Creamy, soft macadamia nuts blend with cacao or carob powder and honey to make a rich, smooth, vegan nutella-like spread that I call macadamia nut"ella". It's gluten-free since it requires no flour, and dairy-free since I use a non-dairy milk (coconut). For a nut-free version, substitute hemp seed for the mac nuts.
I've been seeing nutella brownie recipes lately that sound so easy and so tasty, that I resolved to make some right away. Then when I was about to pick up that jar of Nutella from the shelf, I remembered why it is that I don't buy Nutella. And for you to understand my temptation, I was at Costco, where you can get it in those big, economical jars!!
When I'm in label-reading mode, products like Nutella don't tempt me because I remember that in the past, we've found it too sweet.
(Hint: If you are one of those people who DOESN'T find packaged Nutella too sweet, add the larger amount of honey to the recipe below!
Is Nutella healthy?
According to Healthline, Nutella contains 57% sugar by weight, and that is its major problem in a healthy diet for my way of thinking. If you are trying to keep your sugar intake low, like me, that high sugar level is a major reason not to get too attached to it. But there are other ingredients that might make you think twice, such as the:
- Palm oil: A type of vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree. Palm oil gives the product its creamy texture and spreadability. I'm concerned about environmental consequences of palm oil described here.
- Skimmed milk powder: Nutella contains powdered milk, which has a much longer shelf life than regular milk and does not need to be refrigerated. But it means that nutella is off-limits if you need a dairy-free option.
- Soy lecithin: Soy lecithin is an emulsifier, meaning it helps keep ingredients from separating, maintaining nutella's smooth and uniform texture. I've been advised to avoid soy because of past thyroid issues, and so far I haven't noticed separation in my mac-nut"ella" -- but I haven't tried keeping it at room temperature for as long as I might keep Nutella.
- Vanillin: A synthetic form of vanilla. I know vanilla is pretty pricy these days, but if you can afford the real extract, or make your own as I describe here, it's worth it in this spread.
The first substitution is macadamias for hazelnuts. Since I'm in Hawaii right now, I can buy MacFarms' mac nuts at Costco in the baker's pack. The baker's pack has smaller mac nuts, about half the size of what you'd get in premium products.
Macadamias are still a luxury nut, for sure, but hey -- it's supporting local agriculture and they are still so delicious and easy to work with, since they are sold shelled (shelling of macadamias is a BIG deal).
Nutritionally, macadamias are high in monounsaturated fats, and mildly sweet even though they contain very little sugar. In a list of healthiest nuts, macadamias are #6 in a list, not as strong as walnut and pecans but better than Brazil nuts.
One caution, though - the oil in macadamias can go rancid very quickly, so I do NOT recommend buying them from an open bulk bin, even if they are less expensive than the packaged ones you might find.
I made the mistake of buying some mac nuts from a bulk bin at a mainland grocery that I otherwise think is great. I didn't notice the rancidity when I stuck my nose into the bin (politely of course, and pre-Covid-19) but I did notice the bitter, off smell as soon as I sampled a few nuts at home. When I buy a baker's pack like this one from MacFarms, I put it into the freezer even if I haven't opened it - just to be extra-safe.
Other ingredient substitutions
In this wanna-be Nutella recipe I've:
- used coconut milk instead of dry milk powder
- eliminated the lecithin (I keep any leftovers in the fridge so it doesn't separate)
- used real vanilla
- used coconut oil rather than palm oil (little oil is needed because the macadamias have such a high oil content themselves)
Is there a nut-free version of Nutella?
I have also been experimenting with substituting hemp seed for macadamias, to make a nut-free "ella". The spread has come out creamy and smooth. It needs about twice the amount of coconut oil, which still isn't very much. It has a very mild hemp-y flavor that we haven't found a problem when using it in brownies, but it gives a bit drier baked good.
Other observations: The hemp "ella" is slightly darker than what I made with the macadamia nuts, and a little smoother since the help seeds blend very easily.
Do you need to roast the macadamia nuts?
I didn't roast the macadamias, whereas hazelnuts are roasted in the making of Nutella. I might try it with roasted mac nuts one of these days. But there are some benefits to eating foods close to their raw state. And of course, if you are going to use this nut"ella" in baking, the brownies won't be raw when you eat them anyway.
Which is better: food processor or Vitamix?
The food processor works better for me than the Vitamix. In thicker spreads like nut butters and spreads, a bubble tends to form around the Vitamix blade during processing. Once the bubble forms, I'm constantly pushing the blended material back down into the blades - ack, this drives me crazy.
I prefer to avoid all that pushing, hence my preferring the food processor. Plus, in this case it's easier to remove the finished product from the food processor to a bowl, and to clean it afterwards.
Steps in making your own nutella
If you want the tempting flavors of nutella, here's how to make your own!
Plop your macadamias into the food processor and let it rip until you have macadamia butter. The magic starts to happen within a minute but it's really smooth after about 2 minutes. Look at that shine as the oils are released from the nuts!
Then I dump in the remaining ingredients and blend until it's pretty smooth. With raw mac nuts, I still have a slight chunkiness after blending for 2 minutes, and that's ok with me.
My macadamia nut"ella" comes out just a little on the chunky side, which works fine for me. I've tried soaking the mac nuts and I don't find it gives any softer product. If you want it completely smooth, use a Vitamix.
Once you have made your nut"ella", refrigerate it. Refrigerating has as much to do with not letting the mac nuts oxidize as with the other ingredients. The oils from the macadamias don't solidify as they would for olive or coconut oil, so the mac nut"ella" is spreadable even when cold.
For our taste, ¼ cup of honey is sweet enough. If you tend to enjoy your spreads sweet, taste before you remove your nut"ella" from the food processor and add more if you prefer. In baking, such as in a brownie recipe I'll be publishing next, the sweetener interacts with the eggs to form the shiny brownie crust.
Adjust the amount of coconut milk depending on whether you want a thicker or thinner spreading consistency.
Magic in the food processor
If you make this delicious mac-nut"ella" I'd love to know how it went for you!! Please leave me a comment if you have any questions. And stay tuned for my brownie recipe(s)!!
Other baking recipes you may enjoy
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Macadamia Nut“ella” - Gluten and Dairy Free
- 1. In a food processor or Vitamix, blend the nuts until they’ve turned to butter. For macadamias, this happens very quickly - as little as 30 seconds in a food processor - but I let it go for 2 minutes to get it as smooth as possible.
- 2. Add all other ingredients and blend until it’s smooth like nut butter. I blended off-and-on for a full two minutes. It would be extra-creamy in a Vita-mix, but a Cuisinart food processor works as well. If it’s stickier than you’d prefer, use the additional coconut milk and pulse until it's incorporated.
Please pin for later!!