These Healthy Chocolate-Covered Caramels start with a date filling reminiscent of chewy, soft caramels–and are then dipped in melted dark chocolate. These nutritious treats are free of refined sugars and loaded with good ingredients!
We love making treats with more nutritious ingredients — try some fan favorites like these Healthy Brownies, Healthy Banana Muffins, or Healthy Ice Cream.
This Healthy Chocolate-Covered “Caramels” recipe is a BONUS recipe as part of our Back-To-School Lifesavers — a series of recipes that are intended to have little (or no) veggie chopping, minimal prep time, around 10 ingredients or less (not including pantry staples), and use kid-friendly ingredients. This (obviously) isn’t a dinner recipe, but a fun back-to-school snack or addition to a balanced breakfast. Click here to see all the recipes in the series!
Healthy Chocolate-Covered “Caramels”
I’m a total sucker for anything caramel — Salted Caramel Cookies, Caramel Cookie Bars, Caramel Apple Cheesecake — heck, I could even eat an entire batch of Caramel Sauce by the spoonful!
So in an attempt to quell the cravings for all things caramel while also trying to eat a bit more nutritiously, I created these delicious bites of caramel-inspired and chocolate-covered goodness.
If you love dates, you’ve probably tried a date caramel and know it’s not all that caramel reminiscent, but it is sweet and gooey with nutty (almost buttery) notes of flavor. And when you consider the health benefits of dates, it makes these little treats even that much more satisfying! I will say right here, if you aren’t a fan of dates, you most likely won’t be a fan of this recipe.
Healthy Chocolate-Covered “Caramels” Ingredients
- Dates. For the dates, I like to use Deglet Noor made by Sunsweet® — these can be found near other dried fruits, trail mixes, and nuts in the store. For this recipe to work properly, you’ll want fresh soft dates. If they are hard, you can soak them to soften them up again, but you’ll need to make sure they’re 100% dry before trying to blend into a date paste.
- Vanillaextract. The vanilla is what gives these treats a stronger dessert-like flavor. We prefer a strong vanilla flavor, but if you’d like it to be more subtle, add the vanilla slowly and gradually increase to suit your preferences. I recommend real, pure vanilla extract and not imitation vanilla — here’s the difference.
- Salt. This ingredient helps to intensify flavors and balance the sweetness.
- Almond butter. This nut butter adds flavor, creaminess, and lots of nutrition to these “caramels”. As far as almond butter goes, I recommend a slow-roasted and lightly salted almond butter you enjoy eating straight from the jar.
- Coconutoil. This ingredient adds a very subtle flavor and also ensures a nice texture to the “caramels”.
- Maplesyrup. More on this ingredient below!
If you’ve got some leftover dates after making these Healthy Chocolate-Covered “Caramels”, use them in these Granola Bars or Gluten-free Zucchini Muffins!
Let’s chat maple syrup
Maple syrup is one of my favorite natural sweeteners to add for a more intense dessert-like flavor, so it’s perfect in these Healthy Chocolate-Covered “Caramels”.
Any sticky sweetener will work, and in a pinch, you can leave it out completely for a slightly less sweet dessert. Honey is more detectable flavor-wise, but works. Agave nectar will also work.
We use pure maple syrup, not to be confused with pancake syrup. What’s the difference? Pure maple syrup is simply maple tree sap that’s been boiled down to a thicker consistency. Pancake syrup is made with corn syrup and artificial maple extract, caramel color, and natural and artificial flavors. Pancake syrup actually has less sugar than maple syrup, but maple syrup’s sugar is not refined.
Tips for melting chocolate
- Melt the chocolate slowly and stir it often. To avoid burning your chocolate, don’t rush the melting process. Microwave the chocolate in bursts of time, remembering that the chocolate is still melting even after you take it out of the microwave. Make sure to give the chocolate plenty of time to melt outside of the microwave as you stir.
- Use high-quality white chocolate for the best results. You’ll get both a better melt and a better flavor. My favorite chocolate for these Healthy Chocolate-Covered Caramels is Ghirardelli® or Guittard®. Cheaper brands can have a waxier content that is less flavorful.
- Don’t allow any liquid near the chocolate. If it gets wet it will seize and harden, and you don’t want that. Here’s why.
- Microwave the chocolate chips in sturdy, heat-safebowls instead of using plastic or melamine.
- When coating the “caramels” I like to dip the bottom of one in the chocolate and then place it on top of a fork. Use a spoon to spoon melted chocolate on top of the “caramel” and then carefully and gently tap the fork holding the caramel on the edge of the bowl so excess chocolate can fall off. Scrape the bottom of the fork against the edge of the bowl and use a table knife to scrape the chocolate-covered “caramel” off the fork onto a parchment-paper-lined sheet pan or plate.
If you love salted caramel, add a small sprinkle of sea salt flakes to the chocolate coating before it hardens!
Other nutritious bites:
- Energy Biteswith miniature chocolate chips
- Oatmeal Energy Ballswith coconut and chocolate chips
- Chocolate Protein Ballswith almond butter
- Chewy Granola Barswith M&M’s and miniature chocolate chips
- Blueberry Energy Biteswith dried blueberries
Healthy Chocolate-Covered Caramels
Healthy Chocolate-Covered Caramels
- 1cupDeglet Noor datespitted
- 1.5tablespoons almond butterroasted & lightly salted, Note 1
- 1tablespoonmelted coconut oil
- 1tablespoonmaple syrup
- 1/8teaspoonfine sea salt Note 2
- 1/4teaspoonpure vanilla extract
- 1/2cupdark chocolate
- 1/2teaspooncoconut oil
- Optional: Maldon sea salt flakes for topping
DATES: If the dates are hard and hard to cut, read Note 3. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the dates into smallish pieces. Add to the base of a food processor. Pulse, scraping the edges as needed until a very thick and sticky mixture has formed. Add in the remaining date «caramel» ingredients. Pulse until a smooth mixture has formed. Use a spatula to scrape edges as you pulse; this takes some patience to arrive at the right consistency. Use a spatula to scrape all of this mixture into a small bowl. Cover and chill for 30 minutes. The oil may pool a little in the bowl– this is okay.
ROLLBALLS: Line a plate or tray with parchment paper. Roll small balls of the date caramel, 1 teaspoon in size. If they aren’t rolling nicely, chill for a little longer before rolling. Once all the balls are rolled, chill in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
DIP IN CHOCOLATE: Add the chocolate chips and coconut oil to a microwave-safe bowl and heat in bursts of 20 seconds, stirring in between bursts for 20-25 seconds until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remember, chocolate is melting even outside of the microwave, so stir for a while to ensure it doesn’t get burned. Generously dip each date caramel ball in the melted chocolate. See Note 4. If desired, sprinkle on some sea salt flakes. Allow to set up at room temperature and then store in the fridge in an airtight container. Best enjoyed within 5-6 days.
Note2: Salt: If you’re sensitive to salt or the almond butter you’re using is heavily salted, leave this addition out.
Note 3: Dates: Soak hard dates in hot water for 30 minutes up to an hour. Completely dry them before using in this recipe (any moisture and it will mess up the consistency of the «caramel»).
Note 4: Chocolate dipping: Here’s how I like to coat the «caramels» in chocolate: I like to dip the bottom of one in the chocolate and then place it on top of a fork. Use a spoon to spoon melted chocolate on top of the «caramel» and then carefully and gently tap the fork holding the caramel on the edge of the bowl so excess chocolate can fall off. Scrape the bottom of the fork against the edge of the bowl and use a table knife to scrape the chocolate-covered «caramel» off the fork onto a parchment-paper-lined sheet pan or plate.
We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.