Chocolate, Hemp Seed, and Almond Pulp Energy Bites {Raw, Vegan, and Gluten-Free}

The beginning of strawberry season has had me on a continual smoothie kick. I’ve been freezing and blending them with homemade almond milk, honey tangerine segments, frozen blueberries, banana, and a couple of new-to-me smoothie ingredients: coconut butter and hemp seed.

Those two newbies helped to inspire these little bites, which are an easy and tasty way to use up the pulp left over from making nut milk.

Coconut butter (also called coconut manna) is different from coconut oil. Made by grinding coconut meat into a paste, the texture is closer to stiff peanut butter and tastes sweet and rich. I bought a jar of it several years ago out of curiosity, but, not knowing what to do with it, spent the next two years moving it around the fridge until I finally admitted defeat and relegated it to the compost. But then last month I was reintroduced to the stuff through a new favorite blog, Healthy Seasonal Recipes by Katie Webster, who blended it into a tropical libation. Her Monkeylada Smoothies blend coconut butter and coconut water with banana, pineapple, and cashews (how good do those look?!). Katie has worked as a food stylist, recipe developer, and contributing editor for EatingWell Magazine for over a decade, so the pictures and recipes on her blog are totally pro. She is my hero. (Also her Sweet Potato Chipotle Cheddar Soup is pretty much the best thing ever.)

So I gave coconut butter another chance (with a new jar, of course), and am I ever glad I did. Not only does a tablespoon of the stuff make smoothies extra thick and luscious, it creates a rich base for these little chocolatey bites. I was lucky enough to find Ostara’s Berkeley-made coconut butter at Good Earth Natural Foods, but there are other brands available at healthy foodie stores as well. You can also make it yourself with a sturdy food processor or blender.

The second new ingredient that has been featuring in daily smoothies are hemp seeds. My friend Lea brought some over the other night and tossed them into a green salad. Like the coconut butter, I’d written off hemp seeds long ago when I tried making hemp seed milk and deemed it inferior to nut milk – thin and slightly bitter. But mixed into a salad, they added substance and mild nuttiness. As a bonus, hemp seeds apparently contain the ideal balance of fatty acids for the human body. So I started throwing a couple tablespoons into smoothies every morning, and am now addicted to the body and uniquely nutty flavor that they add.

I have a continual influx of almond pulp left over from making milk, and there are only so many brownies and crackers a person can eat. So my cousin suggested that I turn the pulp into energy bites. Inspired by this recipe from Sweet Freedom, I stuck a cup of almond pulp in the food processor and started chucking in other ingredients – coconut butter and oil, hemp seeds, raw cacao powder, maple syrup, a dash of salt and vanilla – until the dough tasted just right. I rolled the mixture into balls, which I rolled in hemp seeds.

To my delight, they tasted a little like chocolate cake crossed with a power bar. The moisture in the almond pulp gives the bites a pleasingly soft texture, and the coconut butter and oil add richness and make the balls shape-able. The maple adds subtle sweetness, and the hemp seeds give them a nutty bite. In fact, they taste a lot like these cheesecakes, in a more portable and less creamy form. In spite of their healthy flavor, my nephew downed twelve of them in a row at a recent family gathering, much to my surprise.

I’ve made these several more times and they are always a hit, especially at parties. Healthy foodies are always psyched to learn that they are vegan, gluten-free, and sans refined sugar. They keep well in the fridge, though for how long I’m not sure – they keep getting devoured within a day or two.

Though I don’t exactly consider them a stand-in for real dessert, I like having these around for post-meal chocolate cravings or mid-day snack attacks.

And I’m pretty pleased to have something else to do with all that almond pulp, too.

