I am a food blogger and Nutella is my muse. At least some of the time, anyway. Usually before noon. It has been this way since the beginning of Veg Girl RD. In fact my third ever blog post was an ode to this creamy brown stuff. That was two years ago and it’s still hanging on as one of my most popular posts on the site.
There are others like me. I see the make-your-own Nutella recipes and chocolate-hazelnut-inspired Pinterest pages. I see the bucket-sized containers of it at Costco. But, despite the company’s best advertising efforts to convince you otherwise, it isn’t exactly health food, so I’m most inspired by those trying to create a healthier version, either commercially or in their home kitchen. I’m always ready and willing to try a new product or recipe so I can be sure I’ve sampled all of the possibilities.
That means I’ve bought a lot of jars and had a lot of taste tests. In fact, I have so much to say about chocolate-hazelnut spreads, it’s taken me three posts to get it all down on paper. (Get it all typed on the screen? Entered into my content-management system? You know what I mean.) In my ongoing quest to find a somewhat more nutritious version of this spread on grocery store shelves, I’ve acquired a handful of new discoveries to add to the ongoing conversation.
In the first post I tackled the original Ferrero Nutella, Cocoa Haze! Nut and Cocoa Spread, and Rigoni di Asiago Nocciolata Organic Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa and Milk, but my recommended brand was Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Blend.
In part 2, I took a peek at some new kids on the block: Choc & Nut Hazelnut-Cashew Nut-Cocoa Organic Spread, and Dundee Orchards Chocolate Huckleberry Hazelnut Butter, but Askinosie Chocolate Hazelnut Spread came out on top.
And now for part 3, there’s a slew of new contestants to consider:
Jem Specialty Nut Butter Chocolate Hazelnut Spread Nut-Tritious Foods Hazelnut and Chocolate Butter Blend Rapunzel Organic Chocolate Hazelnut Butter (I’ve provided a link, but the website for this German company is somewhat limited.)
Slitti Nocciolata al Cacao e Nocciole a Pezzi (Hazelnuts in cream with cocoa flavor and hazelnuts in pieces)
We should probably start by addressing taste, since it’s really the only reason anyone cares about Nutella or its imitators in the first place. Rawtella is equally as good as my favorite from post #2, Askinosie. The spread from Jem was very, very soft and smooth with a texture quite similar to Nutella but with a slightly tangy flavor and I’d rate it as my second best.
Nut-Tritious has a less refined texture. It’s more like a homemade version, with little chunks of nuts, but it’s yummy and definitely gets the “prettiest spread” award. It you look at the underside of the container it’s marbled with dark and light, all yin-yangy and awesome. (I tried to document the awesomeness with a picture. I failed. Guess you’ll have to rely on my spot-on literary description instead.) And while most of these spreads specifically say “don’t refrigerate” it’s actually encouraged for this fresh product, so it won’t be in the same section of the store just sitting on the shelf with the others.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the Ferrero company might be starting to get a big head. The other four products I tested were extremely reminiscent of the hazelnut spread trailblazer that started it all, in terms of taste and texture: ultra creamy and very sweet. So, they should come out ahead in this comparison, right? They would if that was my only concern, but when you dig a little deeper, it’s easy to see they fall short nutritionally.
Rawtella and Jem win for fewest ingredients: hazelnuts, cacao nibs, and coconut sugar. Jem sprouts their hazelnuts and adds vanilla to the mix, but otherwise they’re almost identical. Next in terms of simplicity would be Nut-Tritious which is made with hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, flax seed meal, canola oil, cocoa and agave nectar.
Remember, ingredients are listed in order of weight on the label, so whatever is listed first is present in the largest amount. The following examples look quite a bit different and clearly take their lead from Nutella, which is made with sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, minerals, whey, soy lecithin and artificial vanilla flavor.
Rapunzel uses cane sugar, hazelnuts, non-hydrogenated palm oil, sunflower oil, skimmed milk powder, cocoa powder, and vanilla powder. Nocciolata is made with sugar, hazelnuts, milk, cocoa powder, vegetable fat, vanilla and soy lecithin. Pernigotti is very similar with sugar, hazelnuts, cocoa powder, modified palm oil, and soy lecithin. And Nutkao’s not much different with sugar, vegetable oils (palm and rapeseed), hazelnuts, low-fat cocoa powder, skimmed milk powder, whey powder, lactose, sunflower lecithin, and artificial vanilla flavor. (FYI – the vegetable oil we get from rapeseeds is canola.)
