Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
These 2-ingredient Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups will become your go-to recipe for easy and quick sweet treats. You can use chocolate chips and any nut butter of your choice. And they’re vegan! Who doesn’t want Vegan Peanut Butter Cups?
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
My Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups are the perfect blend of nuttiness, sweetness and slight chocolatey bitterness. I like to make these and store them in the freezer for up to three months for a quick treat. Because you can freeze them in individual containers they are simple to pull out every time you have a hankering. I would recommend letting them sit at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes before consuming for the perfect texture.
Here I am using peanut butter, but any type of nut or seed butter could work. In the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup video, Olivia suggests using hazelnut butter, which I think would be a fantastic idea. If you want to add a little something extra you could even mix a dash of cinnamon into your nut or seed butter.
The one trick to this simple recipe is in how you melt the chocolate. Chocolate is sensitive to over-melting or burning, so you want to err on the side of caution. Think about how chocolate melts in your pocket or in a slightly warm car. You could choose to melt the chocolate over indirect heat like a double boiler, but judicious use of the microwave will work just fine. I start by microwaving for one minute then removing the bowl from the microwave and stirring well. I follow this with additional 10 second increments in the microwave, stirring after each time, until the chocolate is almost fully melted. Removing the bowl and continuing to stir when there are still a few small lumps of chocolate left will ensure that you don’t burn your ingredient. Eventually it will all melt!
All About Chocolate
From ‘Bean to Bar’
Chocolate comes from a variety of tree species that can only grow 20 degrees north and south of the equator. The cacao seeds or beans are harvested, fermented, dried, roasted, ground and finally processed into the different variations of chocolate with which we are familiar.
Cacao seeds are first harvested by hand because large machinery could damage the delicate trees. After the seeds are removed from the trees they are left to ferment, which develops the distinctly chocolate flavor and aroma and allows the pulp to separate from the seeds. After fermentation, the seeds are dried either in the sun or using machinery. They are then roasted and broken up into pieces known as cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground into a chocolate liquor (does not contain alcohol) that is made up of cocoa butter and dry cocoa solids.
Types of Chocolate
With the chocolate liquor as a base, manufacturers can produce a wide array of products: cacao nibs, cocoa powder, solid chocolate (milk, bittersweet, semisweet), and solid white chocolate just to name a few. So how do these products differ in their ingredients?
As I mentioned before, cacao nibs are the bitter product of breaking apart roasted cacao seeds. Cocoa powder is the dry solid portion left after removing the fat (cocoa butter) from chocolate liquor (ground cacao nibs). You may see “raw cacao powder” in the grocery store as well, which is in fact different from cocoa powder. Raw cacao powder is the result of cold-pressing cacao seeds before roasting. By protecting the seeds from higher temperatures manufacturers are able to retain enzymes and other temperature-sensitive nutrients.
Chocolate liquor on its own can be used to make unsweetened chocolate bars for baking. Add additional cocoa butter, lecithin (to improve texture and shelf life), sugar, and vanilla and you have dark chocolate (semisweet or bittersweet based on the amount of sugar). Add milk fats and solids to dark chocolate and you have milk chocolate. The nomenclature is less important than the actual ingredients, so I would recommend choosing your chocolate based in the amount of cacao, milk fats and solids, and sugar. I typically enjoy chocolate that is at least 70-75% cacao.
Many people want to know if white chocolate is actually considered chocolate. As of 2002 the United States Food and Drug Administration does recognize white chocolate as chocolate. White chocolate contains all of the ingredients of milk chocolate, except for the cacao solids from the chocolate liquor.
Health Benefits of Chocolate
It is important to note that the health benefits from chocolate do not come from the milk fats or solids or sugar, so choosing chocolate with the highest percent cacao will give you the best bang for your buck. Dark chocolate is anywhere from 50-90% cacao solids, but the biggest health benefits come from chocolate over 70% cacao. Of course, the higher the percentage of cacao the more bitter it will taste as well.
The biggest benefit from dark chocolate comes from a group of phytochemicals called flavanols. Studies support the use of cocoa flavanols for reducing blood pressure (1,2,3) and increasing insulin sensitivity (4,5) in adults. Dutch-processed cocoa powder removes many of the beneficial flavanols, so try to choose natural cocoa if you want the health benefits.
Along with high amounts of flavanols, cacao contains iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus.
- Hollenberg NK, Fisher ND, McCullough ML. Flavanols, the Kuna, cocoa consumption, and nitric oxide. J Am Soc Hypertens. 2009;3(2):105-112.
- Buijsse B, Feskens EJ, Kok FJ, Kromhout D. Cocoa intake, blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality: the Zutphen Elderly Study. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(4):411-417.
- Buijsse B, Weikert C, Drogan D, Bergmann M, Boeing H. Chocolate consumption in relation to blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease in German adults. Eur Heart J. 2010;31(13):1616-1623.
- Grassi D, Desideri G, Mai F, et al. Cocoa, glucose tolerance, and insulin signaling: cardiometabolic protection. J Agric Food Chem. 2015;63(45):9919-9926.
- Hooper L, Kay C, Abdelhamid A, et al. Effects of chocolate, cocoa, and flavan-3-ols on cardiovascular health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95(3):740-751.
- 1 ½ cups 70%+ dark chocolate chips
- ½ cup nut butter room temperature
- Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, and continue for 10 second intervals until melted.
- Place 16 mini muffin liners on a baking sheet or in a large container that will fit in the freezer. Spoon a teaspoon of chocolate into each and place in the freezer for 5 minutes until set.
- Remove from freezer and add 1-2 teaspoons of nut butter to each then add another 1-2 teaspoons of chocolate on top of the nut butter layer.
- Place back in freezer and allow to set, approximately 15 minutes. Store in freezer until ready to eat.