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  • Writer's pictureKelly

Carrot Cake Energy Balls (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Fruit-Sweetened, No-Bake)

Updated: Jan 9, 2023

Time for a refreshing spring recipe that is tasty yet light all in a tiny, orange, bite-sized package in a food category I haven't ventured into yet *drumroll please*

ENERGY BALLS! Specifically, this recipe is for Carrot Cake Energy Balls (energy balls are also known as energy bites, bliss balls, and bliss bites) that are amazingly healthy while being incredibly delicious. I've packed all the signature carrot cake flavor and color into these energy balls while keeping these morsels free of animal products, gluten, and refined sugar. Don't take my word for it, try these yourself and see how addictive they are! For a paleo version of this recipe, see the "Substitutions" section of this post. For a raw version of this recipe, check out the "Substitutions" section of this post.



Energy balls recipe #1!! (FYI: I already have 3 other energy balls recipes that I've mastered or that are in the works). Energy balls are the perfect post-workout snack or are great for in between meals as a pick-me-up due to their being rich in healthy fats, protein, and fiber. These are nutrients that help you recover after exercise and that help you feel satiated, thus, preventing over-snacking.


Additionally, these energy balls are 100% vegan, gluten-free, and sweetened only with fruit (dates). ANNND there are hidden veggies in these Carrot Cake Energy Balls (well, I guess not really "hidden" since 'carrot' is in the name and is central to carrot cake..). In case you haven't noticed yet I'm a BIG fan of sneaking vegetables and/or legumes into my desserts and sweet baked good recipes!


These Carrot Cake Energy Balls are bursting with carrot cake flavor, thanks to freshly grated carrots, ground walnuts, cinnamon, ginger, raisins, and coconut. All the greatness of carrot cake without all the guilt! And these Carrot Cake Energy Balls are incredibly easy to make and come together in just 10 minutes!



Delightfully chewy, soft, lightly sweet, perfectly spiced, and hearty, these Carrot Cake Energy Balls won't disappoint your tastebuds or your stomach. Seriously, stop what you're doing right now and make these energy balls. You won't regret it.


A bite of springtime with an aftertaste of earthiness and a bold pop of superfood color. What's not to love?! If I haven't convinced you yet, these energy balls are way better than my Chocolate Almond Butter Crunch Energy Balls (basically a chocolate almond butter cup in a sticky spherical form with added crunch), and that's saying something. Nourish your tastebuds and your body with these wonderful little balls of energy.


What's more, these energy balls store great in the fridge or freezer without losing flavor, texture, or color. So it's as easy as blending all the ingredients together, rolling them into balls, enjoying, and then just popping the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer and boom. Done. You'll be thanking me later, so I shall preemptively say "You're welcome."



Nutritional Profile of Carrot Cake Energy Balls


Medjool dates- Medjool dates (or the "King of Dates") are one of the largest and sweetest variety of dates in the U.S., and are incredibly soft with rich caramel notes. They are my absolute favorite type of date, and my preferred variety to use on the blog. Dates are antioxidant powerhouses that are also rich in fiber, protein, potassium, and iron. Fiber slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream and aids digestion. Protein builds and maintains muscle mass. Potassium regulates blood pressure and balances electrolytes. Iron builds red blood cells that transport oxygen through the body. Antioxidants in general help protect against numerous diseases because of their ability to fight disease-causing free radicals in the body. Dates also benefit bone health, may help alleviate symptoms of PMS, and show potential as a way to naturally induce (or at least shorten) labor, according to emerging research. Opt for organic dates with no added sugar to reap the maximum benefits of the dates (I use Natural Delights' Whole Fresh Medjool Dates that are grown with zero pesticides and have no added sugar).


Coconut butter- coconut butter is chock-full of healthy fats (specifically, medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs), fiber, protein, and iron. MCTs provide the body with high-quality, quick energy. Fiber can help prevent the absorption of cholesterol in the gut. Protein maintains muscle mass and iron builds hemoglobin. Coconut butter, which is essentially puréed coconut meat, is different from coconut oil, which is the oil extracted from pressing coconut meat. You may see coconut butter labeled as coconut manna.


Walnuts- walnuts are a good source of source of healthy fats (including omega-3s), protein, fiber, iron, and other micronutrients. Healthy fats can benefit heart health by lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol, raising "good" HDL cholesterol, and lowering triglycerides. Omega-3 fatty acids specifically are great for heart, brain, immune, joint, eye, metabolism, skin, and hair health. Protein is responsible for nearly every bodily process, fiber aids digestion, and iron builds hemoglobin for red blood cells. Tip: to get the most nutritionally out of your walnuts, or any kind of nuts/seeds, opt for raw, unsalted, and unsweetened nuts.


