Is your inner child squealing with glee?
I know mine is.
I dreamed up this recipe about a month ago and it’s fast become an easy treat or snack that my husband and I enjoy regularly.
I think I need more ramekins to keep up with demand!
This pudding is perfect for someone like me who can’t handle her dairy (as much as she wants to!), but still wants something creamy and thick and a little sweet after dinner.
Want isn’t a strong enough word.
How about yearn?
I yearn for creamy, delicious desserts.
Born and raised in Iowa, I was surrounded by all the creamy goodness you could imagine. So, you can take the girl out of Iowa, but….well, you know the rest.
This pudding puts my yearnings to rest.
Now, it’s not the same as a decadently dairylicious pudding/cream/whatever other confection that can be created from the nectar of the cow.
But it harkens back enough to what I remember that I get those psychological benefits without any of the allergic drawback.
So let’s drill down into this tasty treat.
It’s not your average chocolate pudding.
Every ingredient is healthy and good for you.
And when combined, it’s all still pretty good for you!
I mean, we’re not talking about eating a bunch of kale here, we’re talking about pudding.
But for what it is, this chocolate treat is healthy and full of good, natural stuff for you.
It’s high fat (yes, this is good), lower sugar, with organic ingredients and no weird chemicals or stabilizers.
It’s a much better alternative than a Snickers bar or Krispy Creme donut, and it can fill that need for a little indulgence.
Indulgence does not have to be synonymous with rich, heavy food that leaves us feeling terribly sugar high or bloated afterward.
So if you’re feeling a craving creeping in, it’s a nice recipe to have on hand and whip up.
If you have some fancy serving glasses, it’s pretty enough for a party!
So what are these magical ingredients?
Let’s run through them, along with the benefits of each.
If you’re well versed in the low allergy, paleo, whole foods realm, skip down to the recipe.
Ah, that rich, wonderful goodness first discovered by the Aztecs that later drove the Spanish courts crazy in the 16th century.
I must admit, chocolate was a rather close companion of mine through medical school. It saw me through many ups and downs.
I should clarify, when I talk about chocolate here, I’m speaking about dark chocolate. The darker the better.
Dark = less sugar, less additives typically, and no milk.
Basically, it has waaaay more of the good stuff in it that we’ll talk about below and less of the crap.
What is the good stuff you ask?
Mainly we’re talking about polyphenols (flavanols and proanthocyanidins) and methylxanthines (mostly theobromine).
These molecules are antioxidant powerhouses!
They’re anti-inflammatory and help prevent and combat a lot of disease processes in the cardiovascular and nervous system, they improve sugar metabolism, and help prevent cancer.
So, you really want as many of these compounds per bite as possible!
An organic, unprocessed brand of chocolate is best.
Did you know big brands like Nestle strip out all the cocoa butter from their chocolate, then add a certain amount back in later? Ew.
Let’s stick with unadulterated chocolate as much as possible.
They both have great sustainability practices, are organic, and minimize processing, and don’t use emulsifiers, like soy lecithin, which are getting implicated more and more in inflammatory gut issues.
This study showed that participants who ate dark chocolate regularly for two weeks produced less cortisol, one of our main stress hormones.
Dark chocolate contains resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, among other things.
Resveratrol has been shown to boost brain levels of endorphins (natural opiates) and serotonin (the “happy” neurotransmitter).
Dark chocolate can also increase serotonin in the gut, also known as our second brain, which can help with mood and our immune system.
Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, a chemical also known as the “love drug” because it creates a similar feeling in your brain.
So, when you say you really love chocolate, you definitely do.
Have an important discussion with your significant other? Feed them a good amount of dark chocolate beforehand.
Enhances brain health
Flavonols in chocolate (antioxidants) act on centers of learning and memory in the brain, such as the hippocampus.
They increase blood flow to the brain, increasing neuronal growth and function, and strengthening connections between neurons.
They also prevent damage and death of neurons from free radicals.
Improves cardiovascular health
Studies have shown heart benefits such as better blood flow, decreased clotting risk, and improved cholesterol.
Dark chocolate has been shown to lower blood pressure.
Helps prevent diabetes
Chocolate can improve insulin sensitivity, which in turn lowers your risk for diabetes.
As if you needed more reasons to eat chocolate! Well, now you’ve got some!
Coconut milk is probably my favorite alternative milk.
It’s the easiest to find without weird stabilizers/emulsifiers and it’s FULL OF FAT.
My favorite brand you can find here, as it is JUST coconut milk. Nothing else.
Please don’t buy the reduced fat stuff.
Why am I excited about the fat? Read on!
Fat keeps you satiated longer
Fat = satiety, or the feeling of being full.
It takes the longest to digest out of the three macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat).
It also promotes hormonal signaling in the last part of the small intestine, the ileum, that increases satiety.
People worry about calories when eating fuller fat foods.
Well, the good news is with increased satiety, you usually eat less calories will full fat than you would without it.
And, you’re generally getting more nutrient-dense foods with full fat foods because they haven’t been altered and stripped of this great fat.
