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  • Writer's pictureKelly

Chocolate Almond Butter Crunch Energy Balls (Vegan, GF, Fruit-Sweetened, Paleo Option)

Almond butter cup fans unite! What if I told you you could enjoy all the sweet, chocolatey, and almond-y goodness of an almond butter cup, but without the sugar and in a healthy, high-protein, small package that doesn't melt in your hand (with added crunch)? Sounds too good to be true right? Well, it turns out it's not! Welcome to your next favorite sweet: Chocolate Almond Butter Crunch Energy Balls. Wonderfully chewy, crunchy, sweet, and chocolatey, you'd never guess that these energy balls are good for you. I've taken healthy to a whole 'nother level with these energy balls by sweetening them with dates, using protein-packed ingredients like nuts and almond butter, and adding superfoods galore. These easy energy balls take only 10 minutes or less to make and would fool you into thinking they're truffles at first bite. For a grain-free and paleo option for this recipe, check out the "Substitutions" section of this post.



Ok in all honesty, I know I said in my previous Carrot Cake Energy Balls post that those energy balls were way better than these Chocolate Almond Butter Crunch Energy Balls. But then I made these Chocolate AB Crunch ones again, and I take back everything I said. These energy balls are fudgy, rich, heavenly morsels of pure bliss! Pop one of these and you'll understand where I'm coming from.


Each of these energy balls has a whopping 3 grams of protein and is loaded with over 5 superfoods! Brimming with fiber, protein, and healthy fats, these energy balls will keep you satiated and can help to prevent over-snacking.


The best part is these taste like a dessert, but in actuality make the perfect healthy snack or post-workout treat. And if you prefer a cooler treat in those hot summer months, pop these in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before enjoying.


This recipe is by far among the easiest on the blog. It takes no more than 10 minutes to make and requires little effort. Everything is simply blended in the food processor, then scooped and rolled into balls, and that's it. Do yourself a favor and make these energy balls. All it takes to achieve true happiness is 9 ingredients, 1 food processor, and 10 minutes. So what are you waiting for?! Make these energy balls now!



Want an exclusive inside look at what's coming to The Dimpled Date soon outside of my once-every-three-posts "Future Recipes Sneak Peek"? Then, keep reading!


I've already done two energy balls recipes between my Carrot Cake Energy Balls and these Chocolate Almond Butter Crunch ones. But three new energy balls recipes to look forward to and coming to the blog soon are:


1. Thin Mint Energy Balls

2. Nutella Energy Balls

3. Matcha Energy Balls


Keep updated for the latest & greatest :)


You may be wondering where the added crunch in these energy balls comes from. I simply added hempseed and unsweetened cacao nibs to the energy ball dough and pulsed them in until combined but not ground. Voilà! The best way to add crunch to your treats: with superfoods.


FYI: energy balls are also known as energy bites, bliss balls, and bliss bites, so if you're wondering if any of those are the same thing as these, they're synonymous.



Nutritional Profile of Chocolate Almond Butter Crunch Energy Balls


Medjool dates- Medjool dates (or the "King of Dates" // and thus, date paste which is just puréed dates + water) are one of the largest and sweetest varieties 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, can help prevent anemia, can help regulate blood sugar levels in moderation (believe it or not!), help promote healthy bowel movements, may help alleviate some symptoms of PMS (like cravings), 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).


Almond Butter- almond butter is rich in healthy fats, fiber, protein, iron, and vitamin E. Healthy fats benefit heart, brain, skin, and hair health. Fiber promotes digestion and can lower "bad" LDL cholesterol. Protein builds muscle, iron builds red blood cells, and vitamin E is an antioxidant that's good for your hair & skin internally and externally. Try purchasing unsweetened, unsalted almond butter with no added oils to maximize the nutrition of almond butter (meaning almond butter with only 1 ingredient: almonds). For an even healthier option, try un-roasted, 1-ingredient almond butter (but make sure the almonds are steam-pasteurized).


Almonds- refer to the nutritional profile for almond butter above, as almonds and almond butter essentially have the same nutrition. Opt for raw, unsalted, unsweetened almonds.


Oats- rolled oats (AKA old-fashioned oats) are a great source of fiber, protein, healthy carbohydrates, and iron. Fiber aids digestion and promotes heart health, while protein helps build and maintain muscle. Healthy carbohydrates provide high-quality, long-lasting energy and iron builds red blood cells. If you're strictly gluten-free, choose certified gluten-free oats, as oats (which are inherently gluten-free) can be cross-contaminated with gluten-containing crops. Tip: rolled oats (old-fashioned), steel-cut oats, quick oats, and instant oats are all different and produce very different results in baking, so make sure you know which ones your recipe calls for!


Cacao powder- cacao powder is a superfood and is full of antioxidants, iron, fiber, and beneficial plant compounds. Cacao powder is basically un-processed cocoa powder and is good for relieving PMS symptoms, improving mood, raising HDL (good) cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and fighting free radical damage.


Sea salt- sea salt is better for you than table salt because the former is much less processed than table salt. Sea salt balances electrolytes, may benefit adrenal health, and nourishes the body with various micronutrients. Choose a healthy sea salt like Himalayan pink sea salt, fleur de sel, or Hawaiian red alaea sea salt. My go-to is Himalayan pink sea salt (just make sure you know which type of sea salt is right for your recipe, as some varieties like Hawaiian black lava sea salt or smoked sea salts can add a pungent flavor to your dishes).



