I think I’m ready. After purchasing 20+ jars of chocolate-hazelnut spread over the last 3 years to review on the blog, and trying a handful of recipes for the stuff, I’ve gone ahead and made my own version. (You can stroll down memory lane with the 20+ jars here, here and here.)
I’m lucky enough to live in a region where they actually grow hazelnuts. And I’m nerdy enough to enjoy touring farms and food factories (Bob’s Red Mill, Aplets and Cotlets/Liberty Orchards, Perugina Chocolate Factory) because I have a genuine interest in seeing where food comes from and how it’s made. So last fall I headed to Outer County Farm to get my hazelnuts directly from the source. I chatted with farmer Mark for quite a while and came home with a ginormous bag of Butler hazelnuts.
Hazelnuts, like other nuts, are pretty fantastic nutritionally. They offer protein, fiber, healthy monounsaturated fat, and a nice allotment of minerals and vitamins. Since they’re a plant food, they’re cholesterol-free of course but they’re also incredibly energy-dense, so just 21 crunchy nuts in your mouth gives your body about 180 calories. And while many of us were introduced to them in a sugary spread, straight up hazelnut butter would be similar to almond or peanut butter in terms of nutrients, and while not as widely used, roasted hazelnuts are a wonderful addition to salads, granola, or trail mix.
My version of America’s favorite spread was inspired by the Not-Tella recipe in the Veganomicon cookbook, Charlotte Ryan’s Cleantella, and Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread from the Pastry Affair blog. I opted for olive oil for its outstanding nutrition profile, and because I liked it so much in the Il Colle Del Gusto spread from Italy I recently sampled and wrote about. I added dark chocolate for good measure and a little hazelnut milk to smooth things out.
- 2 cups shelled and skinned hazelnuts (see notes below)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 ounces dark chocolate (66% cacao) chips, discs or drops (about ⅓ cup)
- 7 tablespoons hazelnut milk
- ¼ cup good quality cocoa powder (I like Dagoba or TCHO)
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee powder or granules
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Roast hazelnuts for 9-11 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice during roasting, or until fragrant.
- Once cool, whiz nuts in the food processor, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. (For me this took about 7 minutes. Mine never got quite to the nut butter stage, but rather tiny pulverized crumbs of nuts.)
- Put olive oil and chocolate in a small bowl and microwave 15 seconds at a time until melted, stirring in between, for about a minute altogether. Add this to hazelnuts and pulse a couple of times.
- Add remaining ingredients (hazelnut milk through salt) and pulse until incorporated and spreadable.
- Spread and scoop to your heart's delight. Store in the refrigerator.
If you have a favorite dark chocolate bar on hand, just coarsely chop it and use as a replacement for the chocolate chips.
As you can tell from the photos, my chocolate-hazelnut spread is thicker and more rough around the edges than the original, but I like knowing exactly what went into it and where it came from. And I know for sure that it’s a few steps in the right direction from a nutrition label perspective (since palm oil and sugar aren’t the predominant ingredients).
So, when you’re ready for a homemade alternative to Nutella, please find your own hazelnut farmer or grocery store/mail order nut source and get busy roasting, pulverizing, scraping, melting, pulsing, and spreading…and then let me know what you think. I’m hoping that having a couple of jars of my very own stuff in the fridge might cut down some spending in my Ooooooo-That-Looks-Like-A-Brand-Of-Chocolate-Hazelnut-Spread-I-Haven’t-Tried-Yet-Better-Throw-It-In-The-Cart budget. We’ll see.
Have you ever been inspired to make your own version of a favorite boxed, jarred, or bagged product? Is it worth the effort to have a healthier alternative on hand?