24 Protein Bars, Ranked Worst To First

Protein bars have come a long way from their earliest iterations as shelf-stable food sources for the U.S. military. According to Polaris Market Research, protein bars make up a $4.76 billion industry that caters to a wide swath of the population. Whether they are used as a pre or post-workout fuel source, a snack, or a meal replacement, protein bars are efficient, convenient, and have perceived value.

Whether or not they are healthy for you is almost entirely irrelevant. They fulfill a need, as is evidenced by how many different kinds are manufactured today. We found dozens of brands in myriad flavors to suit virtually any palate. Though we noted how much protein and sugar were in each bar, we were less interested in nutrition than how pleasing they were.

To provide the most objective ranking possible, we selected one flavor of each brand that all fell into what we would call the chocolate peanut butter lane or close to it. We rated each bar on its aroma, look, texture, taste, portability, and overall appeal. We think you will be surprised by the results. We know we were. Read on to see how your favorite bar fared.

24. NuGo Dark Chocolate Pretzel

NuGo promises real dark chocolate in each of its varieties. This was evident from the first sniff we took of this protein bar. We love dark chocolate, so we enthusiastically bit into it, expecting a delicate balance of sweet and salty as advertised on its website. We did not get the sweet, but we got clobbered over the head with the salt. The salinity of this bar was so heavy-handed that we almost gagged.

Once we got past the initial hit of salt, we could assess the texture, which is crunchy and crispy, a bit like Rice Krispies Treats that married a pretzel. The flavor didn't get much better as we kept chewing. The vegan bar is aggressively soy-forward, which masks anything else. We also noted that while this bar has 12 grams of protein, it has 14 grams of sugar which is 28% of the recommended daily value.

23. FULFIL Chocolate Peanut Butter

The FULFIL Chocolate Peanut Butter bar has 15 grams of protein and 1 gram of sugar. It is geared toward anyone who appreciates the juxtaposition of peanut butter with chocolate. When we opened the foil packaging, the aroma was what we could only describe as slightly synthetic, with a hint of peanut. Our biggest gripe about this bar was its texture. 

If there was ever a bar that reminded us of tacky salt water taffy, this was it. The second you bite into it, you should be prepared for a chewing marathon that will tax the jaws of even those who do not suffer from temporomandibular disorders. Once we managed to swallow it, which was no small feat, we still had some of the bar stuck to our teeth for what seemed like hours. We honestly could not even tell you what it tasted like as we were too distracted by the texture of this bar.

22. No Cow Dipped Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup

What more can we say about the No Cow Dipped Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup than "holy cow," and that is not in an effusive way. While we appreciate that these vegan protein bars were developed to address those who are lactose-intolerant, we could not get past the overwhelming pea aroma, even though they contain a whopping 20 grams of protein with only 1 gram of sugar.

The texture of this bar is starchy, dry, and grainy. It has an excessively vegetable-forward flavor redolent of peas that muted anything resembling chocolate or peanut butter. The taste of this vegetable protein lingered long after swallowing the bite, along with a chalky film that coated our tongue and mouth. For these reasons, it ranked toward the bottom of our list.

21. Power Crunch Peanut Butter Fudge

The Power Crunch Peanut Butter Fudge bar has 13 grams of protein from High-DH whey hydrolysates and just 5 grams of sugar. At first, when we opened the foil wrapper, the aroma was very peanut-forward, which seemed promising. And the texture of this bar was redolent of a slightly crumbly Kit Kat, which we didn't mind.

Unfortunately, we couldn't get past the flavor of this bar. It had an aggressive malted barley and stevia taste that completely masked any peanut or chocolate flavor that may have been present. These created a bitterness that lasted for quite a while after swallowing the bite we took, coating the back of our throats and making us cough a bit from how dry it was. For this reason, this protein bar landed toward the bottom of our list.

20. ONE Peanut Butter Cup

The ONE brand is singular in its mission to bring you the best protein bars with only 1 gram of sugar. Its ONE Peanut Butter Cup bar has 20 grams of protein and is gluten-free. Though it promises a decadent and sinful combination of sweet and salty, it doesn't deliver on this promise.

Its aroma is peanutty enough, but this does not translate to the flavor, which has a mock peanut butter taste with a lingering soy base that suffocates everything else. If there was chocolate, it certainly didn't feature strongly enough to make an impact. We also disliked the texture, which is very taffy-like, sticking to your teeth and being somewhat challenging to swallow. We couldn't help but wonder how this bar would impact our intestinal tract while eating it, so we gave it a not-so-favorable review.

