The most common recipe clients and friends ask me for are snack recipes. This is such a struggle for me because when I’m not snacking on hummus, I’m literally snacking on roasted veggies #noshame. However, I’ve promised the people I would work on snacks… enter: Cacao Nut Energy Balls. These energy balls are the perfect mid morning or afternoon snack when you an energy boost, and even make a great dessert from the rich chocolate taste.
There are literally thousands of energy bite recipe flooding the internet, but I often find most have too much sugar, or they just taste dry and “bleh”. I’m happy to have created these Cacao Nut Energy Balls that have an incredible fudgey flavor, and are made from pure, ingredients that each serve a purpose in fueling your body. To find out just how good each ingredient is for you, keep reading. For the recipe, scroll to the bottom 😉
Almonds are the highest protein tree nut, packing 6-7g per serving. They’re also touted for their Vitamin E content- great for boosting your skin health, something I am very into these days. Another great benefit of almonds is that they’re high in magnesium- a mineral needed to help stimulate muscle protein synthesis (which results in increased strength and improved body composition) in addition to aiding recovery and digestion.
Dates are high in carbohydrates, B vitamins (the energy vitamins), potassium, and other minerals, which makes them the perfect snack to aid in performance and recovery for athletes, but also to just boost your energy throughout the day. Yes, dates have a lot of sugar in them, but the sugar is in its natural state, and also has a low glycemic index (GI), meaning the release of glucose into our bloodstream will be slower and smoother than a high GI carb, which allows for steady energy. Potassium is also a key mineral in hydration, as it acts with sodium to balance fluid levels in the body. As a bonus, a single date offers more potassium than a Gatorade!
In my opinion, walnuts are THE healthiest nut, because they’re so high in omega-3’s, the anti-inflammatory fatty acid that impacts the entire body. I talk a bit more about walnuts in my post for my DIY Walnut Butter, which is hands down my favorite nut butter of all time… which says a lot, since I’m a connoisseur 😇
Cacao is the purest form of chocolate you can consume, different from the cocoa you probably buy at the store, because cocoa powder undergoes high heat processing, whereas cacao is raw. Ancient Aztec and Maya cultures cherished cacao for its energy-boosting properties because it contains the compounds theobromine and phenylethylamine. Theobromine (what gives dark chocolate its bitter taste) has stimulant properties like caffeine, however, it does NOT stimulate the central nervous system. Phenylethylamine is the compound in cacao that makes chocolate a mood boosting and aphrodisiac food. Phenylethylamine an adrenal-related chemical that stimulates dopamine, not only making you happier, but also increasing focus, motivation and productivity. I talk a little more about the amazing health benefits of chocolate made from cacao in my Buckeye Cups post (which should be #2 on your list to make after these Cacao Nut Energy Balls!)
If you haven’t been following on my Instagram, I’m so excited to officially be a partner with Vitafiber! I have been using this syrup for 3+ years now as a way to boost my gut and sweeten my recipes without added sugar. So what is vitafiber? It is a natural, plant-based prebiotic fiber sweetener made from the root of tapioca (cassava) plant. Dietary fiber from plants works as a prebiotic, which feed the healthy bacteria in your gut to improve digestion and intestinal balance, unlike most other sweeteners that actually DISRUPT your gut balance. Vitafiber is also low-calorie, sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, halal, kosher, and allergen-free, with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors. There will be a lot of recipes coming with this syrup + powdered form, so stock up through this link and use the code VFELLENW20 for 20% off!
6. MCT Oil
It took me a while to get on the MCT oil train, but I’m so happy I did. MCTs are medium- chain triglycerides, that are easily digested and provide energy, support the metabolism and are burned by the body for energy and fuel. The most popular claim to fame for this oil is its ability to help people lose weight. While I haven’t been using it regularly enough to know if it would have this effect, I would say it’s other benefits like energy + endurance boosting and improved mental clarity have proven to be true. It’s the perfect binder for these Cacao Nut Energy Balls, and really contributes to the fudge brownie-like taste.
7. Hemp Hearts
Hemp hearts are a staple in my diet as they are an excellent plant-based source of protein and iron. Unlike many plant-based sources, hemp hearts a complete protein, meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids alone, without being paired with another food. These tiny seeds are also part of an anti-inflammatory diet, as they contain the proper balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, unlike many other foods that are heavier in omega-6. Finally, hemp hearts have high levels arginine, an amino acid that turns to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is an ingredient found in many pre-workouts, since it help dilate arteries and blood vessels, which allows for blood flow to the muscles (which often allows for higher work production).
I hope you enjoy these brownie-like Cacao Nut Energy Balls as much as I do, be sure to let me know what you think 🙂
- Yield: 18-22
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cacao Nut Energy Balls
Cacao Nut Energy Balls can come together in 20 minutes or less, and are best stored in the fridge for a grab-and-go energizing snack for this week and next- if they last 😉 With a taste like fudge brownies, it's hard to believe they're loaded with vitamins, minerals, omega-3s, and antioxidants in every bite!
- 1/2 cup raw almonds
- 1 cup medjool dates (13-16 whole dates) - pitted
- 1 1/2 cup raw walnuts
- 1/2 cup gluten-free, organic oats
- 1/2 cup cacao powder
- 1/2 tsp sea salt - I use pink Himalayan
- 1/3 cup Vitafber syrup
- 2T MCT oil
- hemp hearts for rolling - ~1/2 cup, optional
- Add the raw almonds to a food processor and pulse until broken into small pieces. Since almonds are much harder than walnuts, it's important to grind these first so they blend better into the balls.
- Add the dates, walnuts, oats, cacao powder, and sea salt. Blend until evenly mixed and a sticky ball.
- If the ingredients clump up into a large ball, use your hands to just break apart and distribute around the food processor. Add the Vitafiber syrup and MCT oil. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
- Transfer ingredients to the refrigerator for about 20 minutes (this step is optional, however, I find it's easier to roll into balls when slightly chilled).
- Using your hands, roll a heaping tablespoon of the mixture into individual balls, roll in hemp hearts to coat the outside (optional), and then enjoy! Store in the refrigerator.