I was fixing up a batch of my favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough energy balls last week and realized that this is a formula recipe! If you’re new around here, a Formula Meal is basically a dish that you can whip up using a specific formula each time, switching out the ingredients to create new and delicious flavors.
No-bake energy balls, bites, bars — whatever you want to call them — are great for a variety of circumstances: morning or afternoon snack, grab-n-go breakfast, post-workout or pre-run fuel, and even dessert if you get fancy with them. My no-bake energy balls are all nut-based, so if nuts are not your thing you are out of luck. They are also gluten-free and dairy free. I have seen energy ball recipes online where honey, agave, or maple sugar is added, but my no-bake balls do not contain added sugars.
There is one catch to making my no-bake bites, you need a food processor. I know for some people the food processor can be very intimidating, but it’s really very simple to use. Food processors run from $60-$200. If you don’t think you’re going to use the food processor very much you could get a mini one for about $30. I like this one.
I use my food processor all the time! Not just for my no-bake energy balls, but for slicing, dicing, and shredding vegetables (I hate to chop onions). I also use use it to make applesauce, hummus, nut butters, and a ton of other things. Most come with a few different blade options that you can use in a lot of different ways. This is the machine I have.
Now let’s get busy making some energy balls! Below are my favorite ingredient tips and a simple formula that will make you an energy ball pro in no time.
What’s the Formula?
2 parts dried fruit: the dried fruit is going to play an important role in your balls because it helps to keep them sticky, which allows them to stay together when forming the balls. I always use Medjool dates because they are delicious, soft, and moist. The pitted dates in a bag at the grocery store are definitely not as moist as Medjool dates, so you will have to soak them in water first to soften them. I use about 10 dates to make one batch of balls. Other dried fruits you can use are figs, cherries, cranberries, and apricots!
2 parts nuts: here’s where you can get as creative as you want. I always use raw nuts. Raw cashews are a secret weapon for giving that cookie dough flavor. Almonds are always a go-to, peanuts, macadamia, walnuts, pecans, even pistachios are good. You can combine a few different nuts or go with one for a very consistent flavor. Like for cashew lemon balls, you would go straight cashew. If you want a more complex flavor, mix them up. I usually do 1/2 cup total nuts.
1 part nut butter: the nut butter is for keeping the balls together. Natural almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter, and sunflower butter are great choices. I usually use about 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons. If you don’t want to add nut butter you could substitute with coconut butter/oil.
1 part spice: adding spice can give your balls some complex flavor. Cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, lemon or orange zest, sea salt, vanilla powder/extract, ground ginger, cardamom, and pumpkin pie spice are all fun!
1 part seed: seeds can add some fiber, protein and healthy fats to the balls. Options include ground flaxseed, chia seed, or hemp seed. You can also use sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, too! I usually add in 1/4 cup.
1 part flavor (optional): the flavor can be any combination of add-ins. I usually use about 1/4 cup. These are a few of my favorites:
- raw oats
- unsweetened shredded coconut
- cacao nibs or powder for chocolate
- matcha tea powder
- freeze-dried fruit (apples, strawberries, raspberries, etc.)
- extracts (mint, almond, hazelnut, etc.)
- frozen wild blueberries
- rice krispies
1 part protein (optional): protein add-ins include protein powder, hemp seeds, or spirulina powder, and even cooked quinoa.
If soaking dates or making a paste, do this first. Then add dates to food processor and pulse until chopped up pretty well. Then add nuts and nut butter and process again. Finally, throw in your extra add ins and pulse until well combined and mixture looks like sand. You know they are ready when you squeeze the “dough” with your fingers and it sticks together. Then just roll the mixture into balls. Once you have your balls you can also roll them in cocoa powder, shredded coconut, or anything you want!
Below is some inspiration to get you started: