inulin. While considered safe and healthy in moderate amounts, too much can cause gastric issues like bloating, gas, and stomach upset.
What are the macros ratios?
A vegan bar can have all the goodness in the world, but if it hasn’t got that goodness in the right amounts, and the right ratios, it won’t do you much good.
Avoid bars with sugar sources listed among the first three ingredients. You want your plant-based proteins and fibers right up there at the top. Then, your healthy fats. Last, your sweeteners and flavorings, like cinnamon or vanilla.
Best Vegan Protein Bars for 2023
Now that we know what to look for in a good vegan nutrition bar, let’s dive into the best (and worst!) for 2023, including options for low carb, low sugar, high protein, low calories and more.
Best all-around healthy vegan bar
Here we have a near-perfect protein bar. ALOHA Plant-Based Protein Bars appear to have it all, too. Certified organic. Gluten-free. Soy-free. Low-sugar. Great carb-to-fiber ratios.
Raving customer reviews for taste and value. A wide variety of flavors to choose from, and again, a few that aren’t your run-of-the-mill recipes. It’s almost too good to be true, right? Not this time. Aloha bars really are great!
Read the full Aloha Bars review.
Honorable mention for best all-around plant based bar
Another bar that, on the surface, seems nearly perfect. No soy. GMO-free. No fake filler fiber. Decent sugar content. Organic. Gluten-free. Kosher. Vegan. Thirteen yummy varieties, with a few flavor combinations you won’t find in other bars.
A deeper dive, however, reveals nutritional labels with carb-to-fiber ratios of 12 to 1, 17 to 1, and even 18 to 1. Even if you aren’t trying to reach the keto ideal of 4 to 1, and are content with the standard 5 to 1 ratio, these bars are still way off the mark.
Read our in-depth GoMacro Bars review to learn more.
Honorable mention for healthiest vegan protein bar
The Zing Protein Bar line has one of the most, if not the most, varieties of all the vegan bars we’ve reviewed. One has to be careful, though, when selecting your Zing snack bar. Not all Zing Protein Bars are plant-based/vegan. Some contain whey, a dairy protein.
Most of the plant-based bars have decent carb-to-fiber ratios, but again, not all. Read your labels.
Read our in-depth Zing Bars review to learn more.
Best low carb, low sugar vegan bar
The Dang line of vegan protein bars is the first that we believe deserves a rating higher than 3 out of 5. They offer six flavor varieties and the sugar quantities are very low. Dang bars are full of nuts and seeds and other good, wholesome natural ingredients. And their carb-to-fiber ratio is superb.
Until you find out that the fiber is once again inulin and that it’s the second ingredient on all the nutrition labels, right after almonds. If you are one of those for whom inulin causes gastric issues, Dang bars are not for you.
Read our in-depth Dang Bars review to learn more.
Think Protein Bars
Best low calorie vegan bar
We’re not in love with Think bars, but if a low calorie vegan bar is what you need. here you go! They have just 150 calories.
There are three varieties of plant-based protein bars offered in the think! line. They all have 5 grams of sugar and 13 grams of protein. They are all soy-free.
While think! advertises that they use “no artificial sweeteners” in their protein bars, they sure do use natural ones. And they put a lot of them in each bar. The second-most-important ingredient is a sweetener. Each bar contains maltitol syrup, sugar, and stevia.
Then there’s the carb-to-fiber ratio. For two of the three flavors, their carb-to-fiber ratio is 9 to 1. The other? A whopping 24 to 1.
Read our in-depth Think Bars review to learn more.
No Cow Bars
*Best high protein vegan bar*
Here’s another bar that seems to be nearly perfect. Vegan. Soy-free. Gluten-free. Super low sugar content. Right on the nose carb-to-fiber ratios. We whopping 20 to 22 grams of protein, perfect for a meal replacement bar. Healthy sources of protein.
And yet, despite being the best high protein vegan bar…
They claim this bar to be non-GMO verified, and then list soluble corn fiber as their fiber source. There’s nothing really wrong with corn fiber. It’s certainly better than IMO or inulin. Until you remember that more than 85% of the world’s corn supply is GMO. Note, the world’s supply, not just the US.
And then there’s the oil. Every bar has at least one type of unhealthy added oil. So much for perfection.
These bars also have an insane amount of fiber at 17g. Looking for a stomach ache? Look no further than No Cow bars.
Read our in-depth No Cow Bars review to learn more.
The Rise Plant-based Protein Bars seem to have it all:
- Only 5 ingredients
- Healthy sources of protein and fiber
- Some organic ingredients
- A nut-free variety
But then you look more closely at the nutrition labels and see:
- Sweetener is 3rd on the list
- 12 to 14 grams of sugar
- A carb-to-fiber ratio of 6 to 1, or 11 to 1, or worst yet, 23 to 1
We gave it a rating of 3 since it does have healthy proteins and fiber. We just couldn’t go higher because of the carb-to-fiber ratios.
