Assorted boxes of chocolate are my kind of Russian Roulette. It’s fun inspecting the various chocolates, and narrowing the options down to your select few. The nerd in me especially loves when they’ve included a printout with pictures and descriptions to help you decide. Okay fine, I’m realizing this barely qualifies as Russian Roulette...given the worst thing that could happen is you accidentally bite into a booze-filled chocolate. But you get my point.
The praline-filled chocolates are always my favorite of the bunch. The creaminess of the nut filling and the firm chocolate coating are a match made in heaven. And while I’m not here to convince you that hazelnuts and chocolate are a good idea (because you should already know that); I am here to tell you that these could be one of the best desserts to come out of our kitchen. In fact, I’m so obsessed with these bars that I’ve been “recipe testing” them for weeks longer than I’ve needed to. And as I write this, it’s pretty hard not to get up and make another batch. Because they’re SO good.
Not only are these bars freaking delicious, but they also come together with only 8 ingredients. They’re vegan and gluten free; and you won’t need to pull out the sugar bag for this one, because these babies are sweetened entirely with dates. In fact, you could even go so far as to say these bars sit squarely on the right side of the healthy(ish) line...and best of all, you’d never know it! Pretty magical stuff, right??
There are three layers of deliciousness in these Chocolate Hazelnut Praline bars. The first is a chocolate oat base. Since the bars themselves aren't baked, I like to use quick oats, because they easily grind down into a fine powder and have already been pre-cooked. You could use regular rolled oats if you prefer. For tidy bars, do take the time to press the base down into a loaf pan until smooth and well packed.
Then it’s time for the star of the show: the hazelnut praline filling. The filling starts with toasting hazelnuts then blending it into a smooth hazelnut butter, which then gets mixed with soft dates. It’s essentially a better-for-you version of hazelnut caramel (YUM). Chopped hazelnuts provide a bit of texture in the praline filling. The final layer is a simple melted chocolate, which seals the deal and holds onto a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts. Definitely opt for a high quality bar of chocolate for melting (as opposed to chocolate chips). The flavor and texture is worth it. Mixing a couple spoonfuls of coconut oil in with the chocolate helps it slice up nicely once chilled. These bars are best stored in the fridge, but can sit out at room temperature for a while before the chocolate softens significantly.
If you're feeling pretty indulgent, you can slice this treat into 7 large bars. That said, they're pretty decadent and rich, so you can instead opt to slice each bar in half again, for a total of 14 bars. The smaller sized bars are usually enough for us, but sometimes it's hard not to sneak back to the fridge for another. One bite, and we bet you'll agree1
Chocolate Hazelnut Praline Bars
- 1¾ cup hazelnuts (raw/untoasted, to be divided for filling and topping)
- ½ cup quick oats
- ¼ cup firmly packed pitted medjool dates (see note 1)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
Hazelnut Praline Filling
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- ⅓ cup packed pitted medjool dates (see note 1)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3½ oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (see note 2)
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- Preheat: Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Roast hazelnuts: Scatter hazelnuts on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes, giving the pan a good shake halfway through. Transfer hazelnuts into a clean kitchen towel, then bring the ends together to create a pouch so the hazelnuts steam as they cool.
- Make base: Add oats to a food processor, then pulse into flour. Add dates and pulse until a coarse meal. Add coconut oil, cocoa powder, and salt. Pulse until well mixed. Transfer mixture to a parchment-lined 9 x 5-inch (23 x 13 cm) loaf pan. Use your hands to pack down firmly (you can use the back of a spoon to smooth the top if you'd like). Transfer to freezer while you prepare remaining layers.
- Rub and divide hazelnuts: Use the dishtowel to vigorously rub the hazelnuts to loosen their skins (it's okay if some is left on, but rub off as much as you can). Wipe the food processor clean, then add ¼ cup of the hazelnuts. Pulse until crumbled, then set aside (for filling). Roughly chop another ¼ cup of the hazelnuts and set aside (for topping). You will have 1¼ cup whole hazelnuts remaining (also for filling).
- Make filling: Add the remaining 1¼ cup hazelnuts and coconut oil to the food processor. Pulse until it becomes a smooth nut butter, pausing to scrape down the sides as needed. Add dates, vanilla, and salt. Process until it forms a paste. Add the ¼ cup crumbled hazelnuts. Pulse 1 to 2 times, just until mixed. Use the back of a spoon to press the filling over the base. Transfer to fridge while you prepare topping.
- Make topping: In a double boiler, over low heat, melt chocolate and coconut oil. Stir until smooth. Pour over the filling. Sprinkle with the ¼ cup roughly chopped hazelnuts.
- Chill and serve: Refrigerate bars until chocolate topping has set, about 2 hours. Lift from the pan and slice into bars.
- Medjool dates: Make sure the dates are fresh and moist/gooey. Otherwise, to rehydrate dates by submerging them in a bowl of hot water for 10-15 minutes until soft, then strain and pat dry. When measuring dates for this recipe, make sure you pack the measuring cup as tight as possible (or use weight provided in grams).
- Semi-sweet chocolate: 50 to 65% cocoa recommended. Ensure chocolate is dairy-free, if vegan.