Of all the people I know, only one hates Nutella. Not only because of all the misleading ads or the palm oil or the sugar. She hates it because of the hazelnuts. Hadn’t it been for those nuts, I’m pretty sure we would have witnessed her clean healthy remake a long time ago.
Unlike my friend, I like Nutella. If you’ve been with me on Facebook, you’ve seen one of my many posts talking about it. I love it on a crepe, on pancakes, in a Lebanese pita bread or on a spoon straight from the jar. What I don’t like about Nutella, however, are its ingredients. Those ingredients are the reason I haven’t had Nutella in my kitchen for the past four years.
Let’s break those ingredients down, shall we?
According to Nutella’s website, they are:
SUGAR, PALM OIL, HAZELNUTS, COCOA, SKIM MILK, REDUCED MINERALS WHEY (MILK), LECITHIN AS EMULSIFIER (SOY), VANILLIN: AN ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR.
Sugar is Nutella’s first ingredient. This means that among all its ingredients, sugar has the highest percentage, 55% to be exact. Yikes! Can you believe anyone who tells you it’s healthy to start your day off with sugar? How about your kids’ day? Then why do we see ads depicting a happy mum sending her kid off to school with a Nutella sandwich?
After the sugar comes the palm oil. Palm oil is rich in saturated fats. It’s unhydrogenated, I get it, and I’m not going to start a debate about its health effects because my bigger concern with palm oil is its environmental impact. The huge demand of palm oil in the food industry is leading to the deforestation of many tropical forests in Indonesia and Malaysia, and endangering many species along the way. So, an oil that is not heart-healthy nor nature-friendly. Thank you. I’ll pass.
Then come the hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, and whey. Whey is a milk waste product left from cheese making. It is added to Nutella as a stabilizer because it prevents the fat emulsions from coagulating.
Then we have soy lecithin which acts as an emulsifier that keeps Nutella homogenous and prevents it from separating. My issue with soy is its origin. Since most soy used in processed goods is genetically modified, I would assume that the soy lecithin in Nutella is GM unless stated otherwise on the label. (In Europe, it is not from genetically modified soy, but I can’t say the same for Nutella sold in the USA or Lebanon or other parts of the world)
The last ingredient is vanillin which is an artificial flavor. Of course, it’s nothing like your expensive Madagascar vanilla beans but rather a petroleum-based cheap factory-made flavoring.
A final ingredient that you won’t see listed on the label is DEHP (Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate), one of the most dangerous types of phtalates* that has been associated with sterility and cancer. Phtalates are found in plastics, so if you’re buying the glass jar, you’re safe in this regard.
See, once we decipher the label (or go deeper), we can no longer be enamored. Especially, we can’t be fooled in considering it a balanced breakfast.
Tons of sugar, environmentally-threatening palm fat, GMO soy, flavor and no protein, vitamins,minerals or fiber.
What’s so balanced about that?
However, I’ve found the solution and that is making “Nutella” at home. There are tens of recipes online that tackle homemade Nutella. Some are healthy, others not so much. My recipe is simple made from clean, real ingredients and comes together in a minute. I’m not saying it suddenly contains more vitamins. It doesn’t. It’s still dessert, but one which I feel happy eating and sharing with my daughter.
I use store-brought one-ingredient organic hazelnut butter as a base, because as we’ve settled in a previous post about nut butters, I don’t own a mighty food processor and I don’t have the space to invest in one at the moment. Next, I add cocoa, again unsweetened, then milk (any milk, cow or almond for vegan version), last I sweeten with a bit of honey. An addition of a tablespoon of coconut oil can replace the palm oil originally used and give it a more spreadable texture, but for the sake of pure hazelnut-cocoa taste, I don’t use it. When I have a vanilla pod, I scrape a few of the seeds and add them as well. Not mandatory, but worth the extra flavor dimension.
I first came up with this after a long day in French governmental offices trying to get our papers done. I had just put my girl to bed and wanted something sweet to relax and wind down. I had hazelnut butter and so I mixed the ingredients, chopped some apples and dipped. My husband was pleasantly surprised and I, of course, gloated. During the weeks that followed, I made the dip and served it with strawberries when friends came over, and everyone was impressed. I don’t know exactly why it took me so long to post it, but last week, I measured and re-measured the ingredients, snapped a few pictures and enjoyed it over whole-wheat yogurt apple pancakes.
My girl inhaled it. Hadn’t I removed my portion and left her a minimal quantity in the serving bowl, she would have eaten it all.
So serious about her “almond butter” bowl. That’s what she kept saying. She wouldn’t put it in the center of the table, she wanted the bowl by her side, so I had to remove my portion and leave her to her messy ways.
This quantity was decent (portion-controlled) for my family with pancakes or used as a dip with a couple apples or a bowl of strawberries. If you’re having friends over or want to store some in the fridge for later, double the quantity and taste for sweetness and creaminess as you go. We prefer a darker chocolate taste, but maybe you don’t, so feel free to customize the quantities to your likings.
In your face Nutella!
- 1/3 cup hazelnut butter, heaping ( should only contain hazelnuts)
- 1 heaping tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 and 1/2 tablespoon milk (almond or cow or hazelnut….)
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
- Vanilla beans from 1/4 vanilla pod (optional)
Again, adding a tablespoon of coconut oil makes it more glossy and smooth but I prefer not to adulterate the hazelnut-chocolate taste.
Mix all the ingredients. Adjust the honey and milk to your taste. Sometimes, I add a splash more milk. Other times, the consistency is perfect with the mentioned quantities.
And to my hazelnut-hating friend, try it with almond butter and join the party.
*This info was part of an investigation on French TV back in 2010. Ferrero the company behind Nutella claimed that the quantities are very minimal and that they can’t affect humans. As with everything, better be safe than sorry. If you still want to buy Nutella, make sure it comes in a glass jar.