19. Clif Bar & Company Builders Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter

Builders Protein Bars is a subsidiary of Clif Bar & Company. These high-protein, gluten-free bars are specifically designed to be used for those who are actively working out to build muscle. This is reflected by the 20 grams of protein and 17 grams of sugar, a staggering 33% of the recommended daily value. Target audience aside, we had some concerns with the flavor and texture of this bar.

It had a strong chocolate aroma and crunchy texture. The peanut did not come through until we tasted it, but barely, with most of the flavor coming from the plant-based protein. We did appreciate that it was not overly sweet, but the potent soy flavor lingered well after we had swallowed the bite. Overall, we did not enjoy this bar or think it was a suitable option for the average person who works out.

18. Perfect Bar Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter

This is another bar we wanted to love more than we did. It is made from all-natural ingredients, including freshly ground nut butter, organic honey, and over 20 superfoods. The Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter flavor contains 15 grams of protein and 18 grams of sugar, 24% of the recommended daily value. Its aroma and taste are redolent of peanuts, with hints of chocolate from the sparsely distributed chips. It is sweet but not cloying.

The biggest issue we had with this bar is that it has an odd texture. For anyone who has ever eaten the Middle Eastern confection known as Halvah, this reminded us of that. Halvah is a nougat-like treat that is made of sesame. It has a strong tahini flavor and a slightly chalky texture, an acquired taste. We also think that the fact that these bars must be refrigerated makes them less convenient than other shelf-stable products.

17. Built Bar Peanut Butter Brownie

The Built Bar Peanut Butter Brownie flavor is a classic energy bar with 19 grams of protein and only 4 grams of sugar. At first sniff, we got nothing but dark chocolate, which intrigued us. Though this flavor did translate, which we enjoyed, the peanut was less pronounced. The overall taste is not overly sweet, something we appreciated.

Where texture is concerned, this bar had some pitfalls. It was similar to others we had sampled, incredibly chewy, like taffy. It stuck to your teeth and was very hard to swallow. This tackiness made it unpleasant to chew and left a distinct unpalatable film that coated our mouths for quite some time. Though it didn't linger as long as others, we still listed this bar somewhat lower in our rankings, which is too bad, because the flavor was good.

16. Clif Bar & Company Crunchy Peanut Butter

Next on our list was the classic Clif Bar & Company Crunchy Peanut Butter variety. This is one of the original varieties of Clif bars, which came on the market in 1992. With 11 grams of protein and 17 grams of sugar, 30% of the recommended daily value, these bars are also designed to cater to hardcore athletes who need plenty of carbohydrates to refuel after a grueling workout. These bars are not gluten-free and probably not ideally suited to the casual exercise buff.

The best way to describe them is as a very dense granola bar. They smell very oat-forward. Their texture is crunchy and somewhat grainy. The flavor is not overly sweet, slightly bitter, and has a mild peanut flavor that is not particularly prominent. If we could use one word to summarize this bar, we think it tastes healthy.

15. FITCRUNCH Loaded Cookie Bar Peanut Butter Blast

The brainchild of chef and fitness enthusiast Robert Irvine, FITCRUNCH Loaded Cookie Bar Peanut Butter Blast contains 22 grams of protein and 8 grams of sugar, 16% of the recommended daily value. These bars were crafted to have a multi-faceted texture created by six distinct layers. They look more like a cookie than a candy bar and have a distinctly peanut-forward aroma.

The texture of this bar is chewy, with little crunchy bits from the chocolate chips and candy pieces. Its flavor is a touch vegetable-forward with some earthiness that is not unpleasant, yet not overly sweet. You can taste the balance of peanuts with the other layers, giving this bar some intrigue and variety compared with the others we sampled.

14. Gatorade Recover Peanut Butter Chocolate

Gatorade Recover Peanut Butter Chocolate protein bars were developed with athletes in mind. They are a part of the muscle replenishing regimen of the NFL, NBA, and MLB, containing 20 grams of protein and a hefty 25 grams of sugar, 48% of the recommended daily value. They are also intimidatingly large. The physical size of these snacks is probably not something the average casual exercise buff would want to consume.

The aroma of these bars has a somewhat fake chocolate scent. Its texture is dense and slightly crumbly. The flavor is chocolate-forward with a hint of a caramel undertone. The peanut is less present but does help to temper some of the sweetness that the high sugar content of this bar confers. For the right audience, these are a solid bar. Overall, they are not something we would eat as part of our routine.

13. Alani Nu Fit Snacks Chocolate Cake

The Alani Nu Fit Snacks Chocolate Cake bar has 16 grams of protein and 5 grams of sugar. We are somewhat perplexed at how little sugar it contains, considering how sweet the flavor of this bar is. It says it should taste like chocolate cake, and it does. It has the density and richness of a dark chocolate brownie cake.

