Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate - oh so delicious!! We can't live without it but all that sugar doesn't make it the healthiest snack food. When it comes to store-bought chocolate the ingredients in the labels can be quite overwhelming and the packaging can't be recycled. Is it possible to get chocolate without all the palm oils, emulsifiers, stabilisers, preservatives and wasteful packaging, and is there a healthy snack version of chocolate? The answer to both is YES!
Creating The Most Delicious Healthy Snack
The good news about chocolate is the basic natural ingredients actually have a host of health benefits. The cocoa bean is full of polyphenol flavonoids (antioxidants from plants) that are associated with lowered blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, improved blood vessel health and reduced type 2 diabetes risk factors like insulin resistance. The additives in the store-bought versions actually don't add to the taste or nutritional value of chocolate. Keeping this homemade healthy snack as part of a balanced diet will allow you to reap the rewards.
How To Make A Healthy Dark Chocolate SnackThe best part about this recipe is how easy it is! It literally takes only a few minutes to melt, combine, pour into molds and allow to set. With only 4 ingredients it is super simple too! There are a number of ways you can make dark chocolate. We have experimented with this recipe for a while, mainly playing with the ratio of cocoa butter and coconut oil. What we discovered is that cocoa butter is king - so creamy, so velvety, so melt in your mouth delicious! We eventually ditched the coconut oil altogether and came up with this beaut of a recipe:
- 1 cup cocoa butter pieces
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder OR raw cacao powder
- 1 – 2 tablespoons maple syrup OR raw honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
Optional extras: chopped almonds, mint extract, orange rind, chili powder, sea salt, chia seeds.
- In a double boiler, melt the cocoa butter pieces until completely liquid.
- Add the cocoa powder to the melted cocoa butter and mix well.
- Pour in the maple syrup or honey, heat and stir until completely evenly mixed.
- Add in the teaspoon of vanilla and any other optional extras and mix well.
- Pour into molds and allow to set in the fridge for an hour.
Our tips to avoid some common issues:
- Always use a double boiler for this recipe. If you don’t have a double boiler a thick glass mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water works too (beware the glass bowl gets very hot so you will have to use a spoon/ladle to scoop the chocolate into the molds). Do not attempt this recipe in a pot directly on the stove – the cocoa butter boils and burns really easily.
- Always make sure the maple syrup or honey is well heated and evenly mixed. If it isn’t well mixed it sinks to the bottom and you end up with very bitter first few pieces of chocolate and very sweet last few pieces. For this reason don’t leave your chocolate to stand before you pour it into molds, always mix it well before pouring.
- These chocolate bars are softer and melt easier than store bought chocolates which are packed with emulsifiers and stabilisers. As long as the temperature stays below 30 degrees your chocolate will remain solid. If in doubt, keep them in the fridge (they taste great from the fridge straight into your warm mouth too!).
- If you are experimenting with additional add-ons make a smaller batch. It takes a few attempts to get the ratios the way you like it and cocoa butter is expensive!
- Don’t substitute the maple syrup or honey for ordinary granulated cane sugar. Not only will this create a product with a much higher GI and undo the health benefits of the chocolate but the granulated sugar doesn’t melt well and you end up with very grainy chocolate.
Getting the most out of your healthy chocolate snack
Through our experimenting, we stumbled upon some tricks worth sharing:
- To maximise the health benefits of this recipe you can substitute the cocoa powder with raw cacao. The raw cacao is less processed and has higher levels of antioxidants. The taste profile is different, however, and will require an adjustment in your maple syrup or honey levels.
- Chocolate gets a bad rep because of the sugar content and the high GI of the end product. Maple syrup is a low GI sweetener, honey is slightly higher but still lower than cane sugar. For maximum health benefits stick with pure maple syrup (Beware, most store-bought maple syrups are in fact maple FLAVOURED syrup derived from cane sugar, so check your labels carefully).
- Cocoa butter has been increasing in price steadily over the years. To make a cheaper version of this recipe you can substitute some of the cocoa butter for coconut oil (try to keep the ratio of coconut oil no more than 1:2 to cocoa butter). If you choose to add in the coconut oil your chocolate will have a much lower melting point – store your chocolate in the fridge to prevent sticky disasters.
Our Personal Observations
Often the additives in store-bought products serve a greater purpose for cost reduction, storage, transport and packing than taste or nutrition. Read more on why so many people are choosing natural alternatives to products. It helps to make the switch to a healthier, more natural alternative when it’s this easy to make amazing chocolate at home!