Who doesn’t love Reese’s peanut butter cups?! These are healthier version and what I’ve been bringing along to festive celebrations this year. They’re simple (only 5 ingredients), quick and forgiving with the quantities. The chocolate layer sets slightly harder than the nutty layer, which I think gives them a nicer texture than the original Reese’s. These little gems are also free of gluten, dairy, refined sugar and grains.
Coconut oil is one of the healthier fats – continually emerging research states that coconut oil is beneficial to include our diet due to it being high in short term medium chain saturated fatty acids (MCFA), and said to:
- help with managing weight,
- support immunity,
- boost metabolism, and
- help to keep your skin nice and plump.
In cooking terms, it also acts very similarly to it’s nasty cousin, copha. Copha is hydrogenated coconut oil (hydrogenation involves heating at a very high temperature creating harmful, artificial trans fats).
While peanut butter provides more selenium (a mineral important to enzyme function), switching out peanut butter for almond butter will ensure these little bites are just as tasty as the classic treat, but higher in vitamin E, iron and magnesium. Although peanuts and almonds taste remarkably similar in their ‘butter’ form, peanuts are not part of the nut family (they are a legume), and I generally try to minimise legumes in my diet due them containing phytic acid, which (like grains), binds to important nutrients in food which can prevent you from absorbing them. Although pure, organic almond butter is (sometimes up to two times) more expensive and not as widely available as peanut butter, most commercially available peanut butter contains unnecessary additions (such as soy bean oil and refined sugar). You can make your own almond butter using a Vitamix or good quality blender, however as I don’t own any fancy cooking devices I buy from my local health food store as a treat every month or so.
Simply put, cacao is cocoa in it’s (almost) raw-form. The minimum processing involved to arrive at organic cacao (that you can buy at all health food stores and some good supermarkets) means it retains up to four times the antioxidants of cocoa, supposedly nearly twice the antioxidant content of red wine, and up to three times the antioxidant content of green tea. High in magnesium and iron, it also contains stimulants that boost endorphins and serotonin levels .
These aren’t overly sweet, but you can adjust the amount of sweetness to your taste. Taste-wise, I love honey in these over other natural sweeteners because it reminds me a little of peanut butter and honey sandwiches growing up 🙂 Health-wise, I prefer to use a small amount of raw honey over commercial honey which is often pasteurised (processed) and chemically refined which destroys much of the beneficial organic acids, proteins, vitamins and enzymes. I also just love the rich and varied tastes of pure honey, and as it’s sweeter than sugar, you don’t need to add as much as you might think. Made naturally by honey bees from the nectar of flowers, in addition to its well-documented remedial and restorative benefits, new research is suggesting that honey can also promote the growth of good intestinal (gut) bacteria (big yay!!). Don’t forget: While more natural and health-beneficial than refined sugar, honey is still a form of sugar (~50% glucose, ~50% fructose) and therefore should be used sparingly. I have also successfully made these using stevia – the strong almond and chocolate flavours seem to mask the intense taste of stevia, (which I often find unpleasantly “chemically”).
Finally (but not least importantly!) is a little salt – mostly just to enhance the other flavours. There’s a lot of science around how salt enhances different flavours (and also suppresses bitter flavours), but a little salt really just works in these. After a bit of research, my salt of choice these days is Himalayan (pink) sea salt. The reason it’s pink is it’s packed full of minerals and energy-rich iron. Including ‘real salt’ such as this in our food (as opposed to refined table salt which really is just sodium chloride with additives) is important as it contains the same 80+ trace minerals and elements found in our bodies, meaning it’s easy for our body to absorb, and has a number of health benefits. More on this if you’re interested here.)
- Remember to taste each of the 2 mixtures before you set them so can adjust the level of sweetness and saltiness.
- Silicon mini cupcake moulds work the best for these, as it makes them easy to pop out, but you can also use small liners (as I did in the picture above). The moulds I use are 5cm across the top diameter and 3cm across the base – but as they are so rich if you can find an even smaller mould, I think these would be ideal for the perfect ‘bite’.
- As the chocolate mixture is half coconut oil, if you are working in a coolish environment you might find it starts to solidify and thicken a little before you have laid the chocolate later. If you use a small metal mixing bowl, you can sit it in some hot water to very quickly bring it back to melted.
- If you’re making these to take with you, make sure you transport these in something cool and keep them in the fridge until you serve them, as they’re ‘set’ with coconut oil which turns to liquid at around 25 degrees c. (And if you’re giving these as a gift, remember to advise the giftee!)
Makes 18 (using the 5cm (top) diameter moulds as described above and a regular teaspoon as per method below)
- ½ cup 100% almond better
- ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
- 2 tsp raw honey/rice bran syrup (for fructose free/IQS or vegan) or a teeny scoop of stevia
- 1 generous pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt
- 3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 3 Tbsp cacao (preferably organic)
- 2 tsp raw honey/rice bran syrup or 1 (tiny) scoop of stevia
- vanilla seeds from 1 pod, or ½ tsp pure vanilla extract – optional. (I prefer try to use the 100% pure essence with no sugar or alcohol. Available in all good health food stores, and I’ve seen this one and this one in major super markets.
- Line muffin tin with paper liners or arrange mini moulds on a baking tray / flat dish that will fit in the freezer (no need to grease anything as the coconut oil acts as a natural grease meaning they won’t stick).
- Prepare nut butter layer: Ensure the coconut oil is completely melted, and combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl until smooth (I use the back of a fork to break up and combine the almond butter).
- Using a regular teaspoon, drop 1 spoonful of the nut mixture into the base of each mould and place in the freezer to set (should take no longer than 5 minutes).
- While this layer is setting, prepare chocolate layer: In a separate mixing bowl, ensure all the coconut oil is completely melted, and combine all ingredients.
- Take the first layer from the freezer and test to ensure all are set hard.
- Using another regular teaspoon, drop 1 spoonful of the choc mixture on top of the 1st layer of each mould and place in the freezer to set (again, will take no longer than 5 minutes).
- Repeat the nut layer step – drop another spoonful of the nut butter mixture on top of your set chocolate layer and place in freezer for 5 minutes to harden.
- Keep in the moulds and keep cool (preferably in either fridge or freezer) until serving
- Optional: Sprinkle with a little additional sea salt before serving
Keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge/freezer for up to a month.