When I was a kid, my absolute favorite recipe to make was called “Peanut Butter Bumps.” It had three ingredients: peanut butter, butter, and oatmeal. All you did was mash everything together and roll it into sticky little fat bombs, and I LOVED them. Those little bumps have too much saturated fat, salt, and added sugars to earn Guiding Stars, but working on the Guiding Stars recipe database, I have discovered something: snack balls can be delicious and nutritious.
The Basic Template
A great energy bite is a small snack that will build a bridge between meals when you’re on the go. That means you want to aim for plenty of dietary fiber, a little heart-healthy fat, and a little protein in your ingredients. Nuts and seeds are your best friend for all of these elements, so most energy bites use these ingredients whole or as butters. If you have a mediocre food processor, starting with a butter will get you to a smoother texture.
Energy bites generally don’t struggle to hang together, per se. The core ingredients are typically pretty sticky. The problem you’re most likely to run into in building your own bites is a mix that’s too wet to work with. Quick-cooking oats and rolled oats are great for pulling it together, but you can use anything dry, whole grain that can be eaten raw. Wheat germ and bran are other great options.
Most people love sweet things. Kids love sweet even more. The classic choice for energy bites is dates or date paste. Some food processors can handle dates straight up. If you’re not confident yours is one of them, soak the dates in warm water for about an hour. Drain, reserving the liquid, and process, adding soaking liquid as needed to get a thick paste.
If you like less sweetness in your energy bites, you can also just use more of your nut or seed butter.
The Wiggle Room
Energy bites can be a little mushy in the mouth. Rolling them in something is an awesome way to provide additional texture and visual interest. Kids often enjoy this step. Unsweetened shredded coconut is a delicious option. You could also use oatmeal, sesame seeds, chia seeds, or wheat bran. To make the energy bites into dessert, mini chocolate chips could also be lovely.
Date paste and nuts can tend to taste like date paste and nuts. That’s a pleasant combination, but if you rely on these for a quick, nutritious snack, it can get samey. Play with the spices in your cupboard: cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, any kind of pie spice mix, chai mix, or Chinese Five Spice are all options to consider. Cocoa powder is a great way to make your energy bite hit a chocolate craving, and cocoa pairs gorgeously with cinnamon or a little cayenne pepper. Step outside of spices and consider using bright flavors like citrus zest or freeze-dried fruit.
The inner workings of an energy bite can range from creamy to crunchy using the same ingredients. Play around together to figure out what your family likes best. If you like a creamy base with a little internal crunch, reserve some of your nuts to stir in after you’ve processed the rest to a perfect puree.