Rolled oats- rolled oats (AKA old-fashioned oats) are an excellent source of fiber, healthy carbohydrates, protein, and iron. See above ingredient nutrition profiles for the health benefits of fiber, protein, and iron. Healthy carbohydrates give you high-quality, long-lasting energy. If you are strictly gluten-free, be sure to purchase certified gluten-free oats. Unlike most other recipes, it's not super important which type of oats you use in this recipe (I use rolled oats/old-fashioned oats), as this is a no-bake recipe where oats don't really impact the texture. So, you may use quick or instant oats in place of the rolled oats. I don't know that I would use steel-cut oats unless you grind them finely first, as whole steel cut oats are rock hard (think like buckwheat groats).


Desiccated coconut- coconut meat (and thus, desiccated coconut, which is just shaved and dried coconut meat) is a great source of healthy fats, fiber, protein, iron, potassium, manganese, copper, selenium, and phosphorous. See above ingredient profiles for the health benefits of healthy fats, fiber, protein, iron, and potassium. Manganese is a mineral that is essential for bone health. Copper plays a role in cardiovascular health and helps develop and maintain bodily tissues, including bones, the brain, and the heart. Selenium is a mineral that is a component of proteins and enzymes that produce DNA. Phosphorous helps build bones, teeth, DNA, and RNA. Tip: choose unsweetened desiccated or shredded coconut, which are already naturally sweet in their own right.


Cinnamon- cinnamon is loaded with antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds and may have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. There are two varieties of cinnamon; Cassia cinnamon (the kind primarily sold in stores, and what we know as "cinnamon") and Ceylon, or "true", cinnamon. Out of the two varieties, Ceylon cinnamon has a lighter, sweeter flavor with more citrusy notes and is believed to be healthier than Cassia cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is richer and spicier in flavor.



Ginger- ginger is an antioxidant powerhouse and is packed with bioactive compounds that promote digestive health. Ginger also can help with menstrual pain, bloating, and may have potent anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties. Tip: ginger tea is excellent to help with menstrual cramps, bloating, nausea, and general pain during your period due to its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Try an organic variety of ginger tea like Traditional Medicinals's Ginger Tea (made with just 1 ingredient, ginger!) or if you want to pack a double-punch of anti-inflammatory properties, try Traditional Medicinals's Organic Turmeric Tea, which contains both turmeric and ginger!


Sea salt- sea salt is healthier than table salt because it is much less processed than table salt. Sea salt balances electrolytes, nourishes the body with numerous micronutrients, and may benefit adrenal health. As a result of being less processed, sea salts tend to be rich in minerals and other micronutrients that you won't find in table salt. Choose Himalayan pink sea salt, Hawaiian black lava sea salt, Hawaiian red alaea sea salt, or another healthy sea salt. My go-to sea salt is Himalayan pink sea salt.


Carrots- carrots are a superfood rich in fiber, iron, beta-carotene, potassium, B vitamins, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds. Fiber promotes healthy digestion and feeds the good bacteria in your gut. Iron builds red blood cells that transport oxygen throughout the body, thus helping prevent anemia. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A by the body, which is a vitamin that benefits eye, immune, and bone health. Potassium balances electrolytes and regulates blood pressure. B vitamins are generally good for overall health, antioxidants fight free radical damage, and beneficial plant compounds generally have health benefits. When purchasing carrots, opt for organic carrots when possible and be sure to scrub the carrots well before utilizing to remove and dirt and debris. Pro tip: If you buy whole carrots (with the carrot tops), don't fret over having to toss the carrot tops out. You can actually use these carrot tops (known as carrot greens)! Carrot greens can be used to make carrot greens pesto, can be used as a garnish on top of thick soups, or can be used in salads. This means zero food waste!


Unsweetened raisins- unsweetened raisins are dried grapes with no added sugar that are incredibly nutritious. They contain fiber, protein, potassium, iron, calcium, and antioxidants, without all the added sugar. See above ingredient nutritional profiles for the health benefits of fiber, protein, and iron. Potassium regulates blood pressure, promoting heart health. Calcium builds strong and healthy bones and can help prevent osteoporosis. Antioxidants fight free radical damage, thus helping to protect against disease. Opt for unsweetened raisins over sweetened ones, because even unsweetened raisins are a high-calorie, high-sugar dried fruit naturally.



Substitutions


For the Medjool dates, you may substitute any variety of dates, such as Deglet Noor dates. You could try substituting the dates with maple syrup or another sticky sweetener, but I do not know in what amounts and how much you would need to compensate with solid ingredients to get the right texture. I recommend sticking to the dates, personally. And I highly recommend avoiding granulated sweeteners like coconut sugar or maple sugar. For the softened coconut butter, you may substitute any kind of mild creamy nut/seed butter such as almond butter, cashew butter, walnut butter, sunflower seed butter, OR mild tahini. You can replace the walnuts with raw pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds, OR your raw, unsalted, unsweetened nuts/seeds of choice. The gluten-free rolled oats can be replaced with gluten-free plain quick oats or gluten-free plain instant oats, OR can be swapped out with additional walnuts or your nuts/seeds of choice. And if the oats don't need to be gluten-free, you can just use conventional rolled, instant, or quick oats. Alternatively, you could try omitting the oats.


