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The Advantages of Carob

I'm a chocolate lover; you know that already. And I'm sensitive to caffeine; you know that, too. So, let's be frank: When you love chocolate, it's hard to find a replacement with the same flavor and mouth-feel, right? Enter carob. Not chocolate, not really. But a good place to start. In fact, there are plenty of times when I choose carob instead. Why? Unlike chocolate, carob is naturally sweet, low in fat, high in fiber, has calcium, and most importantly to me, no caffeine. And because chocolate is linked to migraines and caffeine-sensitivity for some people, carob definitely has its advantages.

Carob comes from the pod of a tree that grows along the Mediterranean Sea. The pod contains a sweet, edible pulp. Once dried and roasted, the pulp is ground into a powder called carob flour (but more commonly referred to as "carob powder"). It's similar to cocoa powder in color and can be substituted one-for-one in recipes, but carob is unique with its own special flavor and texture. {C}{C}If you've never tried carob, you're in for a treat. It's sweet, mild and packed with pectin, a soluble fiber. Traditionally, it was used to soothe an upset stomach.

I've been enjoying this soothing, winter-perfect recipe for Hot Spiced Carob. You can try carob in cookies, candies and beverages. It's very simple to substitute in your favorite recipes. Here are some substitution ideas to get you started:

  • Replace cocoa powder with carob powder one-for-one in your recipes.
  • Or use half cocoa powder and half carob powder in your recipes.
  • Substitute carob chips for chocolate chips in cookies, bars, cakes, muffins and candies. (Many of our stores carry unsweetened carob chips,too.)
  • Baking fat free? No problem! Omit the oil or butter and use a little extra applesauce, mashed pears, mashed bananas or other fruit puree.
  • Carob can burn! Set your oven 25°F lower when baking with it exclusively.
  • Got a recipe calling for baking chocolate? For each square, use 3 tablespoons of carob powder plus one to two tablespoons of dairy or non-dairy milk.
  • Add a tablespoon of carob powder to bread dough to make a nice, rich dark color.
  • Store carob flour in an air-tight container in a cool, dry pantry; if it lumps up, just sift before using.

And now for some fun ideas and recipes:

  • Bake a Carob Cake - fudge-like without the chocolate!
  • Top frozen yogurt or ice cream with carob powder. Mash it in and eat it up!
  • Mix peanut or almond butter with carob flour, raw honey and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cardamom. Add a drop of vanilla; form into balls and eat it plain or spread it over apples, pears, peaches, plumbs or oranges.
  • Make a carob smoothie with milk or fruit juice, frozen fruit, nut butter and carob powder.
  • Prepare a batch of Maple and Carob Chip Granola Bars, perfect for breakfast.
  • Make carob pancakes: Substitute 1/4 cup carob flour for 1/4 cup regular flour in your recipe. Omit the sugar and add an extra tablespoon of oil or melted butter. Top with strawberries, walnuts and a little pure maple syrup.
  • Top fresh berries or other fruit with a combination of nuts and carob chips.
  • Melt carob chips and spoon over fruit or frozen desserts. Try with mango sorbet.
  • Throw a handful of carob chips into muffins for a nice treat.
  • Gather the kids (of any age!) and make these no-cook Chocolate Earth Balls; be sure to use the carob powder.
  • Heat a cup of milk or non-dairy milk. Add a small handful of carob chips, stir until melted and drink up.
  • Make a vanilla cake, throw a handful of carob chips into the batter, and bake as directed.
  • Make trail mix with carob chips, dried fruit, whole grain cereal and chopped nuts.

Have you tried carob? Got a favorite recipe or idea? Let me hear about it!