Healthy Homemade Vegan Nutella

There's a story behind this recipe.

I'm a dark chocolate lover. If I buy a bar of chocolate it's usually 80% cacao or higher. The purer the better, as far as I'm concerned.

One day, while I was checking out at Trader Joe's, I spotted on that shelf of last-minute "impulse buy" items, next to the mints and candies, a chocolate bar that was labeled 100% cacao.

Well, naturally I had to try it. I picked one up and dropped it into my cart just in time for the cashier to include it in my grocery haul.

When I got home, I sampled it right away. I was excited to discover what a 100% pure cacao chocolate bar would taste like.

When the square hit my lips, I realized what should have been obvious from the start:

100% cacao means 0% sugar.

That's right. No sugar at all. Which makes for pretty weird-tasting chocolate. I mean, it was edible. But... it wasn't what I was expecting. Chocolate requires a little sweetener.

And THAT got the wheels turning in my head.

What if I melted this chocolate bar down and blended it with dates, nature's perfect whole-food sweetener? (See Dr. Greger's video on The Healthiest Sweetener)

And then... Why stop there? What if I also blended in some raw hazelnuts? I could make my own Nutella!

And that, my friends, is exactly what I did.

It turned out absolutely delicious, which is why I'm so excited to share the recipe with you.

Name-brand Nutella is full of junk ingredients, including dairy. But its delicious chocolate-hazelnut flavor makes it a classic breakfast favorite around the world.

So now you can make some yourself, and have an option you feel great about eating and sharing with your loved ones, especially the kiddos.

It's super simple, too! You'll need a food processor.

See below for ingredient and equipment notes. Links here to products on Amazon are affiliate links, which means I make a tiny commission if you choose to buy through my link. I appreciate the support!

Let's get started.

Ingredients

  • 10 Medjool dates
  • 1 bar of 100% cacao chocolate
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raw hazelnuts
  • 1 Tbsp almond milk, more as necessary

Instructions

1. Slice each date open with a knife and pull out the pit, removing any stems that might also still be attached.

2. Soak the pitted dates in a bowl of hot water to soften, about 30 minutes. I usually use an electric kettle to heat water quickly for this purpose.

3. When the dates are soft, drain the soaking water and transfer the dates to the bowl of your food processor.

4. Blend the dates into a puree. Begin by pulsing the dates several times, and then process them until smooth. You may need to stop the machine and scrape down the sides a few times before you achieve a smooth consistency.

5. You can transfer the pureed dates to a different small bowl and reuse the food processor bowl for the next step. No need to clean it between steps.

6. Place your hazelnuts in the food processor bowl and blend them until they become the consistency of natural peanut butter.

At first the hazelnuts will look like finely chopped nuts.

Then they'll become like a wet, coarse sand. Stop the machine periodically and scrape down the sides of the bowl, as necessary, to make sure all of the hazelnuts get blended.

Gradually the hazelnuts will look like chunky peanut butter, and eventually smooth peanut butter.

That's when it's all ready to go. Depending on the strength of your food processor, this will take several minutes from start to finish.

Set the hazelnut butter aside for now.

7. The next step is to melt the chocolate. Begin by chopping the chocolate bar roughly to help with melting.

In order to prevent any burning, we'll be using a "double boiler" method. In this method, steam is used to heat the melting bowl.

There are specific pots called double boilers, and maybe one of your saucepans came with a double boiler insert. If so, great! You can use that.

If not, you can do what I do, which is to use a regular saucepan and a small stainless steel mixing bowl large enough that it can sit on the rim of the saucepan without touching the bottom.

Put a little bit of water in the saucepan and turn on the heat. Set the bowl on top. Place the chopped chocolate in the bowl. As the water in the pot boils, the steam will rise, heating the double boiler or stainless bowl and melting the chocolate inside. Be sure to hold the bowl with a pot holder, because it will get hot!

Keep stirring more or less constantly until the chocolate has melted completely. I recommend a silicone spatula for stirring.

8. In a large food processor bowl, combine the date puree, hazelnut butter, melted chocolate, almond milk and vanilla extract.

9. Begin by pulsing all the ingredients together several times, and then process it continuously.

10. If the blend isn't quite smooth yet, as in the photo above, it could use some more liquid. Add more almond milk, 1 Tbsp at a time, blending in between almond milk additions, until the consistency becomes smooth. When it's ready, it will look like the Nutella you're used to seeing -- which is to say, like thick, spreadable chocolate hazelnut butter.

And that's it... You've made your own wholesome Nutella!

You can store this in little canning jars in the fridge. It should keep for a couple of weeks like that, with the lids on. It will stiffen up when cool, so if you prefer it to be softer, leave it out on the counter for a little while before serving.

Pro tip: These small jars of homemade Nutella make a really nice hostess gift, too, if you've been invited to dinner.

To serve, slather your chocolate hazelnut spread on whole wheat sourdough for a sweet, yummy breakfast, or use it in any recipe that calls for Nutella.

Serve and enjoy!

Equipment notes:

Food Processor

Aside from the very optional double boiler mentioned above, the only equipment you need to make this homemade Nutella recipe is a food processor.

My best recommendation, if you want to make a serious investment in your kitchen, is the Magimix 16-cup Food Processor. This is the one I have, and I love it.

If you're not ready for that kind of commitment, no worries. I started out with a smaller food processor, too. The Cuisinart Prep 9 and the Cuisinart 14-cup Food Processor both get excellent reviews on Amazon.

Stainless Mixing Bowls

If you don't already have some for your kitchen, a set of stainless mixing bowls is a huge asset. I use mine for almost everything, including the makeshift double boiler I described above.

Ingredient shopping notes:

Chocolate

Trader Joe's sells the Montezuma brand 100% cacao chocolate bars pictured above. If you don't live near a Trader Joe's, you can order the same brand on Amazon with free shipping. However, any brand of unsweetened baker's chocolate should work. Just check the ingredients to make sure it doesn't contain dairy.

Hazelnuts

I pick up my hazelnuts (and all nuts, actually) at Trader Joe's, too.  They have the best price on nuts I've found anywhere. And I've really looked.  Costco is sometimes comparable, but they don't have the same selection and of course, you have to buy more at once. Here's your Amazon option if your life is sadly devoid of Trader Joe's.

Dates

I buy organic Medjool dates at Costco in 2-lb boxes. You can usually find dates in small boxes in the produce section of just about any grocery store, but they tend to be pricey. I have yet to find a better-priced option than Costco and their dates are delicious.

What's healthy about this recipe?

Dark Chocolate

Clinical studies have found that dark chocolate can improve arterial dilation, a significant predictor of cardiovascular health, and the flavonoid content of chocolate has a positive antioxidant effect on the body, as well.

Just be sure to choose dark chocolate that doesn't contain dairy or too much sugar, as the latter two ingredients could nullify any benefit.

Hazelnuts

Sometimes also called filberts, hazelnuts are much more popular in Europe than they are here in the US, which is puzzling because they are delicious. And good news, they are among the healthiest nuts you can eat -- in terms of antioxidant content -- alongside pecans, walnuts, pistachios and almonds. They provide reasonable plant-based protein, and are a good source of Vitamin E, Copper and Manganese.

Dates

When it comes to sweeteners, you can't beat dates, as they are a whole food, complete with fiber. What other benefits do they confer? They provide potassium, copper, manganese, magnesium, Vitamin B6 and iron. They're also high in disease-fighting, anti-inflammatory antioxidants. As a result, some studies have indicated they may promote brain health.

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