Built Bar Review 2020: Our 14 Protein Bar Recommendations

Built Bar Review 2020: Our 14 Protein Bar Recommendations

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You know how a lot of protein bars claim to be indulgent, but actually taste…nauseating? And then a while after you eat it, you discover that the bar literally was nauseating?

It’s so disappointing to open a protein bar that you’ve been looking forward to trying, just to find out the only way it keeps you satiated is because you’ve lost your appetite for the day.

I’ll be honest, when I unwrapped my first Built Bar, I expected this to be the case. Especially because the bar looked so delicious. There was no way the taste would actually match its appearance.

But I wasn’t met with chocolate-covered disappointment. To my surprise, the bar was actually delectable. It literally felt indulgent to eat. And, with 15 flavors ahead of me, I knew that eating these bars was going to be something I could look forward to every day. The company behind these bars set out to offer consumers a wide variety of flavor options, and they nailed it.

When I initially sorted through the box of bars, I saw some that I was especially excited to try, and a few that I was less enthusiastic about, as anyone would. But as we go through each of the 14 flavor options, you will see how I underestimated the potential of some of these flavors. There isn’t one single flavor that I would not be excited about enjoying again.

Let’s look at everything Built Bars has to offer you.

What Are Built Bars?

Built bars are well-rounded protein bars that contain only natural flavors and are free from any coloring or preservatives. The bars are well-known for their delicious texture, taste, and wide variety of flavor options. With each bar being between 110 and 170 calories, these bars are a great way to get some protein into your diet any time, whether that’s for breakfast, a snack, or a pre-workout boost.

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On their website, the company claims, “A primary objective in designing Built Bar was to make a bar that was high in protein, low in carbohydrates, had clean ingredients and would actually taste good.”

The bars are able to be made without preservatives because they have low water availability, which bacteria and fungus need in order to grow. While there is a significant amount of water in these bars, it’s tied up with molecules, which makes it unavailable for spoilage organisms to use to multiply.

This is just one small detail that shows how intentional the manufacturers of this bar were in creating the perfect product. Each ingredient was picked for a very specific reason that can benefit you in some way.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients that give these bars such a good reputation.

Built Bar Ingredients

Whey Protein Isolate

The company that makes Built Bars did some extensive research before making the decision to go with whey protein isolate for their protein source. After considering and researching other protein sources such as soy and egg whites, the company found that these were inferior options for their vision due to reasons like taste, texture, and poor digestibility.

Whey protein isolate is a complete protein that offers many health benefits. The two proteins that comprise milk are casein and whey, and when these proteins are separated, whey protein isolate can be used on its own. This protein source is a mixture of:

  • Beta-lactoglobulin
  • Alpha lactalbumin
  • Bovine serum albumin
  • Immunoglobulins

Whey protein isolate is preferred by many because it contains all 9 essential amino acids, it’s easy for your body to digest, and it has a mild flavor.

Most people tolerate the whey protein isolate used in Built Bars very well because it doesn’t contain casein or lactose, which are derived from milk. However, that doesn’t mean this protein is vegan, and the extensive process it goes through makes it more expensive than other protein sources.

Maltodextrin

This water-soluble fiber source contributes to the texture and health benefits of these bars. And, unlike other types of fiber such as inulin, maltodextrin isn’t processed by gut bacteria in ways that can lead to gas or other digestive discomforts.

The maltodextrin in Built Bars is processed in a way so neither your body nor your intestinal flora and fauna can start to break it down, meaning your body doesn’t digest it. This process leads to an end product called Fibersol, which is readily available for your digestive system and very well tolerated.

Sweeteners

Erythritol and Glycerin

Sugar alcohols are commonly used as a sweetener for products to keep them low in sugar but still sweet. Sugar alcohols are metabolized differently from sugar, so those who are diabetic or trying to reduce their sugar intake or insulin spikes can eat products containing these ingredients.

