Delicious, super-chocolatey crunchy bars with mouth-watering, tangy cranberries? That do good for you — and are quick and easy to make as well? Yes, they do exist! Read on to find out the secrets behind these magic keto collagen bars and how to make your new favorite keto treat!
What is collagen?
Collagen is not only one of the main proteins in your body structures and the main component of your connective tissue — it’s the most abundant protein in your whole body. From your blood vessels and skin (or any epithelial tissue) to bones, hair, and teeth, one-third of the protein in your body is collagen.
Actually, there is not just one type of collagen in your body, but 16 types of collagen. It doesn’t stop there: there are 28 known varieties of collagen in the world. No wonder this substance has gained so much interest in the past years. The market is now bursting with collagen supplements, from powders and creams to drinks and protein bars.
In former times and in traditional diets, people consumed plenty of collagen, for example, in bone broth and bone marrow but also in skin, cartilages, and ligaments of the animal foods they ate. Also, green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits are high in collagen. That’s called real food, folks. Species-specific food for us humans.
Modern diets are not very high on collagen. For example, in fear of fat, we are told not to eat chicken skin. Only a few of us consume considerable amounts of bone broth — and who would eat fish bones or fish skin nowadays? Personally, chicken skin is my favorite part of the chicken, and I make sure to eat sardines and muikku with bones. Nevertheless, I bet I don’t get enough food-based collagen. So, taking a collagen supplement is a good option — though food sources beat supplements any time, and there is a difference between collagen and collagen. What do I mean?
The collagen varieties are divided into different types, the most common ones being type I, II, and III. 90% of your body’s collagen is type I. Type I (so the most abundant one in your body) is mostly found in skin, bones, and tendons. Type II is found in cartilage, and type III collagen is found in loose connective tissue, among others.
Collagen supplements have collagen peptides, i.e., hydrolyzed collagen that your body absorbs well. The collagen in food-based sources is not absorbed when the food is raw. But cooking the food breaks down the collagen into gelatin. Yes, that gelatin you use for thickening when you make, for example, jelly or keto gummy bears (by the way, my Low Sugar, So Simple book has an excellent recipe for keto gummy bears). Gelatin contains amino acids that your body needs to make collagen.
Interestingly enough, the name ‘collagen’ comes from the Greek κόλλα (kólla), which means “glue.” Even the name originates from creating glue from boiling the skin and tendons of animals, you can indeed think of collagen as a glue that keeps your body structures together. Without collagen, we would most likely look like giant amoebas.
Normally, our body produces collagen well. However, when we get older, our natural collagen production beings to decline. Because of that, it’s a good idea to consume collagen from food or from supplements, as it highly affects your skin health, slows down skin aging, and improves skin elasticity. Your joints and bones also enjoy additional collagen: if you have joint pain, collagen can relieve it. Moreover, collagen makes your bones stronger and, most likely, your hairs and nails as well. Having strong bones is especially important when we age!
Even if you take collagen supplements, it’s a good idea to include collagen-rich food sources in your diet. Another good idea is to add collagen supplements (like collagen powder) straight to your food, for example, to smoothies, to your morning coffee (by the way, in addition to collagen powder, I add Turmeric Latte Mix into my morning coffee) — and naturally, make these super-scrumptious and chocolatey Keto Collagen Bars!
How to make these Easy Keto Collagen Chocolate Cranberry Nut Bars
For the most effortless preparation, I recommend a food processor to process the nuts and the chocolate into a coarse consistency. You can naturally chop the nuts with a knife, but it takes some time.
One important point still about the preparation: it’s crucial to use low enough temperature to heat the mixture and melt the chocolate. If you use a stovetop, use the minimum temperature, and mix the contents of the saucepan all the time. The chocolate shouldn’t get burned. If you are unsure about your cooking skills, it’s best to use a water bath to ensure that the chocolate melts beautifully and doesn’t burn to the bottom of the saucepan.
In the end, this is a straightforward recipe to make, so let’s take a look at how to prepare these brilliant bars:
Take 1 cup = 240 ml mixed keto-friendly nuts and place them into a food processor. By keto-friendly, I mean nuts that are low in carbs, like Brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamias, or walnuts. I have a ready commercial mixture here containing macadamias, almonds, Brazil nuts, blanched hazelnuts, and pecans.
Add also 1 bar (3.5 oz = 100 g) extra-dark chocolate to the food processor. I prefer Lindt 90% chocolate.
Close the lid of the food processor.
Process the chocolate and the nuts…
…until coarsely chopped.
