Happy Valentine's Day everyone!
If you're still looking for a decadent-tasting but healthy dessert to finish off your night, I've got just the thing for you - these miniature vegan peanut butter cups!
When I first saw these popped amaranth peanut butter cups on the blog My Little Celebration, I knew immediately that I had to make them! They're basically made of a layer of chocolate and a layer of peanut butter mixed with chopped peanuts and popped amaranth.
Amaranth is a small grain that can be cooked and eaten like rice or quinoa and is high in calcium, protein and fiber. Another way to cook it is by popping it on the stove like popcorn. I had never tried amaranth before, but now that I know how much fun it is to pop it, I want to start making it much more often!
In my version of these treats, I replaced the butter with melted coconut oil and reduced the amount of powdered sugar because I didn't want them to taste too sweet. I also added some cacao nibs to the bottom layer and made them in my mini muffin pan to get smaller sized cups.
Once I had made them as the recipe instructed, I thought they'd be even better if I added another layer of chocolate on top so that the peanut butter layer was enclosed in the chocolate (like a Reese's cup). So I coated half of them with more chocolate and left the other half with the peanut butter layer showing. After tasting them both ways, I preferred the chocolate cups, so I recommend adding the extra top layer!
Even though I personally loved these, I should add a warning that if you're expecting these to taste like Reese's peanut butter cups, you will probably be disappointed. Since my sister happened to have a mini Reese's cup lying around, I actually did a taste test to compare the two and I much preferred my healthier version! I find Reese's overly sweet and a bit artificial tasting, whereas these taste like real peanut butter and I loved the crunchy texture from the cacao nibs, chopped peanuts and the amaranth (although you could try leaving out the peanuts for a smoother filling).
This recipe does require some waiting time in between making each layer, but they still didn't take much time overall and were pretty easy to make. They also store well in the freezer, so you can take one out whenever you crave a treat!
Vegan Crunchy Peanut Butter Cups
Adapted from My Little Celebration
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tbsp powdered sugar
2 tbsp crushed peanuts
2 heaping tbsp popped amaranth (about 1 tbsp unpopped)
About 6 tbsp vegan chocolate chips, divided
1-2 tbsp raw cacao nibs
Prepare a mini-muffin pan by coating the cups with a bit of cooking spray.
First, pop the amaranth grains in small batches. Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it is hot, add a small spoonful of amaranth and cover the pot with a lid. As the kernels begin to pop, shake the pot back and forth. Once it is has finished popping, remove from the heat immediately and transfer to a small bowl. Continue popping the amaranth in batches until you get two heaping tablespoons (I did this in 4 batches, but I burnt the first one!)
Prepare the peanut butter filling by combining the peanut butter and coconut oil in a bowl. Stir in the powdered sugar and crushed peanuts, then stir in the popped amaranth.
Melt 3 tbsp of the chocolate chips in the microwave or over a small pot of simmering water on the stove. Spoon the melted chocolate into the mini muffin pan cups, spreading it evenly (I was able to get 8 cups). Sprinkle a pinch of cacao nibs into each cup, pressing gently with your finger into the chocolate. Place the muffin tray in the freezer for a few minutes until the chocolate has firmed up a bit.
Remove the pan from the freezer and add a large spoonful of the peanut butter filling on top of the chocolate in each cup, spreading evenly. Place the filled cups back in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, until firm.
If you are adding the top layer of chocolate, melt the remaining chocolate chips. Remove peanut butter cups from the muffin tin. Working quickly, use a flat knife or spoon to spread some of the melted chocolate over the top of one peanut butter cup and around the sides. Repeat with remaining peanut butter cups. Return to freezer until hardened.
Store in the fridge or freezer and let thaw for 5-10 minutes before eating.
Makes 8 mini cups (this was a good sized portion just for myself, but you may want to double the recipe!)
This was submitted to the RecipeLion February Blog Hop