Hempseed- hempseed is a nutrient-dense superfood, packed with healthy fats (including omega-3s), high-quality protein, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, vitamin E, and zinc. Hempseed benefits heart health, brain health, skin & hair health, digestive health, and may help with symptoms of PMS due to its being high in omega-3s. I use Manitoba Harvest's Organic Hemp Hearts.


Cacao nibs- refer to the nutritional profile for cacao powder, above, as the nutrition is very similar for cacao nibs. Cacao nibs are essentially small fragments of cacao beans. They are a great substitute for chocolate chips in baking and are great for when an added crunchy texture is needed.



Substitutions


For the dates, you may use any variety of dates, such as Medjool or Deglet Noor. I used Medjool. I do not recommend substituting the dates with another sweetener, as they are key for the texture of these energy balls. You may replace the almond butter with unsweetened creamy peanut butter, unsweetened creamy cashew butter, unsweetened walnut butter, unsweetened pecan butter, unsweetened sunflower seed butter, unsweetened mild tahini, OR even softened coconut butter (or your unsweetened creamy [or crunchy for even more crunch!] nut/seed butter of choice), knowing that using a different nut/seed butter will change the flavor of these energy balls. The almonds can be substituted with peanuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, cashews, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, OR your nuts/seeds of choice, again, knowing that different nuts/seeds will change the flavor (***Just make sure the nuts/seeds you use are raw, unsalted, and unsweetened***). Potentially, you could try using unsweetened shredded/desiccated coconut OR additional oats in place of the almonds. The oats I use for these energy balls are gluten-free rolled oats (AKA gluten-free old-fashioned oats), but you may substitute the gluten-free rolled oats with non-gluten-free rolled oats. Alternately, you can use gluten-free quick oats OR gluten-free instant oats in place of the rolled oats (just make sure the GF quick/GF instant oats are unflavored/plain and unsweetened). I don't recommend using steel-cut oats, as these have a very hard texture in their uncooked form. Or you, could try using additional almonds or nuts/seeds of choice. To make these energy balls grain-free and paleo, simply replace the oats with a paleo nut like almonds. Perhaps, it would work to omit the oats (***There's no guarantees that omitting the oats will work though***).


The cacao powder can be replaced with cocoa powder (either regular or dark/Dutch-processed/alkalized). The cacao/cocoa powder shouldn't be substituted, as this is a recipe for Chocolate Almond Butter Crunch Energy Balls. However, if you must, you may use carob powder in place of the cacao/cocoa powder, knowing that this substitution will change the flavor of the 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. Perhaps, you could use another flavor in place of the vanilla, such as sugar-free coconut extract (like OliveNation's), almond extract, or orange extract, knowing that this will change the flavor somewhat. The sea salt can be substituted with table salt or may be omitted.


Technically speaking, the hemp hearts (hempseed) and cacao nibs are optional if you don't want added crunch. If you want, you may use chia seeds, whole flaxseeds, OR sesame seeds in place of the hemp hearts. Other add-in options include vegan/gluten-free/sugar-free crispy rice cereal, mini vegan dark chocolate chips, or chopped vegan dark chocolate gems (AKA vegan m&ms). Or, you can omit the add-ins altogether for regular Chocolate Almond Butter Energy Balls.



New Features Coming in Hot...


Get ready for loads of new features like the Nutrition Facts which I am now including in my recipes. I am also in the works of getting "Cook Mode" to prevent the screen from going dark when on one of my recipe pages and a feature to alter batch size. I'm also trying to figure out how to get an actual print recipe button on my posts. Stay tuned for these updates and more.


Also get ready for loads of new content!


But for now,

Enjoy!

-K.



Chocolate Almond Butter Crunch Energy Balls (Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Fruit-Sweetened, Paleo Option)


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Servings: 15 energy balls


Ingredients:


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

-1/2 cup unsweetened almond butter, creamy or crunchy (can sub unsweetened creamy/crunchy peanut butter, unsweetened creamy/crunchy cashew butter, or unsweetened creamy/crunchy nut/seed butter of choice)

-1/4 cup raw unsalted almonds (can sub raw/unsalted walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, or raw/unsalted nuts/seeds of choice)

-1/4 cup gluten-free rolled (AKA old-fashioned) oats (can sub unflavored/unsweetened GF quick OR instant oats // for paleo sub extra nuts/seeds)

-3 Tbsp cacao powder (can sub unsweetened cocoa powder, regular or dark)

-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

-pinch sea salt (optional)

-1 Tbsp hempseed (I used Manitoba Harvest's Organic Hemp Hearts)

-1 Tbsp unsweetened cacao nibs


Directions:


1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Make sure you have the dates soaked ahead of time.


2. Add the soaked & drained dates to a food processor along with the almond butter (or nut/seed butter of choice), almonds (or nuts/seeds of choice), and oats. Blend until combined and a dough forms.


3. Add the cacao powder, vanilla, and sea salt and blend until incorporated.


4. Lastly, add the hempseed and cacao nibs and pulse until just combined but not ground.


5. Using a 1.5-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.


6. Enjoy as is, or if desired, pop in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before enjoying for a cooler, more solid treat.


7. Serve with a vegan iced mocha, as a topping for a smoothie bowl, alongside a glass of unsweetened vanilla plant milk, or on its own. Enjoy!


Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for at least 3 to 4 weeks or in an airtight container in the freezer for longer storage.


Nutrition Facts

Per serving (1 energy ball):

Total Fat: 6.9 grams Saturated Fat: 0.8 grams Fiber: 2.3 grams

Sodium: 54 mg (2% DV) Total Carbohydrates: 13.9 grams Sugars: 9 grams

Protein: 3 grams Calcium: 3% (DV) Iron: 15% (DV)

Potassium: 4% (DV)


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