You’ve likely seen this delicious alternative to chocolate at health food stores. Carob bars resemble chocolate bars, and you can find carob powder as well, which looks a lot like cocoa powder. Carob does not taste quite like chocolate though, but it is also great in desserts.
What is Carob?
Carob comes from the pods of the carob tree, known officially as the Ceratonia siliqua. This tree is in the legume family and is native to the Mediterranean. When the carob pods are ripe, they are dried, and both the pulp and seeds within the pods are crushed to form carob powder. A lot of the time, carob pods are roasted before they are turned into powder. It takes a year for the pods to fully mature and ripen, so it’s a good thing that carob trees usually grow very large. Many pods can then be harvested at the same time.
Carob’s Role in Your Kitchen
Carob is nutty tasting, and has a naturally mildly sweet flavour, as opposed to chocolate, which is bitter. Chocolate also contains theobromine, whereas carob has no theobromine or caffeine. For this reason, carob is safe to use for dogs in dog treats, and won’t give you the jitters if you are sensitive to caffeine. For some people, chocolate can trigger migraines, so carob will be your friend. You can find carob in forms such as powder, chips, or syrup. The next time you want to make a hot chocolate, try making a hot carob drink with powdered carob instead. Or when you are making cookies or muffins, you can add carob chips instead of chocolate chips. Or add both! Carob brownies are definitely an option, and carob smoothies will add fibre and flavour to your smoothie concoction.
You can substitute cocoa powder one for one with carob powder.
Unsweetened carob powder or carob chips are good if you aren’t into sugar. Chocolate chips usually come with some sugar, so having a sugar-free option is always nice.
In terms of health benefits, carob contains more fibre and calcium than cocoa. And as mentioned before, carob has the advantage of not containing any caffeine, which will benefit individuals who are sensitive to caffeine.
Carob is the raw material in the production of locust bean gum, which is widely used in the food industry. Locust bean gum is made from the endosperm of the carob seeds, and is full of galactomannans, the stuff which soaks up water and swells. This property of locust bean gum makes it ideal for its use as a thickener, stabilizer, or gelling agent. In combination with carrageenan, another gelling agent, locust bean gum is often used to thicken food.