Chocolate Nut Spread + Cacao vs. Cocoa Powder

DSC_6039I have loved almond butter since the first time I tried it. Then I started making my own… I loved it even more. This chocolate version is taking my love for almond butter to a whole new level. It is very simple, decadent and best of all… made from all-natural nutritious ingredients. My son and I ate this by the teaspoon after making the first batch and this second batch is even better with the addition of raw cacao nibs.

The nut blend in here is almonds and hazelnuts. I used lightly roasted hazelnuts for a Nutella like flavour, added raw cacao powder and cacao nibs for a healthy choc hit and sweetened it with coconut sugar and vanilla bean.

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Benefits Of Raw Cacao

Raw cacao powder is full of flavonoids that act as natural antioxidants. These antioxidants protect our body cells from ageing and disease and research from Cornell University in the US confirms the potency of antioxidants in cacao, deeming it one of the top natural food sources of antioxidants!! More specifically, the study revealed that cacao has nearly twice the antioxidant content of red wine, and up to three times more antioxidant activity than green tea.
Additional to antioxidants, raw cacao is also a great source of magnesium, an energy mineral and electrolyte, as well as sulfur, which is associated with strong nails, shiny hair and a healthy liver.

The Difference Between Cacao & Cocoa Powder

Although cacao and cocoa originate from the same plant seed (namely the cocoa bean) and are often used interchangeably, they are vastly different… especially when it comes to nutrition and health benefits. In order for the cocoa bean to become a powder, the fatty part – the cocoa butter – is removed. While raw cacao undergoes cold-pressing to remove the cocoa butter, cocoa powder is heated to high temperatures to accomplish the same thing. Although the heating process is undoubtedly quicker and more cost effective – it also destroys many of the natural health benefits found in the natural cacao bean. We’re talking beneficial antioxidants, minerals & vitamins, most of which are well preserved in the raw unprocessed cacao powder. It is a bit like comparing canned pineapple with a shelf life of 3 years to a fresh pineapple full of readily available nutrients.

By looking at the ORAC score (the tool by which scientists measure antioxidant activity in any given food) cacao has 367% more antioxidant activity compared to its processed equivalent, cocoa [source]. This too explains the price difference between the two.

Chocolate Nut Spread
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Recipe type: Spread
Author:
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: yields 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup almonds (raw or dry roasted)
  • ¾ cup lightly dry roasted hazelnuts
  • ¼ cup light dry roasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1½ tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla beans or vanilla paste/extract
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut sugar (for alternative use honey, xylitol or stevia)
  • ⅛-1/4 tsp sea salt (optional for those who love salted chocolate)
Instructions
  1. Place almonds and hazelnuts in vitamix/food processor and process for a couple of minutes, scraping down the sides as necessary. The nuts will first become flour-like whereafter they should start to clump together.
  2. Add vanilla, coconut sugar, sea salt & raw cacao powder and continue to process until you reach the desired consistency (I like to process mine until it is almost liquid like)
  3. Transfer to glass jar or other container and stir in the chopped hazelnuts to give it a crunchy texture.
  4. Store at room temperature or in the fridge.

This butter is divine on any bread (my fave is on a piece of healthy buckwheat & seed bread lightly toasted on a pan or on these chia seed crackers). For a light snack try adding a tsp or two to slices of banana or add a bit to your oatmeal or smoothie.

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9 Responses to Chocolate Nut Spread + Cacao vs. Cocoa Powder

  1. Anonymous says:

    Girl this looks SO good!

  2. Amanda says:

    Hi Regina, I tried making this, but mine just stayed like a powder substance (even after 20 minutes of blending). Not sure what I did wrong, but my family are desperate for mine to look like yours!!! Any ideas what I might have done wrong?

    Best wishes,

    Amanda

    • Regina says:

      Sorry to hear that Amanda. In my experience and from what I can read, this is fairy common and depends on the type of nuts, food processor and if the nuts are over-roasted if you used roasted nuts… That said, most people do have success if they persist and avoid over-roasting the nuts, causing them to get too dry. Sometimes mine takes longer than others (up to 35 mins in a vitamix, which is quite a powerful blender) and generally the longer you keep going the creamier the result. Take breaks if need be and make sure to keep scraping down the sides. You can also try adding add a tbsp or two of coconut or flax oil to help it along but it shouldn’t be necessary. Almonds are known to be more stubborn than cashews and peanuts so my advice would be to keep going even if it takes a while. Hope this helps! x

  3. Michaella says:

    Hi, this looks so good! It’s so good to finally have a healthy Nutella alternative (which I CANNOT get enough of but I don’t like eating chemicals). Trouble is, whenever I try to make the almond butter, all of the almonds fly to the sides of the blender, and when I scrape the sides and blend it again, it takes literally one second for the almonds to escape the blade again. Basically, no almond butter is made, it’s just blades spinning. What should I do??

    • Regina says:

      this often happens if you use too little almonds (as in a bigger batch is easier), but also depending on the type of food processor. I do this in a vitamix and need at least 2 cups (200 gm) almonds to make sure there’s butter coming out. Check out this site for instructions on how to make almond butter using a non-vitamix food processor

  4. John says:

    How much can you heat raw cacao powder (as in a cup of hot chocolate) before it loses most of it’s antioxidant activity. Is there a compromise temperature?

    • Regina says:

      There’s currently no science on how much, or if at all, heating raw cacao destroys its nutritional + antioxidant benefits. But I figure if you start off with the product in it’s raw form, it has to be more beneficial than starting with an already heated and processed equivalent.

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