You might have noticed that only three of these ingredient lists start with hazelnuts, while the other four start with sugar. Justin’s, a competitor, suggests this makes some chocolate-hazelnut spreads more like frosting than nut butter. You can see this ingredient difference reflected in the lower protein and higher sugar contents in the nutrient table below.
Since we’re looking closely at ingredients, we should talk about palm oil. A few of the comments on my earlier posts asked about palm-free options in this category of products. Nutritionally, palm is a concern because it’s a saturated fat, which has some associated health concerns. However, most of the saturated fats we think of as harmful come almost exclusively from animal foods. So palm oil seems to spark a lot of hope that research might eventually move it (and it’s cousin, coconut oil) over to the “good fat” column. But, there’s more to the story. Even if it turns out to be a healthful fat in the kitchen, the way it’s currently produced/harvested threatens tropical forests and wildlife. So if we’re evaluating products more thoroughly, palm-free or sustainably sourced palm might be worth consideration.
When there’s so much to ponder, sometimes a side-by-side comparison is best. Two quick notes about the nutrient comparison table:
- I didn’t include cholesterol values in the charts since all the products are essentially cholesterol-free (0 mg or <5 mg).
- I’m curious about some of the values listed for the Nut-Tritious. For example, I’m not sure why the fat and calories are so much higher. It might be because they use sunflower seeds and flax, but based on the ingredient list I still think it’s a good choice.
Nutrient Comparison for 2 Tablespoons of Spread
|Ferrero Nutella||Rawtella Chocolate Hazelnut Spread||Jem Specialty Nut Butter Chocolate Hazelnut Spread||Nut-Tritious Hazelnut and Chocolate Butter Blend|
|Total Fat||12 g||12 g||13 g||21 g|
|Saturated Fat||4 g||3 g||2 g||1.5 g|
|Sodium||15 mg||20 mg||0 mg||70 mg|
|Total Carbohydrate||21 g||14 g||12 g||6 g|
|Dietary Fiber||1 g||1 g||3 g||3 g|
|Sugars||21 g||7 g||9 g||3 g|
|Protein||2 g||3 g||3 g||6 g|
|Cost Per Ounce||$0.29||$2.33||$2.17||$0.83|
|Where I Purchased Mine||Fred Meyer||Terra Organica||I can't remember! The price is taken from their website.||Exhibitor hall at Veg Fest Portland|
|Contains Palm Oil||X|
|Rapunzel Chocolate Hazelnut Butter||Pernigotti Premium Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Spread||Nutkao Cocoa and Hazelnut Spread||Slitti Nocciolata|
|Total Fat||13 g||12 g||9 g||13 g|
|Saturated Fat||4 g||2 g||4 g||8 g|
|Sodium||20 mg||0 mg||10 mg||140 mg|
|Total Carbohydrate||12 g||18 g||20 g||13 g|
|Dietary Fiber||1 g||2 g||0 g||1 g|
|Sugars||11 g||16 g||19 g||n/a|
|Protein||2 g||2 g||1 g||3 g|
|Cost Per Ounce||$0.96||$1.20||$0.19||$2.45|
|Where I Purchased Mine||Whole Foods||Big John's Pacific Food Importers (but they no longer have it in stock)||Big Lots||Chef Shop|
|Vegan||Milk isn't in the ingredient list but label warns "may contain traces of milk".|
|Contains Palm Oil||X||X||X||Just lists vegetable fat, so not able to say for sure.|
Jem and Rawtella are my recommendations because of taste and nutrition, but they’re not exactly cheap. So, if I factored that in, I’d pick Nut-Tritious because it’s a close runner-up and beats them both for cost. But, availability for all of these is spotty. You might have to become a dedicated, observant and attentive shopper who is on the lookout for Nutella impersonators in unexpected places. Or order online.
But the demand is high and the desire is widespread, so hopefully more healthy alternatives will continue to enter the marketplace and ultimately be easy to come by. Maybe if we start buying up these healthier versions en masse, they’ll eventually end up in bucket-sized quantities at Costco, too.
Any good products I’ve missed or suggestions for the highly probable Nutella post #4?