April 3, 2024

Sugar Free Protein Puppy Chow (Muddy Buddies)

Enjoy the nostalgic party snack but with nourishing ingredients and a boost of protein! These cake batter muddy buddies (or puppy chow) are low sugar, high protein, and ready in 10 minutes, and there's tons of flavor combinations to choose from.

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am for today's recipe. Like my indulgent childhood treat just became a healthy tasty treat with zero guilt attached to it. Doesn't that just sound wonderful?

Where I come from, this treat was known as Puppy Chow, but my husband looked at me funny when I called it that. He calls them Muddy Buddies. Either way, it's delicious and I'm sure you've had it.

Puppy Chow got its name because it looks like dog kibble, but after Chex, the cereal brand, heard about it, they created their own recipe on the back of their cereal boxes for "Muddy Buddies."

Whatever you call the original recipe, it's amazing, but it just got better. My recipe for homemade puppy chow is refined sugar-free, made with heart-healthy fats, and has 16 grams of protein per serving!

Hands holding a cup of sugar free muddy buddies

Ingredients you'll need

  • Rice Chex cereal: yes, it's a different cereal than the traditional puppy chow recipe, but I chose this one because it's naturally gluten free. Feel free to use the original Chex cereal or even Life cereal for a boost of fiber.
  • Protein powder: one of the "sugar" ingredients that also adds all the protein to this healthy puppy chow recipe. Please know that not all protein powders taste good unmixed, so I recommend choosing a high quality protein powder for this recipe. My favorites are Just Ingredients (use the code "thewellnourishedmama" for 10% off), Clean Simple Eats, and Body Fortress. You can use vanilla protein powder for most of the flavors, but if you can get special flavors you can get some really yummy flavors!
  • Zero calorie powdered sugar: this means fewer calories per serving and less refined sugar. My favorite is powdered monk fruit, but you can also use any sugar-free sweetener or regular powdered sugar if you prefer.
  • Sugar free chocolate: I've found that a small bar of Lily's or Hu chocolate is the perfect amount for one batch, but you can also do equal amounts of chocolate chips, and they're both great options for unsweetened baking chocolate. Depending on which flavor of healthy muddy buddies you want, you can choose between dark chocolate or white chocolate.
  • Nut butter: a much healthier alternative to traditional butter that's also a good source of copper, magnesium, manganese, and plant-based protein. If you have a nut allergy, you can use equal amounts of sunflower seed butter. Make sure you use 100% natural nut/seed butters with the oil separation on top where the only ingredient is the nut or seed.
  • Vanilla, almond, [etc.] extract: just a touch of vanilla extract will add some sweetness to the melted chocolate mixture. If you're making the birthday cake flavor, the almond extract is the secret to creating that signature "birthday cake" or "cake batter" flavor you know and love. If you don't have some on hand, it's 100% worth the trip to the store. Please take my word for it when I say it makes all the difference.
  • Sprinkles: totally optional. If you truly want to keep this recipe sugar free, you can buy keto sugar free sprinkles here on Amazon!

How to make protein puppy chow

If you've never made Muddy Buddies or Puppy Chow, it's way easier than you think, and this recipe is even easier than the original!

Normally you'd melt butter, peanut butter, and chocolate in a double boiler on the stove, then fold in the cereal, and you have to let the cereal mixture cool before tossing in the powdered sugar.

With these protein muddy buddies, there is NO COOLING REQUIRED. That's right, I figured out how to make this 30 minute treat a 10 minute healthy treat!

The secret is melting the dark chocolate chips with the nut butter in a large bowl in the microwave. Because nut butter is already partially "melted" and it's room temperature (it's more liquid than a stick of cold butter), it just needs one minute in the microwave with the chocolate.

As the chocolate melts, it adds the necessary liquid to the cashew butter to thin it out instead of using coconut oil. It's magical!

From there, the steps are pretty much the same: toss the cereal in the wet ingredients, then shake the cereal in a large resealable bag (ie large ziploc bag or plastic bag) with the "sugar" (dry ingredients).