More nutrients are also going to increase satiety because your body is getting what it needs from foods, rather than empty calorie items.
Burned as energy quickly
Coconut milk is full of medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs.
Other fats are long chain fatty acids (like fish oil) or short chain fatty acids.
MCTs are unique in how they are metabolized in the body.
Instead of being stored (like short and long chain fats), they are burned immediately by the liver for energy.
Boosts your immune system
One MCT in particular called lauric acid is a precursor to monolaurin, a highly antiviral and antibacterial compound.
So coconut milk boosts your immune system through its special fats!
Want to read more benefits of higher fat? Check out this article.
Raw honey is pure honey that’s unpasteurized and unprocessed, therefore preserving it’s natural enzymes and nutrients.
And it’s delicious.
Honey is my favorite natural sweetener, right along with grade B maple syrup.
Here's where to buy it if you can't find it in your local grocery store.
High nutrient value
Raw honey is loaded with antioxidants, natural enzymes and minerals such as iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, sulfur, iodine, copper, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and selenium.
It also contains many B vitamins like thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) pantothenic acid (B5), and pyridoxine (B6) which are great for energy and your liver.
Low glycemic index
Honey may be sweet, but it hits your bloodstream with a little less impact than a banana (a banana scores 64 on the glycemic index scale).
Honey doesn’t cause a spike in your blood sugar like white sugar does.
Here's a table for comparison. The glycemic index is a system that ranks foods on a scale of 100 based on the impact to your blood sugar.
The higher the number, the greater the surge of blood sugar that occurs.
Evaporated cane juice
Yes, this is the stuff most of us know from jello. Or gummy bears.
It’s also a great thickener for soups, stews, and desserts, believe it or not! It gives this pudding it’s pudding-like consistency. YUM.
Gelatin is made from animal collagen, usually from their bones.
Because it’s an animal product, it’s good to get it from a clean and organic source.
Here’s my favorite kind from Vital Proteins. They only use grass fed, organically raised cows.
Gelatin has a massive amount of health benefits. I’m just going to highlight a few here for you.
Healing to the gut
Gelatin and it’s high amount of amino acids, especially proline, acts as a protective and healing coat along the gut lining.
A study in 2000 showed its benefits against alcohol damage in the digestive tracts of mice.
Healing the gut can result in less inflammation, less food allergies, and greatly improved or healed autoimmune conditions.
Gelatin also helps with stomach acid production, which is excellent, as most of us seriously underproduce it due to high levels of stress.
Improves liver health
Glycine is an important amino acid for liver health and it is found in high levels in gelatin.
It is also a precursor to the super powerful antioxidant, glutathione, which is produced in the liver.
We need high levels of glutathione to properly detoxify all of our environmental and chemical exposures.
Lowers diabetes risk
Glycine to the rescue, again!
It enhances the effects of insulin, making absorbing blood sugar easier for your body so you have less risk of developing diabetes.
Restorative to bones and joints
Gelatin has been shown to increase cartilage growth.
It supports bone growth by influencing hormonal signaling and providing excellent nutritional building blocks for the collagen matrix of bone, which is the core of the bone’s structural integrity.
Gelatin helps decrease inflammation and aids muscle recovery, helping those with osteoarthritis and joint pain symptoms.
A major component of your skin is collagen, and gelatin supplies your body with the amino acids it needs to rebuild collagen.
It can leave you looking more youthful, help reduce cellulite, and increase the strength of your hair and nails.
High mineral salt
High mineral salt is replacing those much needed trace minerals that get easily depleted in our constant stress and detoxification reactions.
We only need tiny amounts, but they are crucial to our health.
Refined foods and products are devoid of these minerals, so it’s really important to choose high quality, unprocessed foods, as well as salt, to start repleting your stores.
For cooking, one of my favorites is Real Salt from Redmond, WA. I love that it’s local and contains about 70 minerals and trace minerals.
My other favorite is pink himalayan salt, which contains about 84 minerals and trace minerals. You can find it here.
Replete your mineral stores
When you’ve got the right amount of minerals, you’re better able to hydrate properly, balance your electrolytes, prevent muscle cramps, aid your adrenal glands which feed off of minerals, and increase detoxification.
Less sodium per serving
Sodium is great, but only when balanced well with other minerals. It works in concert with them, not alone.
Pink himalayan salt consists of 85.62% sodium chloride and 14.35% trace minerals.
That might sound like a lot of sodium, but not when you compare it to a refined salt that’s nearly 100% sodium chloride.
With it’s high amount of trace minerals, you get less sodium/serving, and what you do get is naturally balanced with other minerals.
Lowers blood pressure
Believe it or not, high mineral salt helps to lower blood pressure.
Many times high blood pressure is the result of a lack of proper minerals which causes the blood vessels to clamp down and increase pressure.
When your mineral balance is restored, the blood vessels are able to relax and lower blood pressure.
It’s delicious AND good for you!
