The holidays scream for treats, and nothing says treat to me like chocolate and nuts. Back in the day—by which I mean before I paid so much attention to how my eating habits affected my general well-being or the environment’s—Nutella spooned straight from the jar made me swoon. And it’s not surprising, because its main ingredient is white sugar, followed by oil, palm oil to be exact.
What’s not to like about sugar plus fat? Where would dessert be without it? Well, we’ve come a long way, baby, since the chocolatey-hazelnut spread was introduced in 1965 as a way to stretch chocolate, which had become scarce, and thus expensive, in Europe after World War II. For one thing, we now have many tasty alternatives to white sugar. For another, we know that palm oil has become unsustainable—its production threatens rain forests and their animal populations.
But you can have your chocolate-hazelnut spread and eat it too—as well as gift it to hosts and others on your holiday list. And you can do so knowing that you are taking almost everyone’s dietary choices into consideration: Although the recipe I’m sharing with you is not nut-free (I was able to gift this to a friend who isn’t allergic to almonds or hazelnuts—just walnuts, pecans, and pine nuts!), it is soy-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free, and if your keto friends are like mine, they won’t turn down a spoonful. The main ingredients are nutrient-dense, fat-rich nuts and the sweetener is maple syrup—which, though technically a sugar, is low on the glycemic index (and is also a good source of antioxidants and other immune-system boosters).
Start to finish, you can whip up a batch of this nutritious and more Earth-friendly take on Nutella in half an hour. Enjoy!
Happy Holidays (or Any Day) Hazelnut Spread
2 c hazelnuts*
2 c almonds
1/3 c maple syrup
¼ c melted coconut butter**
¼ c raw cacao powder
¼ c oat, almond, or other nondairy milk
Pinch sea salt (I like pink Himalayan)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place hazelnuts and almonds on a baking sheet, separated, or place them on separate baking sheets, and roast in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until fragrant. Let the nuts cool until you can handle them, probably about 10 to 15 minutes, then place the hazelnuts in a tea towel. Bring the corners of the towel together as if you were making a bindle, and then, keeping the towel twisted tightly closed, vigorously rub the nuts together to remove the skins.
Place the hazelnuts and almonds in a food processor and pulse to form a smooth paste.
Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until well incorporated.
Store your fresh chocolate-hazelnut treat in airtight jars, or enjoy straightaway (refrigeration not necessary)! If you or your friends don’t devour it in a few days, this spread will last a few months!
Yield: About 1 pint
*I do suggest buying organic ingredients if possible, especially nuts, because their high fat content makes them a sponge for pesticides.
**Melt in a double boiler, which, if you don’t have an actual doubler boiler (I don’t!), means placing the coconut butter in a Pyrex measuring cup in a pot of gently simmering water.
Photography: Andrea Killam