Its texture is almost like a candy bar. It is somewhat heavy and hard to chew. The aroma is all chocolate. Though we cannot flaw the execution of this protein bar, it does feel more like an indulgent treat than something you would want to eat regularly as part of your fitness regimen. If you like sweeter protein bars, this would be your jam. For us, it is just a bit too much.

12. Clif Bar & Company LUNA Bar Nutz Over Chocolate

Clif Bar & Company introduced its LUNA line of nutrition bars in 1999. They were targeted toward women, though we are not entirely sure what makes them female-specific. A slogan on its website states: "Real Men Eat LUNA," which contradicts this. This particular variety contains 9 grams of protein and 7 grams of sugar.

At first glance, this looks more like a candy bar than a protein snack. It has a more prominent peanut aroma, though still well balanced with the chocolate. The texture of this bar is crunchy and a bit crispy, like chocolate Rice Krispies Treats. Its flavor is sweeter and strongly peanut-forward, but it is tasty. There is nothing wrong with this bar. It just isn't overly exciting. For our palates, we prefer something less sugary and more savory.

11. Zone Perfect Chocolate Peanut Butter

In 1995, biochemist Barry Sears introduced his Zone diet, which is based on balancing macronutrients to minimize inflammation. The ratio is simple: 40% carbohydrates, 30% proteins, and 30% fats. The Zone Perfect Chocolate Peanut Butter contains 14 grams of protein and 15 grams of sugar, 26% of the recommended daily value.

This bar has a delightful chocolate aroma that is present but not overpowering. Its texture is chewy and crispy, with a center similar to a Kit Kat. It is not overly sweet and does have a good balance between chocolate and peanut butter. Our only comment is that you can sense the soy protein somewhat in the aftertaste, which we are acutely sensitive to. Otherwise, this is a good protein bar that would likely please a wide swath of the population.

10. Pure Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter

With 20 grams of protein and just 2 grams of sugar, the Pure Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter bar is what it says it is — pure protein. From the get-go, the aroma of this bar is very chocolatey. Its texture is chewy, almost like caramel candy, but not overly so. It is on the verge of being too sticky, like some of the previous bars mentioned, but manages to toe the line effectively.

Its taste is not overly sweet, with a mild peanut-forward flavor. Though the chocolate is there, it is slightly overshadowed by the peanut butter, yet still well-balanced. This is a fine example of a protein bar we would gladly incorporate into our daily post-workout routine.

9. think! Chunky Peanut Butter

The think! brand was developed by female entrepreneur Lizanne Falsetto, which intrigued us. Its foundational core belief is called the think! Promise, which insists that great-tasting, nutritious snacks are always a good idea. With 20 grams of protein and no sugar, the think! Chunky Peanut Butter bar had us thinking good things.

The best way to describe this protein bar is that it reminded us of a Milky Way chocolate bar. It has a chocolatey aroma with a hint of peanut as an undertone. It isn't overly sweet and has an almost malt ball-like quality. The peanut is present but not aggressively so. The texture of this bar is firm but not too toothsome. This protein bar is worthy of being in our top ten, especially for those who lead an active lifestyle.

8. Outright Cookie Dough Peanut Butter

Outright Bars specialize in producing plant-based, vegan protein snacks that have been dubbed by the brand as "America's Protein Bar." Its Cookie Dough Peanut Butter variety has 15 grams of protein and a substantial 16 grams of sugar, 32% of the recommended daily value. Much of the sweetness and sugar content of these bars is conferred by antioxidant-rich honey. The high sugar content may make this bar less suitable for those seeking low-glycemic alternatives.

The aroma of this bar is pure peanut. Its texture appeared dense but was surprisingly smooth when you bit into it, like peanut butter that solidified in the refrigerator but did not stick to the roof of your mouth the same way. Its flavor is not overly sweet, and it does have the idea of cookie dough. Compared to other all plant-based bars, this one did not have an aggressively vegetable-forward aftertaste, which we appreciated.

7. Millville Protein Chewy Bar Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate

Aldi lovers, this protein bar is just for you. The Millville Protein Chewy Bar Peanut Almond Dark Chocolate has 10 grams of protein and 7 grams of sugar, which at 11% of the recommended daily value, is not too excessive. Because these bars came in a box of five from Aldi, they were much more affordable per bar than other options we sampled, which is good news for those on a budget.

The best description we could give this bar is that it resembles a peanut granola bar with chocolate. It is chewy and slightly crunchy, thanks to the whole peanut chunks. It is not overly sweet, and it has a pleasant peanut aroma. The almonds helped round out the flavor and texture of this protein bar perfectly, and the dark chocolate accented everything with a hint of bitterness and sweetness. We are big fans of this one.

