healthy hot chocolate

Hot chocolate and I go way back. I've enjoyed it so much over the years. It was a long-standing camp comfort food for me as a kid -- I...

Hot chocolate and I go way back. I've enjoyed it so much over the years. It was a long-standing camp comfort food for me as a kid -- I would grab my forbidden kettle and boil some water in secrecy. Tear open a packet of hot cocoa, undoubtedly with little marshmallows waiting to swell up in the hot water, and relax, getting lost in the creamy warmth. When I got to high school I went through a period where I would buy a Second Cup hot chocolate after school every day. It was my special treat. Second Cup had the best hot chocolate without a doubt -- you could tell that Second Cup was using milk and real chocolate. It was creamy and frothy and warm -- never too hot. If you opted in you could get it covered in real whipped cream which I would then dust with cocoa or their vanilla powder. It was heavenly.

As an adult, I rarely enjoy hot chocolate anymore -- probably because it is traditionally loaded with milk and refined sugar -- but ladies and gentleman, that is about to change. 

Allow me to introduce a hot chocolate for the rest of us -- Quinoa Hot Chocolate! This homemade delight is high in protein and includes all the essential amino acids. It is also refined-sugar free and dairy free but I promise you won't be able to tell! This drink is as close as hot chocolate will ever get to a balanced meal. It is a great new way to use up leftover cooked quinoa.

This drink gets its creamy and smooth texture from quinoa which forms the base of a luxuriously creamy homemade non-dairy milk. Rather than make Starbucks' mistake of using cocoa powder and water, I opt for my homemade quinoa cream and 100% cacao paste. For those of you unfamiliar with the wonder of raw cacao paste, please refer to this post for more information. If you cannot get your hands on cacao paste, simply double the amount of cocoa powder this recipe calls for or substitute some of your favorite dark chocolate bar.

The health benefits of this drink overflow thanks to the raw pure cacao  -- loaded with magnesium, antioxidants and healthy fats. I chose to sweeten mine with raw honey and pitted dates to add a soothing and healthy sweetness to the drink. I love raw honey. It is the only ingredient that stands between me and total veganism these days. It is so good for you -- a potent anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial sweetener that actually helps to improve your blood sugar balance. Some diabetics even use raw honey therapeutically. Do not confuse it with pasteurized honey though -- the pasteurization of honey eliminates many of its health benefits as heating honey breaks down its beneficial enzymes. I love pitted dates as well -- especially with cocoa as they create truly decadent chocolate desserts. They are also anti-infective and anti-inflammatory and loaded with vitamins and minerals. If you are concerned about their sugar content, remember that the 4 tiny dates in this recipe are spread thin to make at least 4 servings of this drink, so it's really about 1 tiny date (not medjool size) per serving.   

Cinnamon also gives this hot chocolate a bit of flavor and better body -- not to mention anti-viral and fat-blocking abilities to aid your body. 

This drink is just as creamy and delicious as it looks in these photos taken in my garden. Though many people associate hot chocolate with winter, skiing and the holiday season, I have always also thought of it as a fantastic end of summer early fall drink. It is great around a campfire or as a sweet finish to an early autumn meal. 

It has been a really cool summer here in Toronto. Today the heat is back and the sun is raging but  for most of the past few months temperatures have been unseasonably low leaving me dreaming of comforting autumn favorites instead of icy treats to beat the heat. The last few days have been more typical of summer -- blazing sun and temperatures reaching the 30s. To enjoy this drink in fairer weather, follow the recipe and then pour the finished hot chocolate over ice in the glass of your choice. This is a really delicious way to enjoy this drink as it stays creamy and smooth even when iced. For something fancier you could also blitz this drink with ice cubes for a refreshing cafe style iced hot chocolate.

This batch made a full pitcher of hot chocolate for me and my husband to enjoy so I tried it a few different ways -- hot, warm, cold from the fridge, hot over ice and cold with ice. My favorite ways to enjoy it were warm and hot over ice.    

To make this drink totally vegan, please see substitution notes in the recipe below.

Healthy Hot Chocolate
Makes approximately 4 servings
Recipe courtesy of Danielle Dewar and Baking Backwards.
  • 1 cup fully cooked red quinoa (or 1/3 cup dry red quinoa, cooked thoroughly in a 2:1 ratio) Make sure to rinse your quinoa well before cooking to reduce bitterness.
  • 2-3 dashes coarse sea salt
  • 4 cups filtered water
  • 2 level tbsp 100% cocoa powder
  • 2 level tbsp size pieces of raw cacao paste (or if you don't have this ingredient you can substitute the same amount of your favorite dark chocolate bar, OR double the amount of cocoa powder above)
  • 1 tbsp evoo
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 small pitted dates or 1.5 large medjool dates (I used 4 Parnoosh pitted dates)
  • 2-3 heaping tsp raw honey or maple syrup (to make VEGAN use maple)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • squeeze of lemon juice
Add quinoa, cinnamon, water, salt, honey and vanilla to a high speed blender. Blend until very very smooth. Add the oil, dates and cocoa and cacao paste pieces and blend until very smooth and frothy. If your blender can generate heat, heat on lowest heat setting and use the stir setting gently. If your blender doesn't generate heat, transfer the mixture to a small pot and heat over a medium low setting, whisking. After 2 or 3 minutes, transfer back to your blender and blend until frothy. Taste! If you have a sweet tooth you may want to add more honey or maple syrup and blend again. If your blender is not very good you may need to strain this mixture with a fine mesh sieve before serving to ensure it has no grittiness from quinoa that was not well blended. Serve immediately for warm and creamy hot chocolate.
For a unique summery drink, pour the finished creamy and warm drink over ice cubes in a glass.
For a cold drink, transfer the creamy beverage to a pitcher and store in the fridge for at least an hour before serving straight or over ice.

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