Zero-Carb (Oreo-Esque) Protein Cookies


Welcome to a recipe that transcends the realm of The Traditional. It’s as kooky as it gets and that’s because of one ingredient and one ingredient only:  isomalto-oligosaccharide (IMO) syrup. Before you say “oh, shucks! I don’t have that!” and angrily close this post, read on for a second:

Isomalto-oligosaccharide (IMO) syrup is a very interesting ingredient. In terms of its texture, taste, consistency and composition, it’s unlike anything else out there. I remember someone once described IMO to me as as an ‘alien’ food and I nodded in agreement because, even though it’s very much of this earth, its behavior IS very bizarre; bizarre to the point of being downright surreal.

Surreal how? Well… let’s start with its nutritional profile. Per 100g, IMO contain 160kcals, zero grams of protein, zero grams of fat, and 75 grams of carbs. But out of these 75 grams of carbs? 70 GRAMS ARE FIBER. That means that per 100g, you only get 5g net carbs. The rest are comprised of three kinds of dietary fiber: non-digestible oligos, digestion-resistant oligos, and digestible oligos (look here). The body apparently ‘discards’ these 70g of fiber so that what you’re left with is a sweet and treacly syrup comprised of just 5g of net carbs per 100g. In the land of food, this is VERY unusual.

Let’s then move on to IMO’s texture, consistency, and cookability. Here’s where it all gets very interesting. See, you can integrate IMO syrup into your food by heating it lightly (e.g. you do this to make really low-carb protein bars, like these ones and these ones!) and you can also bake with it. When you do, you’ll notice that it makes extremely crunchy cookies and that it provides a solid ‘backbone’ to cakes etc, all without adding a lot of – or any -carbs (cf. “…what kind of sorcery!?”)

Because of the above, IMO is increasingly being integrated into commercially-available foods. Quest bars, for example, feature IMO prominently (it’s what makes the bars so high in fiber, low in carbs, and gives them that unique texture). And more and more people are wanting to cook with IMO too. That’s why BioNeutra have developed a direct-to-consumers arm (check it out here if you’re in the US or Canada).

Once you get your hands on the syrup, please try these cookies and report back. You’ll be extremely surprised by how they turn out – they’re almost macaronish in texture and crunch up like you wouldn’t believe a protein cookie can ever crunch up. As well as trying the cookies, also try the bars. Both the bars and this recipe include a few ingredient variations so you can get creative with your IMO.

I’ve answered some common questions at the bottom of this post too (like “what happens if you don’t have IMO, what can you substitute that with?” and “is the powder the same thing as the syrup?”)



Ingredients for the cookies

2 tbsp IMO syrup
4 tsps black onyx cocoa powder (I used onyx so my cookies would turn Oreo-like; if you don’t care about this though, just use regular cocoa powder!)
2 tbsps of chocolate whey protein powder (could use vanilla too)

Ingredients for the Filling

1 big tbsp of mascarpone cheese (or quark or cream cheese)
1/8 – 1/4 cup of vanilla whey protein powder (depending on how thick you want your mix; I used 24g).


1. First, make your cookies by chucking all the above cookie ingredients in a bowl and mixing it up with a spoon until you get a soft dough that you can mold with your hands into ‘balls’ (it’s going to feel like play-dough!) If your dough is too sticky to allow you to do this, add a bit more cocoa powder to it until you get to the right consistency.

2. Shape 6-10 ‘balls’ out of the mix (depending on how big you want your cookies) and, using your hands, flatten them and place them on a nonstick baking tray or a regular cookie tray lined with baking paper.

Here are some sequential shots of this process so you can get a better idea (note the third photo, does it remind you a of Dali’s melted clock from the Persistence of Memory?):

3. Bake at 200C (around 395 F) for no more than 6 minutes. Yes: NO MORE THAN SIX MINUTES. They often take 5 minutes to cook so please check them after five and if they’re cooked through, take them out of the oven.

4. Make your filling by mixing all your filling ingredients together. If you want your mix to be creamier than mine was, feel free to use casein!

ULTRA-LOW-CARB PROTEIN COOKIES5. Fill the cookies with the filling and PRESTO! That’s your cookies: done.

Macros per cookie, solo (out of the six I got from the mix above):  20kcals, 2g protein, 5g carbs (out of which 4.5g is fiber so net carbs 0.5), 0g fat.

Macros per 2 cookie, to make a cookie sandwich with (out of the 3 I got from the mix above): 40kcals, 4g protein, 10g carbs (out of which 9g is fiber so net carbs 1) + the filling (which is 51kcals, 6g protein, 3g fat and 0 carbs per cookie): 91kcals, 10g protein, 10g carbs (out of which 9g is fiber so net carbs 1), and 6g fat.

Q & A

What happens if I don’t have IMO? What can I use instead?

If you don’t have IMO, you CAN get creative by just melting an IMO-containing candy (like Sugar-Free Werther’s) and using that in place of the syrup. A friend of mine told me about this and it actually works quite well! The only downside is that the syrup you end up with will have other stuff in it which may or may not be a good thing (it depends on what you’re making).

Can I substitute the whey protein powder in your cookies for another protein powder, like casein or a vegan one?

Absolutely! Casein or pea protein powder will be great in the cookies – they’ll also work in my IMO-containing low-carb protein bars. The only thing I’d suggest is that you either exclude the cocoa powder when you make them or add a tiny bit more of the IMO if you’re using casein of a vegan pow. That’s because casein and the vegan pows absorb a lot more liquid than whey. Also, make sure also that your mix tastes just right (especially if you’re using a vegan powder) by just taking it before cooking.

Is IMO powder and IMO syrup the same thing?

Technically yes but at the same time, no. The powder is a dried up version of the syrup so you’ll just have to add a bit of liquid to your mix to get to the same consistency. I haven’t mastered this myself so I can’t be your guru on reconstitution. All I can say is… be fearless, have fun, and play with it as if you were some kind of mad kitchen wizard with an experimental streak and one hell of a lot of passion.

What if I don’t want to use IMO, can I still make low-carb protein cookies?

Absolutely! Check out all the ones I’ve posted at in the past (there are some pretty cool low-carb ones there) and also the ones in the new Protein Pow Cookbook!



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