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For your chocolate-loving taste buds
If there is one item Cliff is passionate about imparting on me is how I never eat enough protein. I get it, I know better - but I tend to *naturally* gravitate towards foods that don't naturally pack a powerful protein punch. Which is why I am making a concerted effort to incorporate more protein into my daily diet...through powder, bars, specific foods, and more. I'm excited to reveal this homemade triple chocolate pecan butter spread because it incorporates delicious, chocolate-y ingredients that pair well with the rich notes of pecan butter and a variety to cocoa flavor layers - all while adding a little more protein to the diet!
Chocolate flavor layers
Chocolate Layer 1
Unsweetened cocoa powder: Always keep a container of unsweetened cocoa powder in your pantry if you love baked goods and chocolate concoctions! I prefer the basic unsweetened version that allows me to incorporate it into dishes without sacrificing control. This means I can add the type of sweetener I want to the dish separate from the chocolate. Unsweetened cocoa powder offers the greatest depth of chocolate flavor to the dish.
Chocolate Layer 2
Chocolate protein powder: This is where I take advantage of adding a little more protein to the pecan butter. Use the brand of your choice and if you don't have chocolate protein powder on hand, you can just increase the amount of unsweetened cocoa powder you include. Chocolate protein powder simply adds protein (and some other nutritional goodies) to the butter while enhancing the chocolate flavor. The majority of the chocolate depth remains with the unsweetened cocoa powder.
Chocolate Layer 3
Organic cacao sweet nibs: I bought my cacao nibs from Thrive Market and have really enjoyed finding ways to incorporate them into our snacking routine. These have 1g of sugar added (per serving), hence the "sweet" denotation, and I plan to try the completely unsweetened version with my next order. Cacao nibs are essentially just cacao beans that were crushed into smaller pieces. Keep in mind these nibs are definitionally dark chocolate.
Remaining Triple Chocolate
Pecan Butter Ingredients
Pecans: Be sure that you are using a good quality, fresh batch of pecans. This is honestly true for any dish you make with nuts. Their high oil content makes them more susceptible to off-flavors when they are not stored properly or aged. Raw pecan halves should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. If pulling from the freezer, allow them to thaw before toasting.
Unsweetened maple syrup: A little sweetness sans refined sugar is always welcomed. Pure maple syrup is a great compliment to chocolate and pecans, so fits the flavor profile perfectly. A little goes a long way, so feel free to add in increments, until you achieve the desired sweetness.
Pecan oil: Never fear! If you don't happen to have pecan oil on hand, just use coconut oil or a neutral-flavored oil of your choice. Here's why: Making homemade pecan butter (or any nut butter, for that matter) is not going to provide the completely smooth texture from store-bought varieties. If you own a very powerful blender, like a Vitamix, you can get very close to professional creaminess. I don't mind a thicker consistency with the homemade version and have learned to appreciate it for what it is. That being said, adding an oil can help with smoothness and is best to add in 1 tsp. increments until you have a finished product that you prefer.
Tahini: This is the "secret" ingredient that I just love. Best part is that tahini is completely optional, so you are welcome to omit if you don't have any on hand. I like how it adds another nutty flavor and an element of creaminess that compliments the chocolate deliciously.
Kosher salt: Use salt to enhance the flavor of each ingredient and use a kosher or finely-ground variety to provide even distribution throughout the chocolate pecan butter. I used pink Himalayan sea salt with this batch of homemade chocolate pecan butter.
What to love
- You are looking for creative ways to add more protein to your diet. A serving size of this butter isn't going to provide a large amount, but every bit helps!
- You enjoy chocolate treats, but like recipes that cut down on refined sugar. The sweetness in this recipe comes from pure maple syrup.
- You are looking for a satiating snack or lunch that simultaneously satisfies your sweet tooth.
- You follow a vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or flexitarian diet.
Why call this a pecan butter "spread?"
Ok, it really is pecan butter. I'm just offering a little clarification regarding the consistency, which is a little more fudge-like than a creamy jar you can find at the store. The protein powder and the unsweetened cocoa powder are dry ingredients, so contribute to the thickness. My love for this recipe is in the healthy addition of the protein with chocolate and its minimization of refined sugars. If you use this chocolate pecan butter on a piece of toast, it is going to be satisfying and satiating - so I felt like a "spread" almost made more sense. Call it what you like, though!
How to make this at home
Homemade pecan butter
Start by toasting the raw pecan halves in a skillet over medium heat for a few minutes. You will start to smell their aromas and it is imperative you remove them at this point, or risk some burnt pecan kernels. Transfer the halves to a food processor and start to blend - and blend, blend some more, and keep blending. Stop the blender occasionally to scrape down the sides of the food processor (or blender) before resuming the blending process. Depending upon the power of your machine, you will find yourself blending for 10-20 minutes. Of course, you get to adjust the time based on how smooth you would like to make it, but I tend to stop when a sheen from the natural oils of the pecans starts to appear on the pecan butter. Add the salt and blend to incorporate.
