A Healthier Sweet Treat: Choco-Almond Butter

By , SparkPeople Blogger
My boyfriend, Sam, loves riding his bike. He recently sold his car, and he spends much of the year training for and competing in endurance bike races. The man loves to climb mountains on two wheels, and he commutes about 26 miles a day to work, five days a week. On weekends, he's gone for hours at a time, riding along country roads in Kentucky with his teammates (he and a friend started a local cycling team, BSM).

As anyone who works out regularly knows, the more you exercise, the more you need to eat. All that time on the bike means he eats a ridiculous amount of calories each day. He eats a very clean plant-based diet, as do I.

In early December, he challenged me to create a recipe to cure his Nutella addiction. During race season, Nutella on a fresh baguette is his favorite treat. However, despite how delicious his beloved hazelnut-chocolate spread is, he knew it wasn't exactly healthy.

I've made my own almond butter for years, and I had been experimenting with a chocolate version since last spring. I even gave jars of it as gifts to my family members who have birthdays in March and April.

I was adding all sorts of ingredients: cocoa powder, sugar, coconut oil, maple syrup, even cacao nibs. They were all good, but the recipe just wasn't perfected. I kept changing the recipe and eventually stopped making it regularly. (I, too, developed a Nutella addiction over the summer! An intervention was almost needed.) Then I decided to start over. Two ingredients, 15 minutes start to finish, and better than anything you can buy at a store.

Even better: No hydrogenated oils, fewer calories, less fat and sugar--and more fiber! (You could make this with hazelnuts and it would be more like Nutella--or any other nut you like.)

Keep reading for Sam's upgrade to this recipe, plus directions and the full nutrition breakdown!

Nutrition in 2 tablespoons:

Nutella: 190 calories, 11 g fat, 15 mg sodium, 22 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 21 g sugar, 3 g protein

My version: 101 calories, 7.6 g fat, 1.2 mg sodium, 8.4 g carbs, 1.7 g fiber, 6.2 g sugar, 2.3 g protein

(View the full recipe--and review it--here!)

I started with a huge batch because I was confident it would be fabulous. I roasted a pound of almonds at 350 degrees F until just warm, then dumped them in my food processor and let them whirl for about seven minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl every couple of minutes.

Once it looked like almond butter, I added a 16-ounce bag of dark chocolate chips. The warm almond butter melted the chocolate chips, and the two became a velvety delicious batch of chocolatey goodness. When warm, it reminded me of chocolate sauce; when cold, it was like the best truffle filling.

That night, I shared it with Sam. He declared it "Stepf's BEST Choco-Almond Butter." But always the competitive type, he tried to one-up me--and succeeded! A week later, during a trip to Costco, we left with a combined 25 pounds of nuts for our respective kitchens. He was especially excited to make a version of another nut butter I'd told him about: raw pecan-almond butter, which has a naturally sweet, spicy, almost cinnamon-like taste. (TIP: Buy raw nuts in bulk to save money!)

This is where he got creative. He processed raw pecans until they turned into pecan butter, then added chocolate. The texture was amazing: It was fluffy and smooth like thick buttercream frosting. I immediately wanted to use it as ganache for a cake. Instead I was satisfied to eat a tablespoon of it as I would a lollipop, one lick at a time.

Choco-nut butter (made with almonds, pecans or hazelnuts) is now a regular treat for each of us. I like knowing that in addition to the dark chocolate, I'm getting a bit of fiber and a lot less sugar--Nutella is almost half sugar. Sure, chocolate nut butter isn't a health food, but it is healthier than the alternative!

I gave a jar to Josh as part of his Secret Santa gift package, and my yoga teacher and several friends have received batches as well. It's a quick and easy hostess gift.

Try a half serving (1 tablespoon) on a small banana for a sweet treat that's only 150 calories! I also like to spread it on toast, warm it and dunk pretzels into it, or freeze a spoonful and eat it like a lollipop. The possibilities are endless. It could make a great Valentine's Day treat!

NOTE: I'm allergic to peanuts, otherwise we would have made chocolate peanut butter. It would definitely work with peanuts!

Would you try this recipe? Does it sound like a winner? Have you ever created a healthy alternative to a favorite food?