My sister and I were craving a holiday treat over Thanksgiving weekend, but I didn't want something overly sweet. We settled on chocolate covered peanut butter balls since they are no-bake and super easy to make. So, I hopped on the interwebz to find a good base recipe.
I was suprised to find that nearly all the recipes called for 4 CUPS of powdered sugar per BATCH, which is insanely sweet. And many also used shortening (a.k.a. crisco) in the peanut butter filling.
Ewwwww. No wonder I couldn't eat more than one chocolate covered peanut butter ball at a time growing up. That's a recipe for an upset stomach, y'all. And let's be honest...who eats just one?
I felt deflated, but didn't give up. One must press on against obstacles when peanut butter and dark chocolate are involved. Plus, I had a feeling the 4 cups of powdered sugar (crazytown!!) also functioned as a thickener to keep the creamy peanut butter together, which meant I could find an easy substitute.
So, I did some tweaking and came up with a "healthier" version that is way less sweet, uses real food ingredients, and is completely satisfying!
Easy Tweaks to Make Peanut Butter Balls "Healthier" (i.e. Not Sugar Bombs)
First, I ditched the powdered sugar for an unrefined sweetener--real maple syrup--and used a lot less of it. I love honey + peanut butter, but thought the honey flavor would overpower everything else, so opted for maple syrup instead.
Trust me, the filling is still plenty sweet with only 1/4 cup of real maple syrup, and the dark chocolate coating helps, too. You can always taste it and double or triple the amount of sweetener if desired. It'll still have WAY less sugar than the 4 cups called for in the classic recipe!
Second, I used coconut oil in the filling instead of shortening. It adds healthy fats and a bit of creaminess with none of the junk. Butter also works in the filling, but I went with coconut oil since my sister and I blew through 4 sticks of Kerrygold making Thanksgiving side dishes. We're serious about our butter.
Third, I decided to use ground oats as the thickener since they have a neutral taste and pair well with the rest of the flavors. Some folks keep oat flour on hand (this would be an easy option), but I never do. Instead, I grabbed a bag of old-fashioned oats (any sort of rolled oats will do) from my sister's pantry and gave it a few whizzes in her mini food processor (what a lucky gal - I don't have one).
If you don't own a food processor, don't fret! A regular ol' blender or immsersion blender also works. You're just grinding down the oats into a finer texture. There's no need for it to be perfectly even in texture or powder-fine.
As a final touch, I added homemade vanilla extract and sea salt to the filling, subbed dark chocolate for the coating instead of semi-sweet chocolate, and sprinkled the top of each peanut butter ball with coarse sea salt.
Yum, yum, yum!
A Healthy Dessert & Snack That Satisfies Sweet Toothes
These dark chocolate covered peanut butter balls are AH-mazing! The filling is creamy, nutty, and slightly sweet with a bit of texture from the oats, and the crunchy dark chocolate coating with a sprinkle of sea salt takes the cake! It's dessert heaven, I tell you.
And these snacks have a mixture of healthy fats from the coconut oil + nut butter, protein from the nut butter, a bit of fiber from the oats (easily subsitute coconut flour to make it grain-free), and a touch of sugar from the maple syrup and dark chocolate coating. You can eat one or two and feel satiated! No sugar coma.
Even better, these peanut butter balls are no-bake (hello, easy recipe) and edible straight out of the fridge or freezer, which means they'll disappear quickly if you have multiple people reaching in for a nibble. I guess that last part's not so great. Better double or triple the batch just in case. ;)
Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls
An easy and healthy recipe for peanut butter balls using dark chocolate, an unrefined sweetener, and coconut oil to create a delicious and satisfying treat that won't leave you in a sugar coma! It's also gluten-free and vegan with an easy grain-free option!
Yield: 23 (double or triple if giving out lots as gifts)
For the filling:
1 cup of creamy peanut butter (I used a natural one with oil floating on top)
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened (you can also sub butter)
1/4 cup of real maple syrup (like THIS)
1 cup of rolled oats, finely blended (sub homemade coconut flour for grain-free version)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (get my homemade recipe HERE)
2-3 pinches of sea salt (I love THIS)
For the coating:
5 ounces of dark chocolate chips (like THIS)
1 teaspoon of coconut oil (you can also sub butter)
Coarse or flaky sea salt, for topping (like THIS, THIS, or THIS)
large baking sheet (for flash freezing)
food processor, blender, OR immersion blender (for blending the oats)
large ceramic or metal bowl (for a makeshift double boiler)
In a mixing bowl, stir together the peanut butter and coconut oil. If your peanut butter has a layer of oil on top when you open it, just grab a long butter knife and give it a stir until it's all incorporated again. Likewise, if the coconut oil is rock solid, pop it under the broiler for 30 seconds or so until it starts to soften. Next measure in the maple syrup. Grab the oats and use a food processor, blender, or immersion blender to pulse them 3-4 times until they're broken up and a finer texture, then stir them into the peanut butter mixture.
Pop the mixing bowl into the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up. This makes it easier to roll out the "dough" into balls. After the brief respite in the freezer, pull out the peanut butter mixuture, grab a large baking sheet, and line it with parchment paper. Using a spoon or mini-scoop, measure out small portions of the peanut butter and roll it into balls until you've used up all up.
Pop the baking sheet of peanut butter balls back in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up (they should be pretty warm at this point from the heat of your hands and we want them to be cool when we dip them in chocolate). In the last 5-10 minutes of freezing time, fill a small saucepan halfway with water and set it to medium-low heat. Place a large ceramic or metal bowl on top (we're creating a makeshift double boiler) and pour in the chocolate chips. Give them a stir occasionally for the next few minutes until they're completely melted.
Grab the peanut butter balls out of the freezer and dip them one at a time in the dark chocolate mixture. Flip them around to make sure they're completely covered, then use two spoons to remove them from the chocolate and shake off any excess chocolate that drips off. Place each chocolate dipped peanut butter ball back on the parchament lined baking sheet. Continue this process until all the peanut butter balls are dipped. While the chocolate coating is still slightly melty, but not hot (straight out of the double boiler), sprinkle coarse or flaky sea salt on top of the peanut butter balls.
If you find that the chocolate coating is firming up too quickly before you can finish coating the whole batch of balls, stop halfway through and sprinkle the salt on the finished balls before coating the rest of the batch.
When the peanut butter balls are finished, stick them back into the freezer for 10 minutes or so to firm up, then store in an airtight container in either the freezer or fridge. I find that they taste best (texture wise) directly out of the freezer, but that's your call!
I'd like to hear from YOU!
What are your favorite treats to fix for holidays? Have you ever made a "healthier" version of them?
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