The Season For Giving

Homemade Nutella

As I typed the title of this post, it struck me that it could just as well be called “The Season (for) Forgiving” and would be equally apt, considering the usual stresses/regrets/insecurities/excesses that accompany this time of year. But that’s a negative way of looking at things, and who needs Negativity in the week leading up to Christmas?

For the past three years, I’ve stumbled upon an activity that’s turned into some sort of a tradition – making Christmas gifts. I suppose it’s nothing to be surprised about considering the many Christmas cards I used to make for my classmates back in school. Although tedious, it kept this teenager gainfully occupied for the holidays, and gave me a legitimate reason to stake out stationery stores, swooping up pens, markers and craft paper in any and every color. As much as I love a good and productive shopping trip, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as investing a bit of oneself in a gift for the special people in our lives. Especially when it means avoiding the crazy buzz at the mall and saving my sanity from the horribly bad renditions of Christmas songs. Give me Feist and a hot oven any day!

Homemade Nutella

Fast forward 16 years and I’m losing myself, not only in colors and patterns now, but also in the search for the perfect jars and the perfect labels for the homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread and bags of Madeleines that our friends will be receiving this year.

After the notorious macarons of 2009, M likes to joke that I choose to make Christmas gifts from a special list titled “Difficult Things To Make”, because of the time spent on searching for the best recipe and tweaking it to my liking. This spread wasn’t too big a headache considering it’s essentially hazelnut butter mixed with sugar and cocoa. But the Madeleines however, took a lot longer than expected, leaving me in a rather Proustian melancholy for most of last week.

But that’s a story for another time. For this post, here’s my take on a grown-up version of Nutella. In place of cocoa powder I’ve substituted intensely-flavored Cacao nibs that add crunch and a layer of smokiness to the palate, finishing everything off with a pinch of ground espresso for added depth. While still sweet and classically earthy at the start, the punch of dark chocolate follows soon after, accentuated by hints of espresso. For you dark chocolate fans out there, this spread may be the point of no return. You’ve been warned!

Homemade Nutella

Grown-up Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (Nutella) (adapted from David Lebovitz and Su Good Sweets)
Makes about 14 ounces

10 oz/ 300 grams hazelnuts, toasted and skins removed
2 oz/ 60 grams cocoa nibs
1/2 to 2/3 cup/ 60-70 grams powdered sugar
7 teaspoons unrefined hazelnut oil
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

To toast the hazelnuts, preheat your oven to 300F and spread the nuts on one layer on a large baking sheet. Toast the nuts for about 15 minutes until golden brown, then rub their skins off with a clean cloth. Set aside.

Toast the cocoa nibs by placing them in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until they darken and are slightly shiny. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place the nuts and cocoa nibs in a food processor and chop them until they liquefy. Your processor will sound as if it’s throwing a hissy fit and about to implode, but keep your finger on the pulse button until you get a thick, lovely dark chocolate hazelnut butter. The nuts and nibs will first gather into a ball before turning into butter. To help move things along, you may need to scrape down the sides of the processor bowl to ensure that everything is pulverized.

Add the sugar, oil and espresso powder and pulse again, scraping down as needed until everything is well incorporated into a lusciously thick sauce. There will still be chunks of nibs remaining which will give a slight crunch to each spoonful.

Store the spread in clean and dry airtight containers/jars and refrigerate. Bring the spread to room temperature before using.

Homemade Nutella


  1. Victoria

    Actually Nutella is a very toxic product. Its ingredients are made of the best quality BUT the packaging is the thing that can make women sterile and cause allergies in children.

    This is real, check the DW TV website for more information.


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  3. Autumn

    I realize this is an older post….but as a new subscriber I’ve been looking around and am already thinking that this will be my experiment this weekend and possible gifts later on—how long do you think the nutella will keep?

    Thank you!

    • Danielle

      Hi Autumn, because of the high proportion of dry ingredients, the nutella will keep pretty well in the refrigerator for a few months! That’s for unopened jars. I’d recommend finishing it within a month of opening.

  4. Eva

    Made this for the first time today. Thanks for the recipe 🙂 I thought it didn’t turn out very chocolatey so I nearly doubled the amount of cocoa nibs.

    It did eventually start to liquify. That was after I added the oil but it doesn’t seem to matter – it turned out wonderful 🙂

    I love the idea that one can take something delicious but unhealthy and make an even better AND fairly healthy version of it. Not to mention the giftability!

    Btw: I got (organic) cocoa nibs from (For anybody in Europe who has a hard time getting hold of some.) I bought organic hazelnuts from them, too, because with almonds I seem to be able to taste the difference. This doesn’t seem to be the case with hazelnuts, though.

  5. Love love Nutella! Did you ever just dig out a spoon and eat it from the jar? I’ve got to try making it from scratch. Everyone tells me it’s so much tastier. Your photos are gorgeous and your new blog is gorgeous! Congrats on being featured on!

    • Danielle

      @C: The amount of espresso to use would depend on the roast of the beans you use, which determines the strength of the taste. If your espresso is mildly flavored, I’d suggest starting with perhaps two teaspoons of powder and increasing it as you go to suit your taste.

  6. Annamaria

    I’m drooling over this recipe for months now and I finally decided to try it out. BUT, I’m having some problems with the ingredients. Cocoa nibs and hazelnut oil are something I can’t find anywhere so I was wondering what do you think how would it turn out if I made it with peanut oil (that’s the closest I found!) and regular cocoa powder?
    It doesn’t look very thick on the pictures (though I might be wrong), do you think I could make it a bit thicker with more hazelnuts or it isn’t a good idea?

    • Danielle

      @Annamaria, you could definitely substitute peanut oil (or a neutral tasting veg oil) and cocoa powder for the cocoa nibs. The flavor will be less dark and intense without the nibs, but still good, nonetheless 🙂 The spread in these pictures are at room temperature, so if you’d like a thicker consistency, just add less oil. I would however, allow the jars to come to room temperature before using the spread as they thicken as they cool.

      For your reference, you could order both the hazelnut oil and the cocoa nibs online – La Tourangelle (for the oil) and Scharffen berger (for the nibs). Have fun!!

  7. Melissa

    Ok, Nutella has been a fam fav since I was a kid. I really want to try this. But I am no cook, so where do I find the hazelnut oil, cocoa nibs and the espresso powder? Dying to try this!!

    • Danielle

      @Melissa, I use the oil from La Tourangelle which is widely distributed across Whole Foods and any good specialty grocery store. You could also order them online. The cocoa nibs are from Scharffenberger, which can also be found at Whole Foods, and the espresso powder is just whatever happens to be in our espresso jar at the moment. If you’re unsure of which blend of espresso to get, you could get them from your local cafe and buy a bag of whatever they use. Hope it helps!

    • Danielle

      Hi Allie, yes this Nutella would ship well, especially if you send them off the same day or the day after making them. I’ve shipped them to Chicago and Madison with no problems.

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  9. melissa

    thank you so much for this, I just found this on pinterest after a furious search after finding out that nutella contains rennet and it also by way of collecting palm oil are killing orangutans in the palm oil fields. I am so glad that I have an alternative since I am kind of addicted to the stuff. can’t wait to try it.

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