6. Quest Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter

Quest bars are some of the first protein bars we recall ever eating, so we likely had a touch of nostalgia that crept into our ranking of this one. The Crispy Chocolate Peanut Butter bar has 18 grams of protein and 1 gram of sugar. We were intrigued by the crispy variety because classic Quest bars typically had a somewhat dense, chewy texture that was a bit like nougat, which was tasty but filling.

This bar has a chocolate-forward aroma when the foil packaging is first opened. Its texture is somewhat of a cross between a Kit Kat and a Snickers, which was quite pleasant. The peanut butter wasn't a primary flavor, but it did creep up on you as you chewed. This bar is on the sweeter side, but not aggressively so. It did have a mild aftertaste that was a bit synthetic but not overwhelming.

5. Elevation High Protein Bar Chocolate Peanut Butter

Another brand we found at Aldi was the Elevation High Protein Bar Chocolate Peanut Butter, which has 20 grams of protein and a notable 20 grams of sugar, 38% of the recommended daily value. These hefty bars come in a box of six, making them another great option for hardcore athletes on a budget seeking a high-quality muscle-building bar.

Purely from the standpoint of aroma, this bar ranks first. It had the scent of fine dark chocolate, which was immediately appealing. Its texture was nuanced with three layers of chocolate, nougat, and a cookie-like base creating a slightly chewy and crunchy bite. While it was sweet, it was not cloying. The ratio of peanut to chocolate was spot on, and the overall execution was quite sophisticated for a protein bar. As an occasional treat, this is a fantastic option.

4. 1st Phorm International Level-1 Bar Peanut Butter Lover

The Level-1 Bar Peanut Butter Lover is manufactured by the 1st Phorm International supplement company, which, if we are honest, gave us pause as we tend to be skeptical of supplements. But, since our primary focus was to evaluate a cross-section of all available protein bars based predominantly on appeal, we snatched up one of each brand. We were not disappointed since this bar, which has 20 grams of protein and 8 grams of sugar, landed in our top five.

Though advertised as a meal replacement bar, you could eat this as a post-workout snack. This variety seems like a treat, resembling a cross between a PayDay and a Snickers candy bar. It has a strong peanut aroma and a layered texture that is simultaneously crunchy, chewy, and crispy. The chocolate on top is the icing on the proverbial cake. This is definitely on the sweet side, but it was delectable.

3. Barebells Protein Bar Salty Peanut

You might go nuts over the Barebells Protein Bar Salty Peanut flavor. With 20 grams of protein and no sugar, this brand seemed too good to be true. It has a very peanut-forward aroma with the subtlety of a creamy milk chocolate exterior. The texture was chewy, like caramel, but it did not stick to our teeth so aggressively that we couldn't chew or swallow it.

Though it reminded us of a tiny bit of a PayDay candy bar, this was not overly salty or sweet. It was well-balanced in flavor and texture. We did note a disclaimer on the website that because this item contains maltitol, it may have a laxative effect if used in excess. This gave us pause, but it could still be a fabulous occasional treat added to your regular rotation of post-workout protein bars.

2. ONE Crunch Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip

Considering how much we disliked the other ONE bar on this ranking, we were surprised at how much we enjoyed this one. In the name of full disclosure, we should state that this has been our bar of choice for post-workouts for the past several months, so we were slightly biased but swore to be as objective as possible. This bar has 12 grams of protein and only 1 gram of sugar.

The aroma of this bar is all peanuts. When you bite into it, the texture is slightly chewy with a crispy ending, similar to gourmet Rice Krispies Treats. It is laced with just a hint of chocolate but isn't overly sweet or aggressively salty. It hits our sweet spot, pun intended. Anecdotally, we can report that eating this bar doesn't leave you feeling heavy or weighed down, which is why we enjoy it.

1. KIND Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate

Coming in first on our ranking of protein bars is the KIND Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate variety. Though it does not have the highest amount of protein at 7 grams per serving and is a bit high in sugar, with 8 grams, it is delicious. All of the bars produced by KIND are made with natural ingredients. You can visit its website, and every ingredient used in its products is listed with details of what it is and why it is used. That's the kind of transparency we appreciate.

These dainty bars have a perfectly harmonious aroma of chocolate and peanut butter. The texture is chewy, with the occasional crunch of whole peanuts. It isn't overly sweet and doesn't feel like a belly bomb, yet it is satisfying thanks to the quality of its rich ingredients. We gave this bar an A+ grade.