Take a small saucepan and add the nut and chocolate mixture…
…1/4 cup = 60 ml sugar-free craisins aka dried cranberries…
…1/4 cup = 60 ml bovine collagen powder (I use Verisol® collagen peptides)…
…and 2 tablespoons Sukrin Gold or another erythritol-based brown sugar substitute. You can actually use any sweetener you want — or no sweetener if you avoid all added sweetness.
Heat the saucepan over minimum heat…
…all the time mixing…
…until the chocolate and the sweetener are melted. Don’t let the chocolate burn! You can also melt everything in a water bath.
Divide the mixture into silicone chocolate bar molds. You can also use silicone muffin cups or silicone chocolate molds — basically any silicone mold you prefer.
Let set in the fridge for a few hours, until completely set.
Remove from the molds and enjoy!
How I came up with this Keto Collagen Chocolate Cranberry Nut Bar recipe
You might remember that last week, I told I was in the summer house, and my plan was to do, for example, some nut bar experiments. However, I ended up with a salad recipe and didn’t have time to experiment with nut bars. I had my hands full of work checking my upcoming book’s final layout and creating my keto course (that actually happens right now when this post comes live). If you remember, I had to pick out the pecans from my nut mix for the salad recipe since I had forgotten to buy walnuts that I originally had planned for the salad. So, my nut mix was lacking pecans.
This week, here at home, I thought I finally take the time to create the nut bar recipe with sweet and tangy craisins (dried cranberries) that I still had left from my recipe experiments a couple of weeks ago. I knew I needed a keto-friendly nut mix for the bars, some craisins, and something to hold the bars together — maybe an erythritol-based sweetener as erythritol makes cookies and other baked goods hold so well together. At this point, my plan was to bake the bars in the oven.
I’ve done some keto nut bar experiments a long time ago (actually quite precisely two years ago, as I can see from my notes) using eggs as a binder. However, the bars turned out nastily leathery rather than crunchy — from my notes, I can also see that they were hardly edible! So, definitely no eggs for these bars. I thought if I simply combine chopped nuts and craisins with the sweetener, press the mixture into silicone molds, and bake, I’ll get deliciously crunchy and tasty nut bars spotted with tangy and fruity cranberries.
However, I continued my thinking and concluded: “Why to stop with 3 ingredients when I can still add 2 more ingredients to make even more scrumptious bars?” If I add chocolate, the bars will turn out even more delicious, I thought.
Moreover, I’ve been dreaming of keto collagen bars. The collagen bars in the current market here in Finland are saturated with sugars — or at least they are not keto-compatible as they are too high in carbs. We are planning to make keto collagen bars under our Ketokamu brand, but before that, I have to settle with homemade keto collagen bars if I want to enjoy some. So, the last, fifth ingredient for these Keto Chocolate Cranberry Nut Bars could be collagen, making them even more beneficial and healthy!
To make things simple, I thought I won’t use the oven – just melt everything in a saucepan, transfer into silicone molds, and let set in the fridge. I was actually a bit afraid that the delicate extra dark chocolate burns in the oven when baked. Melting it would be much gentler, and there is no danger of burning the chocolate – as long as you use the minimum heat, that is!
I did some calculations and was ready to conduct my first experiment. To avoid wasting precious ingredients, I prepared just half of a batch of what I had written down. For the experiment, I used 1 bar (3.5 oz = 100 g) Extra Dark Chocolate (90% from Lindt), 1 cup = 240 ml mixed nuts, 2 tablespoons Sukrin Gold (which is my all-time favorite brown sugar substitute!), 2 tablespoons craisins, and 2 tablespoons bovine collagen powder. As it was late and my son was already sleeping, I didn’t want to use the food processor, but I chopped the nuts with a knife.
I combined all ingredients in a saucepan. However, as soon as I had combined everything, I realized that instead of 2 tablespoons craisins, I had accidentally added 1/4 cup = 60 ml craisins, so double the amount I had planned! Anyway, I had no choice but just melted everything carefully, transferred the mixture into a silicone chocolate bar mold, and let set in the fridge until completely solid.
The bars were easy to remove from the silicone mold (that’s why I prefer silicone molds in baking and cooking!). After tasting one bar, I was completely sold: it tasted super-delicious, and the amount of cranberries was just right — it was a lucky accident that I had added double the amount! I still had to calculate the amount of carbs to ensure that the carb count was low enough even with the double amount of craisins. Well, it was, so I was thrilled with my experiment.
However, I wondered if I should increase the amount of collagen to ensure there was enough collagen in each bar to maximize the benefit. I thought doubling the amount of collagen should do the thing.
