Cocoa Hemp Caramel Protein Balls
Who doesn’t love a good protein ball? Now these protein balls are a far cry from the dusty, sad, flavorless protein snacks of your past. These are luscious, sweet and nutty with an addictive cocoa caramel flavor. I’m not really the sort of person that keeps sweet treats around to scarf. But now that I’ve scarfed (and shared) all of these bites I really wish I’d made a quadruple batch.
If you’re a fan of hemp hearts — those creamy, nutty little seeds — you probably don’t need any convincing. If you’re uninitiated, let me introduce you to hemp hearts: one of nature’s perfect foods!
Hemp hearts are best known for packing a punch of Omega-3, 6 & 9 in the ideal balance. Omega fats can't be produced by the human body, so we need to get Omegas from food sources. There's significant scientific evidence supporting the essential role Omega fats play in reducing inflammation and preventing heart disease and stroke. For more on how Omega fats work in the body, and why they’re incredibly important, check out this easy-to-read article from Harvard.
Hemp hearts are also known for being an essential source of plant based protein, typically containing 33% protein. If you’re plant-based or are looking to get more nutrition from plant sources, hemp is a great addition to your diet. Shelled hemp aka “hemp hearts” are mildly nutty and easy to digest. And they’re ready to eat right out of the bag.
I’ve eaten hemp hearts every day for the past… actually, I can’t remember a day when I haven’t eaten them! I usually throw a couple tablespoons into a smoothie. Or I’ll sprinkle them over avocado toast or on top of a soup for dinner. I roll frozen bananas dipped in almond butter in hemp hearts. I add hemp to ice cream bases. And to my summer gazpacho. I put it in granola. I’m nuts over this stuff! It’s a big part of my life.
So, of all the protein balls in the world, why eat this one? GOOD QUESTION! These bites legitimately taste like caramel. To be more accurate, they’re sort of like sticky toffee swirled with chocolate and nut-butter. All that and I’ve thrown maca into the mix for an adaptogenic, hormone-balancing, energy-supporting, mood elevating tonic. They’re exceptionally healthy and perfectly decadent. Would you expect anything less from me?
Oh and they only take about 10 minutes to make. I freeze mine because I like to imagine that they’re ice cream bar bites (p.s. do frozen snickers still exist? I’m v out of touch). But they do just fine stored in the fridge until your ready to snack.
Fun tidbit: I brought these with me to a gig last Friday because I didn’t have time to make dinner. I ate 3 before I played and somehow didn’t even think about food until we were on out way home around 10pm (when I ate 4 more). This is not typical of me. I’m a ravenous fiery fiend for food around supper, most of the time. Logan will tell you in a heartbeat: do not get between me and dinner.
Conclusion: I think these protein balls are magic.
Or I was just so excited about the gig I didn’t think about food. ANYWAY they’re good. Bring them with you on road trips or as a beach-snack! They never disappoint!
Cocoa Hemp Caramel Protein Bites (with Maca, Coconut and Cacao Nibs)
Created by Renee on May 16, 2016
These superfood packed protein balls taste like nutty, chocolatey toffee! I like to eat these on-the-go so I store them in the fridge to grab as I run out the door!
- Total Time: 10m
- Yield: 2 dozen
- 12 medjool dates
- 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup blanched almonds
- pinch fine Celtic sea salt
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (+ more if you want them really chocolatey)
- 1 tablespoon maca powder
- 1 cup hemp hearts
- 1/4 cup cacao nibs
- Add the dates and melted coconut oil to the bowl of a food processor fitted with an “S” blade. Blend until you have a sticky date paste.
- Toast the shredded coconut in a dry pan on medium-high heat — stirring frequently — until just beginning to turn a light caramel-color and become fragrant. You just want it warm-to-the-touch all the way through so that when you blend the coconut will release its oils and liquify more easily.
- Add the lightly toasted coconut to the food processor and blend until everything comes together into a smooth paste.
- Add the vanilla extract, almonds, salt, cocoa powder and maca. Blend again until everything is incorporated.
- Scrape the protein ball base into a medium mixing bowl. Fold in the hemp hearts and knead everything together (I use my hands for this). Knead for about 3-5 minutes — you want the hemp hearts completely incorporated into the base. Then fold in the cacao nibs.
- Use a tablespoon to scoop out the dough — pressing the dough into the tablespoon measure firmly to pack it all together — then release the dough from the spoon and roll each spoonful into a smooth ball. Continue until all of the dough is formed into balls.
- Eat immediately or stick them in the freezer to firm up. Store in the fridge or freezer for up to two weeks. Enjoy!