My friends, Halloween is upon us and I’m excited to share my favorite indulgent-yet-healthy treat with you all—Salted Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups!
I have to say that Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It’s actually not because of the costumes, although I do love a good costume, rather because it was on Halloween 2011 that I learned my husband and I would be relocating from Cincinnati, Ohio, to San Francisco.
Best. Day. Ever.
We celebrated exactly how you might expect a couple would after learning that they’ll be moving 25 miles from wine country—by sharing a bottle of vino. Duh.
And, since it was Halloween and we had an obscene amount of leftover candy in our possession (due to fewer trick-or-treaters than expected), we also ate a handful of mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Because the only thing better than wine and chocolate is wine with chocolate.
At least those were my sentiments at the time.
STARBURSTS, SKITTLES, & JELLYBEANS—OH MY!
That said, I’ve actually never loved Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Or chocolate for that matter.
Now, hold on—don’t get upset and accuse me of food blogger treason or breaking the unspoken code that all women must love chocolate.
I’ve simply always favored fruit flavored candy and vanilla, OK? I still enjoy chocolate but given the choice, I’ll choose the Starbursts or Skittles every time. In fact, as a kid, if I received any Reese’s in my trick-or-treat stash, I would’ve traded them to my younger brother for his red and pink Starbursts (the only ones worth eating in my opinion).
So why was I passing out Reese’s cups and other chocolatey treats instead of my beloved Starbursts, Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, Twizzlers, and gummy bears? Good question. It happens to be because it’s one of my trademark Halloween self defense strategies for not going crazy over all the sugar.
TWO TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR COOL AROUND HALLOWEEN CANDY
- Buy your absolute least favorite candy to hand out.
- Wait until October 31 to stock up so it’s not hanging around one second longer than necessary.
Those two strategies have helped this former sugar addict maintain her composure during the most sugar-centric holiday of the year. By purchasing my least favorite types of candy, I’m less tempted to sample it throughout the night. And if it’s not around, I can’t eat it. Simple as that.
I promise those two strategies will help you stay on track, if you worry at all about maintaining your cool around buckets of Halloween candy. You could also avoid candy altogether by handing out apples or pretzels or toothbrushes (OK, the last one probably only makes sense if you’re a dentist). Or opt out of the holiday altogether and leave your front porch unattended to but don’t blame me if you’re house or apartment gets tricked.
So while I wouldn’t normally go for a Reese’s cup, I was feeling extra celebratory on that particular Halloween in 2011 and went with it. Fast forward four years to today and you know that my approach and philosophy on healthy eating has evolved quite significantly since becoming a dietitian and immersing myself in California’s culture of wellness.
In short, processed candy and I are never, ever…getting back to-gether.
Still. I am a sentimentalist at heart and love starting small traditions, which obviously meant that toasting to our new wine country address (close enough) with vino and Reese’s was going to be a new thang. So I clearly had to find a healthier way to pay homage to the day we found we’d officially be all West Coast instead of Midwest.
Homemade Salted Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups.
These candies are totally the grown-up version of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups because instead of refined sugar, corn syrup and other junk, these bad boys are full of antioxidant-rich superfoods, healthy fats, and 100% refined sugar free. They’re also vegan, paleo friendly, gluten free, and simple to make.
Basically bomb dot com backslash you need them in your life.
Have you ever made homemade chocolates? It’s surprisingly—nay, dangerously—simple.
The “chocolate” is little more than melted coconut oil, raw cacao powder, and a teensy bit of pure maple syrup for sweetness. Of course, because there are no stabilizers it does mean that the chocolate will melt rather quickly when removed from the freezer. As long as you don’t dilly dally with eating them (and why would you?), you’ll be fine.
Raw Cacao Powder
Exceptionally high in antioxidants
Help lower and reduce LDL cholesterol levels
Amazing source of resveratrol
Natural mood booster
High levels of magnesium, which neutralizes toxins, improves digestion and sleep, and is a natural treatment for muscle cramping
Offers neuroprotective properties for optimal brain function
Improves insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control
Great for high heat cooking
Full of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are easy to metabolize for energy
MCTs nourish and support a healthy gut flora
High lauric acid content helps reduce cholesterol levels
The best part about this recipe is the addition of Maldon sea salt on top. I’ve also shared about what makes sea salt—specifically Maldon—so magical in another Curated Kitchen post that you can read about here. The final sprinkling of sea salt on top really contrasts the sweetness from the maple syrup and enhances the overall chocolate flavor. Don’t fight me on it, OK?
Just know that a little goes a long way so sprinkle sparingly and heed my rec to use unsalted almond butter for the filling.
Other than those two musts, you can totally play around with adding different spices and food grade essential oils since this recipe is a fantastic base. In the past, I’ve had success with adding lavender, orange oil, cayenne pepper, and mint. Not all at once mind you. Or try using a different nut butter for the filling.
Spread those creative wings and fly. I believe in you.
SALTED DARK CHOCOLATE ALMOND BUTTER CUPS
vegan + paleo + gluten free
Yield | ~24 mini cupcake-sized chocolate cups | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Total Time: 45 minutes (mostly waiting for chocolate to set in freezer) | Special Equipment: mini cupcake pan
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1/3 cup maple syrup
Maldon sea salt for garnish
For the Almond Butter Filling:
1/2 cup creamy almond butter (I use unsalted)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbs maca root powder
- Line a mini cupcake pan with paper liners.
- Prepare almond butter filling by combining all ingredients and setting aside. If it’s too thick, try adding a TEENY bit of almond milk—like 1/2 teaspoon at a time, max.
- Melt the coconut oil either in the microwave or in a makeshift double boiler by placing a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water.
- Once melted, whisk with raw cacao powder and maple syrup.
- Spoon 1 teaspoon of the chocolate mixture into the bottom of each paper liner and place cupcake pan in the freezer for 10 minutes or until the chocolate has hardened.
- Remove pan from freezer and add 1 teaspoon of almond butter to each cup. Top with an additional 1-2 teaspoons of chocolate mixture to cover almond butter completely.
- Return cupcake pan to freezer for 3-5 minutes to let it harden ever so slightly then remove and sprinkle with Maldon sea salt. You could add the salt immediately but I’ve found it has a tendency to sink into the chocolate less if you let things firm up a bit first.
- Return cupcake cake pan to freezer for 20-30 minutes or overnight, until chocolates have completely hardened.
*Remember, there aren’t any stabilizers in the chocolate so it’s best to store them in the freezer and eat them soon after removing to prevent a melted mess.
*Once frozen, transfer to an airtight freezer-safe storage container and the cups will keep for up to six months. Although you’ll totally eat them all LONG before that day comes. Trust.
What’s your favorite Halloween candy? How do you manage to stick to your health and wellness goals during the holidays? I’d love to hear your tips (and I’m sure other readers would, too!) so please share one in the comments below!
And if you’re looking for help staying on track with your nutrition during the busy holidays, planning a healthier holiday meal, or navigating the endless parties and events without going up a dress size, I’d love to work with you! You can learn more about my individualized nutrition coaching plans here.
Wishing you all a safe and happy start to the holiday season—I still can’t believe it’s nearly November!