Healthy Nutella (Gluten Free, Vegan, Paleo, Refined Sugar Free)
I’ve been obsessed with An Edible Mosaic for what feels like forever. Faith cooks how I want to eat: healthy (many of her recipes are gluten free, vegan and/or paleo), with a deep love for fresh, seasonal ingredients, but with an international twist. I love flavor profiles that make me gasp with surprise and delight; that make my tongue dance and pull my memory to trips I’ve taken both in real life and in my mind. She’s a world traveler and writes often about her love for Syria, where she lived for several years with her husband, and which remains my favorite place I’ve traveled to (I actually have a hard time thinking too much about the wonderful world I encountered there, and the people who lived lives so much like you and me).
When we decided to collaborate, I knew I wanted to do something travel related. We both decided to make something based on a strong travel memory – head on over to her site to see her (paleo) pie, inspired by London, a place that’s obviously very close to my heart.
And over here – well, let’s talk about Nutella. When I was sixteen, I harassed my parents until they finally agreed to let me spend the summer abroad in Germany. I had spent the previous year watching the Real World: Paris, and as I folded my clothes into my fresh-purchased suitcase, I was sure that my time in Europe would be just the same: filled with cute boys who pined after me, late nights at clubs (as a small-town sixteen year old, I’d never been to a club but I assumed in Germany it would be completely different), and days spent laughing with my newfound German friends.
And then I got to Germany, where I’d been placed in a small town in the north. There were no clubs, and no cute boys lusting after me. My host mother was lovely, but older, and the young people in town moved in tight circles that didn’t leave much room for outsiders. The feeling that I should be having the time of my life only compounded the guilt I felt at not having it. I was bored, and I was lonely, and I was ashamed about both of these things.
About three weeks in, I was at the crepe shop that I visited regularly as a sort of afternoon ritual to get out of my host mother’s house. I’d just sat down to eat my regular sugar and butter crepe when the girl at the table next to me made a disapproving noise.
I turned to her.
“You always get the same thing,” she said. “I see you every day, and it is always sugar and butter, sugar and butter. So boring!”
“You see me every day?” I asked. It seemed potentially creepy, but at this point in my trip, I was mostly flattered that I had been noticed.
“Here.” She cut off a bite of her crepe, and held her fork out. I looked at it and I looked a her. “Go on,” she said. “Take a bite.”
The flavor exploded in my mouth. It was rich and chocolate, velvety smooth with a faint nuttiness. I hadn’t had Nutella before. I’m not sure I’d even had a hazelnut before.
After that day, Sabine and I began meeting regularly for crepes. She started inviting me out with the friends that became my social group over the course of the summer. And from then on, the flavor of Nutella was forever associated with the small act of friendship, a chocolate hazelnut offering that spanned between two tables, and two continents.
Once I began becoming conscious of what I ate, I was devastated to read Nutella’s ingredient list: it’s filled with artificial flavors and emulsifiers and refined sugars, and all sorts of things you simply don’t want in your body. It became my personal mission to create a version that would not only be nourishing and good for my body, but that would taste amazing, with all of the emotionally laden delight I associate with the original.
Spoiler alert: I succeeded. This Nutella, you guys. It’s so good. The consistency is perfect – creamy and smooth, with just slightly more spreadability than a nut butter. You’re hit first with that delicious texture, and then comes the chocolate, which is rich and dark and maybe even a little bitter: the grownup dark chocolate to Nutella’s pedestrian milk. The hazelnut comes in the finish, adding that toasted, nutty note that roads out the entire experience. Dare I say that I actually like the flavor of this more than traditional Nutella? I do dare. I like dark chocolate now too, and things with complicated, richer flavors. #adulting
I still spread this on crepes, or on some toasted sourdough with a sprinkle of chunky sea salt, Spanish style (we’re going everywhere in Europe today!). You can blend it into smoothies, use it to top oatmeal or chia pudding, or even thin it out with a bit of coconut milk over low heat on the stove to make the absolute best drizzle to top ice cream with. You can, of course, also eat it straight from the jar.
And the nutrition stats? While a huge part of the health benefits from this Nutella come from what it lacks (ie man-made chemicals, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors), it packs a punch of good stuff too. The raw cacao is loaded with magnesium and antioxidants, while the lightly roasted hazelnuts are amazing for your heart and digestive system. My Nutella is also dairy free, gluten free, paleo AND vegan.
Serves: 1.5 cups
- 2 cups raw hazelnuts (with the skin on is fine, we’ll be removing that)
- ⅓ cup raw cacao (can sub cocoa powder if you’d like)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 cup honey, coconut syrup, maple syrup or rice malt syrup
- ½ cup full-fat coconut milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay hazelnuts in a single layer on a parchment lined pan. Roast until golden brown, shaking occasionally for even roasting, about 13 minutes.
- Transfer to a clean kitchen towel draped off a medium mixing bowl. Let cool for a few minutes before closing the towel up into a bundle with all the hazelnuts inside. Use your hands to rub the towel so all the hazelnuts rub against each other; you can be pretty aggressive with this. Do this for about 2 - 3 minutes and the skins should come right off (if there are little bits of skin remaining, don’t stress). Transfer the skinned hazelnuts to a food processor and carefully discard the skins (careful, it’s like confetti if you spill it on your floor!).
- Process for 3 - 4 minutes, until the hazelnuts have become smooth and creamy. You really want to go longer than you think you need to - well after the nuts come together into a paste, they begin to release their oils and get that creamy, dreamy texture we’re going for.
- Add cacao, vanilla, sea salt, coconut milk and honey and process for 1 - 2 more minutes until very smooth. Taste it at this point. I prefer a rich, dark chocolate flavor, but if you’d like something more sweet, add honey 1 tsp at a time until it reaches your desired sweetness.
- If you’d like a Nutella drizzle (versus the thicker, spreadable kind), you can blend in more coconut milk 1 tsp at a time until it reaches your desired texture.
- Makes 1.5 cups. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week.