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Baked Almond Pulp Brownies
Almond Pulp Chocolate Chip Cookies
Raw, Vegan Chocolate Cheesecakes

One year ago:

Strawberry Rhubarb Crème Fraîche Crumble Pie
Rustic Citrus Almond Tart

Two years ago:

Chocolate Things

Three years ago:

Blood Orange Curd Tart
Flourless Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Four years ago:

Gluten-Free Meyer Lemon Almond Cake
Vanilla Maple Almond Milk, and a smoothie

Chocolate, Hemp, and Almond Pulp Energy Bites {Raw, Vegan, and Gluten-Free}

A few notes:

The almond pulp here should be squeezed as dry as possible until crumbly but moist. I’ve given my current Simple Almond Milk recipe down below. I used straight up almond pulp, but I’m sure other nut pulps will work, too. When made with fresh nut pulp, the bites should keep in the fridge for up to a week.

I use both coconut butter and coconut oil in this recipe since I have both around, but you could probably get away with only one or the other if you didn’t want to purchase both. Coconut butter is made differently from coconut oil, and has a different taste and texture. I used Ostara brand, but you can also make your own by simply processing shredded coconut in a blender or food processor for 15 minutes. If you don’t have coconut butter, you can probably do without it by adding a little extra coconut oil, or
nut or seed butter, and perhaps more hemp seed or oats.

This is a recipe that should lend itself well to variations. Try adding cinnamon and a pinch of chile, or some finely ground coffee. Trade the oats for shredded coconut. Add other nuts or seeds.

I like these best at cool room temperature, when just slightly softened. I like the ones rolled in hemp seeds best, but rolling some in cacao powder makes a pretty contrast: the choice is yours.

All ounce measurements are by weight.

Makes 3-4 dozen 1″ bites

1 cup (6 ounces / 175 grams) packed almond pulp
1/2 cup (6 ounces / 175 grams) maple syrup
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1.25 ounces / 35 grams) raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder), plus another 1/4 cup or so for rolling the bites
1/4 cup (1 ounce / 30 grams) raw, hulled hemp seeds, plus another 1/2 cup or so for rolling the bites
1/4 cup (1 ounce / 25 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup (2 ounces / 55 grams) raw coconut butter
1/4 cup (2 ounces / 55 grams) raw coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or seeds from 1 vanilla bean)
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

Combine all ingredients (almond pulp, maple syrup, cacao powder, hemp seeds, oats, coconut butter, coconut oil, vanilla, and salt) in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine and break up the oats. Scoop into 1″ balls and roll between your palms to round. (If the mixture is soft or sticky, chill it until handleable.)

Place the extra cacao powder in a small bowl, and the hempseed in another bowl. Roll some balls in each to coat. (Note: balls rolled in cacao powder may absorb the powder, so you’ll want to re-roll them just before serving to pretty them up.) Place the bites on a tray or small rimmed baking sheet. Serve at room temperature, or chill. The bites should keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze them airtight for longer storage.

Simple Almond Milk

Makes 8-10 cups

This milk will keep, refrigerated, for up to five days.

2 cups whole, raw almonds, soaked in cool water for 8-24 hours
8-10 cups cool (preferably filtered) water

Drain the soaked almonds, rinse, and drain again. Place them in a blender with 3 cups of the filtered water. Blend on low, gradually increasing the speed to high and adding another cup of the water, until the almonds are broken down into a creamy, thick mixture. Pour the mixture through a nut milk bag and into a large bowl, squeezing the bejeezus out of the almonds until you can’t squeeze anymore. Stir in the remaining 4-6 cups of filtered water, depending on how thick you want your milk (I use 10 cups total for smoothies, but 8 cups is a better consistency for putting in coffee or tea.) Pour into jars and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

34 thoughts on “Chocolate, Hemp Seed, and Almond Pulp Energy Bites {Raw, Vegan, and Gluten-Free}”

  1. These look great! In fact, they are making me super hungry! I'm always looking for ways to make sweet treats that are a bit healthier, so I'll have to give these a try.

      1. Could you sub almond meal for the almond pulp if you didn’t have any almond pulp ready and want to make these TODAY? Maybe just play around with the proportions? Thanks!

