Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Just out of reach

When I lived in England, I was introduced to nutella for the first time. Since discovering in high school I was highly allergic to tree nuts , I kept the jar of a hundred hazelnuts at arm's length. My friends considered it the most heavenly flavor of our semester overseas (and I enjoyed wafting the smell beneath my nose), but it would never be for me. It was easy enough to accept—without so much as a spoonful to taste, I would never know what I was missing out on.

But then, after an accidental encounter with hazelnuts and everything turned out okay, I began to change my tune. Hazelnuts were an exception to my allergy. After a moment's hesitation, I reached for the jar.

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Around the same time my non-allergy to hazelnuts was uncovered, I discovered I was lactose-intolerant. Since Nutella is made with skim milk, it was awarded its own place on my "forbidden foods" list.  It seemed so ironic at the time; just as the jar was firmly in my hands, I would have to set it back down again. This time, though, it was much more difficult to let go. After the few, fleeting spoonfuls, I now knew what I would be missing. I laughed so I wouldn't cry.

Just out of reach.

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

For the last two years, I have been on the hunt for a nutella substitute, a dairy-free version that I could spoon out of the jar or spread onto my favorite rolls. After a fruitless search, I finally realized it would be up to me to create what I desired. With a package of roasted hazelnuts and a can of cocoa, I set to work. I would call this a success.

I have been asked half a dozen times whether or not it tastes like the real deal. My answer to you is that it depends.

Pulverizing nuts into a silky smooth paste can be hard work for any food processor. Without a top of the line piece of equipment, the hazelnuts will not reach that coveted texture, but they can come close. My food processor worked better than I expected. The final product was slightly grainy—the ground nuts are the "sparkles" you see in the photographs—but I found I did not mind it. Your texture will depend on the equipment you are using in your own kitchen.

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

The second factor comes down to the cocoa powder. I have made this spread with two different brands of cocoa powder: once with Ghirardelli, once with Valrhona. I have no idea which brand Nutella uses, which makes it nearly impossible to directly match the cocoa flavor. I prefered the spread made with Valrhona most (but that may be because I prefer the flavor of that brand to begin with). My suggestion to you is to let go of the idea that yours will taste exactly like Nutella and use your favorite brand of cocoa instead. Since the flavor of the spread comes almost exclusively from this ingredient, it is important to use what you already enjoy.

The last factor is the sweetness. Nutella is sold at different levels of sweetness to different countries depending on the region's preference.  For example, Italian Nutella is generally regarded to be less sweet, focused more on the flavor of the hazelnuts than the sugar. American Nutella is very sweet, reminiscent of buttercream frosting on a spoon. The Nutella I had smeared over crepes in France was somewhere in between, more chocolate than anything else.

The Nutella in my grocery store may very well be different from your own, which is why I hesitated on my initial answer. I prefer the spread made with about three-quarters cup powdered sugar to spread on whole grain toast. It seems the right sweetness for a weekend breakfast. However, for eating straight out of the jar, I like to bring the sugar up to a full cup so it feels a bit more like dessert. Your personal preference (and purpose) plays into the sweetness. Start low and you can always add more if needed.

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread can be whipped up in five minutes, which makes it an incredibly accessible spread. The cocoa flavor is warm, the sweetness can be adjusted to your palate, and the ground hazelnuts provide just the right base. Serve on toast, prepare for use in desserts, or simply eat it from the spoon. After so many years without, I could not be happier to hold the jar in my hands again.

Finally, finally within reach.

One Year Ago: Honeyed Apricot Granola Bars
Two Years Ago: Summer Berry Pavlova, Mango Striped Coconut Popsicles, French Silk Pie, and Blackberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Three Years Ago: Butterbeer, Butterbeer Cupcakes, Cherry Almond Muffins, and S'mores Ice Cream Sundae
Four Years Ago: Jean Talon Market, Blueberry Tofu Smoothie, and Strawberry Shortcake

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Yields about 1 1/2 cups

1 1/2 cups (225-250 grams) roasted and skinned whole hazelnuts
1/4 cup (22 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 to 1 cup (95 to 125 grams) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a food processor, process hazelnuts until they turn into a smooth paste, about 3-6 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to process until evenly mixed. The spread should have a spreadable texture; if it is too stiff, add more oil 1 teaspoon at a time until the ideal texture is achieved.

Store refrigerated or at room temperature in an airtight container. At a minimum, it keeps up to a week. It may keep even longer, but I have never had it last longer in my kitchen.

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