The unsweetened shredded/desiccated coconut can be substituted with the same amount of hempseed OR chia seeds or can be omitted. The cinnamon is crucial for the flavor of these energy balls, so I do not recommend replacing it. The ground ginger is also crucial for the flavor of these energy balls, but if you must you may omit it (FYI: DO NOT substitute fresh ginger root for the ground ginger, it will be too potent for these energy balls). The vanilla extract can be replaced with an equivalent amount of scraped vanilla bean, pure ground vanilla bean powder, OR sugar-free vanilla paste/syrup. You may try replacing the vanilla with sugar-free coconut extract (like OliveNation's) or you can omit it. The sea salt can be substituted with table salt or may be omitted. The shredded carrot can't be replaced, as these are carrot cake energy balls. The raisins may be replaced with your dried fruit of choice such as unsweetened craisins OR finely chopped unsweetened dried pineapple or can be omitted.


To make these energy balls paleo, simply omit the oats (you can replace the oats with additional nuts or simply omit them). These Carrot Cake Energy Balls are no-bake as the recipe is written (meaning the ingredients are not cooked in the making of this recipe), but they are NOT raw as the original recipe is written (meaning some of the ingredients this recipe calls for are heated in the processing/manufacturing of the ingredients or during the prepping of ingredients in this recipe are exposed to heat, i.e. through soaking the dates in hot water to soften them, making this recipe not raw by definition. Raw foods have never been exposed to high temperatures). For a raw version of these energy balls, soak the dates in cold water for at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours, use a creamy raw nut/seed butter (such as raw almond butter, raw cashew butter, raw sunflower seed butter, OR raw mild tahini, NOT roasted AND NOT toasted // can be store-bought or homemade). Also use raw walnuts OR raw nuts/seeds of choice and use raw vanilla extract to make these energy balls raw.



Keep Posted for New Features & More Recipes


I'm working on getting some new features for my website and recipe posts including a Nutrition Facts section, a print button, and a favicon (website icon)! Keep posted for the updates!


And of course, swing by again soon for even more new delicious & nutritious recipes! :)


Thanks for trying out this recipe, share how yours turned out in the comments!


As Always,


Enjoy! <3

-K.



Carrot Cake Energy Balls (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Fruit-Sweetened, No-Bake)


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Servings: 18 to 20 energy balls


Ingredients:


-1 cup Medjool dates, soaked in hot water for 5 to 15 min

-1/2 cup softened coconut butter (can sub creamy nut/seed butter of choice)

-1/4 cup raw unsalted walnuts (can sub raw unsalted pecans OR raw unsalted nuts/seeds of choice)

-1/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats (AKA old-fashioned oats)

-1 Tbsp unsweetened shredded/desiccated coconut

-1/2 tsp cinnamon

-1/4 tsp ground ginger

-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

-pinch sea salt (optional)

-1/2 cup lightly packed shredded carrot

-2 Tbsp unsweetened raisins (optional)


Directions:


1. Make sure you soak the dates and soften the coconut butter ahead of time. Shred the carrot ahead of time, as well (I did this using a shredding attachment on my food processor. Don't worry about getting the carrot super finely shredded, you want a little texture from the carrot in these energy balls. Of course, the other option is grating your carrot by hand, but this is very tedious and difficult, so I recommend using the food processor with a shredding attachment if you have it). Line a baking sheet OR large plate with parchment paper.


2. Add soaked & drained dates to a food processor along with the softened coconut butter, walnuts, and oats. Blend until combined and a dough forms.


3. Add the desiccated coconut, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, and salt and blend until incorporated.


4. Lastly, add the shredded carrots and raisins and pulse until just combined but not ground.


5. If needed, chill the energy ball dough in the fridge until firm enough to roll into balls, at least 30 minutes.


6. Once the dough is firm enough to roll into balls, remove it from the fridge and using a 1 1/2 Tbsp cookie scoop, scoop up a chunk of the dough and roll between the palms of your hands to form a ball. Place onto the lined baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough.


7. Serve as is, or if desired, pop in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before serving for a cooler, more solid treat.


8. Serve as a post-workout snack or as a pick-me-up between meals with a mug of hot/iced tea, coffee, or your beverage of choice or enjoy on its own. Enjoy!


Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge or in an airtight container in the freezer to make them last even longer.


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