Turn the pecan butter into a chocolate treat
Add the unsweetened cocoa powder and protein powder, then start blending. Through the pour spout, add the maple syrup and process until evenly incorporated. Add the optional tahini and pecan oil. Blend to incorporate. To achieve the desired sweetness or consistency, add more syrup, tahini, and/or oil until you have a product you are ready to devour. At the end, manually stir in the cacao nibs, or serve separately - like sprinkling over the top of the chocolate pecan butter on a piece of toast.
When making this for the first time, consider adding the chocolate, syrup, and pecan oil a few teaspoons at a time, just in case you would like to taste as you make. You might prefer something with a little more chocolate, or a little less sweetness.
Triple Chocolate Pecan Butter
- 3 cups raw pecan halves I used Mammoth pecan halves
- 2 ¼ tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons cacao nibs optional, can be substituted with chocolate chips
- 1 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 ½ tablespoons chocolate protein powder
- 3 teaspoons tahini optional
- 1 ½ teaspoons pecan oil reserve more, if needed. Can substitute with coconut oil or other neutral-flavored oil of your choice.
- pinch kosher salt
- Over medium heat in a skillet, gently toast pecan halves for a few minutes before adding to food processor. There is no need to add oil to the pan as the pecans have enough oil on their own.
- Transfer pecan halves to food processor. Process for about 15 minutes, pausing occasionally to scrape the sides of the food processor. The pecan butter is done when you see an oil sheen on the butter. If you are not used to this process, please note that it will probably take anywhere from 10-20 minutes to reach the consistency you desire.
- Add salt, cocoa powder, tahini (optional), and chocolate protein powder. Start pulsing to combine before changing to the constant run of the food processor. Through the pour spout, add maple syrup, and pecan oil. Process until you reach the desired consistency.
- If you need to thin the butter, add more oil (1 tsp. at a time to be cautious) until it suits your preferences. Stir in cacao nibs and spread onto a baguette or piece of toast! Sprinkle with more cacao nibs, if desired.
- This pecan butter recipe creates a decadent, thick butter. As it is homemade, this is not going to be as smooth as store bought versions, but does come close. Adding cocoa powder and protein powder instead of melted chocolate (which is typical) means that is a little more thick. Is it still delicious, spreadable, and can be enjoyed by the spoonful or served on bread.
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of cacao nibs.
- Coconut oil instead of pecan oil.
- Tahini gives this a creamy texture and enhances the flavor of the chocolate, but is optional.
Tips for a delicious spread
- Pecans come in many different varieties and sizes, so their kernel size can range from quite small to much larger. Elliott pecans are smaller and have a higher oil content than Mammoth halves, so will turn into butter a little faster. I used Mammoth halves in this particular recipe, so understand that your quantity and processing time might be a little different if you use smaller pecans.
- Process the pecan butter in the first step longer than you might expect. Again, you're looking for the butter to have a bit of a sheen and oil separation. Homemade pecan butter processing time depends upon the type of processor or blender, quality and oil content of the pecans you are using, and if you are diligent about scraping down the sides of the processing bowl to make sure pecan bits are hitting the blade appropriately.
- Feel free to add more syrup or pecan oil than I have included in this recipe. Everyone has a different palate, so you are welcome to make adjustments. Of course, it is always possible to add more of any one ingredient - harder to remove any.
- Use a good quality unsweetened cocoa powder and one that is not a bit past its expired date. Since the cocoa powder is the first "layer" of chocolate and the base for the recipe, it is essential to be the best quality possible.
- Serve this triple chocolate pecan butter on toast, a baguette, fruit, other nuts, or just with a spoon!
- Store in the refrigerator for up to a month, checking to make sure it smells the same as when you prepared it - if using after several weeks.
Customize this recipe to your liking! Here are some acceptable substitutes:
- You are welcome to use a different type of oil in the recipe. In fact, the most common in homemade pecan butter recipes is coconut oil.
- Not a cacao nib fan? No problem! Use some chocolate chips instead.
How does this fit the flexitarian diet?
Minimal processing: Flexitarians work to reduce processed foods. We achieved minimal processing by using high-quality ingredients like the cocoa powder that contained no dairy or sugar additives, as well as making our own pecan butter.
Plant-based food where possible: Use a plant-based protein powder to make the entire ingredient list derived from plants...with the exception of salt.
Keeping a lid on added sugar: This chocolate pecan butter spread is sweetened with pure maple syrup, which is a better alternative to traditional refined sugar.
Love pecan butter? Check out these other recipes
How do you plan to use this chocolate treat? If you make this, be sure to tag me on Instagram so I can share the fun. Until next time, cheers to your hearth, health, and happiness!