Read our in-depth Rise Bars review to learn more.
Orgain Protein Bars
Orgain’s plant-based protein snack bars live up to their name in the “snack” department. They are specifically made for snacking purposes, with only 150 calories and 10 grams of protein. Unfortunately, not all small packages contain good things.
Orgain bars contain that fake fiber, IMO. And they have carb-to-fiber ratios of 8 to 1 to 19 to 1. Their sugar content is typically right around half their quantity of protein too.
While they have six varieties to choose from and all get rave reviews for how they taste, whether or not they are a good choice for a healthy snack depends on how you define “healthy.”
Read our in-depth Orgain Protein Bars review to learn more.
good! Snacks Bars
good! Snacks Protein Bars have some good stuff going for them. They each contain 15 grams of non-soy, plant-based protein (fava beans and brown rice), and you have six varieties to choose from. Their carb-to-fiber ratio is around 2 to 1. And they are all very tasty.
And that’s where the good stuff ends. The fiber good! uses is our non-friend, tapioca starch. The sugar quantities are equivalent to two-thirds the amount of protein in them.
They may be good tasting. Good for you? We’ll let you decide.
If you like candy bars and other types of fake food, this could be the bar for you. But if you care about being healthy, you may want to move on.
Read our in-depth Good! Snacks Bars review to learn more.
Popular Vegan Bars We Don’t Love
We may get some hate mail for this, but we think these popular plant based bars are overrated due to cheap artificial ingredients or excess sugar. They have too much sugar for most. We can’t recommend the to most people. Yes, even RXBars. They’re good for athletes, though!
Misfits Vegan Bars
Misfits Vegan Protein Bars, on the surface, look like a great choice. They are plant-based, contain less than 1 gram of sugar, and have around 15 grams of protein each. They also have 12 flavors to choose from.
What brings their ratings way down, however, is that every one of those wonderful tasting varieties contains soy protein.
Along with soy, they also all contain tapioca starch. Misfits Vegan Protein Bars may be listed as a healthy snack, but they just aren’t as healthy as they’re made to appear.
Read our in-depth Misfits Protein Bars review to learn more.
Vega Protein Bar
Vega only offers two varieties of their “post-workout” Sport Protein Bars. And maybe it’s a good thing they do.
Both varieties have carb-to-fiber ratios of 8 or 9 to 1 and contain nearly two-thirds the amount of sugar as they do protein, weighing in at a hefty 14 grams (almost as much as a snickers!)
We’re not sure what type of athlete would want to consume that much sugar, albeit natural sugars, after every workout.
Read our in-depth Vega Bars review to learn more.
These bars have been touted as a healthy option, and in fact I was once enamored myself. But the truth is, they’re not as kind as you think. Call me unkind, but I’d go so far as to say that they’re only marginally healthier than a candy bar.
Are you a fan of RXBars, thinking you’re making a healthy choice for a snack or meal replacement? Think again. Despite all the crazy Instagram fans, these so-called “healthy” bars are hiding a dirty little secret, and it’s time for the truth to be exposed.
And then there’s Human Food Bar
We believe Human Food Bar, which was designed by vegans for vegans, is the best vegan protein bar there is. But we couldn’t bring ourselves to include it at the top of the list, it just didn’t seem right!
If you’ve made it this far, we hope you’ll give Human Food Bar a look. Check out the gallery below, and if your interest is piqued, visit the online store to learn more.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the best low-carb, low-sugar vegan bars?
Technically the lowest carb vegan bars are One Plant Bars which can have as little as 2g net carbs. However, they are so loaded with artificial ingredients that we consider them Fake Food and therefore can't recommend them. Instead, we can recommend Dang bars, which have 4.5g net carbs, or Human Food Bar, which has 4g net carbs.
What are the best gluten-free vegan bars?
Most of our top picks are gluten-free. We recommend Aloha, Dang, GoMacro, and Human Food Bar based on our in-depth analysis.
What are the best high-protein vegan bars?
We picked NoCow as the best high-protein vegan bar because it has up to 22g of plant protein and clean ingredients, and we like their company values. That said, 22g of protein is more than most people need in a bar. We like Aloha, GoMacro, Zing, and Dang bars, all of which have at least 10g of protein. Human Food Bar also has 10g of protein.
What are the healthiest vegan bars?
This will depend on your individual health and wellness goals. For example, are you trying to minimize your sugar intake? With that said, Aloha, GoMacro, Zing, and Dang bars are all very healthy and suitable for various vegan diets, as is Human Food Bar.
What are the best low-calorie vegan bars?
Unfortunately, there are only a few good choices for this, but if you are heavily restricting calories, you can check out think bars, which have 150 calories. You'll find many better options if you're willing to go up to 200 or more calories.