Sugar Free Chocolate

People with health issues that prevent them from enjoying carbohydrate rich foods, may be interested in the possibility of making their own chocolate with a sugar substitute. While such chocolate is available commercially at a price, the  sugar substitutes can have a somewhat unpleasant. There are substitutes available now that don't leave behind any bitter aftertaste, and that are considered safe by health enthusiasts.

One very practical chocolate recipe on the Natural Health Strategies website [1] suggests using coconut oil instead of cocoa butter as a solid base. This is purported to have significant health benefits as well as being easier to procure.

The recipes provided on that website show that the ingredients can be varied widely to produce a range of chocolates of different richness. Also a number of additives can be included to increase the variety, such as nuts, vanilla, spices, shredded coconut, milk powder.

The recipes given below have a taste of rich milk chocolate but surprisingly have only about 18% sugar content. This is much less than the typical 56% in commercial chocolates, possibly due to a somewhat bitter taste in cocoa butter compared to coconut oil. So if cane or beet sugar is used to keep costs down the resulting chocolate is already healthier than commercial chocolates. Note that coconut oil melts at a quite low temperatures making handling a bit more awkward, especially in the summer months.

The basic recipe has the following ingredients:

  • Cocoa powder

  • Coconut oil in a weight ratio to cocoa powder of about 2:1

  • Sweetener in a weight ratio to cocoa powder of about 1:1 sugar equivalent

There is no cooking required for this chocolate, and all ingredients are widely available. Time required to mix and pour is about 10 minutes.

Coconut Oil

This is composed mainly of short and medium chain saturated fats (over 90%) which have claimed health benefits [2]. Researchers however have not carried out sufficient studies at this time to verify these benefits scientifically. There are a number of articles on the Organic Facts website [3] describing the different types of coconut oil and their properties and manufacture. The Wikipedia article has additional information.

Health enthusiasts recommend obtaining extra virgin coconut oil. This is readily available in health food stores. At the time of writing, it can be obtained for between AU$30 and AU$40 per litre. It can be purchased over the Internet for as low as AU$20 per litre, but postage costs mean that 5 or more litres need to be purchased at the same time to make this route worthwhile. This type of coconut oil imparts a distinct coconut flavour to the end product.

A much cheaper alternative is refined coconut oil, which does not have the coconut taste or odour. It can be obtained from Asian groceries for about AU$8 per litre. Its manufacture involves processes that may reduce the health benefits compared to the virgin oil. It may be sold under the tag of pure coconut oil. This type of oil does not have the manufacturing controls that are considered important by health enthusiasts.

Do not use hydrogenated coconut oil, which can have harmful components.

Coconut oil has a low melting point of about 24C, which can be awkward in hot weather and for handling.

Cocoa Powder

This normally costs about AU$30 per kilogram. It can be obtained from a well known supermarket's own brand for about one third the cost, but the manufacturing source is unknown. There are a number of different manufacturing processes used. Dutch process cocoa powder contains additional alkali to reduce the acidity, and is therefore milder in flavour, making it more suited for chocolate making. When used in a milk drink it doesn't really need any additional sweetener. Raw cocoa powder has about 60% carbohydrates, of which over half is dietary fibre. About 2% is classified as sugars.

Sweetener

A variety of sweeteners can be used to avoid elevating the body's sugar levels. For the health enthusiasts wary of non-natural sweeteners, a good choice would be the sugar alcohols such as Erythritol or Xylitol. These normally come in granular form and would need to be pulverized to produce a smooth chocolate. 

  • Xylitol (around AU$25 per kilogram) has the same sweetness as sugar. It is slightly metabolized by the body, having a GI of about 7. It is readily available in health food shops and can also be purchased over the Internet from local Australian suppliers. Note that this is a sugar alcohol and can cause intestinal problems if consumed to excess. This should be limited to about 20g per day.

  • Erythritol is more expensive (around AU$40 per kilogram) and has about 70% of the sweetness of sugar. It is not quite so readily available as Xylitol, but is sold in supermarkets mixed with a small amount of Stevia, and it can be obtained over the Internet in pure form. This is also a sugar alcohol which can cause intestinal problems if consumed to excess, but the limit is somewhat higher at about 40g per day. It is considered the safest of the sugar substitutes.

  • Another option is to use sucralose tablets, sold under the Splenda brand, and ground to a fine powder with the back of a spoon. This is a manufactured product with sucrose as its base, and is not found in nature. As a result some people are wary of using it [4] although it has been approved officially as safe for human consumption since 1998. It has essentially the same taste as sugar although needing only 0.2% of the amount for the same sensation of sweetness.

  • If pure Stevia tablets are used the resulting chocolate has a unpleasant bitter taste.

Recipe for the Health Conscious

  • 10 tablespoons cocoa powder (100g)

  • 15 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil (200g)

  • 4 tablespoons Xylitol (85g)

Melt the oil in its jar by standing it in hot water. Pulverize the sweetener in a grinder, mix with the cocoa powder and sift. Grinding produces a smoother chocolate. Measure out the oil into a metal pan placed in a container of hot water to keep it liquid. Stir in the cocoa and sweetener. This mixes quite well with the oil. Pour into moulds and place in a fridge to harden.

This produces a rich dark chocolate with a coconut flavour. Full cream milk powder may be added as per the following recipe. Approximate cost is $30 per kg.

Recipe for the Purse Conscious

  • 10 tablespoons cocoa powder (100g)

  • 10 tablespoons full cream milk powder (100g)

  • 15 tablespoons pure coconut oil (200g)

  • 20 sucralose tablets

Melt the oil in its jar by standing it in hot water. Pulverize the sucralose tablets with a spoon. Mix these with the cocoa powder and sift. Measure out the oil into a metal pan placed in a container of hot water to keep it liquid. Stir in the powder, pour into moulds and place in a fridge to harden.

This produces a thick, darkish milk chocolate. Approximate cost is $10 per kg. Commercially available chocolate has a retail cost of around $20 per kg.

The resulting chocolate has a slightly bitter aftertaste. It may need additional sweetener, but I didn't continue down that path. By using Xylitol instead gives a:

Recipe for the Taste Conscious

  • 10 tablespoons cocoa powder (100g)

  • 10 tablespoons full cream milk powder (100g)

  • 15 tablespoons pure coconut oil (200g)

  • 4 tablespoons Xylitol (85g)

Melt the oil in its jar by standing it in hot water. Pulverize the Xylitol in a grinder and mix with the cocoa powder and milk powder, and sift. Grinding produces a smoother chocolate and also minimizes the settling of the solids to the bottom before the chocolate has hardened. Measure out the oil into a metal pan placed in a container of hot water to keep it liquid. Stir in the powder, pour into moulds and place in a fridge to harden.

The resulting chocolate lacks the coconut taste and is similar to commercial milk chocolate. The texture is slightly grainy due to the milk powder. Approximate cost is $12 per kg.

References

  1. Coconut Oil Chocolate from Natural Health Strategies website.
  2. Health benefits of coconut oil.
  3. Organic Facts website: Virgin Coconut Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Pure Coconut Oil.
  4. MedicineNet.com article on sucralose is rather negative, while other articles are less so. Adverse effects appear to occur at excessive dosage in animals (see this article).
  5. Nutritional facts about Nestlé unsweetened cocoa powder, and provides some useful information.


First created 1 August 2011

Last Modified 24 February 2012
© Ken Sarkies 2011