Let me make one thing clear.
You won’t eat this chocolate spread and think ‘Wow- I can’t believe it’s not Nutella’.
You won’t be able to fool anyone, so don’t even think about trying.
This isn’t a copycat recipe- it’s an alternative.
A healthier, great-tasting alternative that even (I’ve been told) gets along well with peanut butter.
It’s healthier, simpler and cheaper (which ticks the three major boxes on my list).
So what is it? A simple combination of dates and cocoa with a touch of honey, cinnamon and coffee – cooked and mashed or pureed until it’s smooth and spreadable.
If you are concerned about the sugar in the dates, don’t be. The nutritional value of this dried fruit balances any concerns about its high sugar content. Dates are a good source of fiber and a host of beneficial micronutrients.
There are lots of different types of dates available at a range of prices. The cheapest option is usually the hard rectangular packs you can find in the baking section of the grocery store. (You can try this with the pricier Medjool dates for a more deluxe version.)
I like the taste of the dates to come through so use about one-third of a cup / 80 ml of cocoa. If you want a more intense chocolate experience from your spread, increase the cocoa to 1/2 cup / 125 ml. You can omit the honey if you prefer, but I think it helps create a smoother texture. (For a vegan version substitute maple or date syrup for the honey.)
Store your spread in the fridge where it should last for about a month.
- 12 oz / 375 g dates roughly chopped (about 2 cups / 500 ml)
- 1 cup / 250 ml water
- 1 teaspoon / 5 ml coffee powder
- 1/2 teaspoon / 2.5 ml cinnamon
- Pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon / 15 ml honey
- 1/3-1/2 cup / 80-125 ml cocoa
Place dates, water, coffee, cinnamon and salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
Stir frequently until the dates are very soft and can be mashed easily with the back of a spoon. Depending on the type of dates and the age of the dates, the time this takes will vary. If you are using the hard-packed dates, it could take up to 12-15 minutes.
If the date mixture starts sticking to the pan, add a few tablespoons / 30-45 ml of water as needed until the dates have reached the right consistency. The water will be absorbed so the mixture will not be runny.
Add the honey and cocoa and cook for about 1/2 minute.
Remove from the heat and let cool.
Whizz it in a food processor until very smooth, or mash and beat with a spoon until smooth.
Spoon into a storage container and refrigerate for up to a month.
You can use 1/2 cup / 125 ml cold coffee and 1/2 cup / 125 ml water in place of the water and instant coffee powder specified in the recipe.
To chop the dates, rub your knife with oil. This will keep the dates from sticking to the knife. Reapply oil as needed until all the dates are prepared.
For a vegan version, you can substitute maple or date syrup for the honey.