The majority of protein bars found in any grocery store are extremely high in sugar, meaning that they’re going to do the opposite of filling you up and keeping you satiated. When blood sugar spikes and crashes, you’ll be tired again shortly afterwards, and you’ll reach for another bar because you’ll be hungry again. #proteinbarconspiracy 😜
John and I love Epic bars, but at anywhere from $2-3 a pop―not to mention the plastic packaging that comes with each individually wrapped bar―I wanted a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative.
If you’re not familiar with Epic bars, they taste like jerky. They’re basically a bar made of ground meat mixed with spices and fruit, and they’re a super convenient protein-and-fat snack when you’re on the go.
In the spirit of creating my own convenience, I decided to create these homemade low sugar protein bars that taste (in my humble opinion) even better than Epic bars. These are made with beef, but you could also probably do venison or bison. They are both keto and paleo friendly, and they’re excellent for anyone who eats low carb.
It’s easiest to make these bars with a food dehydrator―I use the Chefman Food Dehydrator set to its default temperature of 158℉ (70℃)―but you could also make them in an oven set to its lowest temperature with the door cracked open with a wooden spoon.
Even though they are dehydrated, because they don’t have any curing ingredients, I wouldn’t leave them out of refrigeration for more than one day. I like to triple or quadruple the recipe, batch prep a bunch of them and store them in the freezer, then just take out whatever I need for that day. I wrap them in a beeswax food wrap or place them in a silicon zip-lock Stasher bag, and then bring them with me in my purse or bag. Voila! No plastic packaging!
I haven’t tried it with chicken or turkey yet (that will be next!), but if you wished to make this with poultry, I would suggest cooking the chicken or turkey first. I suspect a dehydrator might not get the temperature high enough to fully cook it through. I would probably then pulse the cooked meat with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor with some sort of binder, like an egg, to make everything stick together, and then shape the bars.
You can switch out the almonds for other nuts, or, if you’re avoiding nuts, sunflower seed kernels would be a good alternative. Soaking the nuts overnight reduces anti-nutrients like phytic acid, an enzyme inhibitor (meaning it blocks nutrient absorption). It also makes them easier to digest.
Luckily, the process to make your own Epic bars at home is pretty simple. They are just ground meat made magical with spices, coconut aminos, dried fruit, and nuts.
All you do is throw all of the ingredients (except the meat) into a food processor:
And pulse a few times until it’s very finely chopped.
In a large bowl, add the almond mixture to the ground beef and mix it all together with your hands until it’s fully incorporated.
Form the meat into bars that are about 4-5 inches long, two inches wide, and a half inch thick. Don’t worry about getting it perfect.
Once the bars are shaped, place them onto the tray for dehydrating. Make sure you leave enough space for air to circulate around the bars.
I recommend using a silicone mat for shaping because you can lift the bars easily off the mat and it will save you a lot of time. You can also use parchment paper, waxed paper, a cutting board, or just your hands.
Dehydrate the bars for about six hours, or until no longer pink in the middle. They will darken, but will still be moist in the middle.
And there you go! You have your own Epic Bars!
Enjoy the (dried) fruit of your labor!
- 1 pound raw grass-fed ground sirloin or other lean meat
- ¼ cup coconut aminos (or if you tolerate soy, Bragg’s liquid aminos)
- 1 cup almonds, soaked overnight
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground sage
- 1 ½ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- ¼ cup dried cranberries or blueberries (omit for lower sugar)
- Put all the ingredients except the meat into a food processor and blend until it becomes finely ground. If you don’t have a food processor, you can chop the nuts up very finely and then mix it with the remaining spices and coconut aminos.
- Mix the mixture with the meat by hand until it’s all combined. Form the meat into bars that are about 4-5 inches long, two inches wide, and a half inch thick.
- On the dehydrator tray, place the bars side by side, but not touching, so that air can flow around them.
- Dehydrate the bars for 6 hours. They will darken but still be moist in the middle.
- Store in the fridge or freezer. These will keep outside of the fridge for a few hours.
This post originally appeared July 2015 and has been updated for December 2019.