        1. I bet that would work! You could probably add a splash of nut milk to make up for the lost moisture in the nut pulp. Please let me know if you try it, I’d love to add that variation on to the recipe!

  2. This is the second post I've seen about less than 24 hours extolling the virtues of hemp seeds; I'm definitely going to have to get my hands on some! Love the idea of these little nuggets of goodness.

  3. I've just recently discovered the greatness of coconut butter. I love the addition of hemp seeds..I'm always looking for ways to improve my families snacking habits.. This recipe is definitely a must make.

  4. I will have to give these "power balls" a try. I like knowing what to do with the coconut butter and hemp seeds. Thanks!

  5. As I type this, I am laying on the couch attempting to recover from eating too many of these debilitating chocolate balls. DANGER to those making these. Please know thyself and your level of willpower in not eating tasty things! If it were not for my body protesting so, I don't think they would have made it to the fridge, or even ball form. In fact, the only reason I roll these up into balls is to slow down the process of consuming the mix. It's easy to eat the mix without making the balls:

    # Get spoonful of mix directly from food processor
    # Dip in hemp seeds and/or cocoa
    # Eat directly from spoon
    # Repeat until you run out of mix or your body won't let you eat anymore

    If you are at familiar with the children author Arnold Lobel's "Frog and Toad" – then you might have read the story "Cookies." This story embodies what happens when we make these chocolate balls. Although I'm generally Frog, and my spouse identifies with Toad,
    in this case, I am always Toad and my spouse is Frog. If you are unfamiliar with the story, the gist is that Toad bakes some cookies, and takes them to his friend Frog's house. They can't stop eating the cookies because they are so good. Eventually Frog devises a scheme to rid them of the cookies so they don't eat them all.
    While I generally thought of it as just a story, through my own experience (with this recipe), I have come to understand it as its true form – a fable.

    What is more, our almond milk recipe makes exactly 1 cup of almond meal to use in this. It is my destiny to eat these. I don't know if I should curse you for creating these or tell you how much I love these. I think both! I curse as I lay upon the couch, but praise when I'm devouring them.

    Thank you for these though, they are indeed a perfect dessert for me, even though I know they are designed as a snack! Extremely tasty.

    – Mike

    1. Also, I only know that they last 1 night in the fridge. I think it's like those commercials about the tootsie roll pop.

      How many days do the chocolate bites last in the fridge?

      The world may never know.

  6. Mmmm – you're right – these are amazing!! I rolled them in coconut because that was what I had, and they are great. I can imagine them being great with something in the middle – some dried cherries, or maybe a hazelnut. Thanks :)

    1. I'm so glad you like 'em, Mia! Good call on the coconut – that sounds capital. I love the idea of dried cherries (soaked in bourbon or brandy, perhaps?) or a hazelnut. I'll have to try that next time. :)

  7. Thank you so much, these are lovely! I added some home made hazelnut butter as well, so nice. Thanks to you I’ve given up cookies and started snacking on these energy balls instead (given up ready-made almond milk as well)!

  8. These are incredible… Even my family loves them and they aren’t big on ‘health’ foods. It’s taken an incredible amount of willpower to not eat the entire lot, I’ve already eaten three and I made them 10 minutes ago!
    Thank you so much for this recipe though, it’s by far the best almond pulp recipe I’ve tried, as a matter a fact I think the best vegan recipe.

  9. Great recipe, thank you! I only used 1/4 c honey instead of the maple syrup, used sunflower seeds instead of hemp and just used 1/4 c coconut oil (using what I have). Still good texture with all my changes.

  10. These are Ah-mazing, almost as awesome as Mike’s comment lol. I am so thankful to have something so delicious to make with my almond pulp, but you are getting me in trouble at work. These energy bites are now expected weekly by all in my office, if I don’t make them, I am not really sure what would happen lol. Thank you SO much for such a fabulous recipe, they are the best!

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