For those who can't eat chocolate, carob is a delicious alternative with its own unique merits.
Although chocolate is undeniably the world’s most delicious superfood, not everyone can indulge in its intoxicating flavour. Many people must eschew cocoa due to its caffeine content and possibility of triggering migraines. Thankfully, ever-benevolent Mother Nature created a treat reminiscent of chocolate in the delectable, nutritious form of carob.
Carob is not only a safe chocolate-like alternative for migraine sufferers and the caffeine sensitive—research indicates it’s also a health-enhancing food we should appreciate for its own merits.
Carob flour (also known as carob powder) comes from the pod of the Mediterranean carob tree. The pod contains seeds, which are dried, roasted, and ground to make a fine powder teeming with both flavour and disease-fighting nutrients.
Unlike chocolate, carob has negligible amounts of fat and contains no caffeine. It also boasts significant amounts of B vitamins, potassium, folate, iron, calcium, and fibre. In addition, scientists have discovered the malty powder plays host to a bevy of phenolic compounds, including the renowned cancer fighters myricetin and quercetin. Not surprisingly, several lab studies have demonstrated carob’s ability to prevent and inhibit the growth of colon and cervix cancer cells.
The good news doesn’t end there. Carob has also been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and has even been touted by Italian researchers as a natural alternative to tranquilizers due to its anti-anxiety properties.
In the kitchen
Clearly, carob’s inclusion in the diet offers some amazing health benefits. But what about its taste? While carob is often recommended as a replacement for chocolate, its flavour is only somewhat reminiscent of chocolate. In truth, carob has its own distinct malty, caramel-like sweetness that can add new depths to sweet and savoury dishes alike. Available in powder form or chips, it can be used in myriad ways, as the following recipes demonstrate.
Before you begin whipping up your own carob-inspired creations, keep the following tips in mind.
- In most recipes, you can replace cocoa powder with carob one for one.
- Carob is naturally sweet and lower in fat than cocoa. When substituting carob for cocoa powder, reduce the amount of sweetener in the recipe by 2 to 3 Tbsp (30 to 45 mL) for each 1/2 cup (125 mL) carob used and increase the fat content (such as butter) by the same amount.
- Because carob burns easily, it requires a lower baking temperature than chocolate. A good rule of thumb—set your oven 25 F lower when baking with the sweet treat!
- Carob has a somewhat dry texture, so it works best in baked goods with moist fruits such as dates, bananas, and pears and vegetables such as squash and zucchini.
- Carob chips often contain palm oil, which acts as a preservative. Be sure to buy brands that contain non-hydrogenated palm oil.
- Carob powder should be kept in an airtight container and stored in a cool, dry place.
Carob is so much more than just a second-class substitute for cocoa. If you are not convinced, try these palate-pleasing ways to incorporate carob into your diet.
- Mix carob powder with nut butters, dried fruits, honey, and spices to make delicious energy bars.
- Sprinkle 1 Tbsp (15 mL) carob powder over your morning flakes and moo juice for a choco-luscious start to your day.
- Make instant fudge sauce by blending carob powder with water and maple syrup and drizzling over ice cream, yogurt, or fruit.
- Add carob chips to your quick bread, cookie, or muffin recipes, or melt them into almond milk to create a delicious, caffeine-free hot beverage.
- Add 1 tsp (5 mL) carob powder to your decaf for a no-jitters hot mocha bevvy.
- Pair carob chips with dried fruits, seeds, and nuts for a trail mix your kids will love.
- To infuse breads with rich flavour, add 2 to 3 Tbsp (30 to 45 mL) carob powder for every cup of flour used.
- Put ice, a banana, and carob powder in a blender to create a refreshing, nutritious drink.