Recipe: Amaranth and Not-ella Truffles

ballsThis recipe is the fault of my friend Scott, which seems a little unfair, since it actually isn’t the recipe he asked for, and in fact probably isn’t going to do him  much good at all!  Sorry, Scott – the quinoa one will happen later in the week.  He requested a recipe for a high-protein snack that used cooked quinoa and Nutella and was sweetened with agave nectar.

I had every intention of doing this, but currently my oven is full of a cake that will take 4 hours to cook, and my ideas involving cooked quinoa all necessitate baking, so that the snack ends up crispy rather than soggy.  And I wanted to try something *now*.  Also, I had this popped amaranth sitting around, waiting to be used.  And then there was the fact that I don’t actually like Nutella, and that if one is wanting a snack sweetened with agave nectar, it’s a bit silly to include Nutella, which is full of sugar…

And it all went downhill from there, really.  But in a good way, because these little snacks taste gorgeous, and look incredibly cute, all black-brown with little white dots of amaranth through them.  Try them and see…

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120 g hazelnuts
30 ml cocoa
30 ml agave nectar
30 ml almond butter (can you tell I had this 30 ml measure just sitting there, looking convenient?  So many recipes develop proportions based on what’s clean and nearby at the time…)
3 dates
1 cup popped amaranth

Now what will you do with it?

So I started with this amaranth-nutella-crackle idea, which went by the wayside, but half the fun of a recipe is how it evolved, really.  Anyway, to get started, I thought I’d see if I could make my own Nutella.  Sadly, the supermarket had no hazelnut butter, but I am daring and decided to make my own!

Pre-heat your oven to 165°C, because that’s the temperature your cake is cooking at right now, and spread your hazelnuts out on a baking tray.  Toast in the oven for about 10 minutes (which is to say, until you remember to take them out again), opening the oven to shake the tray half-way through cooking.

Before cooking...

Raw hazelnuts

They will be getting a bit golden and will have started releasing their oils.  This is very promising.  Let cool briefly.

After toasting...

After toasting…

Put the hazelnuts in your food processor, for which you will need a food processor that actually works, unlike my old one.  Process until it gets past the hazelnut meal stage and starts getting a bit moist and clumpy.  If you are patient, you could keep going and see if this really does produce nut butter, but I was not that patient, or that trusting.

This is not really hazelnut butter.

This is not really hazelnut butter.

Add the cocoa and agave, and process some more, hoping for it to go creamy.

It won’t.

Consider the suggestion to add a neautral-flavoured oil, and decide that this rather defeats the purpose of making healthy nutella thingies.  You have, by this stage, realised that crackles are not on the cards.

It does need to be stickier, though, so now is a good time to add three nice, fresh, squishy dates.  Process until it starts clumping together and looking like really good potting mix – the nice, fine kind that you use for seed-raising.

(really, it does look like that)


See? I have bulbs in pots filled with something that looks an awful lot like this…

Remove your edible seed-raising mix to a bowl.  If you are Heston Blumenthal, you could now strew it artistically over a platter and add things like candied edible insects and flowers and such to make an edible garden.  And even if you are not Heston, you might make a mental note to use this as edible soil for a garden-themed cake sometime.

Moving right along, add the popped amaranth to the bowl, and mix everything together well.  Personally, I would use my hands for this.


Roll the beautiful speckled mix into little balls (I got 18 out of this mixture), and refrigerate so that they can firm up a bit.

Eat, happily, while contemplating just what you are going to do with the quinoa…

Aren't they pretty?  I think these are by far the classiest-looking sweetmeats I've done so far.

Aren’t they pretty? I think these are by far the classiest-looking sweetmeats I’ve done so far.


These little balls are, of course, gluten-free and vegan, though the dates won’t let them be low fructose.  Naughty dates!  Mind you, the edible soil pre-dates the dates, so to speak, so you could use that for something.  They are also, self–evidently, not nut-free.  This is sadly not something one can change without changing the character of these snacks quite dramatically.  Their glycemic index is relatively high, alas, because amaranth turns out to be fairly evil at the best of times, and worse when popped (GI=101.3, according to J Food Sci!  I had no idea it was so bad).  (The dates and nuts mitigate this somewhat, but not sufficiently).

I am actually pretty happy with the flavour of these and wouldn’t want to mess with it too much.  You might add a little allspice or nutmeg to the mix, to bring out the tropical flavour of the amaranth.  You could also use different nuts, of course, or swap the agave nectar out for maple syrup, but I’d really encourage you to leave this one as it is.


I am submitting this recipe to Allergy-Friendly Lunchbox Love – back after a long hiatus, and I’m so glad to see it again!


This time last year…

Recipe: Fresh Ginger Cake (Vegan)

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4 comments for “Recipe: Amaranth and Not-ella Truffles

  1. April 14, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    This looks like my kind of treat! I recently made a snack with puffed quinoa so I could see that working well here, too. 🙂

    • Catherine
      April 14, 2013 at 9:58 pm

      I haven’t seen puffed quinoa around, but yes, I think it would be excellent here.

  2. April 15, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    I tell you what, they might not have been what Scott asked for, but they would suit me very well indeed! I love puffed cereals in snack balls and this ingredient mix would be fantastic.

    • Catherine
      April 15, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      Well, they do fit the ‘high protein’ part of the brief, and they taste really good…

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