Is Carob Paleo?

is-carob-paleo-1024x682.jpgHave you ever taken a bite of what you thought was a chocolate chip cookie, only to find out that it was a carob chip cookie? I have, and the little sugar monster that lives inside of me was not happy about the situation. That’s because carob is not nearly as sweet as chocolate, although it looks deceivingly similar. Carob is commonly available in chip and powder forms, although a Paleo-friendly carob chip can be hard to come by. Carob is a great substitution for folks with chocolate or caffeine sensitivities, or for those who desire a less sweet alternative to traditional chocolate chips and cocoa powder.

Nutritional Value of Carob Powder

The nutritional information given here is for Chatfield’s Carob Powder, which is made from 100% natural, roasted carob powder that is also Kosher, vegan, and gluten-free.

Serving size: 1 tablespoon (6g)

  • Calories: 25
  • Total Fat:0 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 5 g
  • Dietary Fiber: <1 g
  • Sugars: 3 g
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Vitamin A: 0%
  • Vitamin C: 0%
  • Calcium: 2%
  • Iron: 0%

Health Benefits of Carob

Carob flour is made from the dried and often roasted pods of the carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua) that are ground into a powder. Carob chips are made from carob flour that is blended with oils, sweeteners, and often milk products to form solid chips. Be sure to read the ingredient list on any carob chips you purchase, as they often contain unfavorable ingredients like dairy, soy, and scary (i.e. partially or totally hydrogenated oils) oils. Carob flour is usually 100% carob, but it doesn’t hurt to double check the ingredient list to make sure.

Raw carob pods  are rich sources of calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, fiber, and protein. Studies  have shown however, that the commercial processing of carob pods into powder significantly decreases the content of most of these nutrients. As a result, commercially prepared carob powder and chips are mainly a source of fiber and carbohydrates, a wee bit of calcium and potassium, and are largely devoid of protein, fat, and most other nutrients. Despite its bland nutritional profile (and taste…in my opinion), carob’s claim to fame as a caffeine-free alternative to chocolate keeps it in the ranks.

Where to Buy Carob

Carob is commonly found in the form of carob powder that can be toasted, light roasted, medium roasted, or raw. Carob is also sold in the form of chips or drops, which are available both sweetened and unsweetened. As mentioned, it can be difficult to find a Paleo-friendly carob chip. It’s  important to read the ingredient list when purchasing carob chips as they often contain non-Paleo ingredients. You might need to shop around a bit to find an unsweetened carob product that contains minimal and all natural ingredients.

Carob powder and carob chips can be purchased in some grocery stores, in many health food stores, and online. It’s best to store your Paleo-friendly carob powder and carob chips in air-tight containers, away from heat, light, and moisture. Enjoy your carob by the expiration date on the package. Carob stores best when kept in the refrigerator or frozen.

Should I Eat Cacao? Is Carob Paleo?

Carob has been in cultivation for over 4,000 years and is also known by the names locust bean and Saint John’s Bread. Carob is harvested from the Mediterranean carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua), which belongs to the legume (Fabaceae) family. The fruit of carob is a pod, which is comprised of about 90% pulp and 10% seeds (by weight). Despite its legume status, problematic anti-nutrients are mainly located in the seeds, which are not used to produce carob powder or chips. The seeds are, however, used to produce locust bean gum (a thickening agent). In contrast, carob powder (AKA carob flour) and carob chips are made from the fibrous pulp component of the carob pod, which is largely devoid of problematic chemicals. Because carob powder is rich in insoluble fiber, people with GI disorders such as IBS should exert caution when consuming carob.

Although commercially processed carob is not a significant source of most nutrients, carob has some benefits that make it a useful food to know about. Carob powder is naturally sweeter and less bitter than cacao powder, and it serves as a healthy replacement for cocoa powder  as well. Carob is also a fantastic chocolate substitution for those with chocolate or caffeine sensitivities (carob is caffeine-free).

Carob chips are less sweet than traditional chocolate chips and have a more roasted flavor that many people prefer to chocolate. Having said that, I have not been able to locate a widely-available and dependable source for Paleo-friendly carob chips (if you know of one…please let me know in the comments below)! Make sure to read the ingredient list on the bag of carob chips that you are purchasing, as many contain non-Paleo ingredients such as dairy (i.e. milk powder), soy (i.e. soy lecithin), grains (i.e. corn, barley, etc.), gluten, hydrogenated oils (i.e. trans fats), added sweeteners, artificial ingredients, preservatives, etc. Barring any non-Paleo ingredients, carob powder (carob flour) and carob chips are considered Paleo and can be consumed on the Paleo diet.

How to Make Your Own Carob – How to Use Carob

Given that it can be difficult to locate a Paleo-friendly carob chip, it makes sense to make your own! Making your own carob chips guarantees that you won’t be inadvertently consuming any non-Paleo ingredients that are commonly found in commercial carob chips. Whole New Mom has a fantastic recipe for homemade carob chips that uses carob powder, cocoa butter and sweetener of your choice. Although I can’t claim to have ever tried this, if you have access to raw carob pods you can make your own carob powder too!

Carob chips can be used in any recipe that you would use regular chocolate chips  in, such as our grain-free chocolate chip cookies  and primal trail mix . Carob powder can be used as a replacement for cocoa powder in virtually any recipe such as our paleo hot “carob”  or our “carob” coconut cookies.

Some tips when working with carob:

  • Make a paste by mixing carob powder with warm water before adding to other ingredients to ensure solubility (especially in liquid dishes).
  • To substitute carob powder for cocoa powder: use 1.5 – 2 parts carob to 1 part cocoa (by weight) in recipes that call for cocoa powder.
  • To substitute carob powder for chocolate: Replace each square of chocolate with 1 Tbsp. of water and 3 Tbsp. of carob powder.

Additional References:

Kinsey JacksonKinsey Jackson

Kinsey Jackson, LMP, MS, CNS® is a clinical nutritionist specializing in functional and evolutionary nutrition. Her own experience of overcoming multiple autoimmune disorders by adopting a Paleo lifestyle vastly contributes to her passion for helping others to also reclaim their health and vitality by making informed dietary decisions.