Chocolate for breakfast? This bowl of deliciousness provides all the health benefits of chocolate with none of the sugary downsides because it is 100% sweetened with whole fruit. As a bonus, a simple adjustment will accommodate a range of flavor preferences, from deep dark to sweet milk chocolate.❤️
Chocolate for breakfast sounds too good to be true, right?
We’ve all heard that chocolate is good for us. The caveat is that the chocolate we enjoy should contain more than 70% cocoa in order to maximize the health benefits.
Cooking with cocoa powder, which is 100% natural, unsweetened cacao powder is an excellent way to reap the benefits. (More on those benefits to come.)
The downside is that, in its raw form, cocoa powder is bitter. Cakes and cookies therefore rely on sugar to create the delicious chocolatey flavor that we all know and love. But not the following healthy breakfast treat, which was introduced to me by my dear friends Emily and Lyla. In their creation, an overripe banana and a couple of dates are the sole sweeteners in what is a decidedly decadent-tasting breakfast, with make-ahead convenience no less.
I have long been a fan of the wholesome, great taste and prep-ahead convenience of overnight oats. The whole grain meal is endlessly customizable and keeps me full for hours, and this chocolate version has quickly become a new favorite.
The method is similar to standard overnight oat recipes, only here we make a healthy chocolate milk that is used as the base. The upside to blending our own instead of using ready made chocolate milk is that we can sweeten it with whole fruit instead of sugars or syrups. (But rest assured, the end result tastes like chocolate, not bananas or dates!) Plus, you may use whichever base milk you prefer, from almond or oat to dairy, whether nonfat, whole or somewhere in the middle.
As an added perk, this recipe will accommodate preferences ranging from milk chocolate to deep dark chocolate. All you have to do is increase the amount of cocoa powder or add an additional date.
To make sure the flavor will be perfectly suited to your tastebuds, simply taste the base as you make it.
It’s worth a mention for those who may be new to overnight oats that they are designed to be eaten cold. That said, if you prefer the concept of a hot breakfast, you may absolutely warm them.
Health benefits of cocoa:
- Decreased inflammation
- Improved heart and brain health
- Blood sugar and weight control
- Healthy teeth and skin
For the most benefit, opt for regular as opposed to alkalized or “Dutched” cocoa powder, as the latter is washed with a potassium carbonate solution that neutralizes cocoa’s acidity. The end result is that this more processed alternative can have as few as half the phytonutrients.
What about cacao powder? For those who wish to use the least processed alternative, I recommend cacao powder. Here, the cacao beans are processed at a low temperature and are considered raw. (With cocoa powder the beans are roasted at high heat.) Once milled into powder, cacao therefore contains higher amounts of enzymes, minerals and nutrients compared to cocoa powder, even a non-Dutched variety.
And what about oats? Oats are a whole grain that serve as an excellent source of fiber and so much more: they’re gluten-free (choose packages marked certified GF if needed) and a good source of many important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. As with cocoa powder, studies have shown many promising benefits.
Health benefits of oats and oatmeal:
- Weight loss
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Reduced inflammation
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Oats also feed good bacteria in the gut, which increases their growth rate and can contribute to a healthy gut
Because chocolate and peanut butter are a marriage made in heaven… A melted drizzle of peanut butter (almond butter is tasty, too) over the oats is my favorite addition. For a speedier alternative, add a swipe of your favorite nut butter up the side of the jar or bowl so you can scoop a little into each bite.❤️
Lyla and Emily are the talented teenage energy behind The Teen Kitchen cookbook－and also happen to be identical twins. Their names may sound familiar, as many of you tried (and loved) the blue cheese turkey burgers I posted when I first wrote about their cookbook.
As a side note, the book would be a lovely Valentine’s or birthday gift for a pre-teen or teenage child or grandchild who enjoys cooking. The recipes most definitely appeal to all ages, but the sisters’ example of what can be accomplished at a young age through hard work and dedication makes them a particularly good role model for their peers.❤️
- ¾ cup (72g) old-fashioned oats (certified GF if necessary)
- 1 cup (240ml) milk of choice
- 2 large Medjool dates, pitted (30g once pitted; see notes for option)
- 1 large (120g) overripe banana (may use frozen and thawed)
- 2 tablespoons (10g) cocoa or cacao powder
- 1 tablespoon (12g) chia seeds
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- Optional toppings: peanut or nut butter of choice, berries, sliced banana, flaked coconut, nuts/seeds, granola, etc.
Place the oats in a medium bowl (I use my quart-size Pyrex measure); set aside.
Place the milk, dates, banana (I break it into a few pieces), cocoa powder, chia seeds and salt in a high-speed blender. Stir to mix in the cocoa powder (this prevents it from poofing up all over the blender lid) and blend until the mixture is smooth.
Pour the milk mixture into the oats, scraping the blender well, and stir to combine. At this point, I cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight and then portion between two bowls or jars. You could portion immediately, but I find it easier to evenly dole out when the mixture has thickened a bit. When ready to eat, add toppings of choice and enjoy!
•For a deeper, darker chocolate flavor, you may increase the cocoa powder by up to one tablespoon.
•If using a different variety of dates, they will likely be smaller and more dates will be needed to provide desired level of sweetness. I like to taste the chocolate milk mixture after blending, at which point you may add more dates－or cocoa powder for more of a dark chocolate flavor－to taste.
•If you prefer the texture of the whole chia seeds, you may stir them into the blended milk mixture along with the oats.
If you prefer a blender-free method or a date substitute: You may instead mash the banana until smooth and then stir in the remaining ingredients. Maple syrup, honey, or a sweetener of choice may be used in place of the dates, which require a blender to pulverize and provide even sweetness.
For those who don’t enjoy the flavor of bananas: A really ripe banana provides natural sweetness without making the final product taste of banana. The cocoa powder masks the flavor quite well.
Adding nut butters: An easy way is to smear a spoonful along the perimeter of the bowl so you can scoop a little into each bite of the oats. If you prefer to drizzle over top, place a spoonful or two of the nut butter in a small, microwaveable bowl and heat on high power for 20 seconds. Stir and heat for 20 seconds more or until a drizzle consistency is achieved.
For another family- and reader-favorite overnight oats recipe, you may wish to try Overnight No-Cook Oatmeal Yogurt Cups.⇩⇩ It mixes up in a flash and a variety of fruit (even frozen) may be used.