The best part? You get to enjoy this treat right away! No cookie sheet, wax paper, parchment paper, or small pot on the stove.

If you're not already drooling at the idea of instant sugar free puppy chow, just take a look at the picture below. It gets me every time!

Sugar free birthday cake puppy chow with rainbow sprinkles

Protein puppy chow variations

​I love this healthier puppy chow recipe because it's totally customizable and I've created so many variations of it. Check out some of my favorite flavor combinations below:

  • Traditional recipe: use chocolate protein powder and regular peanut butter
  • Birthday cake/cake batter (pictured): follow the written recipe in the recipe card below
  • Chocolate mint: use chocolate protein powder, cashew butter, and mint extract
  • Lemon​: use lemon protein powder and cashew butter. Feel free to toss in freeze dried strawberries or blueberries too!
  • Strawberries and cream:​ use strawberry protein powder, almond butter, and toss in freeze dried strawberries
  • Salted caramel: use salted caramel protein powder, cashew butter, and a bit of coconut sugar

Recipe notes

If you want to make a double batch, I recommend making each batch separately in their own ziplock bag and large mixing bowl.

​This recipe will last for up to 7 days at room temperature in an airtight container or ziploc bag.

If you use high quality protein powder and healthy chocolate, this recipe does not have any added sugar. However, when looking at the daily values on the nutrition facts, you'll notice 5 grams of sugar. This is because carbs have natural sugars in them. This is how I can label the recipe sugar-free.

To find a high quality protein powder in your budget, read this blog post.

More sweet treats to try

Healthy Chewy Monster Cookies

Mini Banana Cream Pie Cookie Cups

Healthy Strawberry Crisp with Salted Pretzel Topping

Homemade Cinnamon Toast Crunch Popcorn

Mint Chocolate Protein Donuts

Birthday Cake Ice Cream Sandwiches

A scoop full of healthy sugar free birthday cake muddy buddies

I can't wait for you to try these Muddy Buddies! They are the perfect snack or healthy treat for a holiday party. You will never want the classic puppy chow recipe again after you try my healthier version.

Be sure to leave a star rating and review below if you try this recipe for protein puppy chow so other readers know how you liked it!

Enjoy the nostalgic party snack but with nourishing ingredients and a boost of protein! These cake batter muddy buddies (or puppy chow) are low sugar, high protein, and ready in 10 minutes, and there's tons of flavor combinations to choose from.


Brooke Harmer













  • 120g (about 4 C) rice Chex cereal
  • 60g (about 1 bar) white chocolate (I use Lily's)
  • 64g (about 1/4 C) cashew butter
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 50g (about 1/2 C) vanilla protein powder
  • 2 Tbsp zero-calorie powdered sugar*
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar-free sprinkles** (optional)


  1. Pour the cereal in a really large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, sift (or whisk) together the protein powder, powdered sugar, and salt.
  3. In a shallow bowl, melt the chocolate and cashew butter in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir to combine, and microwave another 15-30 seconds. Whisk in the almond extract until smooth.
  4. Working quickly (the wet ingredients are going to solidify fast!), gently fold the wet ingredients with a silicone spatula into the cereal. At first, it won't look like there's enough, but I promise there is!
  5. Transfer the cereal to a large ziploc bag and add the dry ingredients. Toss well until the cereal is coated in the "powdered sugar."  
  6. Leave a star rating and review if you loved this reicpe!


*You can also use regular powdered sugar, but this recipe will no longer be sugar free and the total calories and carbs will increase.

**To keep this recipe sugar-free, either omit the sprinkles or use sugar-free sprinkles.

See the blog post for more flavor variations.

Nutrition facts are a calculated estimate of 1 cup of puppy chow.


Serving: 1 cup / Calories: 365 / Fat: 17.3g / Carbohydrates: 40.9g / Fiber: 5.6g / Sugar: 5.5g / Protein: 15.8g