Vanilla extract is such a pleasure to add to baked or dessert items because it instantly adds a touch of sweetness, depth, and richness to whatever you’re making.
You really, really want to splurge and buy the real stuff.
No imitation vanilla.
It might get you a similar taste profile in your end product, but you miss out on all the great benefits!
Here’s my favorite kind.*
It’s organic and super affordable!
If you’re concerned about cost, you can also make your own vanilla extract.
*Note: If you don’t know about Thrive Market yet, check it out!!
Many of the links to the ingredients I've made are from Thrive Market.
They make shopping for healthy, organic food and home products super easy and, dare I say, cheap compared to the premium grocery stores often charge for organic and natural products.
It’s an especially useful resource if you live somewhere without great access to natural and organic products.
High in antioxidants
Vanillin acid and vanillin are components in vanilla bean that are antioxidants and protect against free radical damage.
A 2007 study found that vanilla extract contains 26-90% of the antioxidants found in unprocessed vanilla bean.
Vanillin is the volatile oil component of vanilla that gives it it’s unique smell.
Published in a 2011 issue of the “European Journal of Pharmacology”, an animal study found that vanillin lowered overall inflammation in animals, as well as provided a liver-protective effect.
An animal study found that taking high doses of vanillin significantly reduced total blood cholesterol levels in rats fed a high fat diet.
All right, after learning all that good stuff, how could you NOT want to make this delicious dessert??
Chocolate Coconut Paleo Pudding
- 1 qt or larger saucepan; something that’s sized for you to easily pour the pudding into ramekins
- 4 4oz ramekins
- small bowl for blooming the gelatin
- measuring spoons
- can opener
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 3 minutes
Freeze time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Here's a short video I made that shows you what you need and how to make it! It's super simple!
- 1 16oz can coconut milk; I prefer this one as it minimizes stabilizers and emulsifiers, which can harm your gut lining
- 4 tbsp raw honey
- 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tsp grass fed gelatin; I prefer Vital Proteins gelatin, as they make their sourcing very clear - only organic, grass-fed cows are used.
- 2 tbsp water
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of high mineral salt
- Place the gelatin in a small bowl and pour the 2 tbsp. of water over it. Mix thoroughly with a fork so no lumps of gelatin remain and allow to bloom. This ensures a more even distribution of gelatin when it’s added to the other ingredients. Set aside.
- Shake the can of coconut milk until you can feel the cream and liquid begin to mix again.
- Many times the coconut cream gets separated, making it difficult to pour out. Taking a few seconds to shake the can before you open it can help you avoid a splashy mess! You might need a spatula to get all of the cream out of the can.
- Open the coconut milk with your can opener and pour into your saucepan.
- Turn the heat to medium high until the coconut milk begins to simmer for a few seconds.
- Turn off the heat and add your cocoa powder, raw honey, and pinch of salt.
- Whisk together until incorporated.
- Add your bloomed gelatin and whisk until dissolved. You do not want to boil the gelatin, but you want it to fully dissolve so the mixture needs to be warm.
- Add the vanilla extract and whisk until incorporated.
- Pour 4oz of the pudding into each ramekin and freeze for 1 hour, or refrigerate for 4 hours.
- Note: If you freeze them, you have to remember to take them out of the freezer in 1 hour. I sometimes have trouble with the gelatin setting properly if I refrigerate the pudding (it settles to the bottom), so I prefer to freeze them and remove them after 1 hour.
- Remove from freezer and store in the fridge.
- If you are serving directly from the freezer, remove them 10 minutes ahead of time in order to allow the ramekins to thaw.
- Enjoy your chocolatey coconut goodness!
Adaptations and extras:
Want MORE chocolatey goodness?
Try adding 1-2oz of melted dark chocolate like this Theo bar instead of the cocoa powder.
Your pudding consistency might change a bit with the extra liquid, so you might need to adjust the amount of gelatin.
Want to add another pop of flavor?
Try adding ginger
- Cut 2 1/4 rounds off of a root (no need to peel) and put them into the coconut milk while things are heating up. Remove before you pour the pudding into the ramekins.
- You could instead at 1/4tsp powered ginger and incorporate into the pudding
- To garnish, finely chop slivers crystallized ginger to top your pudding. Crystallized ginger is usually coated in cane sugar, so avoid this if you are avoiding or are sensitive to more refined sugars.
Try adding peppermint
- While the coconut milk is heating, take 1 stem of fresh mint, about 5in long, or 10 fresh leaves, and infuse into the coconut milk, Remove the stem or leaves before pouring the pudding into the ramekins.
- You could also substitute the vanilla extract for peppermint extract.
- Garnish your pudding with 2 mint leaves or finely chop a few almonds and mint leaves together for a minty crunch on top.
Get creative with this one and enjoy yourself!
Indulgence doesn't have to make you feel terrible.
Respect your own boundaries with foods that don't agree with you and choose indulgences that leave you feeling satisfied but not at war with yourself.
I hope this pudding adds to your recipe collection of delicious desserts!