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Cocoa and Peanut Butter Energy Balls

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

No sugar, no bake, no problem.

Superfood Energy balls Food Photography with baby hands


Quick, hyper-easy, and healthy homemade snack, high in protein and omega fats, with no-baking involved. It's vegetarian and vegan-friendly plus kids love it from a very young age (12 months and older). We, grown-ups, consume it with no guilt as midnight or post-workout snack (each ball roughly contains 3:1 proportion, 4-5g of protein, and 15-20g carbs)


As I've mentioned in other posts in the past (like this), I'm not particularly devoted to a vegan diet, but I have to admit, some of the most delicious snacks and desserts are vegan! Scroll down to the end and click that "Vegan" tag for more recipes.


Is it Healthy?

This little energy bomb is the best homemade healthy snack as it:

  • Packed with energy and satisfies your late-night chocolate cravings with little calories

  • Contains only naturally occurring sweeteners (no processed and refined sugars)

  • Feeds you with good fats and protein (peanut butter and super seeds).

  • Is versatile, it comes with you anywhere and does not require a refrigerator (although I like them best when chilled)


Origin

Legend says energy balls are originated in the Middle East, where farmers used to prepare a similar snack to hold them over as they worked on the fields. The snack was usually made of flour mixed with carob, date molasses, sesame seeds and olive oil. They would shape it into balls and store it for months, providing the energy to work under the hot middle eastern sun.


Staying in the region, I also want to focus on the origins of the secret spice I'm using, the Mahleb. This beautiful spice is said to be originating and was broadly cultivated in ancient Persia. It offers a sense of freshness to desserts and goes along really smooth with chocolatey and nutty flavours. It is not quite widespread in western European cuisine, yet quite popular in the Middle East as well as Greece and Turkey too. Greek cooks use it to sharpen cakes and desserts (like the traditional Tsoureki Easter loaf) and I use it in quite a few of my recipes too. Its scent and flavour remind tones of cardamom in a very low intensity, which makes it perfect for cardamom haters looking for a similar taste adventure and lower the flavour impact. Yet, it is more on the bitter side, therefore, needs to be well balanced with sweeteners in a recipe.


Mahleb is not easily found in mainstream supermarkets but is available in middle eastern groceries here in the UK or you can order it online straight from here. It is a little pricey but worth it as it's nothing like you've tried before. If you are a spice lover, I encourage you to get your hands on this aromatic spice and try it with your spiced desserts. Scroll down the end of the post and click that “Mahleb” tag to browse other of my recipes with this spice so you can make use of the quantity you'll buy.


Ingredients (6-8 balls*)

*If you opt for double the quantities, I recommend going for 3 tsp mahleb (and 3 tbsp cocoa and increase the amount of honey and dates to balance the bitterness.


Substitutes

Energy balls are pretty versatile and you can play around with substitutions.

Coconut oil can be substituted with sunflower oil or butter. I prefer coconut oil for its subtle exotic flavour though. Linseeds can be substituted with any other healthy seeds, hemp seeds are my favourite alternative. Last, in the absence of dates, you can use raisins or dried prunes for instance. Mahleb might not be readily available in local stores so maybe you can try replacing it with any other mainstream spice pairing with chocolate and nutty flavours, like cloves, cinnamon or cardamom. If using cardamom I would go for half the dose (maybe 1 or even 1/2 tsp) as cardamom is more intense compared to mahleb.


Method

  • Put the dates in a bowl and cover them with boiled water. Let them soak for 10-15 min until soft. Add a tsp of baking soda if available (soda will speed up the softening of these hard date skins).

  • Discard the water and drain the dates. Toss them with the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until everything is incorporated.

  • Form small balls with your palms or delegeate the task to these small hands :-)

Baby hands food photography

  • Optionally decorate by rolling them into anything you have available: ground pistachio, sesame seeds, desiccated coconut, cocoa powder, sugar balls are merely some to mention.


  • Store in an airtight container, ideally in the fridge to keep firm and serve chilled.

food macro photography



Shopping List

Below you will find my favourite authentic products (affiliate links) I used to cook and shoot this recipe. If you can't see the content, please deactivate your ad-blocker and refresh the page :-)


Peanut butter. We are lucky here in the UK to have access to a great variety of fantastic peanut butter products, organic or not, but the one that has stolen our hearts is pip & nut. A startup business from a lady that was brave enough to enter this competitive market, seized the opportunity and made this divine natural product omitting additives like sugar and palm oil we usually find in many mainstream peanut butter products. Our 2-year-old has been already addicted. Pip & nut is now part of his daily veg protein and omega fats intake:

Also worth visiting their web site, there are some quite niche recipes with peanut butter over there: https://www.pipandnut.com/blogs/recipes

 

Honey: There is a handful of products that Greeks are considered best at producing. Greek honey, along with olives and olive oil, is a very premium product and second to none in the market. Could it be that the bees are happier in the warmer and sunnier environment to produce better honey? Who knows, but certainly makes sense to try Greek Pine or Thyme honey with your recipes. Not only honey is nutritious (compared to sugar), but the pine and thyme ones have a strong and pleasant taste which will give a new dimension to your bakes. Just be cautious with ingredient substitute cos not always honey replaces sugar at 1:1 ratio. Meli Serron comes from northern Greece and it's a family business with a great tradition in honey production dating many generations back in time. Amazon price is not bad too if you think a kilo of good quality honey costs around 10-12 euro in Greece.








 

Cocoa Powder: There are plenty of good products out there, I am using Dr Oatker which is rich in colour and smooth in flavour (not as bitter). Get a tub if you are using it a lot in bakes or to enrich your milk drinking experience or sachets if you are up just for a recipe or 2.








 

Ground Mahleb: I'd suggest you better buy this from your local Greek supermarket or Middle eastern grocery, however, Amazon has a good brand available for a little higher price tag. Scroll down below and hit the "Mahleb" tag to get some ideas for other recipes with this spice.


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