Most sugar alcohols lead to intestinal issues because of how they’re digested, but erythritol has fewer carbon atoms than other sugar alcohols, allowing it to easily pass into your bloodstream (instead of hanging out in your intestines). And the molecules are still big enough for your kidneys to filter them through your system. All this to say, erythritol is calorie-free and doesn’t lead to gas, bloating, or other types of intestinal discomfort. Plus, it’s natural–this compound can be found in everyday foods like watermelon and pears.

When glycerin is used with erythritol, it increases the sweetness (and the shelflife) of the bar. Glycerin does contain some calories because your body fully digests it (unlike erythritol), but in conjunction with erythritol, glycerin adds to the unparalleled moist texture of Built Bars.

Finally, this combination acts as a natural preservative for the bars, which is why you won’t see things on the ingredient list such as Butylated Hydroxyanisole 320 or Butylated Hydroxytoluene 321 (I don’t know what those are, I just know they’re preservatives that WHO has noted as being “possibly carcinogenic to humans”).

Chocolate

The high quality dark chocolate that coats each Built Bar is the only actual sugar source in the bars. Unlike other protein bars that use chocolate compounds, this chocolate doesn’t contain chemicals or cheap ingredients. The quality of this chocolate is really what makes these bars unique because when coupled with the naturally-flavored protein base, it offers a flavor combination that actually does resemble a candy bar.

The use of high-quality chocolate also leaves you with a chocolate aftertaste when you finish the bar, which is one of the main differences I found with this bar compared to others. It doesn’t taste medicinal, artificial, or bitter, which makes the negligible amount of calories the chocolate adds to the bar completely worth it. And, with the fiber and protein that’s in the bar, the sugar is absorbed very slowly by your body so don’t expect a sugar spike (and consequent sugar plunge).

Gelatin

Gelatin is used in Built Bars to stabilize their texture and foam structure. This ingredient is a drawback for some, as it’s not vegetarian, halal, or kosher. However, there are no alternatives that produce the same end result with these bars.

If you want to see a detailed breakdown on Built Bar's nutritional value, here is a page where they explain the science behind their product.

How Much Do Built Bars Cost?

Built Bars are very affordable and the company often features sales or deals of some sort. For example, they have a double discount sale currently going on that offers $5 off any box plus 10% more off using a code they provide on the site.

Right now, to get a box of 18 bars (with your choice of flavors), you’ll spend $32.80 (down from $37.80) and get free shipping included with your order. With the additional 10% off code, the price of each bar ends up being $1.64.

The company offers additional savings if you buy in bulk, so you can save 7% more if you buy 2 or more boxes, 12% for 4 or more boxes, and 15% for 6 or more boxes.

If you become a member, you can earn “Built Bucks” for additional perks, plus you can get money off by making referrals. I just signed up for a membership (not only because I will be getting more of these in the future, but also because they have some awesome limited time flavors out right now that I don’t want to miss–especially blueberry lemon) and it was easy to register and start earning rewards.

What Are the Benefits of Eating Built Bars?

Two weeks into being a devoted Built Bar consumer, I can tell you how they have benefited me, and you will likely be able to relate to some of my previously unmet needs.

I have a pantry full of protein bars in unopened boxes. I find myself buying them when they’re on sale, but when it comes time to actually eat them…I don’t. I think I have a flattened protein bar that’s been at the bottom of my purse for…weeks? Months? There’s no telling.

So, the first way in which these bars have benefited me is that I actually look forward to eating them. Each new flavor is exciting to open, and seeing as I’m 13 days in and only have 4 out of 18 bars left? That means I’ve had a bar a day, and one day oops I had two.

