Valentine’s Day might be synonymous with chocolate, but not all treats are created equal. That box of cherry cordials might look pretty, but what’s inside is probably a processed sugar and preservative bomb just waiting to go off.
Cacao, on the other hand, is the purest form of chocolate you can find; it’s raw, unprocessed, and packed with enough good-for-you antioxidants and minerals to deserve its very own love letter. (“Dear Cacao, Thank you for making my monthly cramps go away….”) Even better? It plays well with other superfoods, like avocados, açai, goji berries, and maca, so you can double down on your nutrient-rich ingredients while making mouth-watering desserts.
These 12 recipes, from grain-free brownies to raspberry-accented nice cream, shine the spotlight on cacao in all its indulgent (without the post-binge headache) glory. All you have to do? Pick which one you’re going to start with—and then officially break up with that red ribbon-wrapped chocolate sampler.
1. Cacao Banana & Buckwheat Snack Cake
The difference between cocoa and cacao? Cacao is the stripped down, acoustic track when it comes to chocolate. We’re talking raw, unprocessed, and full of nutrients. Super Nummy‘s Lu also uses mashed banana and buckwheat flour for an extra health boost in this super-versatile, gluten-free cake. What was that saying about having your cake and eating it too…?
This luscious pudding can be made with just three simple, vegan ingredients. Emmelyn from Healthy Not Skinny uses silken tofu for luscious creaminess, raw cacao for chocolate-y goodness, and agave nectar for a touch of sweetness. Goodbye, Jello pudding cups!
If you can’t get enough of your morning açai bowl, these truffles are definitely for you. Each decadent flavor bomb is loaded with good-for-you ingredients like coconut oil, almond butter, cacao powder, cocoa nibs, and the aforementioned powerhouse berry. Which makes this truffle both a superfood and super tasty.
Dark chocolate with flaxseeds, sea salt, or almond butter and puffed quinoa—what’s your pleasure? Savor the World‘s Ilona says you don’t have to choose just one. Her homemade chocolate bar is brimming with goji berries, almonds, and sea salt. Turns out you can feed your healthy dark chocolate addiction without dropping 10 dollars on your favorite bar from Whole Foods.
There’s a Cook in my Kitchen‘s Stacey uses coconut meat to give frozen vegan treat nice cream a nutrient-packed face lift. The versatile ingredient—handy in both our kitchen cabinets and makeup bags—is brimming with healthy fats (don’t let the myth fool you—you need them!) to keep your heart, bones, and hormones happy. Even better? This recipe uses cacao and adaptogen-of-the-moment maca for bonus vitamins and amino acids.
We’re guessing you’ve heard of black bean brownies, but if the thought of legumes in your dessert makes you squirm, then this recipe is for you. Rachael of Love Yourself Green concocted these fudge-y, flourless brownies with only seven simple (bean-free) ingredients— and we’ll bet you have all the ingredients in your kitchen.
We didn’t think that one truffle recipe was enough—especially when they’re made from some of our favorite superfoods. Jessi of Jessi’s Kitchen coats these truffles in cacao and maca powder, which “compliments the tart goji berry.” You know what else will leave a good taste in your mouth? The fact that these truffles only require 10 minutes of work. You’ll just have to practice your patience while they harden (finally, a reason to put those meditative skills to good use).
We’re pretty much obsessed with avocados. Loaded with healthy fats, vitamins, and protein, the superfruit is good in just about everything. Exhibit A: this decadent chocolate mousse. With just five ingredients, you can make it in minutes (though Heart and Bowl‘s Anna recommends chilling for a couple of hours for optimal creaminess). Licking the bowl is totally acceptable.
Raw cashew crust, walnut filling, and cacao ganache. Our mouths are watering already. These raw, vegan treats are chock-full of omega-3s, which are “critical for brain and heart health, [to] fight inflammation, and reduce your risk of depression,” notes Rawmazing‘s Susan. Nuts and chocolate—now that’s what we call a power couple.
All hail the mighty blender. It’s the master of making smoothies, green juices, and now fudgsicles. Yes, the creamy chocolate popsicles of our youth is all grown up and nutrient-dense, thanks to Consuelo of Honey and Figs Kitchen. She combines cacao with avocado, dates, and nut milk in her blender for a quick, delicious, treat full of healthy fats and natural sweetness. Netflix and chill, indeed.
Potassium-packed bananas replace oil. Maple syrup and cacao are swapped in for processed sugars. Almond butter adds a healthy dose of fat, protein, and flavor. Oats make for a fibrous and deliciously chewy cookie. You’re telling us we can make these tasty, simple cookies with just five common ingredients and one bowl? Sold.
Dark chocolate lovers, you’ve been dreaming of this cake. The secret to its perfectly moist texture and rich flavor? Olive oil—a surprise ingredient that is full of healthy fats and protects against bone loss. “Olive oil gives the cake a distinct taste but it’s not overpowering. It adds a whole different depth of flavor to cake that regular canola oil or butter could never even come close to,” writes Vanessa of Vegan Family Recipes. Optional dark chocolate drizzle on top strongly recommended.
Why keep chocolate to just dessert? Here are 35 healthy (yes, healthy!) ways to get your fix at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And if you don’t have time to make your own decadent treats, these are the best good-for-you chocolate bars. Or how about some healthy hot chocolate with that from Sakara?