Since that half a batch made 10 bars, I thought it’s enough, so I didn’t need to make the whole batch that I had initially planned. I still did one experiment with double the amount of collagen — and it turned out as well as the first experiment. Now, I was super happy with my decadently chocolatey, crunchy, and nutty keto collagen bars that had a tangy flavor and deliciously sticky mouthfeel from the craisins. My son totally loved them as well, which made me very delighted.
Here’s the recipe for you to enjoy:
- 1 bar (3.5 oz = 100 g) Extra Dark Chocolate (e.g. 90% chocolate from Lindt)
- 1 cup = 240 ml mixed low-carb nuts (like Brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamias, or walnuts)
- 2 tablespoons Sukrin Gold or another erythritol-based brown sugar substitute
- 1/4 cup = 60 ml sugar-free craisins (dried cranberries)
- 1/4 cup = 60 ml bovine collagen powder
- Process the chocolate and the nuts in a food processor until coarsely chopped.
- Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.
- Heat over minimum heat, all the time mixing, until the chocolate and the sweetener are melted. Don't let burn! You can also melt the chocolate in a water bath.
- Divide into silicone chocolate bar molds. You can also use silicone muffin cups or silicone chocolate molds – basically any silicone mold.
- Let set in the fridge for a couple of hours, or until completely set.
- Remove from the molds. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
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Sukrin Gold - Natural Brown Sugar Alternative - No Calorie Sweetener for Keto, Low Carb and Diabetic Diets - 1.1 lb Bag (1 Pack)
Low Sugar, So Simple: 100 Delicious Low-Sugar, Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Recipes for Eating Clean and Living Healthy
Homemade Sugar-Free Craisins aka Dried Cranberries
Lindt Excellence Bar, 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark Chocolate, Gluten Free, Great for Holiday Gifting, 3.5 Ounce (Pack of 12)
|Nutrition information||In total||Per bar if 10 bars in total|
|Protein||52.3 g||5.2 g|
|Fat||140.3 g||14.0 g|
|Net carbs||22.1 g||2.2 g|
|kcal||1628 kcal||163 kcal|
(In the calculations, I’ve used 30 g macadamias, 30 g almonds, 30 g pecans, 20 g Brazil nuts, and 20 g hazelnuts.)
Tips for variation
It’s really easy to get variation to these bars by using different nut combos. You can use only one type — let’s say macadamias — or several different types of nuts like I’ve used here. And not only nuts, all keto-friendly seeds are also a perfect match. Try, for example, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hulled hemp seeds, or hulled sesame seeds.
If you avoid sweeteners, you can make the craisins completely without sweeteners and leave out the brown sugar substitute from this recipe. If you cannot find a decent brown sugar substitute, you can use another natural sweetener, like stevia or monk fruit. Even powdered erythritol suits well.
Even I prefer extremely dark chocolate for these bars, feel free to use another type of chocolate – as long as it’s low enough in carbs and has only natural sweeteners. Even sugar-free milk chocolate or white chocolate goes well in case you’ll find decent brands that are sweetened, for example, with erythritol and stevia. Don’t use maltitol-sweetened chocolate as it might upset your stomach and raise your blood sugar levels.
You can get even more flavor to these keto bars by adding seasonings, like Ceylon cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, cardamom, ground ginger, lemon peel, orange peel, vanilla powder, or vanilla extract. Fancy something more exotic? Then add a pinch of chipotle or chili powder for a mouth-watering kick!
This week went quickly. I’ve been doing still lots of white chocolate experiments for Ketokamu. On Monday, I’ll go to Bistro Naapuri in Tampere downtown to let the customers taste the chocolate to get some feedback. I think I’ve told you that we have two white chocolate bars coming out, Wild Queen that has lots of flavor from berries, and Gentle Coconut that has shredded coconut to provide some texture. The berry chocolate is already pretty good, but the coconut chocolate still needs more flavor. When using only natural, mild-flavored ingredients, it’s challenging to get enough taste to the chocolate. But luckily, we have the top team developing these keto treats, so I’m sure that we’ll end up with awesome chocolate products in the end.
On Thursday, we gathered in Mäntsälä with the Ketokamu team for a photo shooting session. We noticed that we don’t have professional photos from us that we could use on our web page or social media. Therefore, we asked a professional photographer, Petteri Hentilä, to take photos of us. I think they turned out really well. Thank you, Petteri, for these great photos!
Here are some behind-the-scenes photos I took:
The weather has been quite cold this week. We have had lots of sunshine that is very welcome at this dark time of the year.