And, I’m sorry to keep mentioning the taste, but these bars are three bars in one because you can eat them at room temperature, chilled from the fridge, or you can cut them into bite-sized pieces and stick them in the freezer and they all give you a different experience. I ate most of mine at room temperature but did put a few in the refrigerator. Seeing as I got a temporary crown put in right before all of this COVID-19 stuff started, I only tried a sliver of a frozen piece (I’m not trying to go toothless for the foreseeable future), but I can see why people love frozen Built Bar bites and I look forward to trying more of them when I can.

Second, I am one of those people who is always hungry. I feel ravenous way more than I should–and seemingly so soon after I eat. This is the only bar I have ever had that I can use to replace a meal and it actually holds me over. I wouldn’t expect this, seeing as they’re low in calories, but all of that science and research mentioned earlier in the “Ingredients” section honestly does something.

In addition to my gift of eternal hunger, I’ve been given the pleasure of the most sensitive digestive system probably ever. I can remember getting out of a movie theater a few years ago–starving, of course–and I ate a protein bar on an empty stomach.

The sense of regret I felt for the rest of the night was about as bad as the aftertaste I had to suffer through the entire car ride home. I remember it was a cookie dough flavor, and all I could think was, “not uh.” The cramps were awful, and this was a 2nd or 3rd date situation, so the timing wasn’t ideal.

And there have been others. That’s just the most painful memory.

But, honestly, none of the Built Bars had any lasting effects aside from satiety. No cramps or bloating– or even the stomach ache I may feel after eating an actual candy bar.

Built Bar Nutritional Profile

The nutrition in these bars varies slightly by flavor (there are obviously more calories in a bar that has peanut butter in it than one that doesn’t, etc.) but they are all in the same range. Let’s look at the nutrition in a lower calorie option and then check out one that’s on the other end of the spectrum.

The salted caramel chocolate has 110 calories, 15g protein, 6g fiber, 4g sugar, and 4g fat (2.5g saturated fat). It also contains 13g carbs (4 of which come from sugar), but because of the fiber in this bar, the net carbs is only 5g. It has 103mg sodium, 3g sugar alcohol, and 1mg cholesterol. In terms of vitamins and minerals, this flavor has 47mg phosphorus, 1.27mg iron, 54mg calcium, and 149mg potassium.

When compared with a higher calorie bar, such as the peanut butter flavor, these numbers change a bit. The peanut butter bar has 170 calories, 20g protein, 7g fiber, 3g sugar, and 7g fat (3.1g saturated fat). The carbs go up to 16g but the sugar goes down to 3g–and the net carbs is only 3g. There is 4.5mg sodium and 6g sugar alcohol. The potassium jumps to 200mg and the calcium, phosphorus, and iron to 60mg, 76mg, and 1.42, respectively.

All the rest fall somewhere in between–there isn’t a bar that will take you by great surprise knowing the information above.

The Flavors

This is the part I’ve been waiting to get to this entire time–not that I don’t care about things like maltodextrin, but I really care about things like German chocolate cake. So, here’s the really important stuff.

Vanilla Chocolate Creme

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Vanilla Chocolate Creme

With all of these flavor options in front of me, I had a moment of anxiety regarding which one to pick first. But, I love vanilla, so I went for it.

I had ripped into the box as soon as I saw that they were delivered on my porch (which, by the way, took under 48 hours from the time they were ordered to be at my house in Virginia from Utah) and since it was a pretty warm day, I realized that the heat had gotten to the bar a bit when I opened it. I took an initial gooey (and sticky) bite before sticking it in the refrigerator for a bit to let it regain its integrity.

I finished the cooled down bar a bit later and the vanilla was anything but dull. What I really appreciated about it was that it had a vanilla bean essence rather than that artificial vanilla-flavored candy taste. I expected the marshmallow-y texture from reading reviews prior to getting my own box of Built Bars, but I knew I had sort of messed that up on day 1 with the slightly melted and then slightly refrigerated situation. I looked forward to day 2 when I would be able to enjoy a bar in its…natural state.

