There are approximately four situations in which I long for meat, dairy and/or eggs:

When I’m at my parents’ place and I hear my Dad cooking eggs on the stovetop in the morning; when I see someone break open a mozzarella stick; when I’ve had a bit to drink and I pass by a McDonald’s and/or see a picture of a Quarter Pounder; and when I see Instagram posts about this concoction known as “protein fluff.”

(Yes, I think it’s entirely normal for vegans to occasionally crave animal products, regardless of how long they’ve been vegan. I’ve obviously never given into those cravings, and I think that’s what’s most important).

Protein fluff seems to be something popularized largely by social media (what isn’t these days)? It’s basically a really really fluffy smoothie designed to help people who are interested in “volume eating” – getting in lots of protein and/or other nutrients but not a ton of calories.

I’m all for calorie-dense foods, of course, having recently gone through my first successful bulk. But I thought I’d share protein fluff for people who want to get in extra protein after a workout, but don’t want to replace an entire meal with a giant shake. Basically, after I work out, if I’m gonna have a “small snack,” I want it to have enough protein and calories to satiate me, and still have real food at mealtime.

Anyway, the more I read about protein fluff the more I saw that it seems to only ever be done with whey protein. And that’s largely because the dairy-based whey has properties that lead to more binding and will actually help the “fluff” expand into a marshmallowy consistency. Vegan protein comes in many forms, but between pea, soy, rice, hemp and other proteins, nothing seemed to do the trick.

Ah, but it’s not the protein that’s the trick – it’s what you add!

The trick here is xanthan gum, which is a gelling agent and thickener that’s made from aged and fermented sugars (although it is definitely not something you should use to sub for sugar). It’s commonly used to thicken things like toothpaste and certain medications, but it’s also a handy-dandy kitchen aid, especially when you’re engaging in the ever-tricky art of gluten-free baking (it helps bind blended GF flours). Don’t let the “toothpaste and medicines” fact scare you; xantham gum is totally natural and safe to consume and is a favourite of hippie foodies across the globe!

Xanthan gum can be expensive to buy, but the most you’ll ever need in a recipe is a teaspoon, so one bag will likely last you more than a year. Bob’s Red Mill is the most easy-to-find brand, in my experience.

Anyway, what I like to do is mix up the other ingredients like I’m making a regular ol’ smoothie. Then I pour into a bowl, add the xanthan gum and whip it.

(Whip it good).

You have to be patient here. It requires about 10 minutes of whipping in order to actually get a “fluff” consistency. But it can be done. I’d also advise a couple things here:

One, not all protein powders will have the same effect. In my experience, denser protein powders like hemp and pea protein don’t help you create as much air bubble in the fluff.

Two, it helps to have some sort of solid in there. I tried a version with just protein powder, liquid and peanut butter and it basically just kinda sat there.

Three, it’s best to have some milk and not just water. I used two cups of unsweetened soy milk; you could also use one cup of milk and one of water. When I used unsweetened tea, it was fine, but not quite as rich.

Anyway, on with the recipe!

Sweet potato spice protein fluff

Prep time: 12 minutes
Cook time: N/A
Serves: 2

Nutritional info: Gluten-free, soy-free option

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsweetened soy milk
  • 1 tbsp nut butter or nut butter powder
  • 1 scoop protein powder of your choice
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • ½ cup-1 cup of frozen sweet potato chunks
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ cup ice (optional)

Notes:

  • You can use whatever non-dairy milk you want. I used soy milk because of its high-protein content.
  • You can also do any mix of liquid you like (half milk/half water would work just as well) but I wouldn’t recommend making it all water.
  • You can obviously use any frozen fruit you like. Strawberries and blueberries make a great fruity treat. Bananas would also be delicious (although of course if you’re looking for a lower-cal snack, would recommend berries more). Pumpkin puree will also give you a great fall flavour!
  • I used a powdered peanut butter because I thought it would make for a better texture, but people have reported solid PB working just fine.

Instructions

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend on high. If you’re not using the most high-powered blender (and even if you are, to be honest) I’d recommend blending everything except the xanthan gum first, then adding the gum and blending again. This is because the gum will make it so thick that it’ll be hard to blend!
  2. Empty into a large bowl and, using a hand mixer, whip on high for about 10 minutes continuously. I stopped occasionally to scrape down the sides but eventually got used to scraping while whipping, which is more efficient. The more you can agitate the mixture, the better, as air bubbles are what give it the “fluffy” consistency. Be warned: this won’t double in size or anything, the point of the whipping is to take it from watery to fluffy and slightly mousse-like.
  3. Serve in cold bowls or mugs – I like to pop my serving containers in the fridge! The whipping tends to bring the fluff up in temperature a little bit, so this is a great way to cool it down without it losing its shape.
  4. Top with whatever your heart desires!