So my first impression of Built Bars was a favorable one, which was a relief considering my historical relationship with protein bars. The promise of chocolate was kept and my expectations for a delicious vanilla filling were met.

Toffee Almond

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Toffee Almond

It was the word “toffee” that intrigued me to pick this one next, not the “almond” part. However, to my (very pleasant) surprise, the almond wasn’t an amaretto flavor (which I really, really don’t like), it was the mild and natural flavor of the actual nut.

As for the texture when the bar was actually at room temperature, it’s hard to explain. It’s perfect…but hard to explain.

It’s denser than a marshmallow for sure, and chewier, but not as chewy as something like taffy. Some have compared it to a 3 Musketeers bar, but I wouldn’t describe the inside as being “whipped nougat” like a 3 Musketeers. But they’re softer and easier to bite into than a Tootsie Roll or a Starburst. I think Milky Ways are probably the closest resemblance in terms of texture to Built Bars, because these bars are pretty much somewhere in between caramel and nougat. The most important thing here is that you won’t be worried about the security of your teeth when eating these, but you can also be sure that your bar will stay in one piece as you’re enjoying it.

Banana Chocolate Creme

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Banana Chocolate Creme

This would usually not be a flavor that I would reach for when given a variety of options, but I figured I would travel outside of my comfort zone. This flavor was honestly phenomenal and a complete surprise. It tasted like an actual banana covered in chocolate, which is a theme you’ll see that I found with the other fruit flavors. I didn’t feel like I was eating a banana-flavored bar, I felt like I was eating a banana…and chocolate, of course.

Raspberry Chocolate Creme

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Raspberry Chocolate Creme

Same story here as for the banana chocolate creme- the raspberry taste was authentic. And it wasn’t even like a raspberry “gel” flavor (like what you may find inside a Valentine’s day truffle), it resembled the actual fruit. I felt a sense of appreciation when eating this bar. It was not what I expected.

Peanut Butter Brownie

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Peanut Butter Brownie

While this may sound more indulgent than what I had tried up to this point, they really are all equally indulgent. I love peanut butter and chocolate, and since I was starting to get the hang of my expectations for the flavors, I knew this one would be great…and of course, it was. This was the first bar I tried that had chunks of real nuts in it, so that was an unexpected pleasant surprise. The inside was chocolate, like a dense and chewy brownie, with the nuts dispersed throughout.

Double Chocolate Mousse

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Double Chocolate Mousse

This option was as savory as I assumed it would be, which was a treat, of course. It was a bit chewier than other options, which added to its richness. Any of the flavor options are great for chocolate lovers, but this one especially hits that spot. If I had another bar of this flavor, I would definitely chop it up and stick it in the freezer for chocolate emergencies.

Peanut Butter

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Peanut Butter

Unlike the peanut butter brownie option, the inside of the peanut butter flavor is tan (like peanut butter). However, similar to the peanut butter brownie bar, there are also chunks of peanuts in this variety. I mean, there’s nothing to not love here. Unless, of course, you have a peanut allergy.

Mint Brownie Delite

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Mint Brownie Delite

I was saving this one. I love chocolate and mint. The rich, gooey, sticky mint chocolate that was wrapped in its crunchy chocolate shell was more than I had hoped for–presumably because the mint wasn’t artificial tasting.

I did sit down with my 5-year-old while I was eating this bar, which proved to be a mistake. After asking for one bite, she claimed it as her own. I should have known, but it honestly didn’t cross my mind that it could get confiscated by her because she doesn’t eat anything that’s healthy. She can sense nutrition from a distance, even if it’s masked with chocolate.

But, unlike other protein bars I have tried to advertise to her as being a “treat”, she loved it and she stole it. I felt much better about her eating this as a snack than pretty much anything else she’s willing to eat, but that bar was meant for me.

Black Chocolate Cherry Creme

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Black Chocolate Cherry Creme

I was avoiding this one. I didn’t want it–I don’t like cherry flavor and I think it ruins chocolate when they’re paired together.

I have no idea how, but this was so good. The cherry flavor wasn’t like what you would find in a cherry cordial–and it was nowhere near a Maraschino flavor (I don’t like either of those).  It was a mild cherry flavor, but even if it had been overpowering, I don’t think I would have minded. Seeing as I don’t like them, I’m no cherry expert, but whatever they have going on in this bar works. I’d eat it again in a heartbeat.

Orange Chocolate Creme

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Orange Chocolate Creme

Seeing how good the cherry bar was, I didn’t hesitate to dig into the orange one. This one was refreshing in a way because of the citrus, but still decadent. I’ve read several reviews where people didn’t favor this option, but I really liked having some bars that were a bit lighter than others, and this was one of them.

Banana Nut Bread

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Banana Nut Bread

Because I liked the banana flavor so much, I was already expecting to like this as well. It was very similar to the banana flavor, but it had walnuts incorporated throughout. This was the perfect breakfast bar.

Coconut Almond

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Coconut Almond

I wasn’t a fan of coconut prior to it’s surge in popularity circa 2009. But, as my palate has changed over time, I’ve come to appreciate it well enough. I wouldn’t say I seek it out, but I like it.

I assumed this bar would have real coconut flakes in it, which it did. And, in looking at the ingredients, they’re organic coconut flakes, which…of course they are. This company doesn’t cut corners. The coconut almond bar was a solid representation of those two flavors, and I certainly enjoyed it.

Salted Caramel Chocolate

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Salted Caramel Chocolate

I could smell the salted caramel in this bar as soon as I unwrapped it. I knew this was going to be a standout bar the second I opened it and it so, so was. I’ve read other reviews noting that this was not a favorite because it's pretty sweet, but it definitely was for me. But, I’m here for the sweet. I guess it just depends on if you’re a salted caramel fan or not.

German Chocolate Cake

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German Chocolate Cake

This bar was a great note to end on…for now. What I most appreciated was the actual “cake” flavor that stands out. I’ve often had cake or cake batter flavored products and thought, “Have these people ever…had…cake…?”

I have an unhealthy relationship with cake and my love for it runs deep, and this bar came as close as I’ve ever experienced to duplicating a true cake flavor.

The Downside of Built Bars

There are really only two drawbacks that I came across with these bars. First, they aren’t vegetarian, kosher, or halel, which does limit the number of people who can enjoy these bars. However, I know the ingredients that the company would have had to substitute in these bars in order to meet everyone’s dietary needs would compromise the taste and texture that they’re known for, which would create an entirely different bar.

The second downside I found is when I went to make an order, I was under the impression that I could choose all 18 of my flavors in the “Build Your Own Box”, but you can only choose 3 flavors (and you get a 6 pack of each flavor you choose).

However, if you want more variety, you can go for the “Mixed Box” which offers every flavor of Built Bars except for the limited release options. I ultimately decided to go with the Build Your Own box because I had to try the blueberry lemon, and then when I went to check out, they offered me a box of mango flavored bars for $9.95, and yes, please.

Why I Recommend Built Bars

I’m sad to be finishing up this review because I enjoyed this project so much. I recommend Built Bars because the company’s use of real ingredients, coupled with high-quality protein comes together to make a delicious bar that’s gentle on your stomach and keeps you full for hours.

There is nothing else I would really look for in a protein bar, so now that I have created my membership on the site and made my first order, I’m all set up to be a Built Bar consumer from here on out. I look forward to seeing what they come up with for the limited-time flavors in the future, and with free shipping on every order, I don’t really plan on holding back.

And if you're still on the fence after reading this review, then take a few minutes to check out the 5,000+ reviews that Built Bar has posted on their website.

Connie Stemmle is a professional editor, freelance writer and ghostwriter. She holds a BS in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her 4-year-old daughter, running, or making efforts in her community to promote social justice.

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